The Perfect Landing Page. Landing page examples and 12 tips

Landing page examples and best practice advice

Discussion of web design in companies who don’t know the power of landing pages still often focuses on the home page. But savvy companies know that custom landing pages are essential to maximise conversion of leads when using inbound marketing techniques like SEO, AdWords and social media to drive visitors to a site.

So this prompts the question, which factors make for the most effective landing page? Is a “Perfect Landing Page” possible? This post gives a summary of my top 12 tips and places to look to find more examples. – an example of the evolution of the Perfect Landing Page?

To illustrate these tips, I’m going to use an example I’ve used in training many years – it’s the lead generation page for its CRM service targeting searchers who are looking for CRM systems.

The landing pages illustrate many good practices. I’ve marked up what I see as good about this format. It’s maybe not perfect, but much better than most! Let me know what you don’t like about it! Or how things differ for consumer sites!


However, there is a problem with this type of landing page, and you can probably spot it! It’s not mobile responsive, so isn’t effective on Smartphone. So today we see a much longer-form landing page…

landing page example - long form - Sales force

The initial type of three column tabbed design doesn’t work well at all well on a smartphone, so the second design is a mobile responsive page which naturally tends to be longer and can typically only support two columns. Second, consumer behaviour has changed such that with so many landing pages it can be more difficult to get people to disclose their details, so there is often a two phase data capture where data is captured at the next stage. Thirdly, testing has shown that longer form pages with more content, building an argument can persuade better for a major investment in time such as starting a trial.

Since data collection isn’t practical in this case until someone has read the copy, there is now an additional mobile responsive page to encourage the trial.

Salesforce Landing Page example - short landing page with form

Defining landing pages

Before we look at the best practices in detail, we should look at landing page definitions. Not everyone knows this jargon and actually, there’s no simple answer.

My definition is that landing pages is:

«Specific page(s) on a web site created for visitors referred from marketing campaigns which are designed to achieve a marketing outcome.»

Anything referred to as a landing page is intended to maximise conversion of visitors to a page or series of pages towards lead or sale.

Most typically, the outcome is conversion to action, typically data capture where a site visitor fills in an online form to generate a marketing lead.

Landing page goals

Effective landing pages are those that meet their objectives, so let’s start with typical objectives. Often it is thought that response is everything – so objectives are not though through, but that this can lead to data capture pages that are too simple.

Typical communications objectives in order of importance are:

  • Achieve registration typically to generate a lead (such as a quote for insurance in our example) which leads ultimately to sale
  • Profile and qualify the site visitor in order to deliver more relevant follow-up marketing communications
  • Explain the value proposition offered by the company to differentiate from other sites the visitor may visit during the buying process i.e. Answer the visitors questions.
  • Communicate the brand values of the organisation running the campaign
  • If the visitor doesn’t want to disclose their details right now, provide contact details for traditional sales channels such as a phone number, or give the visitor reasons to return to the site or engage them through other relevant content or offers

It is important to run through these objectives since sometimes it is just the two primary objectives related to data capture that mainly determine landing page design and not the secondary objectives which are equally important. The majority of the visitors to the landing page won’t actually convert, so it is important to give them a favourable experience also.

Different types of landing page

We have to bear in mind that there are different types of landing pages that work best depending on the campaign objectives and whether it is a short-term or long-term campaign. There are three main choice. The first is alanding page integrated into the sites stucture and consistent with standard page templates and navigation for the site. The second is a single landing page specifically created for a campaign with a different look and feel, typically with the top navigation removed. The third is a tabbed landing page or microsite that provides more information

Here are some of the pros and cons.

Landing page option 1. Landing page(s) integrated into site architecture and style

It is most efficient in terms of effort in content creation to make landing pages part of the main site information architecture. The downside is that they may not work so well in terms of converting both direct referrers and browsers navigating from elsewhere on the site. They also need to be search optimised, which may add to costs of the campaign.

Such landing pages in particular category or product pages use what is known as deep linking.

Landing page option 2. Bespoke landing pages that are not part of the main site structure or style

These are used where a more «stripped down» page than standard content is required which focuses on converting visitors from an online ad campaign. Alternatively, if it is a short-term branding campaign then it may be more straightforward to create a microsite separate from the main site with a different look and feel. This often happens where resource cannot be found to create a microsite within the main site, or it is felt that the existing site look and feel cannot deliver the brand impact required.

So this approach is used since it can potentially produce higher conversion rates or produce a microsite more consistent with the campaign goals and style. The disadvantages are that this approach requires more effort and maintenance and often result in a poorer user experience since the page will look and work differently to elsewhere in the site. If it is a completely separate site with a separate domain, a big disadvantage of this approach is that due to the Google sandbox effect, it is not likely to be included in the search results for several months. Given this it is really essential that the site is incorporated within the same domain – for example redirects to the main Norwich Union site.

Landing page option 3. Microsites with several pages or tabbed landing pages

There is an obvious problem with option 2, many visitors to the page will not be at the right point in the buying cycle to convert. Yes, such a landing page will often increase single visit conversion rates because of its simplicity – limited choice and simplified messages, but it doesn’t offer sufficient information for site visitors not in «buying mode».

Scott Brinkler, a specialist on Landing Page Optimisation puts it this way in this post where he argues for death to the «cliche» landing page.

«The analogy of these types of landing pages is that they’re like pick-up lines. They’re shallow, optimized simply to “close the deal.” And, frankly, most people don’t respond kindly that to that approach. Which is why, more or less, the bounce rate on landing pages is typically around 95%.»

In his post he gives this example of a tabbed landing page/microsite. You can see that it’s very similar to the approach I’ve recommended from Salesforce at the start of this article.

