Does my business need a landing page? How much does it cost to create a landing page? How do I tie my landing page into my check-out sequence? Do I have to use red and blue colors on my landing page? Do I really need a landing page? What is a landing page good for?
In my work as a content marketing strategist, I get questions like those on a regular basis. Many business owners are confused about sales funnels, landing pages, keywords, SEO … and the rest of the much-discussed, but seldom much understood, terminology that circles above doing business online.
Here’s what I see happen far too often:
The business owner trusts the components of digital marketing to a person or an agency that takes their money and returns very little on the investment or even produces a negative return by using deceptive tactics that tanks the site when the search engines (and they will) catch on.
But that rant isn’t what this article is about. Let’s talk about landing pages. If you want to know if the person calling you to tell you they can get you first page ranking on Google Search is really from Google … here’s your answer:
They are not.
They are people who get up every day thinking of new ways to rob you blind.
Okay … enough said. Let’s move on to landing pages.
What is the difference between a landing page and other webpages?
Generally speaking, every page on your website is a potential landing page. That’s because visitors to your site don’t always enter through your home page. Maybe they are attracted to an article on your blog or a white paper you have available for download and Google Search takes them directly to the page that particular resource is on. Some will enter via the About Us page and others may be looking for the link to your Pricing page.
Since every part of your public-facing online presence is potentially the place a visitor will “land,” every page can be a landing page … or at least it can function as one. Hold that thought. We’ll revisit it soon, and you’ll see why the idea can be a powerful part of your strategic marketing plan and can positively influence every part of your website.
Strictly speaking, though, a “landing page” is specifically designed to act as a step on the path your prospects travel on their way to becoming paying customers.
Which Landing Page Is Best?
Try this exercise: Which of the following landing pages do you think would deliver the best return on investment (ROI) for a school’s advertising campaign?
The promise delivered by the ad: “Get Trained as a Stockbroker. No Tuition. Find Out More.”
Landing Page #1: People who click on the ad are taken to the home page of your sales department. The page is bulky and loads slowly. Once it finally does open, there is no obvious reference to stockbroker or even stock trader training. Visitors must first find and expand the “Our Courses” link in a subsection of the menu bar, then click on the link that says “Trading the Markets.”
Education Landing Page #2: People who click on the ad or other link are taken to a page that loads quickly and is concerned with one thing only: It serves to provide enough information to encourage would-be students to provide their contact information in return for a digital brochure that fully explains your online trading and stockbroker training courses.
Once prospects have opted in to your mailing list (part of your funnel), they enter an email campaign that further stimulates their interest and helps them move on down the path to registering with your school or an introductory course to your trading school options. (There are numerous rules that govern how you can use the personal information provided by prospective students, but we won’t cover that topic here.)
(If you need to know more immediately about the proper way of conducting email campaigns use my Contact page to arrange a no-obligation discussion at your convenience.)
Now, would you agree that most visitors would be better served by the second landing page example? Why is that?
Landing Page Success: Initial Requirements
But why is it that one landing page draws more conversions than another? Is somewhere around five percent as good as you can expect? What are the factors that contribute to the success of an education landing page?
First you should know there are demonstrable differences in the average conversion rate across different industries and different niches within those industries. But that in no way means your online course or school is stuck with being “average.” With the proper application of the principles described below, you can potentially enjoy conversion rates well above average.
“Average” simply indicates what other people do. That’s why you’ve kept reading to this point. You aren’t average and you don’t care to copy what the others – the average ones – are doing. You know the difference between average and excellent often requires just ten percent more effort. Your interest here proves you’re willing to go the extra mile to achieve non-typical results.
Next, it is important for us to define “conversion rate.”
A “conversion” occurs when a visitor to your education landing page engages with your work and takes the indicated next step – your “call to action” or CTA. In a typical sales funnel, there will be several conversions along the way to the final conversion – the enrollment of a student.
This is a sticky area where it’s easy to get off track. Many vendors focus on only one conversion metric:
- The SEO company promises to get your school better ranking on the search engine results page (SERP) for your keywords
- The paid ads provider wants to deliver a higher click-through rate on the ads they write and manage for you
- Your school’s sales staff needs a constant supply of leads
All of those are valid conversions and should be tracked. Unfortunately, the most important conversion rate of all – Total Sales – is often overlooked by vendors, but it’s certainly not overlooked by you.
