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  • Ems Rae Searle

Landing pages - where informed decisions go to die

Hi there! I’m Ems Rae Searle, Ethical Marketing Strategist. Today I’m talking landing pages, and how to take them from ick to slick in 3 simple steps.

A word of warning: This blog isn’t for the faint of heart, it contains strong language, strong opinions, and strong advice (even if I do say so myself).

First things first, what is a landing page?

A landing page is a standalone webpage that visitors ‘land’ on from social media or search engines. Their entire purpose is to convert a visitor into a paying customer, usually for a high-ticket item like a course or programme, and often by any means necessary.

The online equivalent of high school peer pressure (“everyone’s doing it”), they use manipulation, grossly exaggerated claims, and good old social ‘proof’ to elicit a rushed response from a consumer. Not very ethical marketing if you ask me.

In my professional opinion, the sleazy ‘hard-sell’ tactics they use are offputting, outdated, and quite frankly, abhorrent. They have no place in any ethical marketing strategy.

What makes them unethical?

In a nutshell, it all comes down to M-A-N-I-P-U-L-A-T-I-O-N.


Below, are three fibs landing pages tell to influence consumers into making hasty decisions they’ll likely regret.

1. Countdown timers and false scarcity.

An ethical marketing strategist’s worst nightmare, a ticking timer to drive a sale creates a sense of anxiety in a consumer. The all-too-familiar feelings of FOMO, loss-aversion and stress rear their ugly heads and force a consumer’s hand.

The resulting purchase decision is based on fear, not desire, which for any ethical entrepreneur, doesn’t sit quite right.

For those unfamiliar with false scarcity, it means implying that something is in short supply when it isn’t. It’s a technique used to increase demand.

The best example I can think of is the DFS sale (international readers, DFS is a sofa and soft furnishings store in the UK). DFS has been trading since 1969, and I’m pretty sure their sale has been going on for that entire time - definitely longer than I’ve been alive. One sale ends, and the next immediately begins. I’m sorry, but if your sofas are on ‘sale’ permanently, you cannot call that a sale price. It’s the real price.

Come on. Do better.

2. Secret sauce methodology.

You’ll have seen secret sauce methodology online. It’s characterised by bold and often unsubstantiated clickbait claims like ‘my super-secret hack’, or ‘the answer to all your problems that no one wants you to know’.

Any so-called expert applying a one size fits all approach to a complex problem without context is reckless, irresponsible, and quite frankly bloody shameful - it’s narcissistic (note: I really hate narcissists), and sets people up to fail, with potentially devastating consequences.

3. Hiding the T&Cs (most importantly, pricing).

Is there anything more fucking frustrating than trying to find the price on a landing page? Seriously, you’ll get RSI from scrolling to try and find that shit.

It honestly makes me want to slam my head in my own front door.

Advice from within the marketing sector is that the higher the price, the lower down a landing page you should have to go to find it, in an attempt to ‘convert’ prospects before they’re put off by something silly like, you know, the cost. Some landing pages leave the price out altogether, requiring an email address before they can even assess whether the product is a good fit.

On what planet is that OK?!

As a consumer, and an ethical marketing strategist, this dishonest approach really riles me.

How on earth am I supposed to make my own decisions without fundamental facts like a price? If I had a severe food allergy, like epi-pen realness, I wouldn’t make a food-related decision without details of the ingredients. The same is true here. OK, I’m unlikely to actually die from signing up to your flagship course - unless dying from eye-rolling too much is a thing.

Honestly, I’d much rather you treated me like a person and told me what I need to know to make an intelligent decision myself than spin an epic yarn about all the Karens who earned $1 million exactly 4 minutes after starting the programme - all in the name of pushing me through your sales funnel like some mindless, lesser organism.

Ems, breathe.

What’s the alternative?

For transparency, I’m not saying that landing pages can never be ethical.

My point is that the way landing pages are used in mainstream marketing is the problem.

Manipulative tactics employed by self-proclaimed gurus selling the ‘£10k months with zero effort’ mindset, seriously, get in the bin.

How we sell matters.

As an Ethical Move pledger, I’m here to tell you that ethics in marketing absolutely isn’t rocket science. It’s a conscious, honest approach to marketing based on transparency.

Ethical marketing demands leaving those morally questionable, alarm bell triggering, tactics at the door.

From ick to slick in 3 simple steps

I love a practical takeaway from a blog post, so very quickly, let’s look at some top tips to ensure your landing page is used for good, not evil.

1. Treat potential customers like human beings

This is a biggie for me. Ethical marketing means giving me everything I need to make an informed decision. By all means, show me the transformation statements, explain the benefits, share the social proof.

But please - under no circumstances - leave out key details necessary to make a decision.

Don’t ask me to surrender my email address to find out the price so you can bombard my inbox with a barrage of messages about it being the last ever time I’ll be able to access your course at this low, low price.

It’s not big. It’s not clever, and it reeks of desperation.

2. Price and product transparency

Tell me what your product is, and just as important, tell me what it isn’t.

Give me alternative options and ways to work with you if the timing or the budget isn’t right.

Tell me if and when you’re likely to offer the opportunity again.

Definitely don’t extend the deadline at the last possible moment just to squeeze a few more pennies out of me and other unsuspecting consumers.

And lastly, please don’t promise yours is the only solution to my complex problem. Mind games like that aren’t helpful and can be downright dangerous.

It’s common decency, really.

3. Ask yourself, is your offer actually based on desire?

As an ethical entrepreneur, you understand the pivotal role ethics in marketing plays. If on reflection, your offer isn’t based on desire, please go back to the drawing board.

You want your clients and customers to buy from you based on desire and a genuine connection with you and your product. Their purchase represents the start of a relationship between equals.

On the flipside, purchase decisions based on deception, manipulation, and fear are doomed to fail. Manipulation in marketing forces a consumer’s hand into a position of lack and less than - an unhealthy foundation for any relationship.

Next steps

Are you looking to market your online business based on honesty & transparency, in a way that feels good?

If you’re looking for a no-nonsense, no-nastiness, no-knobheads approach, book a chat with me!


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