Companies need to work out whether the cost of producing landing pages is offset by the potentially higher conversion rates and better campaign results. Although this approach is surpisingly quite common, I think the approach is often taken for convenience eventhough it is more expensive in the longer term. I know of one E-commerce manager for a multi-national technology vendor who tries to educate their hundreds of web and traditional marketing specialists to not use the bespoke landing page approach, but to always try to integrate into existing site structure.

Often though there is not one right or wrong approach and a hybrid can be used, i.e. you create tailored landing pages only for high volume/high expenditure generic Adwords pages or for major offline ad campaigns.

The home page can be a landing page

Note that a landing page can potentially be the home page although this is not traditional best practice. But, if a company has a limited range of products or the main campaign objective is to generate awareness rather than response. We’re seeing more of this type of home page as landing page – see these four examples.

Different referrer types

To make the landing page effective, we also need to think through the full range of places the visitor may originate. There are 3 main origins we need to design the landing page to accomodate:

  1. Online media placement. Visitors can be referred by clickthrough from any online referrer such as a search engine, online ad, affiliate site or e-mail campaign. There are two main types of landing page for these placements:
  2. Offline media placement. Offline ads or direct mail may have a specific campaign URL (CURL) such
    This is the landing page for these offlin referrers.
  3. Visitors that navigate from elsewhere on the site. Such visitors are not using the page(s) as a «landing page», but still need to be accomodated if you are using a deep linking strategy.

Landing page success factors

To be effective, landing pages need to combine the following:

  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • Persuasion
  • Develop trust in the brand

My Twelve landing page success factors

Before I run through the success factors, remember that guidelines are only guidelines, they of course, have exceptions. The only way to be sure of what works for your audience and your market is to conduct tests such as usability studies, A/B testing or multivariate testing. Having the right web analytics tool is vital to this.

As a minimum, you should readily be able to view data on bounce rates (the proportion of visitors who leave the page without visiting more pages) and conversion rates (the proportion of visitors who complete the intended outcome) for different referral sources (e.g. paid vs natural search vs online ads). Ideally, it should also enable you to complete A/B testing where different visitors are served different pages so differences in bounce and conversion rates can be assessed.

Second, remember that the guidelines are dependent on the users typical viewable area of screen. While many still design for a minimum of 1064X768 or even 800 by 600, the latest data on screen resolutions shows that over three quarters are now higher than 1024 by 768 although this is skewed by the designer audience of that source! So check your own analytics!

However, if browsers open a new window, for example from search results page, the new window may be smaller than full-screen.

So finally! these are my top 12 guidelines for landing page effectiveness:


Unlike casual visits by browsers, visitors arrive on landing page with a directed goal or intention in mind. So the first thing you have to do is instantly show relevance to help visitors achieve that goal.

A clear headline should show relevance and also engage the visitor to scan down the page. You need to show the visitor they have selected the right place to find the brand, product, deal, information or experience they are looking for, so the headline must clearly indicate this.

Other key «relevance messages» should be readily scannable through chosing the right headlines and with panels drawing the eye to the different areas as in the Huggies example. Tests tend to show that larger fonts give better response.

Since hitting the landing page is often the first experience of a company, we have to answer basic questions that the customer has about the company such as «Who are you?», «What do you do?», «Where are you?» «Do I trust you?» You may have these message on the home page, but does the navigation on the landing page allow these questions to be answered. Standard menu options such as «About Us» or «Contact Us» can achieve these.

Here’s another recent example landing page showing the importance of relevant copy and testing it to get the best result. I recommend taking a look at this post from Kissmetrics for the other copy examples too.

TWO. INTEGRATE with referral source(s).

The customer journey to your web site started elsewhere. To deliver relevance also requires consistency with what they have already read and seen to meet their expectation.

So in terms of message, branding and creative the landing page needs to deliver an integrated communication. This applies particularly to offline ads, interactive ads and e-mails.

The key message on the landing page needs to be consistent with the key message of the referral source. So again, you need to show the visitor they have selected the right place to find the brand, product, deal, information or experience they are looking for, so the headline must clearly indicate this.

THREE. Provide sufficient DETAIL to support the response decision.

The whole experience and content needs to be right to generate response. For me, one of the most important aspect of landing pages, and one that is often not right, is that there isn’t enough detailed information on which the visitor can decide to signup.This is why I recommend the Option 3 above.

To help determine the right-level of information, best practice is to use personas to identify typical information required and the gap relative to what you deliver. Also think about the level of «domain knowledge» the user has – do your technical product descriptions make sense. Also think about «tool knowledge» – where your landing page requires using additional tools what knowledge is required to use them effectively and are you providing the right explanations.

FOUR. Start the user on their journey.

The design should make the next step clear and minimise the number of clicks required for response since every extra click required in response will generally reduce response by 10%. It is best practice to include the initial data capture on the first page as shown in the example.

If the response mechanism is on another page use multiple calls-to action to gain response since some visitors will respond to images and some text hyperlinks. Make all images clearly clickable, for example by making them look like buttons.

Form-related approaches to improve the journey:

  • Limiting the options on each page is an effective technique.
  • Grabbing attention in first 30 seconds through a headline and lead that reflects ad copy and «isn’t too clever», i.e. be direct.
  • If it is a multi-page form, then draw users in with easier initial questions.
  • Allow the form to be saved part way through the quotation
  • Use dynamic headlines related to referrer including search keyphrase to help deliver relevance
  • Use focus groups to decide what to test – marketers who are too close to the problem may disregard factors that are important to customers

This charity landing page example, provided by Liam in the comments ticks many of these boxes!

The words used to form calls-to-action are critical to create a scent trail that users of the site follow. An effective scent is delivered where the words match what the user wants to know or achieve.

FIVE. Use the right PAGE LENGTH.

This is a difficult one to give guidelines on. The right copy / page length is one that minimises the knowledge gap between what the user want to know and what you tell them.

