It’s that time of year again. A-Level results have been revealed, leaving some students elated and others without a place at their chosen university. Naturally, they turn to Google for help.
With that in mind, we thought it would be interesting to compare a few of the university clearing pages prospective students might be landing on in the coming days.
For the sake of ease, we’ve chosen the top four results delivered by the term ‘university clearing September 2018’ and have analysed them against our landing page scorecard. We’ve also analysed two further examples, which are worth seeing.
It’s worth noting that if you’re appearing in the top four positions for this term, you’re likely to be paying upwards of £10 per click. Your landing page had better be up to scratch!
It’s clear UWE wants you to take action here, and everything is geared towards clearing. There is a primary CTA that stands out (‘Explore our Clearing Courses’), and the secondary CTAs appear to be geared towards providing the student with enough information to want to click that primary CTA (Clearing guidance, Clearing Open Days).
Simplicity: The function of this page is immediately clear, and the main CTA stands out (Explore our Clearing courses). Even subsequent CTAs stand out without overwhelming.
USPs: Reasons to study at UWE are displayed on the page, without needing to navigate to a different part of the site. You could also count their clearing advice section as a reason to go through their clearing process.
Relevance: Although the page is titled “Clearing 2018”, the first thing we see (START…) doesn’t relate to clearing specifically. We can also see that none of the key messages used in the ad – reaching your potential, standing out, succeeding – are repeated on this page.
Clutter: The page is long – there are certain sections that could be condensed or hidden. Longer pages add to page weight, which increase page load time. The longer it takes to load a page, the more likely a user is to abandon the site – this is especially important where mobile users are concerned.
Deadlines: Clearing has a natural deadline, or imperative nature. However, the “key dates” are hidden here – below the advice and support section. If you are labelling something as “key”, you should ensure it is further to the top. UWE doesn’t add any sense of urgency.
Reassurance: The reassurance is left until the bottom of the page, when it might be more effective further up the page. The reassurance itself could also be laid out better, with an embedded video, and previews of testimonials with a link to see more.
More could be done with reasons to study at UWE specifically – using concise, easy to view stats, accreditations, and value propositions will speed up the decision process for many students who are pressed for time.
Initially, this was one of my favourite clearing pages, but having looked at it with a critical eye it’s not quite there. There’s no real incentive to apply here rather than another university – no social proof, no suggestion that I need to apply sooner rather than later, and no overview of the courses they offer.
If I were a student short of time and pressed to make a decision, I don’t know if I’d linger on this page. That being said, this page is beautifully designed – it looks very sleek and professional, and all the elements work well together. There is a clear user journey as you scroll down the page, and I’m confident you could find what you were looking for.
This page immediately tells you that you’re looking at university clearing, and that places are available. There is a fairly modern feel, and the copy leads us to believe I’ll find lots of information.
Relevance: The headline immediately tells you that this is a clearing page, with spaces for this September – exactly what was searched for.
Clutter: The page is structured in distinct sections, with clear goals in each.
Deadlines: The taglines tell the student they “still” have places available, suggesting this may be temporary and are expecting them to go.
USPs: There is a whole video showing you why to choose Winchester.
Simplicity: The page is perhaps too simple – there is a real lack of information here, and the only real CTA is the form.
Reassurance: There is nothing on the page to support Winchester’s status or credibility. Although there are student testimonials, even these don’t discuss why they recommend the university – only talking about the city itself, or why they chose their course.
The page appeared inviting at first, but the form is fairly off-putting. It’s quite blunt - asking you to tell them why you’re interested in clearing. The lack of information also makes it hard to decide whether or not you want to register interest in the university, as there are few incentives or examples of reassurance to tempt you otherwise.
Our first impression of this site is friendly and welcoming. The lack of airbrushing on the hero image increases the feeling of trust and implies they are very honest and genuine. You can also immediately see signs of reassurance, and clear CTAs.
Reassurance: This is the first page to show clear signs of reassurance. The reader is immediately shown that they have been reviewed by a number of third party reviewers, and achieved high results. They have also achieved a Gold TEF award – all of which assure the student of their high calibre. If this wasn’t enough, there are testimonials further down the page.
Deadline: Phrases such as “secure your place” and “don’t wait” add incentive to get in touch sooner.
Relevance: The headline immediately reads “Clearing”, and this is repeated throughout the page. There’s plentiful information about clearing, but also about the university itself. This is where UWE got it wrong – although students want to know about the clearing process, you still need to sell the university.
Simplicity: The page is structured in a very clear user journey. CTAs stand out, and everything is leading you to getting in touch with them.
USPs: Although there are references to why you should choose Portsmouth, there aren’t any USPs clearly visible on this page. Even just a small section discussing the facilities available at Portsmouth would be enough.
Clutter: The page is very busy. Although the CTAs do manage to stand out, there is still a lot to do on the page, and I think the length could be reduced.
Although we initially thought this page looked a bit too unprofessional, it is very friendly and welcoming. They include most of the necessary factors for a good landing page, and overall I’m very impressed by how they have balanced a wealth of CTAs and information, while still being cohesive and logical.
My only real advice for this page would be to tidy it up a little, add in some key USPs and create a clearer user journey.
This page looks rushed and unfinished, or perhaps there is some sort of error in the HTML/CSS code. The search bar doesn’t look like it matches the rest of the site, the navigation on the left looks like it stops short, and I’m just confused about that yellow circle.
