The landing page: technology and persuasion

Mar 1, 2023 1:00:01 PM. By Nelson Rojas.
Hero picture
The landing page: technology and persuasion

Generally, any website is made up of pages that are part of a structure, from the Home, the Menu, The About Us, to the portfolio, the product page, and the purchase page. However, there is a type of page that can be set apart from this whole set due to its independent nature: the landing page. This type of page has been created for marketing purposes. Because of this, it focuses on persuading the users to execute an action that turns them into a contact with whom they can later interact. In this manner, its structure is aligned with the discourse of persuasion [1]. In order to understand its structure and not fall into the mechanical reproduction of a formula, it is necessary to glimpse those elements that contribute to the psychological game of persuasion.

On the web on autopilot

Our life unfolds in complex environments whose stimuli can saturate our capacity for analysis. For this reason, "it is not possible for us to recognize and analyze all aspects of each person, event, and situation that we encounter [2]." Such an action would be exhausting since we have neither the time nor the energy to evaluate and catalog each event all the time. In addition, doing so would imply stopping while we might miss the time for action, something inefficient from every perspective.

To avoid these inconveniences, and although it can sometimes be adverse (sometimes more than we think), we make decisions through automatic behavior [3], the data of which are derived from a few stereotypes and general rules fed by beliefs, ideologies, and values. This is how we can classify things, starting from a few key characteristics that unconsciously trigger a response.

All this is especially true on the web since due to its characteristics, it qualifies as an environment highly saturated with stimuli. This is why it is natural that a large part of the decisions we make when browsing is based on automatic behaviors, which has led those who specialize in web design to take this fact highly into account, resulting in the creation of pages with a structure based on psychological foundations in order to make browsing more dynamic and efficient, both for users and service providers.

Landing page basics

Even though the landing page seems to be a highly technical concept, its structure is based on psychological elements linked to the human essence, which are manifested in actions as simple as reciprocity, which, paraphrasing Cialdini [4], implies a feeling of rooted ancestral debt that has determined our social evolution, since at some point in human history  it implied that a person could offer other resources and even services with the certainty that this effort would not be in vain. This fact led to "more sophisticated and coordinated systems of aid, gifts, defense and trade, which brought an immense benefit to the societies that owned them [5]." For this reason, reciprocity is an essential element of persuasion due to the fact that receiving something awakens the feeling of giving something in return; however, we are not talking about mere interest, but about a deeply rooted social rule of a universal character. As pointed out by Cialdini, "human societies derive a truly significant competitive advantage from this rule, and consequently, ensure that their members are trained to abide by and believe in it” [6].

Nevertheless, reciprocity would not be possible without the feeling of commitment and coherence that governs and motivates a large part of human actions and behavior, prompting us to act even contrary to our reason, since in many cases it implies maintaining a position in accordance with our own decisions, even if it means suppressing the will. In this way, the basis for what we call trust is generated. This is why these principles constitute such a powerful weapon of social persuasion [7].

Now, there is nothing more coherent than adapting to the social context. This basic principle is summarized in an old adage that states, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. The fact is that we are prone to think that a certain behavior is more appropriate if we see others doing it. The hypothesis behind this principle is that, generally, we will err less when acting according to social evidence. This is what has been termed as social proof, used by preeminent psychologists such as Albert Bandura [8] and Robert O'Connor [9] for behavioral modeling. This argument generates a strong effect on persuasion because, in ambiguous situations in which people cannot determine an appropriate way to conduct themselves, the assumption that the people around have more information predominates over doubt, which allows making a decision based on the trend that is observed, but not on the reasoning behind it.

Another argument that has a great impact on persuasion is likeability. This feeling exerts a strong emotional influence that moves people's attitudes due to the affective inclination it generates, making them more susceptible to being persuaded. Likeability is an unconscious response stimulated by factors such as physical attractiveness, charm, flattery, cooperation, and association with positive aspects.

On the other hand, we are also prone to be persuaded by a criterion of authority. Our nature is especially prone to be influenced by an authority figure. Milgram [10] demonstrated this in his behavioral studies of obedience where he showed that this principle can even cloud common sense, going so far as to justify harmful actions to third parties under the argument of following the orders of an authority figure.