Some designers would suggest that content must fit on one page that doesn’t require scrolling at 800 by 600 resolution. But short copy is often inconsistent with Guideline 1. Also tests have shown that page can be scrollable – users will scroll if they appear scrollable. However, it is best if key information include response mechanism are above the fold.

To summarise, I would say, make it short (for impulsive readers) AND long (for readers who want to read more).

Of course, the only way to get the length right is to test. This Marketing Experiments test
suggested that long-copy outperformed when driving visitors to a product page from Google Adwords.

SIX. Use meaningful graphics.

Graphics must be consistent with the campaign and generate empathy for the audience. Don’t understimate the importance of quality graphics – stock graphics rarely work. It is difficult to assess how graphics influence conversion rate, so the implication is test.

SEVEN. Remove menu options?

Another guideline that causes disagreement. Removing menu options will often increase conversion rate since less choice of where to click is offered, but for those who don’t respond will give a poor experience and prevent them browsing other parts of the site. Often a compromise is best with a reduction in menu options to top-level options only.

EIGHT. Consider using a «flowable» or liquid layout design.

This maximises real estate at a given resolution on different devices. These days it’s also called responsive design.

Although this can work well for a retailer to show more products above the fold in a category, this is achieved with a loss of control of design. For landing pages, a controlled, fixed design will often work best.

NINE. Remember search marketing.

There are three aspects to this. First an offline campaign will lead to people searching on your brand or the campaign strapline.

Make sure you are using paid search to direct visitors to the relevant pages particularly during the campaign.

Second, if the page is integrated into the web site and will be used in the long-term, optimise it for relevant search keyphrases using the search engine optimisation techniques described here.

Three, Google sends out a robot «Adbots Google» to test landing page for relevance and speed, so make sure your <title>, headings and body copy include the keywords you’re using to trigger your ad and including in ad copy.

TEN. Remember the non-responders.

Provide a choice for those who don’t respond despite your carefully crafted landing pages. Provide a reasonably prominent (trackable) phone number or perhaps a call-back/live chat option. Also provide some options for them to browse or search elsewhere on the site.


TIMITI is a term coined by Jim Sterne, author of Web Metrics

It stands for Try It! Measure It! Tweak It! i.e. online content effectiveness should be reviewed and improved continuously rather than as a periodic or ad-hoc process. Because the web is a new medium and the access platforms, user behaviours and competitor approach all change continuously, what works at the start of the year will certainly not work as well by the end of the year.

Today, using AB or Multivariate testing tools like Google Website Optimizer is an essential part of Landing Page Optimisation.

TWELVE. Consider landing page longevity

Landing pages are often used for short-term campaigns. If so, you need to carefully manage when they and links to them from within the nav are expired. Risks include out-of-date offers and visitors typing in URLS which are no longer valid. Use of a custom 404 Error page is essential to manage these problems gracefully.

If you’re researching landing page examples, I also recommend this excellent post, deconstructing 10 landing page examples.

Finally, remember that there are always exceptions to guidelines and some have suggested that many of the commonly held usability guidelines are myths. See also Bryan Eisenberg’s ten unwritten Internet design rules.

So that’s my guidance, as always, tell me what you have found. Share the approaches you have found effective. TIA! Dave

Author: Dave Chaffey

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Definitions of Emarketing vs Internet vs Digital marketing

What is the difference and does it matter?!

I’ve been asked this question a lot across the years… does the difference in scope between these terms matter? I always answer, no it doesn’t really matter, but the scope of responsibility is important to make the most of managing the opportunities. So the scope of digital marketing activities does need to be agreed within a business and/or between a company and its agencies.

The books I’ve written have actually had three different titles, updated with the times. I started with Internet Marketing, then Emarketing and in 2012 renamed the original Internet Marketing book to Digital Marketing, about time too since I was involved in developing the syllabus as an examiner for the IDM Diploma in Digital Marketing back in 2004-5 when the term was hardly used at all – so it’s been great to see “Digital Marketing” adopted as the “de facto” term!

This naming reflects these trends in use of the terms shown by Google Trends – here shown in the latest June 2015 update to Google Trends.

Digital Marketing vs Internet Marketing

You can compare to the latest here – the UK tends to be ahead of the curve here.




When we wrote the original Internet marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice book in 2000 I used a simple definition of Internet marketing. Internet marketing is…

“Achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies.”

I used this succinct definition to helps remind us that it is the results delivered by technology that should determine investment in Internet marketing, not the adoption of the technology!

To help make sure that digital marketing is aligned with growing a business we’ve developed the RACE marketing strategy framework on Smart Insights which shows how to achieve growth through emarketing in these 5 areas:

These digital technologies include Internet media such as desktop and mobile web sites and e-mail as well as other digital media such as wireless or mobile and media for delivering digital Television such as cable and satellite.

In practice, Internet marketing will include the use of a company web site in conjunction with online promotional techniques described in Chapter 8 of the book such as search engine marketing, interactive advertising, e-mail marketing and partnership arrangements (affiliate marketing) with other web sites. Some businesses who «want to be top in Google», simply consider Internet marketing to simply equate to Search Engine Marketing, but while this is important this scope is too narrow to take full advantage of digital media.

I identify 6 main types of digital media communications channels which every business should consider as part of digital marketing:

These can be facilitated through the desktop or mobile web. We have more details on the strategy in our visual emarketing strategy guide.

These techniques are used to support objectives of acquiring new customers and providing services to existing customers that help develop the customer relationship.

However, for Internet marketing to be successful there is still a necessity for integration of these techniques with traditional media such as print, TV and direct mail. This is multi-channel Emarketing.

Emarketing definition

Emarketing can be considered to be equivalent to Internet marketing and Digital Marketing. Most in the industry would look at it this way.

However, Emarketing is sometimes considered to have a broader scope than Internet marketing since it refers to digital media such as web, e-mail and wireless media, but also includes management of digital customer data and electronic customer relationship management systems (E-CRM systems).

