Lively discussions often occur between marketers on the topic of whether landing pages or microsites are the better choice. These discussions sometimes become heated as proponents of each debate the merits of their own choice and the shortcomings of the alternative. What is often missed, however, is that landing pages and microsites are not interchangeable -- each is designed to serve specific marketing functions. Therefore, it is more important to define the purpose for which the landing page or microsite will be used.
Purpose of Landing Pages
Landing pages are used for a specific campaign, product or service. They welcome visitors who have arrived from a link embedded in an email, a post on a company's social media site, a link promoted on an online advertising channel or inbound links from other websites. Landing pages are focused on getting the visitor to take an immediate action. They are the Internet equivalent of a hard-sell television commercial that urges viewers to "call now" before the special offer expires.
Purpose of Microsites
Microsites are better used to build a relationship or offer in-depth information about a product or company. They are not as brief as a landing page; microsites can have several pages that allow visitors to spend a significant amount of time learning about the benefits of the product or service, the company's philosophy or the qualifications of the business owners. They are a soft-sell marketing tool, and they are often equated with ads that build brand awareness or foster public relations.
Advantages of Landing Pages
Landing pages make it easier to measure the effectiveness of a campaign or the return on investment. They are designed to entice the visitor to take a specific action, such as make a purchase, register for a company e-newsletter or request that a sales representative call to offer them a quote. The analytics are therefore simple -- out of X number of visitors, Y took action.
Landing pages are less costly than microsites. They make use of style elements appearing elsewhere on the website, saving the cost of additional design. Because they typically reside on the existing domain, the additional expenses of buying a second domain name and paying for separate hosting are eliminated.
Advantages of Microsites
Microsites offer greater flexibility than landing pages. Most microsites feature several pages of content, each with a call to action and at least one way for the visitor to interact with the page. Microsites allow the inclusion of multiple service or products, but they can also function in a purely informational capacity to enhance the company's brand or improve customer engagement.
Microsites encourage visitors to navigate through multiple pages, increasing the time spent on the site and improving the chances that they will respond to a request for action.
Disadvantages of Landing Pages
The biggest drawback to landing pages is their tightly focused nature. They are designed to encourage visitors who are responding to a campaign for a specific service or product. As such, landing pages can miss a sizable section of a company's potential market.
By their very nature, landing pages must be brief and to the point. At the same time, they must be compelling enough to generate a response from the visitors. Writing content for a landing page can be challenging without a thorough understanding of the best way to present the content within the limitations of the landing page. A visitor's first impression of a website is crucial, and this is especially true for landing pages -- they must quickly convince the visitor to take action.
Disadvantages of Microsites
Microsites have their own distinct URL, which could be an additional cost depending upon how it is implemented. There can also be additional fees for hosting the microsite. It is also more expensive to build a multi-page microsite than building a landing page. Measuring the return on these investments will normally be more difficult; visitors may return several times before responding to a call for action on microsites.
Typically, less content can be repurposed from the main website for a microsite. This could potentially work against a company's branding or its identity, if not implemented correctly.
Despite the luxury of additional content, microsites must still be designed to make a favorable first impression. Particular attention must be paid to the location of navigation links, social media links and overall organization. Unfortunately, some microsites suffer from "content overload," which can severely dilute their effectiveness.
Marketers must first have a clear definition of their goals before choosing between a landing page and a microsite. Despite the tendency for many to use the terms interchangeably, they are actually two distinct types of online marketing tools. It is necessary to analyze the reason for the page or site first, and then the advantages and disadvantages of each can be properly evaluated and the correct option selected.
For more information on implementing landing pages and microsites -- or for any of your web development or custom software needs -- contact EX2 Solutions. Our team members have the talent, expertise and training to help determine and implement the marketing tool your business needs.