One of big complaints we hear from school communicators is that their website just sits there. Yeah, the events and calendar pages gets their share of hits. But how do you make your website more interactive? How do you improve sharing the kinds of information that boosts engagement with parents and helps you meet school communications and academic goals?
Two words: Landing pages.
Landing pages are website pages that capture a visitor's information using specific, targeted messaging and a form. Used largely in the world of commerce to do everything from simply grab your email address or subscribe to a newsletter, to register for a webinar or watch a demo, landing pages are great ways to pull your website visitors closer to your school.
As part of solid school website design, landing pages can and should be a part of your school’s online communications strategy, for they can help you promote events, gather information, build enrollment and more.
Your website is more than a directory
Time was when schools used their websites merely as a place to list important stuff. Staff directories, calendar of events, athletics schedules, lunch menus – what I call the standard plays. Many of the popular school content management systems have modules built into their CMS offering so these kinds of content hubs can be easily managed and updated.
While that kind information remains a critical component to what a school website should provide, it’s important school communicators start taking advantage of how people prefer to interact with a website. Even a near perfectly designed school website with the best navigation can benefit from the focused messaging and desired actions that landing pages can create.
Landing pages encourage action
You may want your website visitors to register for event; RSVP for a school function; get tickets to a school play or athletic contest. You are essentially offering them something, and the way their going to get it is by including a form for them to complete on your landing page.
“It’s all about conversions,” says Steve Williams VP of sales and marketing for Campus Suite. Converting someone who lands on a landing page to that next step in the communications chain, whatever it may be, is the whole purpose of landing pages. It could be a prospective student’s family member seeking more information, an existing school parent signing up for a conference, a student registering up for a field trip – landing pages work to solve communications objectives.
You want them to complete a form – more on forms later – and then in return, either take them to exactly what they bargained for, or assure them that they’ll get it soon. For example, someone who wants to sign up for a “Breakfast with the Principal” event needs a confirmation after he or she completes the form.
Your landing pages should be customized for the content you’re sharing with visitor. Once visitors gets to a landing page, you want to move them along and provide them with exactly what they are looking for, and do it as cleanly and quickly as possible. They are there, after all, to get something, and you want to make it easy for them.
Anatomy of a school website landing page
There are some best practices to follow when creating your school’s landing pages. Before we get into the key parts of a landing page, it’s important to understand just how someone arrives at or lands on a landing page.
Their path to that page could come from any number of sources. Social media, a blog article, an email campaign, or from some other page on your website. A link from one or all of these sources is best promoted using a “call to action” or what’s commonly referred to as a CTA.
We’ve all used them. Add to cart, download now, sign up now, view video – these are examples of direct CTAs. A CTA can be a button or simply a hyperlink that when clicked plops the visitor right onto the page.
You have to get their attention with a clear headline. Like the headline on a news article that will determine whether or not you read on, the same holds true with a landing page headline. Summarize what you are ‘offering’ or providing the visitor. Be concise.
This is the body of your landing page that pays of the headline. Be brief here too. Your visitor has already arrived at the page, so there’s no need to ramble.
When possible, include an image that reinforces the content. An illustration of a ticket to the play, the cover the the study guide, a photo of the presenter. People respond at a higher rate when presented with such visuals. Plus, it looks nice when images are included.
This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s what Sarah Goliger at Hubspot inbound marketing refers to as “the main event” in Hubspot’s introductory guide on using landing pages. Forms gather the key info you’re after: name and email address for starters. Beyond that, ask for only the information you need. Many forms are too lengthy and ask for way too much. Remember, you’ll have ample chance to get additional information with follow-up communications.
Start by analyzing your website
Maybe you don’t know as much about your website as you should. The first place to start is Google Analytics. Google, in all its omnipresent ways, can not only help you find answers to everything, but can tell you things like how people use your website.
When you create a landing page to accomplish a specific communications goal, for example, Google Analytics enables you to monitor the traffic to that page, where visitors came from, what they did next and more.
Google Apps for Education, free to schools, is a tidy little suite of tools that makes it easy to create reports that show you the most popular pages, or determine how many people are using your website from their phone, tablet or desktop. Google Analytics can play a big role in helping you design your website too, for you’ll soon be able to determine things like your most popular pages. and make it part of your school’s overall communications metrics.
Check out Steve Williams’ article on 6 Google Tools Every School Communicator Should Use for more information on how to bring the power of Google to your school website.
Landing pages require a shift in thinking
It takes some adjusting to begin incorporating landing pages into your online communications strategy. Think of them as another tactic to engage your school community using the methods most of us all now prefer using.
How we search for information, sign up, purchase things has all become condensed into a time frame that requires schools step up how they reach parents and the rest of the school community. What’s more, being able to engage them on their phones is also important.
The world of commerce has conditioned us all. Amazon, news sites, social media, entertainment sites, games – your school is competing against an increasingly shrinking attention span that requires you be more direct in how you engage.
Start small with landing pages. Events, for example, are the perfect way to use landing pages tromote and secure attendance. Creating them effectively requires expertise and tools that may not exist within your school. Your school website provider would be a good source to check with should your own content managers and website design team not be equipped to incorporate landing pages into your communications plan.
Landing pages can become a very useful tool to help you get more out of your website and improve engagement with your entire school community.
Do you have any ideas on how to use landing pages on your website?
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.