Normal Landing Page Conversion Rates

As the audience engagement manager for Next City, one of my main jobs is building our database. For a news organization with as much traffic as sees, the database, while by no means small, could be a lot bigger. So over the past year, I’ve focused on building better landing pages to help convert readers into newsletter subscribers and donors.

ABC. Always be converting. (Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross)
ABC. Always be converting. (Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross)
I’m not sure where I heard this, but in my various jobs for nonprofits, I’ve always tried to convert people “up the ladder” — from someone who never heard of your organization, to reader (or follower), to email newsletter subscriber, to donor, to advocate for your work. The best way to convert people online is through landing pages. These are pages in a website that have one job, like converting newsletter signups, giving away free downloads or selling a product. At Next City, I’ve focused on three: newsletter signups, free ebook downloads, and membership donations.

Along with our art director and developer, we came up with designs and functionality that works really, really well for us. In fact, as I just learned, they do shockingly well. The main reason, I think, we’re so successful on landing pages is that our editors deliver high quality journalism that our audience trusts. That trust makes it easy for people to take the next step up the ladder. In terms of the first step on the conversion ladder, we’re doing really well. Once you’re aware of us and read our reporting regularly, you know what we can deliver.

Landing Page Conversion Rates
According to this video by Moz, landing page conversion rates are much lower than I thought. None are above 5% according to Moz.

These are not a one-to-one comparisons to my world, since they focus on for-profits, but they’re close. They say email signup pages (newsletters) convert 3-5% of the time, free app (free ebooks in our case) is 4-5%, and business to consumer (donations in our case) is 1.5-2%. Now these aren’t set numbers for everyone, but they’re still much lower than I expected. Next City is brining in 10 times the conversion rate on these pages.

After you build trust in your brand or nonprofit, you have to build landing pages that work. I will discuss what we’ve done to be successful in my next post. In the meantime, know that if you can get 5% conversion on a landing page, you’re doing pretty well. If you’ve ever thought that no one is signing up on your newsletter page, you might just need to focus on driving traffic to site and compare your numbers with what Moz says is about normal.

Urbanists Need The Corner Side Yard

Population Of Detroit Falls By 25 Percent In Ten Years
DETROIT, MI – MARCH 23: The words, “God Loves This City” are painted on the front of an abandoned home in Detroit March 23, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The new census figures show that Detroit has lost 25 percent of its population in the last ten years, bringing the city’s population down to its lowest since 1910. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

While I love cities, and always want to live and raise my children in them, I wouldn’t call myself an urbanist. Mostly because I find the typical urbanist arguments about labor, housing and education to be extremely conservative.

Pete Saunders’s blog The Corner Side Yard has been an antidote to the typical urbanist arguments for me over the past two years. When I’ve read the latest argument for supply-side housing to combat gentrification, for example, I look up what Saunders has to say on housing. Whenever the major urbanist writers are on the same page about a recent topic, I look for his take to help me put it all into perspective.

He’s taking a break from blogging, and hopefully will be back at it soon. In the meantime, catch up on all of his posts so far. Here are three of my recent favorites.

The Orthodoxy of Supply Side Urbanism: Wrong
“Relaxing zoning in cities or metro areas with a lower housing demand, which is the case for much of the Rust Belt and many low density Sun Belt cities, in my opinion would lead to a concentration of new housing development in the most in-demand neighborhoods within them, at the exclusion of other neighborhoods and suburbs. It would serve the affluent, it would be clustered, and would potentially decrease affordability and further increase inequality.”

Let’s Put an End to “Tales of Two Cities”
“I also find that many current urbanists want to put economic clothing on what is largely a sociological phenomenon. The disappearance of demand in cities is only in part economic. The pull of suburbia did indeed present new economic opportunities for many, through the late 1960s and early 1970s. But too many people seem to forget, or understate, the importance of push factors that fueled suburban growth as well. Perceptions of crime, poor schools and social unrest sent as many people out of our cities as did economic opportunity.”

Revisiting Black Urbanism
“Three years ago, in the very early days of this blog, I posed a rather provocative question — where are the black urbanists? The genesis of this question came as I looked over a list from 2009 by Planetizen of the top 100 urban thinkers, as designated by a poll. The list included many architects, landscape architects, elected officials, designers, philosophers, people from antiquity and from the present day. But the list included no African Americans.”

The Problem With Business Improvement Districts

Business Improvement District
A BID employee cleans a city sidewalk (credit: Soapbox Media)
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) usually take on services, such as street cleaning, security, beautification and, sometimes, use of public space in an urban shopping district. If enough business owners in a district don’t oppose the creation of the BID, the city passes legislation to allow its creation.

On the surface BIDs sound great: streets are cleaned, storefronts improve, lighting and streetscapes are installed all in hopes to bring in more shoppers to the district. But there are a number of problems with BIDs.

For one, BIDs are an undemocratic, quasi-public nonprofit with a board typically made of business owners, some of which may not live in the district they control. Max Rivlin-Nadler’s scathing piece on BIDs for the New Republic points out, “Once the city passes legislation allowing the BID, the area affected exits democratic control, with major decisions—including street cleaning, homelessness outreach, and use of space—determined by the BID.”

What’s more, the effect that BIDs have on current shop owners can be devastating. BIDs can bring about some of the worst aspects of gentrification, like the proliferation of chain stores and restaurants. Rivlin-Nadler continues, “BIDs have been found to drive up commercial rents in the immediate aftermath of their formation; they also levy a mandatory fee from property owners every year, a cost that’s usually handed down to tenants.”

Even worse, BIDs, according to an study in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, “have indifferent impacts on economic growth,” and concludes that “BIDs may not always be the best policy for areas with significant levels of independent retail.”

BIDs are rapidly becoming the go-to tool for urban renewal across the United States. There are now more than 1,000 BIDs in almost every state. If this trajectory continues, we must democratize BIDs, protect small businesses and use them only where needed.