How to Create a Landing Page

Without good landing page design your website will not maximise your recruitment opportunities

Every page on your website is technically a landing page.  But some pages are more important than others.   Your landing page is the first page people see when they come to your site from a search engine.  So it isn’t always your home page .. which is where most providers, understandably, put a lot of effort.

Are your landing pages converting?

Not all pages are designed to promote a call to action so lets look at how to design a landing page where you want a call to action to be answered.  A page that converts traffic into bums on seats.

Your goal for the page can invite the visitor to:

  • Sign up for an Open Evening
  • Apply for a Taster course
  • Subscribe to a newsletter (an email list on an opt-in landing page)
  • Download a prospectus
  • Apply for a course
  • Email you
  • …. .. and anything else you may decide to add as a website objective

In most cases, the effectiveness of a landing page containing any of the above can be measured by the conversion rate.  To help us measure this we need to use Google Analytics or a similar piece of software.

For example, if you want visitors to join attend your Open Evening they could be directed to your EventBrite signup page.  In this case the sign up is your conversion goal.

Typically conversion rates vary widely.  From my expereince I know that many provider sites have conversion rates of <1%.  But some exceptional commercial sites obtain conversion rates of >90% so we can do better.  Much will depend on the target sector, your page layout, the call to action and the traffic source.

The items in the “How to” list below aren’t specific to one landing page type. They focus any type of landing page with a measurable conversion goal, prospectus download, open evening sign up etc).  I’m indebted to Peter Sandeen for this page’s inspiration.  Peter has just authored a new book on conversion and is offering a free copy to readers of this page.  More on that later.


1. The headline is the key element of any landing page.

It’s the first thing readers see, and if it fails to capture their interest, they won’t read anything else and they certainly will not convert.

Let’s face it a headline that starts with L3 City & Guilds doesn’t exactly inspire everyone to start a conversation.  So the secret for providers must be to focus on non course pages initially.  Once you have developed landing page design skills you can then move on to course pages .. a tip here is that if the headline is not likely to set the world on fire you need a stimulating sub head.

Your headline should always start a conversation!

Here’s a simple test that tells you if your headline is good or not:

Are the words you use the same as you’d use in normal conversation?

Imagine you are in a bar and approach someone attractive.  Would a phrase like “L3 City and Guilds” result in a conversion that leads to an ongoing relationship?

If your headline isn’t something you can say without sounding stupid when in a bar …. change it to something that would open an intelligent conversation and future relationship.

This keeps people on the page.  Even if the conversation they engage in is in their head you are heading in the right direction.


2. Does your sub-headline support the main headline?

Usually the purpose of the subhead is to support the main headline’s focus.  Or it can introduce an idea that builds on the main headline.

If your sub-headline isn’t closely related to the main headline, consider whether it is needed. Do they form a cohesive idea together.

You’re better off with no sub-headline than with one that’s unrelated to the main headline.


3. Does your page copy talk to your readers’ in their language?

The copy must speak your readers’ language.  One of the biggest conversion killers on providers pages is academic jargon … L3 City and Guilds is the least of it.  Words like learners are never heard in a bar .. in real life people talk about students …… so why provoke them in to leaving your page by using provider speak?

If your target market wouldn’t ordinarily use a specific word or expression, you shouldn’t use it either.

Of course on an employers page you can use language appropriate to them .. some jargon is expected where you talk technical matters to technical people.  Anything less would have them thinking you don’t understand their needs .. so make sure the language is appropriate.


4. Do your graphics & images support your value proposition?

If you use images and graphics, and in most cases you should, they need to support your value proposition.

They must support your message and help readers understand the offer or the value of the offer.

A mistake many providers make is to add pictures just for the sake of it.  They raid the picture library and use unrelated pics as that is their corporate style.  Don’t use them for decoration or just because you think you should.  They need to reinforce your message and add value to it.  Ultimately they need to add to the conversion rate.


5. Does your call to action promise value?

You can take a horse to water but can’t make it drink.  Visitors aren’t going to do anything they don’t want to .. so the trick is …. You have to ask visitors to do something they want to do.

For example, the button for a registration form should not say, “submit.” A Peter says, “No one wants to submit.”  They do, however, want to “Download the prospectus” or Attend our open evening.  So propose actions they will want to do.


6. Do you focus on the reader?

People are interested in themselves, their goals and their problems more than anything else.  They certainly aren’t interested in providers per se!  It is the benefits of studying with you they want … the qualification, experience, access to facilities, access to expertise etc.

Think about what they are trying to achieve.  What are their problems.  What can you offer to help them.  Think benefits and write about their problems and the benefits you offer.

Remember, if you write about yourself, they’re not as interested as they would be if you wrote about them and their problems.

