Make Higher Education Landing Pages More Effective

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And Convert Leads Better in the Process

Today’s typical college marketing landing page is… lacking. While users have gotten far more sophisticated than they were back in 2010, landing page layouts have stayed mostly static during that time. To modernize, higher education landing pages need to adapt and update their approach for the current and future needs of prospective students.

Higher Ed Landing Pages Are A Trip… To Nowhere

Marketing landing pages can make you feel lost in the woods.

Let’s look at any recent landing page for a degree program. Feel free to search for a few on Google right now and follow along. Hint: these will be the ones that show up when you click on the ads but more than likely not the organic search results (a distinct but related problem we will dive into later).

Much like television commercials of old, once you click through, the next screen is an advertisement with no way out other than changing the channel. You see, the typical way these landing pages are designed means there’s literally no way out – by design.

Fill Out The Website Form Or…. ?

These pages are meant to have as few options as possible for users. No or very few links to other information, and nothing to do on the page except for two things:

  1. Read the content and fill out the form
  2. Leave

If this sounds a little staid, it is. This landing page format is one for the most part taken from business-to-business (B2B) designs of ten plus years ago – ancient times in digital lead generation terms.

While business landing pages have moved on from this for the most part, colleges are staying the course. This stems from the fact that the only types of lead nurturing they typically engage in are lower down the funnel, after the initial information request.

In other words, other than digital advertising and (very vanilla!) retargeting, colleges and universities are doing basically nothing for the 97%+ of the audience that hits the landing page but doesn’t fill out the form right away.

It’s Not Colleges’ Fault (Mostly) That Their Marketing Landing Pages Are Dated

Some higher ed agencies operate more like a factory production line.

The above said, why are college and university lead generation pages so behind the times? There are two major reasons. First, until recently there was no reason to change. Second, the large higher education consulting firms that most colleges hire for digital advertising work for dozens, or even hundreds of clients at once. That kind of scale leads to a generic product.

Back to reason 1 though: If your lead gen process is working, there isn’t an incentive to change much. And for quite a while, higher ed marketing was stable and, dare I say it, easy.

A Multitude of Increasing Cost Factors

But no longer. Universities’ rush to spend more and more on digital marketing, combined with societal trends and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have drastically increased the competition for students. These factors have lead to drastic inflation at the ad bid, click, and cost per lead levels. In addition, market saturation has reduced overall response rates. After all, when everyone is going after the same audience with the same ads, landing pages, and keywords, what else could result?

What Would Make Higher Education Landing Pages Better?

Plenty. But for a less flippant answer, let’s take a step back and consider user interactions with a regular website page.

When a visitor comes to a landing page, they’re looking for information and answers tied to the “promise” made by the organic search listing or paid ad that enticed them to click. But does that mean they want to fill out a lead form? Did the ad say “click here and we’ll call, text, and email you 13 times a day for weeks?” Doubtful.

This means there is a disconnect between what the user has been promised and what is being delivered. To provide a more useful and engaging experience, landing pages need to provide multiple layers of interactivity. Those layers need to match up against the varied stages and types of potential students driven to the content. In other words, not everyone is ready to convert and become a lead, and the landing page must meet the audience where they are.

Different Visitors, Different Needs

Lead generation pages need to address many kinds of audiences.

Now that we’ve established (duh) that there are visitors with many different mindsets coming to college and university landing pages, let’s categorize them into a few groups (note I’ve taken the liberty of renaming several of the usual buying stages here):

  1. Not Interested At All – Accidental ad clicks, child using device with parent’s account logged in, thought your ad said “FREE MASTER’S DEGREE” etc.
  2. Starting to Think About It – Your ad looked intriguing and they might pursue a degree of some sort… someday.
  3. In The Market, But Not Ready to Commit – Almost there, but needs reassurance and a little more detail.
  4. CALL MEEEE – Finally, the audience that most landing pages are designed for: those ready to immediately commit and become a lead.

So in the scenario above, we have four audiences, but only one is ready to be contacted. Of the rest, audience #1 is a complete waste of time and money to pursue. #2 and #3 are worth pursuing, but in very different time frames. #4, of course, is the only target that 99% of current higher education landing pages are really going after.

Adapting Higher Education Landing Pages for Multiple Audiences

The way to make your lead generation efforts work for these different sets of visitors is by creating page content specifically designed to address them.

Some examples of how this can be done:

Audience #2 (Starting to Think About It):

  • Short-form video highlighting the program experience
  • Infographics that walk through the process of enrolling and program value
  • Links to articles that highlight key attributes of your program or success stories from happy graduates

Audience #3 (In The Market, But Not Ready to Commit) :

  • Urgency creators such as deadline-based offers for financing breaks or waivers
  • Charts showing future earnings vs. those that don’t enroll
  • Job market statistics that highlight the possibilities for graduates

What About Advertising?

So far we’ve only discussed the content of landing pages themselves. This misses a huge part of the picture for lead generation, especially advertising and retargeting campaigns. I’ll cover those topics in a future article.

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