Your Baby Is Ugly

  |  December 20, 2010   |  Comments

After launching a landing page optimization project, you inevitably will find chinks in the armor of your beautiful and perfect creations.

Imagine that you've been involved in designing landing pages for a long time. This typically involves holding fun brainstorming sessions, creating exciting graphical presentations of possible page designs, and writing persuasive offers and text copy.

Then comes the public unveiling. As the euphoria of the project starts wearing off, you inevitably start to see chinks in the armor of your beautiful and perfect creations: the text is too long, the intended audience isn't identified clearly enough, there are no useful navigational cross-links if someone lands on a page deep within the site...

It gets worse.

Your dread may grow as objective evidence of poor design starts to mount: high shopping cart abandonment rates, extensive call-ins to the toll-free support number, high bounce rates on important pages, and lower-than-expected conversion numbers.

Yet, in all of this gloom lies the way out of the mess. After that, you'll see exactly why your landing pages are at cross-purposes with the way that people take in and process information. Your honest analysis can help you decide which elements to test.

One chilling thought from the deliciously twisted mind of the late comedian George Carlin goes, "Somewhere in the world is the world's worst doctor... and someone has an appointment with her/him tomorrow." This is so funny because it's factually correct -- somewhere is, by definition, "the world's worst doctor."

Of course, the consequences of being the world's worst landing page designer aren't as severe. No one will die on the operating table. Your online marketing campaign will simply fail.

If you aren't the worst one, your campaign may simply bump along at a much smaller scale than it otherwise could. Besides, you can always go to your bosses and, after throwing up your hands in frustration, tell them all about how it's impossible to get cost-effective traffic to your site in the face of ever-increasing advertiser competition and rising prices.

The reality for most online marketers is this: you didn't major in psychology, you have no formal training in usability, you never took a persuasive copywriting course, you don't understand test design or statistics, and you have rarely interacted with an actual user of your company's products or services.

Yet most online marketers don't want to admit that they're doing a poor job at landing page design. They liken themselves to the denizens of the mythical Lake Wobegon from Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" where "the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are all above-average."

The whole discipline of decision-making theory is based on the understanding that people have warped perceptions of themselves. They don't make rational decisions.

vPeople consistently overestimate their own skills, influence, and importance. In one survey, 80 percent of participants reported that they were above-average drivers.

You have to let go of your own professional ego structure long enough to let the following truth sink in:

Your Baby Is Ugly: Your landing page has significant and fundamental problems.

Stop. Now repeat this over and over until it starts to properly sink in.

Congratulations! You've taken the first small step toward higher conversion rates.

Tim is off today. This column was originally published on July 22, 2009 on Search Engine Watch.


Tim Ash

Tim Ash is CEO of, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates. SiteTuners' visual attention prediction tool can be used on a landing page screenshot or mock-up to quickly identify major conversion issues. He has worked with Google, Facebook, American Express, CBS, Sony Music, Universal Studios, Verizon Wireless, Texas Instruments, and Coach.

Tim is a highly-regarded presenter at SES, eMetrics, PPC Summit, Affiliate Summit, PubCon, Affiliate Conference, and LeadsCon. He is the chairperson of, the first conference focused on improving online conversions. A columnist for several publications including ClickZ, he's host of the weekly Landing Page Optimization show and podcast on His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.

He received his B.S. and M.S. during his Ph.D. studies at UC San Diego. Tim is the author of the bestselling book, "Landing Page Optimization."

Connect with Tim on Google+.

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