Introducing yourself, the HOD or Principal can work, in fact you should do this somewhere on the site as people buy from people. But anything you write about your people has to relate to your visitors’ needs, problems, and goals.


7. Is your message congruent?

If someone searches on Google and clicks through to your page the copy they see, and the feel of the web page, needs to convey the same message.

Let’s take a commercial example.  Say you are looking to buy a fridge and see a search engine listing for the SuperFridge 2013. Would you prefer to click through to a page with the title SuperFridge 3013 that provides you with all the info you want PLUS a buy now button, or would you prefer a electrical warehouse homepage that lists everything from iPods and CDs to deep fat fryers .. and leaves you to search for the Superfridge 2013?

Most of us want to find a page that answers our search query; not one that tries to sell us unrelated items.  The same applies to your website visitors.  It doesn’t matter where they found you.  It could be a search engine, course directory or whatever; they want to go to a page that provides answers their specific problem.

This continuity of the message is sometimes called the “scent.” Change the message and visitors “lose the scent”  .. and often give up.

You can see where they lose the scent if you review your Goggle Analytics results.  Look for your ideal customer journey and see the pages where people quit.  You should consider setting up goals along the customer journey so tracking this is easy.  We deal with this on our Google Analytic courses


8. Does your landing page answer questions and handle objections?

I’ve said you need to focus on benefits.  There is another thing you need to consider.

To learn more about this lets consider the person that has found a course that looks about right.

What is going to stop them applying.  Maybe they are anxious about how to get to the course or about finances.  So you need to answer these objections whilst they are still thinking about them.  Provide some info on transport routes, costs and bursaries .. or whatever they might see as an objection.

You need to answer all the important objections and questions they might have and you need to do it on the landing page before they leave for a competitor’s website.  Courses don’t always get chosen because they are the best.  Often it is because the provider have answered all the objections to not applying.

If you don’t answer objections your conversion rate will be minimal.

One last thing on answering objections; your link needs to be congruent with their thoughts.  A link that says transport isn’t nearly as effective as one that says How do I get to college? .. this reflects the question in their head.

9. Do you have unnecessary page elements?

Landing page design should be simple and uncluttered. The focus needs to be on providing the information and getting them to answer the call to action.

So strip out anything that isn’t going to lead to the conversion.  That means extraneous design elements like revolving banners and links to unrelated material.  Everything needs to focus on the visitors needs at this moment and getting them to convert.


10. Do you have a PS?

The PS is often one of the most read parts of a long landing page but few provider provide one.

OK, it doesn’t have to say PS .. but it isn’t a bad tactic.  But you do need to give the reader one last reason to convert.  (In direct mail the PS is often read before the body copy).


11. Do you communicate a strong value proposition?

Your value proposition ties all the points above together.  It is the most important part of your page and is also affected by your off line marketing.  If you don’t communicate a strong value proposition, your page will fail to convert as well as it could.

Your value proposition is the reason your targeted visitors would prefer your offer over those of your competitors.  In other words, if you don’t have a strong value proposition, your visitors don’t have a good reason for converting.

But you must communicate your value proposition very clearly on your page.

Simply put, the page has to focus on making the readers understand and feel the value they’ll receive if they take action.  Lots of providers say they put their students at the centre of all they do … but unless these are going to be empty words you need to convey that on your landing page.

Focusing on benefits rather than features is the start.

It is no good to say you have excellent facilities .. every provider says that.  You need to answer the “so what” question.  You need to say our excellent facilities mean you will xyz ……. and you need to provide some proof of this. For example “All our dance studios have green screen technology which means that, with a bit of film wizardry, your promo video can include virtually any background you want .. from Covent Garden to a TV studio or seashore.  Previous students who have used this now dance on stage and TV worldwide.”

Well maybe I don’t know much about the dance industry but you get the idea.  A link to the previous students case study will help immensely, especially if it is a video of them talking in their own words.   The main thing is you need to convince your landing page visitors readers you’re giving them something unique they can’t find elsewhere.


May I personally help you ?

I regularly conduct confidential marketing appraisals for providers.  Or maybe you need help with conversion optimisation or a more effective marketing strategy.

Why not contact me for a no obligation chat .. it costs nothing to talk.

PS  Phone me about a Value Proposition Workshop if you need help defining or using your Value Proposition effectively.

I’m indebted to my colleague, Peter Sandeen, for the inspiration for this page.  Peter is based in Helsinki and is a master of conversion.  I know Peter through an international Marketing Mastermind group we are both involved in and have grown to respect his considerable expertise. Peter’s new and free e-book on Landing Page Conversion, is now available at

In it he goes into more detail than I have .. it is a good read so why not download a free copy now?