Digital marketing definition

Digital marketing is yet another term similar to Emarketing. It’s a term increasingly used by specialist digital marketing agencies and the new media trade publications. The Institute of Direct Marketing has also adopted the term to refer to its specialist professional qualifications.

To help explain the scope and approaches used for digital marketing working with the IDM in 2005 I developed a more (too?) detailed definition than the simple one at the start of this post to better scope it and show how digital marketing needs to be closely aligned to broader marketing objectives and activities and involves much more than SEO and inbound marketing. So this is the original definition from 2005 – how should it change now?

«Digital marketing involves:

Applying these technologies which form online channels to market, that’s Web, e-mail, databases, plus mobile/wireless & digital TV)

To achieve these objectives:

Support marketing activities aimed at achieving
profitable acquisition and retention of customers… within a multi-channel buying process and customer lifecycle

Through using these marketing tactics:

Recognising the strategic importance of digital technologies and
developing a planned approach to reach and migrate customers to online services through e-communications and traditional communications. Retention is achieved through improving our customer knowledge (of their profiles,behaviour, value and loyalty drivers), then delivering integrated, targeted communications and online services that match their individual needs».

The first part of the definition illustrates the range of access platforms and communications tools that form the online channels which e-marketers use to build and develop relationships with customers. The access platforms or hardware include PCs, mobile phones and interactive digital TV (IPTV) and these deliver content and enable interaction through different online communication tools such as organisation web sites, portals, search engines, blogs , e-mail, instant messaging and text messaging. Some also include traditional voice telephone as part of digital marketing.

The second part of the description shows that it should not be the technology that drives digital marketing, but the business returns from gaining new customers and maintaining relationships with existing customers.

It also emphasises how digital marketing does not occur in isolation, but is most effective when it is integrated with other communications channels such as phone, direct mail or face-to-face. As we have said, the role of the Internet in supporting multi-channel marketing is another recurring theme in this book and chapters 5 and 6 in particular explain its role in supporting different customer communications channels and distribution channels.

Online channels should also be used to support the whole buying process from pre-sale to sale to post-sale and further development of customer relationships.

Multi-channel marketing

Customer communications and product distribution are supported by a combination of digital and traditional channels at different points in the buying cycle

The final part of the description summarises approaches to customer-centric emarketing. It shows how success online requires a planned approach to migrate existing customers to online channels and acquire new customers by selecting the appropriate mix of e-communications and traditional communications. Retention of online customers needs to be based on developing customer insight by researching their characteristics, behaviour, what they value, what keeps them loyal and then delivering tailored, relevant web and e-mail communications.

Customer insight definition

Knowledge about customers needs, characteristics, preferences and behaviours based on analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. Specific insights can be used to inform marketing tactics directed at groups of customers with shared characteristics

Author: Dave Chaffey

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The Science of Creating Highly Shareable Infographics [Infographic]

Cool topic? Check. Compelling research? Check. Accurate data? Check, check.

When you’re sitting down create an infographic, it’s never a good idea to just jump in, translate all that research into bite-sized pieces one after the other, and hope people like it. Infographics don’t just randomly become popular — there’s a science to it.

So, what’s the secret? Thanks to the folks at Siege Media, we have a much better idea. Using BuzzSumo, they analyzed the 1,000 most-shared infographics in the past year to weed out the common characteristics of the most popular ones.

Their analysis covered color scheme, word count, length (in pixels), and other cool findings — like the social networks on which infographics about certain topics perform best. They found that infographics on the topic of health performed best on Facebook and Pinterest, while infographics about social media and business performed best on Twitter and LinkedIn.

To learn more about the science of the most popular infographics, check out the infographic below from Siege Media. You can refer to these results to create a data-driven strategy for your own infographics. (For even more inspiration, check out this list of the best infographics of the year.)


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What Makes a Slogan Successful? [Infographic]

You might not remember the exact content of the Taco Bell commercial you saw last week, but you probably remember their punchy slogan — «Think outside the bun» — followed by the ding of a bell.

What makes a slogan like Taco Bell’s so sticky? How can you make sure yours will be memorable, too?

For data-driven tips on what makes a slogan successful, check out the infographic below from SiteProNews. You’ll learn the factors of what makes a great slogan and get examples of some of the most successful slogans of all time. (And check out this blog post for a more in-depth look at some brands with really catchy slogans.)


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The 7 Excel Tricks Every Office Worker Should Know [Infographic]

Computer technology moves fast — which is why it’s so hard to believe that a computer program that’s been around for 30 years is still one of the most popular programs in the world. And yet, I’m willing to bet every single one of you has had to use Microsoft Excel at some point in your life.

Nowadays, most office workers are simply expected to know basic Excel functions — so much so that many recruiters suggest you shouldn’t even bother listing it on your resume. «I swap “Proficient in Word, Excel and PowerPoint” for “Proficient in Breathing Oxygen,'» quipped the founder of Mergers & Inquisitions.

Beyond creating basic charts and graphs, there are a few other Excel tricks that everyone working in an office should know. For instance, it’s really helpful to at least have a basic understanding of how to create pivot tables and VLOOKUPs. (Don’t worry — it’s easier than it sounds.)

From charting to conditional formatting to pivot tables, check out the infographic below from Microsoft Training to learn the top seven most useful Excel tricks everyone working in an office environment should be familiar with. (And read this blog post to learn these tricks and others in more detail.)


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Google Confirms The Real Time Penguin Algorithm Is Coming Soon

The next Penguin refresh will be happening pretty soon and should be a real-time algorithm.

Google’s Gary Illyes said today at SMX East that next Penguin update will be in the “foreseeable” future, adding “I hope” by the end of the year, and it will be the real-time version of the algorithm.

Back in July, Gary Illyes told us that Penguin was months away, and we are almost there. Illyes was overly cautious and would not give us a timeline or date, but he did imply it will be happening soon.

