Landing pages vs. direct linkage

Yesterday saw the launch of the 2nd Annual Indie Author Labor Day Sale. (If you’re here for great authors and great books, just skip me and scroll down to yesterday’s post! I won’t mind!)

For the authors, when advertising your books, one of the major decisions is whether to drive traffic through a portal or direct to book. The advantage of driving traffic to a landing page is that you can show off more work, or more of the work than, say, an Amazon.com page. Also, you’re more likely to reach out to readers who use google or kobo, or amazon.de, .co.uk, or .au by providing outlinks to those sites instead of assuming that everyone will purchase off Amazon.com. You also have a chance to connect with the reader as a person, not just another book, and draw them into coming back to your blog, entering into a drawing, signing up for a mailing list, etc.On the gripping hand, you also get all the data on how many people came through, and how many went on to the retailer of choice. Combined with an associate account code embedded in the link, you can then see how many bought the story. This is awesome, because it lets you know if you’ve got the right blurb, right cover, and right audience lined up (high click-through and sales) or if there’s a something that needs changing (high clickthrough, low sales, or high click to landing page, very low clickthough.)

The biggest and worst disadvantage is a significant traffic loss due to requiring another outclick. Every single time the customer has to make another click, the percentage of those who do takes a hit. This is why Amazon worked so hard on the one-click-buy button, and other web companies quickly tried to follow. Also, most authors are good at writing, not at producing slick professional websites. The average shopper at a grocery store may not be able to tell you exactly where and when meat gets dodgy, but they’re very well-tuned at saying “That doesn’t look right. That one looks better.” (No, I’m not good at websites, either. A woman’s got to know her limitations, and web design is definitely not my forte.)

On the gripping hand, when traffic hits a landing page, they’re usually not very invested. They saw a cool piece of artwork on a Facebook ad, or a MGC Club sale announcement, and went “Interesting. Click.” If you distract them from the cool artwork and the promised story by demanding engagement they don’t yet feel because they don’t know whether or not they like you yet… they’ll close the tab or click the back button on the trackball, and not come back. This is not the place, really, for newsletter signups or data-dumps on worldbuilding, or a blog that mainly talks about how the garden is doing. This is where you want to make it as painless as possible for the customer to get what they wanted (a cool story), as fast as possible.

When you look at the Labor Day Sale below, note that the person curating the list split the difference: They provided links directly to the books, but also links to the Amazon Author Page, which is set up by Amazon to best display all your wares for interested browsers. (I may not think it’s the best setup out there, and that it doesn’t favor remembering authors the way a personal social media connection does. I note though, it keeps changing, subtly, every few months, and improving.) So if you are interested in a cover, or a premise, you can click directly over and buy, or you can go “Oh, yes, I read that and it was good. What else do they have out?” and check out the rest of their stuff, with links to their social media (if any.)

While the sale page itself does count as a landing page for anyone coming from social media, it’s designed to do nothing but get the reader to the stories as fast as possible. There’s no extra clutter of pull quotes, reviews, puff pieces, or fancy framing, and that’s frankly as it should be. (The time for mini-reviews is when the curated list is explicitly based on the reputation of the person curating it. If Neil Gaiman were to put together a list of 10 books he liked, people would go check them out because Neil liked them, and they like Neil. If he put together a list and said “I liked this one because it was the inspiration for…” or “This was perfect for reading to my daughter when…”, people would also buy them because then they’d have something to talk about “I’m reading this book that Neil Gaiman says…”, or because he provided an endorsement that it’d work “Worked like a charm to put somebody to bed”. This doesn’t work with John Doe.)

To sum up: landing page or no? Depends on if you think the traffic loss due to the extra click is worth the data gain, or if you’re sure you’ve got enough value added (or non-Amazon.com users) that you won’t lose many readers.

23 Comments

Filed under FYNBOSSPRESS, MARKETING, PROMOTION, Uncategorized

23 responses to “Landing pages vs. direct linkage

  1. I really must do something about my webpage, one of these years . . .

    • TRX

      You don’t have to make it an online diary or even interact with people, but If you’re not at least keeping it current with your latest work and where to buy it, you’re probably better off taking the page down.

