My Top 5 Tips for Building Landing Pages in Joomla

Every website is different. Here's five tips, on how to use Joomla, if you're about to build a landing page.

Meet my new landing page kit. Don't you just want to tell her everything about yourself?Lest anyone forget, some people eat or starve by the Internet's whims. It's time to talk about cold, hard cash, and how to make it happen with Joomla. Let's take you to market.

Long ago, in the ages before the Internet, mankind communicated with a technology called "sales letters". Sales letters were working right if they caused reader to have feelings, and then convert those feelings into sales. This custom has actually stayed with us, finding ever-more modern expression. We see it, for example, in the fat-enveloped media orgy welcoming us to a publisher's clearinghouse or record club. 

But, we see its modern evolution perhaps most clearly in the internet squeeze page, or landing page. The landing page seeks to breed across marketing channels, each one aimed to convert specific types of readers who all arrived at that specific page via a specific marketing funnel, such as a specific subset of an ad campaign.

Today, the landing page may be an industry unto itself. There's a specific basket, a wish list of features everyone wants on the landing page ASAP. After the jump, I'll give you five top tips for building a landing page with Joomla in 2016.

5: You Want Speed? Just Say No, Over and Over (and Over)

This is a speed optimization must -- both in terms of your site's response time, and your ability to speed through a simple task in Joomla's back-end.

Landing pages can do without most plugins; and disabling the plugins you don't need, can improve site speed.
Landing pages can do without most plugins; and disabling the plugins you don't need, can improve site speed.

When you install Joomla, you're offered sample data, which immediately litters your project workspace and skews your mind toward complexity. A landing page should be simple. Don't be surprised if you have one article and zero categories when this is over.

Joomla also activates an app developer's trove of extras, and if that sounds irrelevant to you, that's exactly my point in telling you about it. In total, the default "on vs off" states of Joomla's bundled stuff, represents having near-all your lightswitches in the "on" position. 

Is it costly? If we were talking about real lightswitches, there'd be a cost in power. In Joomla, having an excess of active plugins which run during every click, creates a cost in speed. For landing pages, very little of the stuff in Plugin Manager, is of any use. If this site's life cycle calls for minimal features on a purpose-driven site, disable plugins liberally right before deployment, and then test everything still works.

Module Manager will also benefit from speedy un-publishing of items which are enabled by default, such as search and login. You may deploy copies of Joomla's Custom HTML module frequently, but other modules probably have no place on a landing page.

(Tip: By solving your needs with simpler tools whenever possible -- such as by using the Custom HTML module instead of, say, a specialty module for testimonials -- you get several benefits, including a faster landing page, and cheaper upgrades.)

Of course, there are certain things you should say yes to, particularly right before rolling out your finished landing page: such as Joomla's progressive-mode cache, and its system cache plugin. Most speed optimization technology offered by your web hosting provider, can be turned on earlier, although Google's PageSpeed can make it difficult to see your progress after you make tweaks to the site.

4: Change the Home Link to a Single Article

(Quick note going in: the word "static" means something rarely changing, or unchanging.)

A landing page isn't a blog. Its purpose is not to keep anyone apprised of any news (occasional updates to your static content, aside). A landing page, as a website, exists day-by-day to embody a finite and specific formula, one you want to lock in place, and refine and repeat wherever it's effective. With certain exceptions, if you want a landing page, you want it to be the same website today, as it'll be next week, and onward to the campaign's end.

Therefore, serve a Single Article, or a single body of content, as your homepage. 

A blog-like feature wants to push things down; whereas, when you change a landing page, you usually want to pull the text from a slot, and put new text into the same slot. You might intend to do constant tactical tests and tweaks to your texts, but even when you're tweaking texts, the structure of your page flow rarely sees overhaul after launch. To operate a landing page, you curate a static layout, with a mostly-static text structure -- so fighting a blog as it tries to arrange things according to blog logic, only wastes time.

If you do use some feature to build a landing page from bits of text, you really should demand a feature that bends Joomla to your purposes. Landing pages are supposed to be lightweight, easily deployed, and only a chore to work with when working in bulk; you do not want to be forced to bend your work-flow around backwards by making use of the wrong tool. 

By default, every Joomla site begins with the Home link pre-configured as a page of Featured Articles. You're not forced to build your landing page by tweaking the settings of this blog-like feature -- just start an article as a placeholder for your landing page layout, and then change the Home link's type, in Menu Manager, to a Single Article.

3: Collect Leads with Premium Free Extensions

If you're using Joomla to build a landing page you're either planning on leveraging its Extension Manager to gain third-party features, or you're prone to killing gnats with nuclear airstrikes. 

You know the job would be only half done, if your landing page didn't have a way to collect contact information, from any and all visitors who wish to volunteer such lead data. Lead collection is almost as good as a sale, and let's not forget the many markets in which there is no direct path from website to purchase -- those of you who must make contact, to sell anything. 

ChronoForms, AcyMailing, ContentBuilder, and many other extensions all cater to different reasons for collecting data -- some specific like AcyMailing, some general like ChronoForms, some like ContentBuilder for hardened power-users. With any of them -- and I must emphasize, there are many -- you can entice visitors to give you contact data in numerous customized ways. These categories of extension are very powerful tools, each speaking to widely different levels of comfort in the hands-on processes of automation-scripting. 

Even the easiest of forms-creation extension, such as ChronoForms5 (seen here), takes some know-how to deploy; but it's worth it once your landing page starts capturing lead submissions!
Even the easiest of forms-creation extension, such as ChronoForms5 (seen here), takes some know-how to deploy; but it's worth it once your landing page starts capturing lead submissions!