The last principle stands as an aid to persuasion, and it has to do with the idea of the potential loss. It seems that "opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is scarce" [11]. This hypothesis is based on the fact that people seem to be more motivated by the fear of losing something than by the illusion of gaining it. This principle has been given the term of scarcity and it is the one that predominates, for example, among collectors, who always strive to obtain the oldest coins, incunabula, or first-edition comics. This principle seems to have a strong influence on the value we assign to things, and for that reason, it becomes a very effective weapon of persuasion.

A structure with psychological foundations

As can be seen, although it is only one, the landing page is quite complex due to the psychological aspects on which it is based. It is as affirming that, to fulfill its objective, it must be reciprocal, coherent, likable, and project authority oriented, all at the same time, which is why it is often rightly stated that there is no perfect landing page since it must always tend towards a balance between these fundamentals.

However, the best way to deal with a complex problem is to divide it, classify its parts, and assign them a function (“divide and conquer”). If we apply this principle to the landing page, we can see that five blocks[12] can be identified, each one fulfilling a specific function always aimed at persuasion. These blocks can be classified into:

a. The unique selling proposition: it is the characteristic that makes what the page offers special, different and better than the rest. If there is a space to persuade by projecting trust, commitment, and coherence, then this is it. This proposition can be stated in various ways: through a main headline that clearly sets out the proposition in a concise and precise manner, by means of a supporting subtitle that concludes the idea of the main headline, or by means of a secondary message related to the main headline. Optionally, and if the page is long, there may be a reinforcement statement that reminds visitors of the proposal, as well as a closing statement.

b. The Hero image: it is a block with a maximized image that appears as the first visual element of the page. You can combine image and text in a static or dynamic way by using rotating lists of images or text. It has a mainly aesthetic function, so it is the ideal place to squander likeability and arouse emotions.

c. Benefits: as the hero, it is a block intended to sympathize with the user by associating with positive aspects.

d. Social proof: it is a block dedicated to customer testimonials, whose function is to influence through the positive opinions of satisfied customers. It can also manifest itself through star rating boards.

e. The call to action: it is a very short phrase that guides the visitor to carry out a certain action [13]. It is very important because it is the means by which the conversion of a visitor takes place. It is usually represented by an independent button. However, this is more than a button. Through this reciprocity, the exchange between visitor and provider is evident, so it is recommended to use text that encourages an exchange such as "Star for free download ", or " Get 50% of purchase”. In this way,  the visitor feels persuaded that it is a beneficial exchange.

What landing pages reveal

Now, after having delved into these structural aspects, the question that arises is how they vary and if the type of industry influences them. Our hypothesis is that, from the structural point of view, there are elements that are essential, while others are optional and may be determined by the type of industry.

In order to answer this question, we have developed a case study focused on the landing page of three types of industry: SaaS, E-commerce, and Services in which we want to contrast the structure of the landing page. For this purpose, a corpus of 30 landing pages belonging to these three types of industries has been organized; additionally, they have been analyzed according to their structure.

The structure of the landing page

As we mentioned in previous lines, the structure of the landing page is made up of five elements: the unique selling proposition, the hero image, the benefits, the social proof, and the CTA. Regarding the first of them, which is the unique selling proposition, it has been established that, regardless of the type of industry, it is an essential element that is stated through a main owner. In most cases, it requires a reinforcing statement and a closing statement, but rarely a supporting subtitle. The type of industry does not seem to influence the way in which the unique selling proposition is stated, as it is a trend that manifests itself in SaaS, Services, or E-commerce landing pages, as can be seen in the graph below.

Ways in which the unique selling proposition is presented

Image 1. Ways in which the unique selling proposition is presented.

In the Unbounce classification, the reinforcement statement is considered optional; however, our data suggest that, due to its low proportion, the supporting subtitle is the element that really has an optional character.

Due to their high occurrence, other structural elements can also be considered essential, such is the case of the hero image, the benefits, and the CTA. As for the hero, its large scale is a common feature in the different types of industry. Nevertheless, the CTA presents a variant in E-commerce, whose pages usually have an incidence of three or more, while in SaaS and Services is generally two and rarely one. This fact is likely due to the fact that E-commerce landing pages tend to be longer.

Social proof is another of the structural elements and, unlike the previous ones, it has a low incidence in SaaS and Services pages in which it seems to be an optional element, but in E-commerce pages, it seems to have a greater incidence, due to its character no longer seeming to be optional in this type of industry.

The data seems to indicate that E-commerce has a variant that differs primarily because the CTA has an occurrence greater than three and because the social proof has a high occurrence. This does not result in a structural difference, but a functional one, since these two elements perform in a particular way in E-commerce.