      Nothing like the scents of neglect and death to drive off customers…

  2. This is where I am sometimes conflicted about my eclectic blog. I know that it brings readers in when I write something controversial, and I have a steady trickle of regular readers. But does it sell my books? I don’t know as much. For me, it’s more about building a brand and selling me. Then, I sell the books. The Amazon page I use on direct marketing promo material, like postcards and what-not. When I hand out one of those (and I must pause here a moment to put a handful in my purse. Got caught out yesterday with nothing *blushes*) I have already sold myself and they just want to buy a book.

    • That’s very much my approach. My blog is there to sell myself; to let readers get a taste of my interests, the way I write, my sense of humor, etc. I reckon if they like that, they’re likely to like my books as well.

      Hey, with all those ‘likes’ in there, am I becoming Facebook?

      😀

  3. Paul Beard

    I must admit i am conditioned, the first thing I did was click on the picture, which went to a image stored on cedarwrites.com.

    The next choice was the link,which put me in the place I expected, Its not unusual for me to then go the authors page,especially if the book is a sequel or If I have all ready brought a book from them, either then or earlier.

    But I paid no attention at all to the link directly to the authors page.

  4. TRX

    > producing slick professional websites.

    Dear God, no…

    I’ve lost track of how many “professional” web sites I’ve clicked away from. Sites so jammed with high-resolution graphics my 32-megabit cable modem chokes. Sites that hang my browser because they depend on some specific HTML extensions or version of Java or Javascript. Sites that make use of the exotic bits of Flash, which is a crap shoot on anything that’s not a Windows desktop. Sites that are hardwired to some screen size bigger than my 3×24″ desktop. Sites that crash go crazy when the specific fonts they require aren’t available. Sites where you have to go around clicking on random images, because marking links is sooo 20th-century…

    Remember, the goal of the web designer is to impress the person who has the authority to write them a check, seeing a demo on their fast laptop. Not some end user at the other end of a slow broadband link. And to hell with the lusers off in dialup-land or with a cellular data cap.

    Yahoo used to rule the search engine market. Then it became a “portal”, with streaming video, Java, Flash, and pop-ups. When Google came online it was starkly plain; a logo image and a search box. And the majority of users worldwide dropped Yahoo like a hot rock.

    Do you want to sell something to me? Make it simple, fast, and painless. Otherwise, I’m wired to Internet Time; if it takes more than three or four seconds for your site to load, I’ve already clicked back to the search engine to find something else.

    • Confutus

      Ah, yes. More bells! more whistles! More whizzerbangety gimcracky doodads and extra super special effects! Light up the sky with exploding fireworks!
      So, now that you’ve gotten people’s attention, Where’s the beef?

    • B. Durbin

      The only reason I’d hire a web designer is to make it work and make it clean. And “make it work” is “make it work on all standard platforms, and perform decently well in the weird ones.”

  5. I am one of those consumers who HATES being taken right o the sale page. I don’t buy most of my books directly from Amazon and when I am sent there it is a huge turnoff…if I have clicked on your link it’s because I want to know about you and your book. I am capable of buying it if I want to. I wonder if sometimes we think about sales over reader engagement to our detriment. When writing your story you have to show not tell and kind of trust your reader to get it. I think when it comes to selling your book your job is to let your reader know about it then trust your reader to be interested enough to buy it. Maybe that’s just me.

  6. Stanley Miller

    Another thing to consider if doing a landing page is the ever growing number of people using ad web-bug and script blockers.

    Web bugs and ad blockers usually aren’t too bad for you, the visitor won’t see the ads but they will usually (see below) still see your content.

    If they visit your page with scripts blocked and see nothing of interest the odds of them fiddling their blocking tools to see more are pretty low. At least give them something to get them to make the effort to see the rest, better yet, don’t hide anything that is going to help you sell behind a script.

