Focused landing pages will convert better than sending the visitor to the home page or a product page.

Most operators will offer affiliates dedicated landing pages. The general idea is that focused landing pages will convert better than sending the visitor to the home page or a product page, but there are a number of pitfalls that easily get in the way. This article will walk you through some of the key factors of landing pages that convert, as well as some of the most common mistakes.

THE DESIGN of operator landing pages is extremely important to the affiliate's success. Even though this is a task that falls on the operator, affiliates should have a thorough understanding of the choices involved in order to better appreciate which pages and sites will convert, which won't and why.

Let's start with understanding what a Landing Page is. It's a page that:
• Is focused on a single conversion goal.
• Is 'stand-alone' in the sense that it normally lacks the global navigation of the site, so it's really a 'page' and not a 'site'.
• Is targeted towards a segment of visitors coming from a particular affiliate or campaign.
By creating a page that is hyper-focused, you will leave the visitor no other option than to perform the conversion action, improving the conversion rate.

Or, too much too soon?

The landing page approach is considered 'best practice' and normally outperforms home page alternatives in split testing. The downside is that it gives visitors one option only. If they are not ready to perform the desired conversion action, drop-offs will be huge.

User research clearly shows that if you ask a user to make a commitment and the user feels that he or she doesn't have enough information to base that commitment on, then they have one preferred method of dealing with that situation. It's called the 'back button'.

So the overall challenge in landing page design is to create a page that is both clearly focused on the conversion goal and provides enough assurance, sample content and trust factors in order to make the visitor comfortable enough commit to the conversion action.

The solution: the mixed landing page

If you're asking yourself, 'should we go with the landing page or the home page alternative?', you're looking in the wrong direction. It's actually quite simple. Instead of making it 'either/or' make it 'a bit of both'.

A landing page in this context should be designed to clearly indicate the preferred action you want the user to take. In addition to this, there must be 'escape routes' so that the visitor feels he or she is in control and that the visitor will be able to find the additional information he or she needs in order to commit.

The advantage of this approach is that you get 'the best of both worlds' - a focused, targeted offer plus the ability to let the visitors browse on their own and gather enough knowledge in order to be able to commit.

Key components of an affiliate landing page

The first aspect of a landing page is 'relevancy'. The tighter a bond you can create between what the visitor expected when clicking and what you deliver, the better. So, if a visitor has clicked on a casino bonus banner, you want the user to land on a page that is (i) casino-focused and (2) displays the bonus prominently. This first impression basically gives the visitor a feeling of'Yes, I've come to the right place'. If you cannot establish this basic level of relevancy, you haven't even gotten off the ground in terms of conversion rate optimisation.

Conversion rate experts call this factor 'scent' - think of your visitor like a blood hound who's on a fresh trail. You must NEVER let your newly found canine friend get the feeling that he's lost the trail. If he does, it means he'll head back to wherever he came from and start going down another trail (to a competitor).

If the operator at hand is a big trusted online gaming brand, many visitors will feel comfortable with 'going with the flow', and they feel assured that the site will be able to deliver a fun and safe gaming experience. But the smaller the operator is, the more they will need to show, explain and convince in order to get that registration.

This uncertainty can even be seen on the product level. A well-known and trusted betting brand might have to do a fair bit of work in convincing prospects that their casino is worth considering.

Getting the registration: what do you need?

Let's say you did a good job at maintaining the scent and establishing relevancy - now what?

First of all, you need a clearly distinguishable call-to-action. It should be seen above-the-fold on the page and have visual contrast so that it stands out. Secondly, it should have a relevant call-to-action. If you're sending prospects to a registration form, DO NOT have a button saying 'play now'. This will put visitors off since the page you serve will not meet their expectations.

When I was a Casino Manager at CasinoEuro (part of Betsson), I often fell victim to my own creativity and wrote witty calls-to-action which, in hindsight, just confused the users. Over time, we found that concise and descriptive calls-to-action worked much better than creative ones. If the user is not ready to make the commitment you should display supporting content such as:

• Being able to sample and play games in 'for fun' mode
• Size of jackpots
• Winner testimonials
• Trust logos

Defining the best mix in acquiring the registration, allowing escape routes and learning more options, can only be found by using split testing methods.

After the registration: what now?

One of the most important pages on a gambling site is the post-registration page. At CasinoEuro, we called it the 'deposit push page', which describes the job this page must perform. How you craft and test this page will be crucial to your conversion rate. Unfortunately, this is one of the more overlooked areas of a gambling website. Whereas the home page is subjected to immense design and redesign efforts, the post-registration page often looks like it's been hastily assembled by some design agnostics in the IT department. At CasinoEuro, we put a lot of effort into the design of this page.

The most important component was a clear call-to-action which reiterated the promised bonus and encouraged instant deposit. Something like: 'Here's the bonus you came for in the first place, deposit right now and you'll get it, otherwise it might be gone when you come back', but shorter, of course. Typical mistakes on this page are:

• The 'Smorgasbord' approach: - 'here's a bunch of stuff you can do, we don't care which one'.
• The opposite to that - just a plain payment page with no reminder about the offer/bonuses and no 'escape routes'.
• Failure to display a correct bonus/offer which is specific and tied to the visitors expectations.

Let me elaborate on the third point. The user has come to your site because of a specific offer, is now considering depositing and wants to feel reassured that the bonus will be delivered upon depositing.

To quote usability guru, Steve Krug, "Don't make me think". There shouldn't be a single opportunity for even the smallest hesitation on the part of the visitor. At CasinoEuro, I put so much effort into just securing the correct terminology. If the affiliate banner advertised a Ђ100 welcome bonus, I'd personally go through the whole registration/deposit flow to make sure that this bonus was called just that, and not 'registration bonus', 'deposit bonus' or anything else. Unfortunately. I see a lot of operators missing conversions just because of sloppy copywriting and lack of understanding of transactional assurance factors.

Where do we start testing?

All of what I've written so far provides general recommendations. If you want to find out what works for you there's only one way to find out: start split testing.

The end goal is to optimise the whole conversion funnel from start to finish. If you are not in control of that funnel or just not ready, start with some easier experiments:

• Split test the landing page Vs the home or product page.
• Test calls-to-action on the landing page: 'play now' Vs 'register' Vs 'sign up' Vs 'claim bonus', etc.
• Test which combination of 'escape routes' is the most effective.

These are just examples of things that axe easy to change but can have a huge impact on conversion rates. Considering how cheap and user-friendly testing technology is today, there really is no excuse for not getting into landing page testing.
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