Real-time Penguin

This version of the Penguin algorithm will be real-time, at least that is the goal, Gary said. That means that as soon as Google discovers that a link is removed or disavowed, the Penguin algorithm will process it in real time, and you would be able to recover from a Penguin penalty incredibly quickly. However, you could end up with a Penguin penalty just as quickly.

Google had already told us this back in June, but it is nice to know they are on track to make this happen soon.

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Million Dollar Content – An Analysis of the Web’s Most Valuable Organic Content

As much as we like to debate content vs. links, sometimes great content just seems to dominate. I don’t mean to say that great content doesn’t get great links, or that the purposes of creating great content is not to get links, but simply that some content on the web seems to shine through the SERPs.

Content might not be king, but it has lot of sway in Google’s kingdom.

After sifting through tons of SERP data to find million dollar answer boxes (answer box results that rank at the top for keywords driving millions of dollars in traffic), I decided to dig deep to find content just like it across the web. But I wanted to do something different, something harder. I wanted to find content that didn’t have huge Domain Authority. Sure, it is easy for the Wikipedia’s and YouTubes of this world to rank for huge keywords, but what about the little guy? Are there any pieces of content out there bringing in millions of dollars of traffic coming from domains with Domain Authority around 50 or lower? And if so, what sets this content apart from the rest? Let’s find out!

First, I needed a little help in deconstructing exactly what makes this great content tick. I enlisted the SEO greats – Garrett French of CitationLabs who essentially wrote the book on linkable content, and Mark Traphagen, Internet social guru extraordinaire from Stone Temple.

So let’s begin.

Finding great content

I didn’t want to start with any assumptions. I didn’t want to assume that great content was pretty, or thorough, or authoritative. I wanted to judge content by its results, not its features. I set 3 distinct qualifications:

  1. The content URL couldn’t be a home page.
  2. The domain couldn’t have a Moz Domain Authority above 55.
  3. The content URL had to earn more than $1,000,000 a year in traffic based on a recent click through model, traffic volume, and estimated CPC of the keywords for which it ranks.

With those parameters set, I went digging. With SERPScape and the MozScape API, we quickly uncovered dozens of contenders out of just a sampling of the data set. So, what did we discover? What patterns did we find across the board? What set this content apart?

Feature #1: On-point

One of the most obvious trends was simply how perfectly and thoroughly the top content answered the users queries. It wasn’t that the content was necessarily long (although in many cases it was). However, the content was highly relevant, regardless of its length. Take for example this «bed sizes» web page on

Most webmasters would be content with just throwing up a quick intro paragraph and dimensions, but the SleepTrain site provides it several different ways…

  1. An overlay comparison image with Dimensions
  2. A textual table listing of sizes
  3. Several separate images showing people placement on the different mattresses
  4. A textual analysis of common bed sizes describing who would and would not fit by their height.

Now, I know what you are thinking. This isn’t all that great!, but everything must be seen in context. Look at the next several listings. Wikipedia is a nightmare of text, BetterSleep is just text, bedding experts is a little better, but doesn’t have the first overlay chart, SleepCountry only has the overlay chart… No other page in the top 10 answers all of a user’s questions as thoroughly but succinctly as the SleepTrain site.

But don’t take my word for it, we saw this over and over again in the data. We know that good, thorough content can rank well, and we saw just that. The average topical relevancy scores of our Million Dollar Content pieces were significantly better time and time again than the average competition in the SERPs.

In fact, some pages had scores that were truly mind blowing. One particular page on resume templates hit 99.96% relevancy! To get that level of precision, not only do you need to be highly thorough, you also have to be highly restrictive to prevent the addition of content that isn’t relevant. That means no filler. Subsequently, this one particular page ranked for over 2,000 related keywords!

Feature #2: Bold

Conventional wisdom rarely helps you win in a competitive atmosphere. If you do what everyone else thinks should be done, you are predictable, and predictable is beatable.

For a few years now, one of the items on my regular audit list has been page speed. We know that TTFB (time-to-first-bite) correlates with search rankings, that fast download speeds correlate with increased conversions and better user engagement, and we even have an official announcementfrom Google that page speed matters for rankings.

Well, StyleGlam gives Google a giant middle finger when it comes to page speed. The page is bold, image-laden, and is even filled with ads.

The page clocks in at a turtle’s pace of 24.9 seconds to load and an elephant’s weight at 7.49MB in size! But maybe that is the point.

The game of SEO is all about compromises. When you make a page load quickly, you often have to compromise on images, text, and thoroughness. When you make a page informative, you might have to compromise on conversion rates. In this case, the webmasters came up with a completely different balance. They chose not to compromise on thoroughness, information content, conversion points (look at the ads!) and instead let page speed die a horrendous death. But the trade-off worked!

StyleGlam wasn’t the only site we saw throw page speed to the wind in order to go big. Sites in the resume space, calendar, degree and health care spaces often took refuge in being big before being quick.

But we also saw the opposite true. Paired-back resources that answer one question very quickly, very easily, very simply can also win. What seems to never make its way to the top though is conventional content on a conventional sites. If you aren’t a big brand, you better be different, be better, be bold.

Feature #3: Fresh

Can content survive in high spam, high value keyword niches? You bet it can. I was shocked when I came upon this one, as it was just a well managed blog post that was now several years old. It was surrounded by the latest entrants into a niche that was notoriously getting shut down and cleaned out: free streaming movies.

So how does a simple blog post on the best free movie sites manage to bring in $1,000,000+ in traffic not just this year, or last year, or the year before but for years and years on end?

Well, one thing we noticed about it and many others was content freshness. I can’t tell you how many times a client has been scared to update their content that already ranks. «But what if I break it? What if I lose rankings?»

Not updating your content IS breaking it.