2: Selling? Invest in a Support Chat Extension

There are Joomla extensions out there right now, for example one costing less than a monthly pizza habit, which will cause a little "support chat" bubble to hug the bottom of a site. If that instant chat option entices a visitor to reach out, you need only have ensured someone spirited and competent was ready to acknowledge the message within a crucial handful of seconds. 

There's an entire market segment of people who are very comfortable making and executing their purchasing decisions by using the Internet; and among those people, instant access to a competent operator is a sure sign that you want their business and value each visitor. You have made this corner of the Internet your shop: some of your visitors will firmly believe, there should be help standing by.

Bear in mind, there are usually ways to integrate myriad and random support chat solutions into Joomla, even those not marketed as Joomla-ready. This is especially true of such widgets hosted elsewhere -- i.e., hosted by the widget's vendor.

Given a modern solution with a mobile-ready interface and fast response time, you'll be able to provide the contact option most native to the Internet: text chat, or as I like to think of it, being able to pick up the phone, in writing.

1: Keep the Shop Separate from Joomla

This one is hard to convey clearly and concisely, because I'm glossing over a lot of experience and trying to keep it positive; and I prefer to be clear, so it's going to be long. 

I have reservations about relying too heavily on any one Joomla installation as an app platform. Mixing too many big extensions in the same site, equals temping fate. When e-commerce enters the picture, I have developed certain hard limits. I don't like having customer transaction data in publicly-reachable Joomla sites, at all. And, I don't want my (or my clients') ability to transact, to be undone by a stop-go lurch of multiple software vendors dependent upon each other in a chain. 

We've wandered slightly away from landing pages, but because it's so common to directly connect marketing to selling, my top tip for success is, once again: avoid failure. Avoid rushing into your wish-list the wrong way.

Because, greatest of all my reservations: I don't want the security of shops and customers to depend on multiple volunteer teams who are constantly desperate for free labor, constantly working an unpaid or under-paid gig; overworked, underpaid, and with the power to modify or snoop on constant daily transactions. There is too much incentive to make, and exploit, a "mistake" in the code. My list of reasons could go on and on. 

To be clear, I'm nowhere near as down on open source e-commerce solutions on the whole, as this sounds: because odds are perfectly even, it's not them, it's Joomla or PHP. When you add the hassles of keeping up with an upstream provider, specificially of sluggish Joomla and spastic PHP being upstream from the e-shop vendor, you can be stuck waiting for a finger-pointing logjam, while the performance or compatibility of a platform you depend upon suddenly turns to crap, and stays crap for years. (As was the fate of e-commerce solutions both in and out of the Joomla ecosystem; vis osCommerce and VirtueMart.)

What I'm saying is, your e-store should not be a slave to any other system. I wouldn't put an e-shop in WordPress, or MediaWiki, either. 

Sorry about the wall of text; tell you what, I'll break things up visually with text on a wall.
Sorry about the wall of text; tell you what, I'll break things up visually with text on a wall.

And even moreover, your landing page, a simple, nimble project, shouldn't have a bulky, risky, and attack-enticing e-shop fully integrated (unless you're deploying a landing page as part of the e-shop's feature set). 

Surface integration, in ways convenient to the user and smart for sales, are all fair game: the point is, don't directly install such a bulky system into the same copy of Joomla which drives your landing page. 

...and, preferably, not any other copy of Joomla, either.

There are important exceptions. You can put all the affiliate links you want, into Joomla. More importantly, you can fill Joomla to the brim with stand-alone forms. 

For example, during the entire existence of my website so far, I've used slightly-modified PayPal forms, built via a tool at Paypal, for all my shopping features. My e-commerce solution is Joomla's com_content extension plus my Paypal login. 

Because my e-commerce solution is not deeply integrated at all, but instead uses more baseline technology merely inserted into Joomla as with any other content, it would be relatively short work to grab the HTML source of all my sales pages, walk away from Joomla, and rebuild the site without it. I find that work-flow, which I've had to build end-to-end myself, more prudent than mixing potential points of failure. Even on a larger site, using this method, disaster recovery from a backup would be trivial compared to disaster recovery on any other e-commerce platform.

The best news: you can integrate that sort of e-commerce feature into a landing page with no worries; again, it's just content, albeit content which takes your visitors' money.

The worst idea would be mixing your hefty setup of ecommerce software in Joomla, with your setup of a magazine in Joomla; they can look alike, sit on the same domain name together, and seem to be as unified as you can make them, but it should be a higher priority that the technology be segregated, so that one snafu, affects only one aspect of your overall web presence.

If you want to launch e-commerce alongside a landing page, I suggest buying a hosted solution with the e-shop features you need and plans that allow you to only pay for the system for the length of time you need to use the system. Be sure you can fully customize the look, and that it's developer friendly -- so you'll be less likely to switch platform for minor reasons anytime soon.


By the way, did I mention I've engineered a kit for you, that turns Joomla into an amazing landing page experience?

You'll be able to You can download the Joomla landing page kit now, plus a manual I whipped up to go with it, free! , later this week. The kit will be is licensed under the GNU GPL. If you want me to install it and set it up for you, I've launched that service at a ridiculously low introductory price.

I'll even be using the kit myself, on at least a few installations. My own first landing page is already up, with the obvious purpose. Witness the first of my demo sites built for a blog post; and reach out, if you want to be contacted with a high-quality offer to set up your Joomla landing pages!

(What do you mean, that's no way to conclude an article? That's exactly where all of this was going, all along!)

© 2018 Nathan Hawks

Friends are just enemies who've decided to kill you with kindness.
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