The Simple “Work Backward” Trick for Writing Landing Pages

Writing landing pages the easy wayWhen it’s time to write a landing page, do you start by drafting the headline?

If so, you’re doing it wrong…

When it’s time to review your copywriter’s landing page copy, do you look first to the headline?

If so, you’re doing it wrong…

See, those may be fine approaches for the home page… or for the About Us page… or for the Contact Us page…

But a landing page is a different beast. Great copywriters know that we can’t approach writing a PPC, email or ad landing page the same way we approach writing a home page. Because landing pages are different. Here’s what makes them so:

Landing Pages Are Made to Prompt a Single Specific Goal among a Select Segment of Traffic

Landing pages take in specific traffic from 1 source or 2 similar sources… and they give 110% to convincing that traffic to do 1 specific thing. They’re like a resort island accessible only by private plane…

Compare that to home pages. Home pages take in loads of traffic from a thousand different sources. They’re like the airport of your website, welcoming the world and filtering visitors through to their various destinations…

The differences are clear, right?

  1. Different traffic
  2. Different number of page goals*

It’s those differences that make it easier to write landing pages. In particular, it’s the second difference – the number of goals, where landing pages have just 1 – that can dramatically simplify writing landing pages.

…Which brings us to a simple “work backward” trick for writing landing pages. WARNING: You’re likely to smack your head when you see how obvious this trick is…:

To Write a Landing Page Well,
Start with the Button

Start with the goal. The call to action. The thing you want visitors to a landing page to do.

Then, work backward from your button, writing ONLY copy that will convince people to click that button. Nothing else makes it on the page. Nothing. (You should tweet this tip!)

Let’s look at an example. Here’s an ad for Google Adwords:

Google Ad

That ad leads to this landing page:

Landing Page for Google Ad

As you can see, there’s a single call to action on Google’s landing page. And, if you scroll through the banners, you’ll see that the button doesn’t change – neither its copy, its color, its size nor its position on the page. The copy itself is minimal and focused on highlighting direct benefits while overcoming objections to clicking the “Get Started Now” button:

  • Benefit: Grow your business
  • Objection: What do I pay for?
  • Objection: I can’t get started on my own
  • Objection: Is it going to take a long time to get started?

The navigation is muted. And the banners – which you need to click to scroll through, which further minimizes on-page distractions – each make the act of getting started now more desirable… like “make changes anytime” and “advertise globally or locally”.

Do you see any icons on the landing page to share this page on Twitter or Google Plus? Do you see any testimonials about how great Google search is? Do you see any stock photos or images that aren’t directly related to making it desirable to click the button? Nope – because 100% of the focus is on getting visitors to click that button.

If your goal is to get peeps to click 1 button, doesn’t it make perfect sense to start with the button and work back from there?

BTW: This is also a great trick for writing emails. Start with the last line of your body copy – such as a text link to your sales page – and work backward from that call to action, writing a narrative that will logically lead to that call to action.

Start at the goal… and work back.

A simple trick on a hot summer day,

*Admittedly, your home page may perform better with 1 goal – not a half-dozen. But peeps love cramming loads o’ goals on their home pages for some reason…

About the author

Lance Jones

  • Wes

    Shouldn’t you at least start with who the audience is for the landing page? Or is this more for content related landing pages? I recently started interviewing my ideal audience for each landing page and got incredible feedback that showed me exactly what hesitations they faced and what outcomes they were looking to solve. This process takes a lot of time so I’d only really recommend it for trial / demo or product landing pages, but I found the process pretty fun and insightful. Here’s some of the questions I’d ask during my interviews with current customers:

    Also, Envato did an awesome write-up on how they approached this Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) process here:

  • Great indeed. Love that exclammation

  • Glenn

    Thank you!

  • Sandip Banerjee

    Amazing perception to write content for landing page. I already shared this article with our content writing team. Brilliant!

  • Yassin Shaar

    Awesome approach. love the metaphors :).

    Make Your Day Great

  • Miss Sassy

    That’s it. Everything I write from now on, I’m starting backwards. Ripper article Joanne

    • Joanna Wiebe

      *Everything???* …….I’ve created a monster!!! 😉 Kidding! Why not, right?

      • Miss Sassy

        Well maybe NOT everything 😉

  • Ramsay Leimenstoll

    This is brilliant, Jo! It’s so easy to get off-track in many copyrighting situations, and then you scramble to make it come together at the end (maybe our Loss Aversion lizard brain also hates “losing” the effort we put into typing all that stuff?)

    Also, something about it seems oh-so literature-major-y to me; as if it’s something a prof would say about how to write the conclusion for an essay. Reminded me of college!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Agreed! I often hear “how do you know when a page is done”… and that’s a perfectly legit Q to ask when you start writing with the headline. After all, the headline draws people in – as does the opening of an essay – and unless you know how it’s going to end, how could you know when you’re done? But START with the goal – literally write that first – and suddenly you know what matters and what doesn’t. Love it, Ramsay!

  • Great post. On the topic of cramming the homepage with multiple goals, how would you persuade someone against using a carousel (with 4 rotating goals) on the homepage?

    • Lance Jones

      Hey Ben… here is an excellent summary of click-through data on rotating and auto-rotating carousels:

      The biggest issue is that the 1st position gets almost all the attention — and so unless you really don’t care about people seeing/interacting with the subsequent positions, there isn’t much point in having them there.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      I am soooo not a fan of rotating carousels or even a big banner image at the top of the page… but I’ve seen, in Crazy Egg click-tracking reports, that, for some sites, visitors scroll through the banners quite a lot. So there must be times when a scrolling banner is a good idea — as much as you, Lance and I don’t enjoy them. 🙂

      I agree with Lance’s comment here (surprise, surprise) and, if worse comes to worse, would simply encourage the client to choose a theme – or create a design – that doesn’t have a banner but perhaps rather opens with a large centered explainer video…


      does a pretty good job of explaining why not to use them 😉

  • As usual, great advice. I need to write my own newsletter today and I think I might start backwards with that one too.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      It’s amazing how often starting at the end point is the best way to go… but how rarely we do it, isn’t it? We’re taught to start at the beginning – a very good place to start, according to Julie Andrews 🙂 – but starting at the end paints a clearer picture of what needs (and doesn’t need) to be on the page…

  • kimsnyc

    Just what I needed. Thank you!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Hope it helps!

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