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Microsites and Landing Pages: Which is right for you?

landing page and microsite
Microsites and landing pages are used to promote specific campaigns related to a particular product or service. Before we jump into why you might want one over the other, here’s a quick rundown on what a landing page and microsite are.

Landing page vs. microsite

Some folks consider landing pages and microsites as interchangeable, but that’s likely because they aren’t fully aware of the differences or functionalities. There are similarities, of course. Both landing pages and microsites are smaller than a traditional website, created for short-term use, and made for a specific marketing campaign.

Landing page, defined

A landing page is part of a main website. It’s one single page of the parent website, which itself may contain hundreds of pages. Landing pages are very effective in driving more traffic to the parent website, creating awareness about a specific product or service, and increasing conversion with a direct call-to-action (CTA).

Microsite, defined

Microsites, on the other hand, can have multiple pages and be published as either part of a parent site or on its own as a standalone website. The goal of a microsite is to facilitate brand awareness and engagement while acting as part of a larger campaign.

So which is right for you? Is one better than the other?

Many factors play a part in determining if a landing page or microsite is best for your online marketing. First, revisit your campaign objectives. What is your goal? Both landing pages and microsites serve a targeted segment of your site visitors with focused information and CTAs.

Then consider the following elements:

  1. Branding: Does your product or service have its own branding? Do people know it is associated with the main brand?
  2. Functionality: Does this page or site for your product or service (or event) need to be structurally different than your business’ (or nonprofit’s) main site? For instance, do you need to also sell event tickets or host an auction platform?
  3. Management: Is it going to be on a different platform? This might require more time and effort in maintaining.

Technology factors often figure into a decision between landing page or microsite. Perhaps you don’t have a good way to integrate third part forms. Maybe it’s simply easier to build out pages. Or maybe you think hiring an agency to create dedicated content and build a site is too much. Ideally your content management system will allow you to share content and files across microsites even if the design is different.

Pros and cons

In some cases, a landing page will suffice and in others you might need a microsite. It depends on factors such as the size of your campaign, your budget and time constraints, your target audience (get out those buyer personas!), and the type of offer. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Landing page benefits

A landing page promotes a specific product or service and is hosted on your main domain. Its main purpose is conversion. Entertaining or educating is of less importance. Landing pages are typically very sparse, with nothing to distract the user from the CTA. They are a focused, optimized page that conveys information in a concise way and will boost the SEO of your website. Landing pages are fairly easy and cheap to create. They can also be launched quickly and don’t require a whole lot of maintenance. Generally speaking, landing pages don’t require a large budget. You don’t have to buy additional domain names! Plus, you can use UTM tags and short links to easily measure ROI and show that your landing page is converting.

To recap, a landing page:

  • maintains brand and design continuity with the parent website
  • has a focussed message designed around a CTA
  • is easy to test effectiveness

Landing page disadvantages

Landing pages aren’t the most engaging thing out there. They often have only minimal information which could frustrate users who are looking for more and doesn’t provide opportunity for engagement. Will your ideal audience find the story on your landing page attractive and compelling? With landing pages, you have to be very clear and concise. If viewed at the wrong buying stage, landing pages will lose visitors.

Microsite benefits

A microsite is a mini, targeted website that can inform, entertain, and sometimes convert. While a website will have everything about your brand, values, and products or service, a microsite is a specific domain. This campaign-specific URL means it is more effective in offline advertising and is easier to remember. The few pages on a microsite will contain targeted content that engages users. Use a microsite to tell a story (typically about a certain product or service) and create an interactive user experience. Microsites tend to create brand awareness and build brand loyalty, as part of a larger campaign. They encourage users to click through to the main site to view more pages, thus increasing time spent on pages and lowering bounce rate. Plus, in doing this, you’re driving more organic traffic to your site.

To recap, a microsite:

  • allows for creativity in design and flexibility in information architecture
  • provides many opportunities to engage a visitor
  • explores a product or subject in depth

Microsite disadvantages

Microsites are generally much more expensive than landing pages to set up. You’ll need to purchase additional domain names. And spend more time in creating and deploying a microsite. They also require more time and effort in maintaining. It’s also not easy to measure ROI of microsite and clear CTAs are more difficult to create. There’s also the potential for weakening your brand identity.

Bottom line

If you call-to-action is fairly small, such as asking the user to commit to downloading a free e-book, a landing page is the right format. With a landing page, you remove all distractions and optimize everything (headline, CTA text, button colors, button placement, etc.). They provide a controlled environment where it’s clear to measure the effectiveness. Either someone has clicked your button or they have not. Simple task? Keep things simple with a landing page.

If it’s a larger ask though – maybe you are offering a complete demo of some product – think about how a microsite might allow you to be more detailed and provide in-depth information. Persuading someone to take an action, such as purchase, isn’t always simple. Microsites are great at serving up content that provides your prospective lead with a great experience and gives them reasons to come back, until they’re ready to take the action on your offer.

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Still not sure if a landing page or microsite is right for your situation? We can help determine what will best serve your goals. Or do you need help with designing and building either a microsite or a landing page? Get in touch with us!

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