The truth is that if you are not updating your content regularly, Google will have to assume that your content is losing its reliability. So why not? Over time, you will build up a great backlink profile by sheer longevity, while at the same time keeping content as fresh as new competitors entering the space.

The author here found a great opportunity. People wanted to find these sites, they kept disappearing, and someone needed to keep an up-to-date record of the best ones. Now, the webmaster didn’t create it once and leave it, or update it annually. They updated it regularly. The net result?

This piece of content has enjoyed long-term, million-dollar rankings while competitors have come and gone. They have ranked for thousands of keywords for several years by simply creating great content and keeping it fresh.

Linkable million-dollar pages

I am now going to turn this study over to Garrett French. Garrett is the founder and chief link strategist of Citation Labs, a link-building agency and campaign incubator. He’s developed multiple link-building tools, including the Link Prospector and the Broken Link Finder. He also co-wrote The Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Link Moses himself, Eric Ward. Garrett and his team lead monthly webinars on enterprise content strategy and promotion from the Citation Labs Blog.

Only 34% of the content studied has at least 1 link in OSE. That’s right – there are tons of pages getting $1,000,000+ worth of organic search traffic yearly that have few if any external links. A lack of links does not necessarily demonstrate a lack of linkability, but I will say that overall these pages don’t seem «designed» for linkability.

Before we get to individual examples of linkability though (they do exist in this set!) I’d like to outline some basics on how we evaluated these pages.

  • At Citation Labs, we divide linkers into «curators» who collect URLs for a single existing resource page and «editors» who publish new topic pages. Tactically speaking, the curators support broken link building and «link request» efforts, while editors support PR and guest posting campaigns.
  • We believe that it’s primarily the linkers themselves who define a document’s linkability – both by their decision or not to link and how many potential linkers there happen to be.

URLs Linkable to Curators

Linkable Document – Timberline Knolls

Drug addiction, a subcategory of mental health, is one of the single most linkable topics we’ve encountered in our work thus far. This URL provides clear and comprehensive information for concerned loved-ones of a potential heroin user. These concerned loved-ones are a «linker-valued audience.»

To get a quick read on how many curators might be out there for this topic, search for this queryheroin inurl:links.html. We use the inurl:links.html portion of the query to get a sense of volume. There’s a ton out there for this document which makes it not only linkable but worthy of further promotion on its own.

Curators are – relatively speaking – quite rare. The existence of curators seems to be topically-driven and are especially prevalent across health and education.

Linkable Document – Wixon Jewelers

I would examine the potential for a broken link building campaign in the «birthstones» area for this URL. In addition, it appears (based on this query: birthstones inurl:links.html) that there are enough potential opportunities to support a request campaign as well.

Birthstones probably won’t get curators linking quite like addiction will. That said, they remain embedded in our collective psyche and if a related URL happens to be dead this could be a great candidate for a linkable page.

URLs linkable to editors

Linkable Document – SMU Mustangs

I’m not a sportser, but this URL stood out in our analysis because it had 60+ root linking domains. This seems to be a hub for SMU’s football team, complete with a calendar. Bloggers, sports journalists, opponents, local events websites, all of these folks should be interested in linking to and supporting this team. Businesses could consider starting a competitive football team to replicate this effort 😉

But seriously, one takeaway, especially for local, is supporting the beloved local sports teams and events.

Linkable Document – The Best Schools

At first pass, my strategy would be to promote via PR, ideally in conjunction with the ranked schools to help them get the most out of their top ranking. Secondly, I’d run a low-scale branded guest posting effort. Guest posting topics could cover «following dreams,» «seizing the day,» «increasing your income,» «going back to school as a parent», etc. If you repackage the data for a linker-valued audience (Best Online Colleges for Seniors) you could potentially build out a link request campaign too.

Linkable Document – Top 10 Home Remedies

The title – «How to Get Rid of Pimples Fast» – makes this one a tough pitch to skin health curators. That said, I think it could be a fantastic citation opportunity in a guest posting campaign. Target blogs that are more lifestyle oriented – makeup blogs perhaps, dating advice blogs etc – and build out titles that are not necessarily directly related to pimples or blemishes themselves.

Here are a couple more in that same vein – they could work well as supporting citations in a guest posting effort:

StayGlam: Nail Designs for Short Nails

Hair Style On Point: Top 10 Short Men’s Hairstyles in 2015

Most editors would not think twice about allowing those links to live so long as they fit topically and have potential appeal to the reading audience.

Linkability takeaways

The majority of these million dollar pages are not purely linkable, but many could support link building campaigns. Pay close attention to the link profile of the entire domain for link building campaign guidance – the ranking pages may not be there based on their individual link earnings.

Shareable million-dollar pages

So how do these million dollar content pieces actually perform in the very different context of social media? We’ll let the venerable Mark Traphagen, Senior Director of Online Marketing at Stone Temple Consulting and give us some insights on how this high performing content makes out in the world of social media. Mark is a world traveler, speaker, consultant and is actually a Klout Top 10 Expert for SEO & Content Marketing, meaning he actually does know how to make this social stuff work.

Just as Garrett revealed above that million dollar content does not necessarily have to have a lot of external links (or even any at all), so I found that there is little-to-no correlation between the number of social shares and whether or not content will win Russ’s million dollar prize.

45% of our sample group had no social shares at all (according to Buzzsumo) and 66% had fewer than 300 shares.

Of course, just like having a lot of good links «sure can’t hurt,» having a lot of social shares certainly increases the chances that your content will do well organically. In fact, the page with the highest number of social shares in the sample group (it had over 1 million) also has the lowest domain authority of the group (21). Moreover, 60% of the pages with 1000 or more social shares have a DA of 40 or less.

Now I’m not suggesting that this proves that the million dollar status of those pages was driven directly by their social popularity. In fact, I consider it unlikely that social popularity is a direct ranking factor at the present time. However, it is likely that wide exposure via social media increases the chances of activity that very likely does factor into Google’s ranking algorithm.