For our purposes, then, “conversion rate” indicates how successful you are at any given point at getting prospects to take the next step along the path to enrollment. Most schools will include the following five metrics in addition to other conversion data they deem important to track:
- Click-through rate (CTR) – The number of prospects who click on a certain hyperlink divided by the number of times the page (or advertisement) is shown. If Google shows your ad to 1,000 people and 100 of them click on the ad, your click-through rate is 100/1000 or ten percent.
- Email opt-in rate: The number of prospects who join your mailing list divided by the number of prospects who were shown the opt-in page or form.
- Bounce rate: The number of visitors shown a certain page, but who didn’t interact with it and quickly clicked away divided by the number of visitors to the page.
- Email response rate: The number of prospects who received your marketing emails divided by the number of people who clicked on the link you presented them. This should be measured independently for each email in a campaign, for the campaign as a whole, and for your overall email marketing efforts.
- Registration rate: The number of prospective students who enter a certain phase of your enrollment process (filling out the enrollment form, perhaps) divided by the number of students who complete the process and register as students.
You can get as granular with conversion metrics as you wish. Be careful, though, to not gather so much information you become confused by the data overload. Various departments of your organization, of course, will want specific tracking of the conversions most important to their particular job function. Just be sure to collect the most vital data along with less-critical measurements.
Examples of other conversion-related metrics you can track include cost per acquisition (CPA), visits and conversions weighed by demographic and geographic segmentation, and your email list unsubscribe rate to name just a few.
The Primary Factors That Contribute to The Success Of Your Landing Page
Now that we’ve covered the necessary definitions and listed the types of conversion rates you may want to measure, let’s consider the fundamentals you must observe to develop effective education landing pages.
Effective education landing pages load rapidly
The website loading time metric describes the average time it takes your website to load all content once a prospect clicks to enter. Load time is influenced by things like the quality of your server, website design, optimization of graphics on the page, and other choices you make.
Ideally, load time will be two seconds or under. Your bounce rate will vary directly with this metric. You can check your current load time via platforms like Google’s PageSpeed Insights. No matter how good your content is, your search rankings will suffer if your site loads too slowly.
A workaround for education landing pages is to host them on a separate site where they will load independently of your other content, then optimize those landing pages for speed as well as for conversion rate. Make sure the site performs well under searches from both desktop and mobile devices. For further information, check Google’s page experience update article on Google Search Central.
Effective course landing pages catch the promise made to the experience provided
Look back to the example we used above where you were asked to decide which landing page would most likely perform best. Landing Page #2 was the clear winner because it delivers exactly what the prospect clicked through to see: How to get trained as a stockbroker without paying any out-of-pocket tuition.
Likewise, it is crucial that your education landing page presents itself as the answer to the problem you promise to solve in the ad or other content the prospect views before visiting the page.
Practice viewing your marketing copy (the words you use to attract potential students) in light of the promise made in that copy. If you say “Get our “How to Trade Options Guide Now,” visitors should be able to retrieve the sought-after document in short order – usually right after entering their contact information and agreeing to receive communications from you.
Once you’ve identified the promise you will employ, make sure you keep it. Your accurate representations of “what’s next” will immediately begin building trust between your school and the prospect. Each step along the path to registration that follows should repeat that pattern: Promise made. Promise kept.
Always deliver what you promise.
The best education and course landing pages are fanatical about user experience (UX)
Prospects who visit your education landing page should know three things immediately: Where they are, what they can do there, and what to do next. They should also get a consistent feel for your branding. Everything from the primary colors you choose to the graphics style and font choices selected should remain consistent.
Keep your messaging clear and your site simple to interact with. A confused user is someone who isn’t likely to complete your path to enrollment. Don’t make visitors work to find the information they want. Make the next step plain to understand and easy to accomplish. In other words, optimize your user experience (UX).
Effective education landing pages are focused on a single goal
Each landing page should have one purpose to fulfill in the prospective student’s path to registration. Opt-in pages should focus on giving prospects sufficient reason to get on your mailing list, information pages should provide the desired information and give visitors a quick way to obtain it, contact pages should allow prospects to communicate with staff, and so forth.
Each page should also have a single call to action (CTA). The CTA shows the prospect exactly what to do next (perhaps to click on a certain link or enter information on the designated form).
