Slow web pages can hobble even the best marketing campaigns. And nowhere is page speed more important than on your landing page. When students hit your landing page, they likely haven’t yet decided whether or not to contact you. Your ad intrigued them, but the landing page needs to persuade them to commit. That can’t happen if they click away before the page loads.
You may think page speed isn’t all that important for higher education websites. After all, choosing a college is a major decision with potentially life-altering consequences.
Would a website visitor really allow a few seconds delay to influence their thinking? More often than not, the answer is Yes – Prospective students are influenced by even small delays.
With more than 4000 degree-granting institutions in the United States, students have plenty of options. If your institution doesn’t capture their attention quickly, they can move on to one that does. Even a 1 second delay can make a huge difference. Your conversion rate drops an average of 3.5% for every additional second of load time.
If your potential students are viewing your website on mobile, as about 82% will, you have to be even faster. Akamai found that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page if it takes three seconds to load. It’s no great leap to realize that improving landing page speed increases conversions.
Strategies to improve landing page speed
There are dozens of tactics you can use to shave milliseconds from your load speed, and in the fast-paced world of online research, every millisecond counts. Here are a few changes you can make, even if you’re not a web developer.
- Know your status. Start by understanding how your landing page is performing. If your page loads in less than three seconds, that’s good. Less than two is great. More than three is a problem that needs immediate attention. You can use Google’s free tools for checking both mobile and desktop page speed. Each one also offers customized recommendations based on your results.
- Minimize graphics. A beautiful page is worthless if no one looks at it.
Of course you want your landing page to be visually appealing, but not at the expense of load speed. The more graphics and videos you add, the slower you page will load. Optimize file size on those images and videos that are embedded on your site.
If you think you just can’t convert students without a page full of flashy graphics, consider this. Google found that more images on a page actually translates to less conversions. In part, this is because too many graphics can be confusing for users.But also, every time your landing page wants to display an image, it has to make a HTTP request. It’s a bit like needing to ask your assistant to bring in a file when you’re in the middle of a project. Even if your assistant is very quick, you’re still losing time with every request. Limit video for the same reason.
Graphics can also sap page speed in another way. Resizing takes resources which increases load time. Don’t upload a huge image that’s only displayed as a thumbnail. JPEG and PNG files load quickly. Upload the right size image and instantly improve landing page speed.
- Get off the carousel. Pick any three school websites and you’re almost guaranteed to spot a banner with changing images at the top of at least one of their sites. While carousels can help you spotlight information, they’re also a huge drain on page speed.
And that carousel probably isn’t as effective as you think. The web developer for marketing communications at the University of Notre Dame did an informal study of the university’s website which found that only 1 percent of visitors actually clicked on the carousel. The vast majority of those clicked on the first image.
Remember that users abandon your site if it doesn’t load in three seconds. How likely are they to sit through a multi-image carousel? Pick one impactful image and commit to it.
- Minimize plug-ins – If your website is built on WordPress (as nearly 40% of websites are as of December 2020), Joomla, Drupal or other popular content management systems, you likely use plug-ins to avoid manual coding. They are convenient and easy to use, but too many plug-ins or poorly designed plug-ins can affect page speed. Make sure that if your landing page relies on plug-ins, it uses as few as possible.
In addition, AMP Cache stores these pages for quick service. To get the best results from AMP you’ll likely need to do at least some hand-coding. Talk to your developer about supplementing traditional landing pages with AMP.
Once you’ve applied the strategies above, you’ve only begun to improve landing page speed. Continue to monitor and optimize your pages as part of an ongoing process. If your page is still slow, talk to your web developer about more technical solutions or request your free Landing Page Audit from our team of experts.