Before I take a deeper look at the most-shared content, I have to share two interesting tidbits from my examination of the pages Russ sampled for this study:

  • Facebook is as killer for this type of content as most people think it is. For those pages with at least 100 social shares, a whopping 92% had the vast majority of those shares occur via Facebook. For most of those, almost all the social sharing happened on Facebook.
  • None of the pages that had zero social shares had visible social sharing buttons. To be fair, several of them were simply landing pages linking to other content, and thus not really shareable. But most of the rest have characteristics that typically make content more attractive to shares, yet they provided no easy opportunity for visitors to take that action.

The shareability winners

Let’s examine the factors that most likely made the three most-shared pages in our sample set so shareable.

80 Nail Designs for Short Nails – 1 million shares

This page is almost embarrassingly easy to analyze, as Buzzsumo shows that all but about 800 of its 1 million+ shares came from Pinterest.

If there ever were a textbook example of «made for Pinterest,» it’s this page. The entirety of the content is 80 dazzling images of colorful and exotic nail designs, such as the following:

The images are fashion-centered, brightly-colored, and oriented toward a female audience, the perfect trifecta of Pinterest shareability.

Here’s the kicker: those 1 million Pinterest shares happened in spite of the fact that the page has no social share buttons! This serves as clear proof that if your content is amazingly shareable, and in particular well-adapted for a particular social network, visitors will share it even if it isn’t easy to do so.

It’s probable, though, that the vast majority of those 1 million shares weren’t made directly from the content page. The most likely scenario is that a few influential Pinterest users did the initial sharing, and then thousands upon thousands of other Pinterest users repined those shares.

How to Get Rid of Pimples Fast– 73,300 shares

People love to share «how to» content that they think will be helpful to their social connections. Why? Social psychology tells us that the feeling of being helpful to others conveys as much benefit to the giver as to the receivers, and often more.

A HubSpot study found that content with the word «how» in the title is among the most shared on Twitter.

Furthermore, this content piece speaks directly to a very common (and embarrassing) problem with quick, easy fixes, exactly what people in such a situation seek. The page also has several easy-to-understand infographics, which undoubtedly make it even more appealing to share. The Open Graph image tag is properly set so that the most appealing of those images appears in shares on networks like Facebook and Google+.

Finally, this piece of content, like the previous, exemplifies that highly-shareable content will be shared, even if the site itself does not make sharing easy. In this case, the page does have share buttons for Twitter and Facebook, but they are at the bottom of the page, and below ads and other navigation. Nevertheless, once the content found its way to Facebook (where almost all of its shares occurred), it took off.

Positive & Inspirational Life Quotes– 15,800 shares

Frankly, this page has very little going for it other than the one thing that probably earned it 6.3K shares on Facebook and another 1000 on Twitter. It is well-optimized for a very popular sharing category on both those networks: quotations.

According to a New York Times commissioned study, people share content to satisfy any of four psychological needs. Those needs are:

  1. Entertainment
  2. Self-definition
  3. Relationship building
  4. Self-fulfillment

Inspirational quotes fulfill at least 1, 2, and 4 of the above, and probably help contribute to #3. They are entertaining in that they fit the kind of light, easily-digested, feel good moments that many people turn to Facebook and Twitter for. Quotations also help us define ourselves to our tribe. They are a quick «tag» to aspirations that are likely shared by others in our social circles. Finally, quotes provide self-fulfillment, as sharing them makes us feel like we have contributed something positive to the world (and with very little effort!).

Out of our sample group, this was the only content that had a volume of Twitter shares worth mentioning. Most likely that was because a number of the quotations used a «click to tweet» feature, where a Twitter user can, with one click, share the quote to her Twitter stream. Even though the previous two examples show that highly-sharable content can get shared even without the site providing an easy way to do so, making that content one-click sharable can boost the share volume even higher.

Shareability takeaways

  • Social shares are not necessary to achieving million dollar content status in search. However, in some cases having them may improve your content’s chances in that regard.
  • Content that meets the criteria of being highly shareable sometimes needs little or no boost from the publishing site itself, as long as enough visitors take the initiative to share it themselves. A recent Buzzsumo study published here on the Moz Blog found that «surprising, unexpected and entertaining images, quizzes and videos have the potential to go viral with high shares.» However, the study showed that those content types typically earn few links, even if they are highly shared. This confirms Garrett’s findings above.
  • While making content easy to share (by providing easy-to-find share buttons, for example), while not necessary, can boost the number of overall shares, and/or get the content shared to other networks where an influencer hasn’t done the work already.
  • Despite all the negative press about how much Facebook has reduced the ability for brand content to get organic reach, it remains by far the most «viral-ready» social network. If your content can get a good toehold there by being shared by some influencers, Facebook can still provide organic reach magic. Of course, paid boosting of content can vastly accelerate the chances of that happening, and this study did not examine whether any of the content was supported with paid social advertising.

Overall takeaways

So what are the takeaways? What makes something million-dollar content? I think there are a few standouts…

  1. Go big and bold. You have to stand out from the crowd, and if you can’t do that with your domain authority, you have to do it with your content.
  2. Stay relevant, both in freshness and thoroughness. Know what your user wants and deliver it.
  3. Some sites just get lucky, but other sites make their luck. There were certainly a number of pages that still seemed to rank inexplicably, with average content, few social shares, and even fewer links. Don’t bank on that. Do the leg work and you too can create million dollar content.

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Good-bye, Google as we know it. Hello, Alphabet

Good-bye, Google as we know it. Hello, Alphabet

This is the last day that Google is operating without a parent company.

After the close of markets Friday, the company officially will become Alphabetand will trade as such on Monday. Google will become a business unit running under the Alphabet umbrella and will focus on core Internet-related businesses, including search, YouTube and Android.

The company announced the official change on its investor relations page.