    Another sales killer, if your outgoing links go through a blocked tracking, advertising or other service and die there due to a script blocker so does your sale. One service that I have to use signed up with cl.exct.net which is blocked by a lot of folks, e-mail and web business is way down while their expensive phone operators are swamped.

    Not all that hard to test this for yourself, pick Firefox or Chrome and load up Scriptsafe, Ghostery and AdBlock. Set them to load and use the default blocking lists and then view your page. If you see a list of fifty scripts from 20 sites that you have to click to enable, or worse a bunch with the dreaded “unwanted” tag that is a lot of effort to bypass you are in trouble getting to the sale. Ghostery for web bugs is less aggressive and it rarely hurts functionality but looking at what it is blocking can warn you if your tracking tools are going to be inaccurate. As above, AdBlock is going to MOSTLY block ads but since it is rule based you need to test it to see if you have tripped over one of the rules, a minor edit will usually fix the rule issue once you realize it is there.

    Think about the same things for your e-mail communications, send yourself a copy and then view it in your blocker enabled browser to make sure it works.

    A good example is this site, I have no cookies enabled and no scripts allowed but it still works well enough to sell me three books off the previous post and to make this comment. I’m also seeing one web bug blocked as well as 13 advertising objects blocked that aren’t impacting getting from here to buying something.

    I’m visiting often enough I really should go back and enable some of that stuff but honestly I never thought about it up to today as things work just fine for me now and I don’t even know what I’m missing due to the blockers. I’ll give that a look once I post this. 🙂

  7. These days I’m exclusive to Amazon, because I’m in KU. So being able to sent them to other retailers isn’t a valid option.
    As for getting information, well, I run my website on my own server. I have a tool that will extract all the standard data, if I want to bother. The problem is, that data is mostly worthless. It doesn’t tell me much, knowing what browser they’re using, or what country or domain they in/on. Especially as most ad places give me that kind of data on who clicked already, anyways.

    I do need to redo my website, and I’m slowly working through it. I’ll probably construct a landing page or two, for those people I try to cage into joining my mailing list (which is something I really haven’t been taking advantage of, I know). But the biggest problem about collecting data, is what do you do with it? And is the data you’re collecting worthwhile? Email address are great, if you want to make a mailing list, but beyond that, you really have no way of knowing if anybody actually bought something based on your ad, because (as far as I know) Amazon doesn’t allow us to link ads to some sort of feedback to let us know what sold, and what didn’t. All we can really track is how many eyeballs did we direct to the sales page.

    And something else to consider: how many people are just clicking on the advert to make it -look- like somebody was interested in the product, when if fact, they were just doing it to make the website money. I see A LOT OF THIS. I see websites that get 10,000 hits a day, BUT only 300 or 400 of then are unique hits, the rest are bots hitting thousands of times a day to make the site look like it gets more traffic than it really does, so they can charge more for adverts.

    I’m honestly thinking about joining google adwords, to see if they can help my advertising do better. I also wish I had better engagement with my blog, years ago I got a lot of hits on my LJ page, these days, not so much. Same for my blogger page. I should probably hire a marketing specialist, I just don’t know if I can afford one. And the people who want 20K to redo my webpage just make me sick. They’re gouging a lot of poor authors out there.

  8. The landing pages I hate are the article-jackers that way too many people link to. You see a link on FB for an interesting-sounding article, get to a page with massive ad sidebars, get to the bottom of the article, and it’s “Click here to read this on the original site [we stole it from]” Even more frustrating is clicking through, hitting an article that’s divided into pages (Scroll wheel, you’ve heard of it?) and page 2 has one paragraph on it.

    Even InstaPundit isn’t immune. I’ve hit a few of those from there.

    • TRX

      Every paragraph is a separate ad-jammed page… there’s no article I want to read badly enough to put up with that. Even when it’s a “major news outlet.”

      • Another thing to check is just where on the page is your ad going to display? I see a lot of places that put ads way down vvvv at the bottom of the page, where there is NO content. So yeah, the page your ad is on gets a lot of traffic, but no one ever scrolls down past the content to look at the ads that surround the empty space.
        If you ad ends up down there, cancel it, you’re not getting what you pay for.