How 1- & 2-Column Landing Pages Compare on Conversion Rates


Our colleagues in marketing frequently come to research looking for data to inform their decision process. This stream of dialog keeps those of us in the research business out of trouble and focused on the task of getting to know what moves the customer or prospect. Much of market research focuses on surveys and qualitative research, yet web marketing provides plenty of opportunities for behavioral experiments. In its webinar yesterday, Marketing Experiments took on a question that is at the forefront of interactive design: Does the number of columns on a web page impact the conversion rate?

The control in this experiment was a two-column layout with the test page utilizing a one-column design. The primary difference between the two involved the removal of a second column of information that played a supporting role.

2 column landing pages

The goal of the test was to see if the layout change would improve the order percentage and average sale size coming through a branded paid search channel. This experiment was for a software company selling into the mid-range B2B market. The upshot of the test was a significant increase on both metrics (conversion percentage and average dollar sale).

The test was replicated using a different ad group. This second iteration involved unbranded paid search. In this second iteration, the results were not replicated. The two-column control outperformed the single column test when the search terms did not involve the company’s brand name.

It was hypothesized that both scenarios would show lift, given that removing the secondary column provided a clear linear eye-path. However, the data did not support the hypothesis. This led to a meta-analysis of all studies where number of columns was a primary variable in the research. A thought was proposed that when searching using brand language, the prospect has at least some knowledge of the brand’s value proposition, whereas unbranded searching does not benefit from knowledge of the brand’s key attributes.

Further analysis of the data led to the conclusion that location in the thought sequence plays a significant role in the layout of a page. If we are early into the conversation with the prospect, then multi-column layouts with equally weighted columns work best. This allows the prospect to choose what is most important to them. As we move forward into the conversation, then it becomes critical to focus the conversation on what is most relevant. This can be accomplished by reducing the number of columns on the order page, for example.

Although the researchers performed a significant amount of additional analysis in order to answer the question, they didn’t bother asking visitors to explain their views on the alternate designs. This was a missed opportunity to blend two valuable data streams – survey research and experimental design.

Greg Timpany directs the research efforts for Global Knowledge in Cary, North Carolina, and runs Anova Market Research. You can follow him on Twitter @DataDudeGreg.


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