«Long-term, this could be a big deal, but it must be more than a name change,» said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. «Non-Google companies under Alphabet need to show a few things – like they need to enable innovation and autonomy.»

Google announced in August that it was creating a parent company and that Google would become one of its wholly owned subsidiaries.

Alphabet is set to replace Google as the publicly traded entity and shares of Google will be the same number of shares of Alphabet. The company will still trade under the ticker symbol GOOG.

Google won’t be the only subsidiary under the Alphabet umbrella.

Google X, the company’s secretive research arm that came up with the autonomous car, will become its own business, as will Capital and Ventures, which will concentrate on funding startups.

Before the reorganization, everything the company was working on – search, Android, Chrome, Google Glass, robotics, driverless cars, drones and even smart contact lenses fell under the Google corporate umbrella. With this move, Google will shed all of its research projects, which aren’t money makers, and will concentrate on its Internet-based businesses, like search, which is a huge money maker.

Similarly, the company, which has become known for its «moon shots» or outrageous-sounding research, should be able to put even more muscle behind new projects.

Google’s research projects, like smart contact lenses that can read blood sugar levels for diabetics, will have its own executives overseeing the work.

With less attention split between money makers and big dreams, Alphabet is expected to be able to do a better job at both.

«This is a big deal because if they can accomplish what they’re looking to… this puts in place a future operating model for a large company to truly innovate,» said Moorhead. «I think this puts a meaningful separation between businesses generating cash, and research and science projects. For the company, it could mean they can keep driving profits today and invest in the far future.»

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Google Drive, Facebook and Twitter most popular business cloud apps – but are they safe?

More than 15% of European organisations now use more than 1000 cloud apps with Google Drive, Facebook and Twitter the most popular, according to a report from Netskope.

The findings, which appear in the April 2015 Netskope Cloud Report, saw iCloud and Salesforce make the top five. Five cloud storage apps (Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive for Business, OneDrive and Dropbox) made the top 12, alongside four social apps (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn).

Of the organisations analysed in the Netskope Cloud, over a quarter use more than 1000 apps, with the average number of cloud apps – both sanctioned and unsanctioned – standing at 730, representing a 16% increase from the previous quarter. European organisations have on average 511 cloud apps.

Yet not all of these apps are enterprise-grade secure – far from it. According to Netskope’s figures, nine out of every 10 apps in use today score “medium” or below for enterprise-level security. Furthermore, 13.6% of app users have had their login details compromised, and more than one in five (21.6%) logins to Salesforce has been through users who have had their accounts compromised.

Regular readers of this publication and sister title Enterprise AppsTech will be aware of issues surrounding data breaches and compromised accounts. Often, it’s the employees themselves who pose a risk; a recent report from Aruba Networks argued the ‘generation mobile’ workforce was simply indifferent to security policy, while other research has shown employees are more than happy to give up their passwords if the price is right.

Netskope makes the point that many employees re-use passwords, or variations of them, across multiple accounts. “It is important to understand which of those are accessing, and how they’re using, your most business-critical cloud apps,” the report notes.

Yet it again brings up the age-old argument of ‘shadow IT’, or unsanctioned use of cloud apps. Whereas once blacklisting and whitelisting apps was commonplace in an attempt to curb unauthorised activity, many in the industry are now coming around to thinking ‘shadow IT’, if managed correctly, can be a benefit for the business.

“Like it or not, this is the new reality for IT,” said Sanjay Beri, Netskope CEO. “It’s thus critical that organisations maintain a deep level of visibility into their cloud app infrastructure so they can spot a suspicious pattern before it becomes an issue.”

Take a look at the most popular 20 cloud apps according to Netskope. Are these in use at your organisation?

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Dropbox announces user base exceeds 400 million, with eight million business users

Dropbox has announced its number of users has exceeded 400 million, with more than eight million business customers also on board.

The figures, disclosed on the occasion of the cloud storage provider’s eighth birthday, also reveal an impressive growth in the UK market, opened up six months ago. The company has grown from three to 10 offices over the past year.

According to the figures, 4,000 edits to documents are made each second on Dropbox, with users syncing 1.2 billion files each day and creating more than 100,000 new shared folders and links each hour. The number of business users has doubled in just 19 months.

Other figures announced, such as the Dropbox for Business product holding more than 100,000 users, were previously disclosed. For the UK, Dropbox predicts more than five million UK businesses will be using at least one cloud service within a year – and the company is hoping its name is on the ticket.

“We are now the world’s largest collaboration network,” proclaimed Dropbox UK country manager Mark van der Linden. “Consumers know Dropbox is intuitive to use, and businesses are discovering we can boost productivity and creativity, keep data secure and make collaboration simple and efficient,” he added.

It’s the middle point which has often been the stumbling block. From the enterprise security side, traditionally consumer-oriented storage solutions, such as Dropbox, were not considered enterprise class – and it was not at all surprising two years ago when Fiberlink reported Dropbox was the number one banned app for iOS and Android devices. It’s worth noting however that the cloud storage provider also appeared in the top 10 iOS whitelisted apps.

The mood has changed since then however. For enterprise mobile management providers, the threat of shadow IT is now turning into a positive. As employees continue to use the likes of Dropbox, despite the repeated warnings, it’s resulted in rethought strategies and a firmer blueprint of enabling greater employee productivity through personal technology use.

Dropbox has not been slow in beefing up its business credentials either, introducing two-step verification and tiered administrative controls, as well as achieving certification with the emerging ISO/IEC 27018 privacy standard. Even when the mask has slipped, such as the disclosure of a major vulnerability in the Dropbox Android SDK, the company has been praised for its response to the issue – in this instance by IBM Security, who disclosed the vulnerability after it was fixed.

“Dropbox is experiencing incredible growth in the UK and around the world,” van der Linden added. “It’s down to the fact Dropbox is a service people want to use and that businesses trust.”

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