This is the subhead for the blog post

Like it or not, the clothes make the man. Take the same person, put him in an Armani suit one moment and rags the next, and the world’s perception of him will change over night (as seen in the classic movie, Trading Places).

The same is true for shoes, your title at work, your car, your significant other, your hair, and sadly, the color of your skin. Yes, all of these external things matter. Whether you care about them or not is largely irrelevant – the fact that others care about them is the issue (Ah, there’s the rub).

So it should come as no surprise that the quality of your landing page is vital to your success in lead generation, search engine marketing, or anything you do online. A bad landing page is like a bad toupee, a wrinkled suit, or a dirty car. The first impression you give someone is that you don’t care about your appearances, you are sloppy, and you aren’t professional.

A good landing page is like a fine suit. It shows you are put together, confident, and serious about earning their business.

Here then are my rules for “Good Suit” and “Bad Suit” landing pages. First, the Good Suits. A Good Suit landing page will:

– Be targeted to the keyword/banner you are buying

– Have a clear call to action

– Have as few words as possible to get the message across

– Have graphics that support the overall goal of the page, but do not overwhelm the experience

– Use rich media only when absolutely necessary

– Have a display URL that is related to the keyword

– Have no spelling errors, grammar problems, or broken links

– Give the user options (fill out a form, read more about the product, go to a FAQ page)

– Have a privacy policy prominently displayed

– Be compatible with different browsers, connection speeds, and screen resolution sizes

– Be developed by a professional Web designer

A bad suit landing page, on the other hand, will:

– Be your homepage, or a “one page fits all” landing page applied to all of your keyword buys

– Have many different messages or no call to action

– Have too much information and too much wording, resulting in an overwhelming and directionless experience

– Have graphics that look cool just to make the page pretty

– Integrate rich media for no reason

– Have a display URL that reads like a tracking URL

– Not be spell-checked or QA’d

– Only have a form and no other options for the user

– Hide or remove the privacy policy entirely

– Be developed for broadband only

– Be developed with Frontpage or another WYSIWYG program

Some of these rules may sound obvious. Of course, wearing a good suit to an interview may also sound obvious, but having interviewed many, many people over the last few years, I can tell you the art of style is lost on lots of folks (note: this is not directed toward anyone I have hired recently!).

Similarly, you would think that professional lead gen companies would understand that landing page usability is core to their success. Go to Google, however, and type in a typical lead gen keyword (ex. “california refinancing rates” or “online diet programs”) and you will find that many, many lead gen companies have done a very good job of perfecting keyword buying and lead gen sales, but are woefully behind the times when it comes to usability.

Whether you are applying for a job, going on a date, or trying to get someone to sign up for up to four free mortgage quotes online, the person or people you are trying to impress are going to judge you in the first few seconds of interaction. Folks like to say “it’s what’s inside that matters.” While that works well for fairytales, in the real world, perception is more important than reality.

Are your landing pages wearing good suits? If not, it’s time to get a new wardrobe!