Authority and simplicity

In addition to these five elements, we have noticed that in the structure of landing pages there are two others that appear with some regularity, it is the principle of authority and that of simplicity. In the first case, it is a block in which a set of emblems of proven prestige that endorse the product being promoted is usually displayed. In the second case, it is a block sometimes titled “How it works”, in which the use of the product or service is generally explained in three steps in order to highlight how simple and fast it is to use.

The occurrence of these elements is low at a general level in the different types of industry, so they can be considered as optional elements. Only in E-commerce, it seems that the principle of authority is relevant, so this could be another feature that differentiates the landing page from this type of industry.

Now, if we take these two elements into consideration, we should rethink the initial structure and affirm that the landing page has a structure of seven elements, which we could list as follows (not necessarily presented in hierarchical order):

1. The unique selling proposition:

  • Main holder
  • Support subtitle (optional)
  • Reinforcement statement
  • Closing statement

2. Hero

3. Profits

4. Social proof

5. Principle of authority

6. Simplicity principle

7. CTA




As we have discussed, the landing page is a complex unit due to the psychological foundations that underlie it. Unlike others, whose objective is more practical, such as buying or paying, the landing page must persuade, which is not an easy feat, since it implies that it must synthesize qualities such as reciprocity, coherence, likeability, authority, and simplicity, to trigger automatic responses that favor the action time of a visitor, thus making navigation more dynamic and efficient. For this reason, it is often said that there is no perfect landing page.

Despite all of this, these psychological qualities are manifested in a graphical interface that has been planned to exploit them to the maximum, through the elements that compose it. However, a concern arises as to how these elements vary in practice and whether factors such as the type of industry influence the components of this structure. Our hypothesis is that there are elements that are essential, while others are optional and may be determined by the type of industry. The findings of this study reflect several interesting factors, among which we can mention:

1. The structure of the landing page consists of seven clearly identifiable elements and not five as initially proposed:

  • The Unique Selling Proposition:
  • Hero
  • Profits
  • Social proof
  • Principle of authority
  • Simplicity principle
  • CTA

2. As far as the unique selling proposition is concerned, the supporting caption is presented as an optional element. According to Unbounce [14], the reinforcement statement is the optional element, but in the cases analyzed in this study, the supporting subtitle is the element with the lowest occurrence. On the other hand, the unique selling proposition manifests itself in a similar way in different types of industry.

3. Elements such as the hero image, the benefits, and the CTA are essential in the pages of the different types of industry.

4. Social proof is an element that has a low occurrence on SaaS and Services pages in which it seems to be an optional element, but on E-commerce pages, it has a higher incidence, so its character no longer seems to be optional in this type of industry.

5. In the structure of the landing page, there are two other elements that appear with relative regularity: the principle of authority and that of simplicity. The occurrence of these elements is generally low on the pages of the different types of industry, so they can be considered as optional elements. However, the principle of authority is only relevant for E-commerce.

6. Apparently, the E-commerce landing page differs from the rest, in principle, because in them, both the CTA, as the social proof, and the principle of authority have a higher degree of occurrence. This does not imply a structural difference, but a functional one, since these elements perform in a particular way in E-commerce.

[1] Unbounce. (n.d. -a). The Anatomy of a Landing Page. Recovered
[2] Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
[3] Langer, E. J. “Rethinking the Role of Thought in Social Interaction,” New Directions in Attribution Research, Vol. 2., ed.,Harvey, Ickes, and Kidd. Potomac, Md.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1978.
[4] Cialdini, R. B. (2001).
[5] Cialdini, R. B. (2001).
[6] Cialdini, R. B. (2001).
[7] Cialdini, R. B. (2001).
[8] Bandura, A., Grusec, J. E., & Menlove, F. L. (1967). Vicarious extinction of avoidance behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5(1), 16–23.
[9] O’Connor, R. D. “Relative Efficacy of Modeling, Shaping, and the Combined Procedures for Modification of Social Withdrawal.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 79 (1972): 327–34.
[10] Milgram, S. “Behavorial Study of Obedience.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67 (1963): 371–7
[11] Cialdini, R. B. (2001).
[12] Unbounce. (n.d. -a).
[13] Unbounce. (n.d. -b). What is a Call to Action? Recovered
Unbounce. (n.d. -a).
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