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The sites I speak of are not landing pages, not really microsites in the sense that I've always had to deal with them. They are sites like the following:

I have seen them for all manner of things, these are just the ones I could remember off the top of my head. They all seem to follow an identical method of construction, marketing, call-to-action, content organization...There must be a science to building these sites. What are they called? What is this science?

Tim Ferris wrote an article a while ago about The Truth About Abs's creator Mike Geary, mostly covering how he came to the idea and the things he does to execute upon it as a business. The article didn't really cover the science of the page though, the key to his success, except at the very end where there are a couple paragraphs that just graze the topic.

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3 Answers 3

I don't think I've ever seen these sites given a formal name, but they're basically solicitation letters. Most people just call them "scams."

I can't do the research for you, but just do a search for the word "scam" right on that Tim Ferriss page for plenty of discussion, even about some of your questions here. It's not coincidental that pretty much every page of this style is about "[GREAT ABS|HOT CHICKS|MAKING MILLIONS] NOW!!!" (Or time cubes.) It's theoretically possible there are some of these sites out there that are legitimate businesses who just have bad ideas about design, but that again is your research to do. The overall aesthetic is nothing new, just an outgrowth of crappy unsolicited fliers and such that were previously sent through physical mail. They still are, but much less, in my experience.

To be fair, the Truth About Abs site shows an entirely different level of effort from the other ones, ie. the hand-drawn videos, even if it shares a lot of stylistic tics. On the other hand, it also fails your primary "single-page" criterion, so... On the other other hand, there are entire sites about how Mike Geary is a scammer, or isn't, and sometimes the same site makes both claims on separate pages, but always with affiliates links back to him. Which is...questionable.

It's unclear to me what you're looking for regarding the "science" of building them, as overall they're pretty brutally simple in any sort of structural sense. Feel free to edit your question and clarify. In terms of content, they're generally a bunch of keyword-laden ranting, backed up with large numbers of (likely purchased) backlinks, and often an affiliate program of some sort. When combined, my generalized answer to your question is "make the site as spammy as you possibly can, just be sure there's an actual product involved so you don't get shut down as an actual scammer; market aggressively, and see if you can get other people to do the work for you." Whether the product itself is of any value is a customer service issue.

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37Signals did a great series of posts about this, and tested it against their standard homepage. The long form sales letter approach did give benefits compared to their original homepage, but they later ditched it for a different approach.

They reference an interview with Jeremy Reeves, explaining what it is and how it works, including 'psychology tricks'. Not sure if it counts as science, but interesting and informative all the same. Before that, i never realised that these spammy-looking pages could be so effective!

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The 'science' is in building a list of people who have a list of people interested in the topic at hand and who're willing buyers of such products. Targeted PPC ads can bring in additional customers. SEO ranking for such sites is very difficult unless considerable additional content is added and great links are obtained.

Additionally, different campaigns can be split tested by having the page rendered differently based on referrer information. For example, a different landing page might be used for PPC vs. email.

As for the actual page layout, there are numerous blogs and forums that describe how to build them as well as many paid programs. As pointed out in another answer, the design is roughly based on physical mail marketing campaigns.

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