Earlier this month at Mequoda Summit Boston, Web conversion architecture was top of mind with Mequoda managing partner Don Nicholas offering a deep-dive into 12 specific types of landing pages that convert, how they were utilized by Mequoda and specific examples of publisher optimized landing pages. One focus was how publishers could building out rapid conversion landing pages (RCLP)—low-risk transactions, both for free offers and for a delayed or optional payment—to offer free resources and reports and gain e-mail subscribers.

The thinking behind these low-risk offers via RCLP page optimization is that the more products given away in exchange for an email address, the broader an audience. “The better your conversion rate, and the more contextual opportunities you offer them to give you their email address, the larger your email list will become,” Nicholas said.

RCLP in Practice

HRHero, a 12-year-old title offering state-specific employment law resources for human resource managers from Tennessee-based parent company M. Lee Smith Publishers, as well as music publisher Premier Media, both use rapid landing page optimization, but rely on them different to convert readers.

Premier Media CEO Peter Sprague utilizes conversion architecture opportunities on most of its landing pages, but specifically for the Premier Guitar homepage. A rotating picture screen on the top left of the page draws readers into magazine content where they can register to become digital subscribers. Premier Guitar also offers giveaways for which readers must register, as well as prominent links to the digital magazine with a digital blow-in card offering free subscriptions, and periodically uses free whitepaper offerings that require registration.

“We’re philosophically and operationally committed to free electronic access to our current and archival content for both Premier Guitar and Guitar Edge,” said Sprague. In addition to capturing readers with a broad stable of media, a RCLP floater ad moves across the homepage screen when users come to the site, which has been ‘cookied’ so that it won’t appear more than once. Sprague said that this floater sees a good conversation rate. The site has used these techniques for the past two years, and are now deploying similar ones on the company’s newest, instructionally-oriented multimedia network, Guitar Edge. These tactics and allow them to capture over 8,000 to 11,000 registrations per month on Premier Guitar, and about 5,000 registrations a month on Guitar Edge since it was launched in August.

One important component to RCLP is that it must always request an email address and permission to send additional offers to begin an online relationship with the user, said Sprague. “We push the envelope on the number of registration questions (anywhere from 8 to 24) and are astounded by the fact that only 18 percent of those who click to registration pages abandon before completion.”

HRHero developed its Web presence about a decade ago as a support site for a state-specific newsletter product; currently, its traffic is just north of 300,000 page views per month and around 125, 000 visitors. Guy Cross, vice president of marketing for M. Lee Publishers, said that HRHero offes e-zines, printed or PDF whitepapers, as well as just put content specifically about employment law in front of the password login.

HRHero’s method of easing up on required information from subscribers may seem counterintuitive since they haven’t been as obtrusive with their rapid landing page conversion architecture as some other publishers. “The page lacks the interstitials, or floaters, but still makes sure to put content and lead gen offers in the ‘heat maps’ where readers’ eyes will be,” said Cross. “In our upper left hand corner is a free e-zine offering, and in the upper right is the login area. Below this is the area for a free white paper.” While e-zines convert at the highest rate (Cross refused to give specifics), “white papers come close to e-zines. Right now, we are offering four different ezines on our site in order to build out different segmented audiences.”

A big change for the site’s optimization has been the e-zine button and registrations. “We used to have a restrictive site up for registering for a free e-zine, which made users enter everything, including things like their fax number—it was just crazy,” Cross said. Over time, the company became less restrictive on required information; now, it is just name, email address and state (on some offers). “We’ve seen a double-digit increase in registrations.”

The Upside to A/B Testing

Optimizing landing pages, of course, would be futile if it weren’t for the ability to measure results through A/B testing. During one Mequoda Summit session, Business & Legal Resources CEO Bob Brady told attendees, “Testing is a no-brainer.” Changing a single word in his ads, he said, has increased conversion rates by three times the original. “In the golden age of direct mail, there was a lot of A/B testing—headline, color, copy—and it worked, but it was very limited. The problem was that it could take four to five months to analyze the results, and the cost to create so many version was just plain expensive.” Compared to their original multivariate testing platform, Vertster, Brady says that while the tool is useful, it costs $18,000 a year and using Google Analytics is free.

Josh Baker, product manager at Business & Legal Resources shared the results from a few of the company’s multivariate tests. One e-mail registration page sees 3,000 monthly visitors with a 37 percent conversion rate. “The winning page combination brought us from a 37 percent conversion rate to a 63 percent conversion rate,” he said.