Before you do anything differently, though, plot out your path to enrollment. Many online and offline course sellers find it helpful to reverse-engineer the process by beginning at a success point – registering for classes, for instance. Keep asking “What happened before that?” until you’ve reached the point where the prospect first begins searching online for the solution to a problem you can help solve. Every search is a question, and every good landing page is the answer to a particular question.
It is important to remember that not everyone who sees your advertisement or visits your website is a qualified prospect. The best education landing pages will not just attract your best prospects, it will also turn away those who aren’t good prospects. The better able you are to understand exactly who is most likely to desire and benefit from your programs, the better able you are to present the kind of offers they will respond to best. And that brings us to the next critical consideration: Your audience.
Effective course and education landing pages speak directly to certain people, not to all people
This is one of the toughest concepts to grasp. It is tempting to think your school is for “everybody.” Look closely, though, and you will discover that not everybody needs or wants what you offer. Look even closer and you’ll find certain qualities that define your best prospects. The particular age range, background, previous education, and other descriptive data will differ for each school, but that data (customer persona information) can always be uncovered if you look for it.
What do the people you can best serve have in common? Are they career-changers or career-advancers? What do they hope to accomplish by graduating from your school or completing your online course? How can your business help them achieve their goals? What types of additional support is valuable to them?
By describing your best prospect or prospects (you may find there are several distinct personas your school attracts), you can tailor your messaging to illustrate how your training closely matches their desires and expectations.
Some of that you have no control over. If your school is in a rural area, you may not hold a large degree of appeal to prospects who want to study in a city environment. If yours is a trade school focused on plumbing, carpentry, and auto mechanics, you probably won’t get a second look from students who want to be bookkeepers or even construction project managers. If you sell online courses only, some students will prefer in-person training. That’s okay. List the things you do best, then find the prospective students who want what you have.
The next step is to find out how you can reach those prospects and get your school or course included on their list of possibilities. Each step in your path to registration should draw them closer to deciding either “Yes, that is the school for me” or “No, that’s not the right school for me.”
Both decisions are valuable to you. The first positions your school to gain another student. The latter frees up your resources to allow you and your staff to speak with qualified prospects. By “qualified,” we mean someone who needs what you have, wants what you have, and is capable of making the time and financial investments necessary to obtain what you have. Your job is to help them get clear on what they want and then to help them get it.
“Sales” is not a dirty word. Our entire financial system depends on the mutually beneficial exchange of one thing for another. Your students pay you to help them earn way more money in the future than is required to attend your school.
Once you know what your school offers and who needs what you offer, your marketing efforts will first be directed at finding those prospects and inviting them to take a look. Your sales team focuses on helping qualified prospects obtain what you have … and what they need.
Effective course-selling landing pages are consistently tested and adjusted for optimum performance
If you’ve not yet heard of A/B or “split testing,” you’re in for a treat. Here’s an example of how split testing works: Let’s say you and a co-worker are at odds about the copy to use on your CTA button. You believe “Find Out More” is best, but the other person thinks the button would draw more clicks if the button says “Get Your Guide to Futures Trading.”
You could argue the point for weeks, but there is one sure way to find out which copy will work best: run a split test. To do that, you use a website plugin or platform that will serve half of the visitors to your page one version of the button copy and the other half the other version. The winner is the one that pulls significantly more clicks. The sure winner is the one that pulls a lot more clicks.
Generally, you should test one thing at a time, whether that’s the copy you use, the colors you select, the graphics employed, or another identifiable part of your education landing page. You may find both versions convert about the same, so you might archive one version and look for another parameter to adjust for the next test (choosing a different “hero image” for the page, perhaps, or breaking the text up by inserting illustrations and photos.
You may need a website developer or savvy webmaster to perform the technical part of split testing, but the effort is always well worth the effort. Split testing gives you the ability to gain a deeper glimpse into the preferences of your audience. That knowledge provides a straightforward way to increase conversions.
How to create a Landing Page That Delivers Results
There are more points to make about landing pages for schools and online courses, but the six already mentioned will provide a solid foundation for success.
Get them in action first, then get others to critique your work. Ask whether they can point out any areas where your education landing page still needs work. Ask whether they immediately know where they are, what they can do there, and what they should do next (a favorite maxim of philosopher and online marketing expert, Flint McGlaughlin).
By leveraging the six fundamentals addressed above, you may find that getting more enrollments for your school or training won’t require a ton of work or specialized technical knowledge. It does require you and your staff to be willing to communicate effectively with, listen to, and learn from your best prospects.