Complete landing page process to validate your startup idea

I’ve created dozens of landing pages to test out ideas and wanted to share how I do it, in practical follow along steps. There may be other ways, but this is as much a cheat sheet for myself as anything else. The steps are not exhaustive, you can just google any of the individual tasks to get the full detail.

Example of an idea validation landing page

I follow this process to get things going, but even in the depths of “doing it” I try to keep my eye on the end goal — verifying the idea. Everything here is intended to add some evidence and help you make the decision to pursue the idea, change it or drop it.

Step 1 — Domain

Choosing a domain is the very first step, even before the idea name, go to https://www.namemesh.com/ find a name that is fit for the job. Then register it at www.godaddy.com or any other registrar. The idea name will be the domain.

Step 2 — Setup an email address

Use your domain host to create an email address. I usually create one main email using my name and then create an alias or forwarder with a generic email like hello@...

I use the email with my name chris@… to setup Mailchimp as a person apparently gets better open rates and makes the whole thing way more personal. I also use this to start conversations with people directly.

Direct conversations are incredibly important, actually talking to people will very quickly change your views on pretty much every assumption you make.

Step 3 — Create a basic logo

A graphical logo is a must, but don’t agonise over it. Just choose an icon and a nice font. There are tons of ways to do this, but if you don’t have photoshop (or the time) then head over to https://logomakr.com for $19 you can get a pretty cool logo very very quickly.

Besides looking more professional I find the logo a way to visualize an idea, it makes it feel more real.

Step 4 — Create your landing page

There are a ton of places you can go to create your landing page. The main thing is to find a tool that works for YOU. If Wordpress is your thing, then cool, use it. If you’re already using Leadpages or Instapage, great keep using them. Know how to code, then head to wrapbootstrap and grab a template.

There’s no right or wrong way, it’s whatever is quick and effective. I don’t think you should be spending much more than a day on the landing page to start with.

The copy/messaging is the most important part here. How you describe your idea. Followed by what you want visitors to do, the call to action or CTA. This is an entire post in it’s own right, but you should check out this great article by Pedro Cortés, he sums it up brilliantly.

This will be an iterative process. Publish, get feedback & review analytics then make adjustments, rise and repeat.

Step 5 — Add analytics

Head to Google Analytics and create an account for your new landing page domain. Get the javascript code and install it. Even better install Google Tag Manager and connect it up to your GA account.

Step 6 — Create a Mailchimp account

Head over to Mailchimp and create an account for your new startup. In the main list that gets created by default you’ll want to remove the birthday field if it’s been added. Then grab the embed form code. I usually choose the naked version then bootstrapify it to make it look nice. Now update your thank you page to redirect to a page on your website (NB. you have to create and publish your thank you page before Mailchimp allows you to connect to it).

Step 7 — Create a basic Adwords campaign

Hopefully you will have already done some keyword analysis while you were spitballing your idea. Now you need to do it for real. Add a new campaign to your Adwords account, find the keywords and add them to the campaign etc. The final stage is to make sure you have defined at least one conversion goal for your mailing list sign ups. Grab the conversion code and either use tag manager to put it on the thank you page or add it directly to the page itself (not on every page, just the mailing list thank you page).

NB. you can argue that Adwords is a bad way to drive traffic, but I always find the process helpful, even if I stop the campaign pretty quickly. It lets me understand whether search is a valid channel & if the prop in the ad is effective.

Step 8 — Submit the site

Go to google search console and add your website — you can verify using your google analytics tag. Also submit a sitemap so google starts to index the page.

Head over to Betalist and submit your site — there’s a free option but you have to wait a month. Then go to Beta page and submit your page here too — this one is free.

Step 9 — Add heat maps and screen recording

Now you have a landing page and a way of driving traffic head over to Hotjar — they have a limited free version that should be fine. Create an account and add the script to your site (or use tag manager). Then add recordings and a heat map. This will let you see what people actually do on your website, how far they scroll & what they click on. You see what they see, so you can also spot any device specific issues.

The most important part of this is to understand which parts of your landing page are attracting people’s interest. This gives you an insight into what’s working.

Step 10 — Share with the world

You’re not going to learn much if nobody visits your landing page. Go tell people about it, friends & family, then start spreading the word further afield. I often also experiment with Facebook ads, but this really does depend on the idea and your budget.

Step 11 — Review everything

With all this in place you can now wait for results and see what is happening.

Look for patterns in the analytics. Watch your Hotjar recordings and look at the heat maps. Check your Adwords campaign. Review your mailing list signups. The 3 key metrics you’ll be looking for are:

  1. Adwords click through rate (to see how your proposition resonates with a search audience) aim for 10% or higher.
  2. Site visitor conversion rate(total signups / total users) aim for at least 10%-25%
  3. Page engagement (how long people spend looking at your page) depends on how much content you have but you want people to be spending at least 30 seconds

What now?

Iterate, modify, optimize. Then look at upping the stakes on the CTA.

So try introducing a survey instead of a mailing list sign up. You can position this as an application for the Beta. Use it as an opportunity to test how much people want your solution and to learn more about them, what they are looking for and how much they are willing to pay.

The commitment needed to sign up to a mailing list is less than to complete a survey. Both are less than getting your credit card out. Validation through mailing list growth alone can be very misleading, so be sure to test more onerous CTAs.

The ultimate test is to see what it takes make a visitor pay you. Any way you can find to either actually collect card details or show that the intent to buy is there, is the best validation bar actually building your product.

A great way is to have pricing details on the landing page with a “sign up” CTA. Instead of capturing credit card details just show a message explaining you are not accepting new users at this time, ask them to join a wait list to be notified when new users are being accepted (make sure you track clicks to this using Google Analytics event based goals or setting up specific pages to track page views). Take a read of Stuart’s post for even more detail on this.

Measure this and you can see how things are likely to pan out for real.

About Rocket Proof

You may think this is a lot of work just for a landing page, but it’s a lot less than creating a product. At Rocket Proof, our goal is to make this process way more simple so you can validate your idea quicker.

You can check out our landing page we created using this exact process.