Land and Stay Awhile

In the daily practice of web communications, we use many terms we think everyone understands. We talk about IA (information architecture) and bounce rates and landing pages. If pressed, how would you explain “landing pages” to someone on your campus? Beyond that, why do landing pages matter? Why are they key for explaining your brand?

Most of the time, we define “landing pages” as the top-level, marketing-critical pages for the primary topic areas of your website. These core pages are crucial on education websites and include topics like About, Academics, Admission, and Student Life. Done right, these marketing-focused web pages can lend context and value through well-crafted copy and feature content.

Content-rich landing pages are one of your best opportunities to make the case for your institution. Landing pages are often the primary points of entry — think of them as secondary home pages. They can offer an introduction to your institution, and because you can make no assumptions that visitors have been elsewhere on your site, landing pages deserve time and attention.

Sometimes, the major topic links on the homepage of large university websites don’t lead to landing pages. Instead, they launch drop-down menus or send visitors to pages filled with long lists of links or to entirely new sites. From this, a visitor might get the impression that there is no university site. Instead, there is a disjointed collection of multiple sites loosely stitched together by a homepage that is really nothing more than an umbrella. Worst case, the conclusion visitors are likely to draw from this experience is that the university itself is a collection of academic and administrative fiefdoms with no shared identity, message, strategy, common vision, or commitment to students.

Ever wonder why they’re called landing pages? It’s because we want visitors to land there, to pause just for a moment, and to take stock of what the institution has to offer in that subject area. The best landing pages:

  • have a clear and persistent internal navigation,
  • include 150-300 words of well-crafted copy,
  • present information in visually stunning ways,
  • demystify “the options” for visitors to explore,
  • and link to two or three carefully chosen pieces of video or other feature content.

The landing pages lend context — and value — to the list of majors, tuition detail, or admission criteria that should be just one or two more clicks away.

Big thanks to my colleague Doug Gapinski for suggesting some of these examples of landing pages:

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