Of all the design sins on a landing page, the misuse of video might be the most evil. Attention-grabbing video tactics can do the exact opposite of what you're intending; instead of engaging visitors, they can distract them from your conversion goal.
Let me be clear: Having a video on your landing page isn't the problem. The question is, does it support what you want your visitor do?
Set the Stage for a Good Performance
The human brain inherently connects with video, because video is more closely related to the real world than just static text and images. We already experience the world as an unfolding, real-time 3D movie (actually, more than 3D with smells, tastes, and touch thrown in for good measure!). Anything online that has motion and sound is more an immersive experience and people automatically react to that.
That's why videos can be appropriate for very specific goals, like telling a story or supporting another desired conversion action on the page. Let's briefly look at those options.
When simply watching the video is a conversion: If your main conversion goal is to simply have your visitor watch a video, it's an ideal format to explore a brand story; think corporate social responsibility initiatives or benefits and outcome-driven experiences with customers. Videos mixed with storytelling can create an immediate emotional bond between your brand and your website visitor. Often, a video can also be a great way of communicating complicated information or teaching.
When the video supports another conversion action: Using video as a one-two punch in support of another conversion goal can be a great success. For example, you may want to have someone watch a video, and then fill in a form. Companies like Viewbix allow you to easily add call-to-actions to your video, in order to seamlessly move the user to the next step along the conversion path.
Create an Experience Your Users Will Appreciate
Here are a few general guidelines for a good user experience that will keep your visitor on the desired path.
Length of video: In many cases, videos shouldn't be any more than 30 seconds long. My friend John Cecil, CEO of Oculu and author of Online Video Revolution: How to Reinvent and Market Your Business Using Video, says you can lose people even in the first couple seconds.
His research shows that 33 percent of video viewers bail out in the first 12 seconds of the video. By the one-minute mark, all bets are off. People just don't hang around that long.
If you're going to have video on your site, you've got to grab viewers early and keep them engaged. According to John, the first 10 seconds of your video are most critical; if you can't grab them then, you might as well not use video at all.
In other words, ditch the long-winded brand introduction and get to the message quickly.
Type of video: Believe it or not, videos that feature a borderless spokesperson overlaid on a web page can be very successful. From a conversion standpoint, these types of videos win in A/B tests time and time again.
Example of spokesperson overlay video from Oculu.com
However, the usage of and responsiveness from this type of video is waning, which John attributes to two factors. First, as time goes on, the novelty of the walk-on spokesperson has worn off with some consumers. Second, because the videos are served via Flash, the increased usage of mobile devices is making the technology slightly obsolete.
Presentation: Don't waste precious landing page real estate using an embedded player or YouTube embed widget that takes up half the page. Instead, offer a small thumbnail of the video that's easily identifiable, and let the visitor choose to play it.
Example of a YouTube embed on ArdellLashes.com
Then, present the video in a nice 720-pixel lightbox that pops up over the page, so viewers can easily return to the conversion path after they watch. This option allows the user to remain in control of the experience, and keeps them on your landing page once they close the video.
Example of a lightbox popover video
Where John and I sometimes disagree is on the subject of whether or not to have videos autoplay. While his research indicates a positive impact on certain conversion goals by autoplaying your video, it can turn some visitors off.
However, we do agree on this: if you choose to have your video autoplay, manage the experience with cookies so that only first-time visitors will see it.
Technical considerations: Make sure your video is hosted on a professional video platform or content delivery network so it can stream quickly. Slow page load times create a poor user experience and can cause your visitors to leave the page before it even loads.
Additionally, make sure you have video analytics to help you determine the video's performance. If you notice increased bounce rates, sharp drop-offs in video views or if your visitors are ignoring your call-to-action, use this data to make your videos better.
Your Chance of Video Success Rises When...
Videos are only as successful as their purpose. Know who you're making it for, when it will play, where you're going to feature it and how it helps move visitors through your conversion funnel. With all these elements in play, your landing page videos can support your conversions and offer a great user experience time and time again.
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Tim Ash is CEO of SiteTuners.com, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates. SiteTuners' AttentionWizard.com 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 ConversionConference.com, 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 WebmasterRadio.fm. 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+.
March 19, 2014