Relevance: The headline reads “Clearing 2018”. Most of the links off the page provide information about clearing, but there is also information about the RAU itself. That being said, I’m not sure what connection Levi Roots has to the university or why he’s encouraging people to go there.
Reassurance: Hidden towards the bottom we do find some reassurance in the form of a silver TEF award, and in the copy we find that they are featured in the Guardian University Guide 2019 as one of the top 5 universities for students completing their degrees.
Simplicity: The CTAs don’t stand out, other than the fact the text is red. The page doesn’t have a clear goal – do they want students to get in touch via email or phone call, or the form? If it’s the latter, why isn’t the form on the page, and why doesn’t the CTA stand out more?
Clutter: Although there isn’t a lot of clutter per se, there is a lot of copy. The large block of text is easy to skim past, and gets in the way of the important links at the bottom of the page. The text could be broken down into smaller sections and the key information could be presented better in a way to catch the eye.
Deadline: There is nothing here to encourage you to get in touch sooner – they actually imply they have lots of places.
USPs: There isn’t much information on this page about why you should choose to study at the RAU over other universities. Even amongst the links at the bottom, there is no link to why the RAU is the best. There is a “Why choose the RAU” section, but as already mentioned this is easy to skim past, and could be presented better.
From the best on the list to the worst – the formatting is a little off on this page, which isn’t helped by the large wall of text. They make some good points, but the layout could be improved to pull these out more. We would also like to see clearer CTAs, and a primary CTA that isn’t a play button!
Right off the bat you can’t miss that this is a clearing page. CTAs are clear, and the navigation bar suggests an ideal user journey. Speaking of navigation, the lack of main menu at the top tells us everything you need is here, and you shouldn’t need to go back to the main site at all.
This gives the impression they take clearing seriously, as they have a whole section of the site dedicated to it. I’m also expecting a very clear, streamlined process.
Relevance: Everything here screams “clearing”, and is geared towards helping the student find the information they need.
Simplicity: The site is laid out is a way that is easy to navigate, and a clear user journey. The main CTA stands out, and each section has a very clear purpose.
USPs: There are clear reasons about why Queen’s is a good university and a link to more information should you require it.
Clutter: The page is very clean, and it is clear what the aim of the page is. However, key information such as USPs, testimonials, and a contact form are hidden at the bottom of the page when they could be more effective further up.
Deadlines: There are no real deadlines here – no reason to apply to the university sooner.
Reassurance: I’d like to see more reassurance about why you should apply to Queen’s. There is one testimonial, and one fact about their ranking, but I’d like to see more awards and statistics.
This is a strong landing page – clear CTAs, ideal customer journey, and fully geared to the process. They’re missing the mark slightly where persuasion and incentive is concerned, but overall this is very clean and not wasting any time (or space).
This is a very different page from the others, which is why I’m including it. They are clearly playing on the idea of limited spaces – one of the few universities to use this (or deadlines) to add incentive. There isn’t too much to do on the page, which may make it more efficient.
Deadline: One of the only landing pages to get this right, Leicester really plays up the idea of limited spaces to encourage students to get in touch sooner.
Simplicity: There is very little to do on this page, which means there is a very obvious user journey. The main CTA appears to be the “Check in now” form (although this isn’t the best example of a form). There are a few other navigation options, but ultimately the point of this page is clear.
USPs: There aren’t any USPs on the page at all, and requires the student to navigate to another page to view the reasons to choose Leicester. The page might be more effective if they were easily displayed here instead.
Clutter: The form isn’t ideal (which will be covered in a later blog post), but once you pass this the page gets worse. There is a large image, with a small CTA, and a whole load of space given to the subjects you could study, without these linking to anything!
They seem to give up by the bottom of the page, with 8 links that have to sense of connection or order – just throwing everything else down.
Relevance: Although this page is geared towards clearing, you can’t tell that at first glance. The word “clearing” doesn’t appear above the fold at all, and it’s not clear why the student is checking in, rather than registering.
Reassurance: There are no third party reviews, testimonials, or awards. I’d like to see something telling us why we should apply to Leicester, other than trying to win the space race.
Although this isn’t the best example of a clearing page, it does a few things well. They play on the idea of limited space better than any other landing page we’ve looked at, and it’s very clear what they want students to do on this page. That being said, they are missing practically everything else, and the bottom of the page feels very rushed – adding elements to link to other aspects of the site, rather than focusing on promoting their clearing process.
Overall score – 4 out of 10
One final thing we decided to look at was how these pages translated to mobile – an important factor to consider. UWE’s mobile site is very similar – easy to scroll down, and find and click the CTAs.
Winchester’s page still features the form, but with the added annoyance of a long list of courses beneath it before you reach additional information (such as what information you need before calling).
Portsmouth’s page was the slowest to load, and suddenly their reassurance isn’t as prominent. The page elements don’t appear to have been resized, and so require a lot of scrolling.
The biggest surprise of all – the RAU! Their site looks a lot better on mobile – gone are the formatting issues, and instead we have a slick menu function and clearer CTA. However, the large amount of text is still there, and is even worse to scroll down on mobile.
Portsmouth has the best overall landing page for me, although it doesn’t necessarily make the best first impression. It’s clear that UWE has invested time and effort into their page, as have Queen’s, but both have missed a couple of key factors that Portsmouth managed to pick up.
Portsmouth is missing the style, but UWE and Queen’s are missing the content. They all have room for improvement, and could take a leaf out of each other’s books. However, these three would be my pick for top performers.