The landing page vs website debate may seem like a trivial one to most expert PPC marketers. But, as it turns out, more incoming clients deal with the issue of distinguishing the two than you’d expect.
Now, in digital marketing, you’ll hear the word “landing page” thrown around quite a lot here and there. If you’ve never heard of the term before, you may be thinking that a landing page and a home page are one and the same.
Although they may seem to be the same thing, truth is, they’re very much different in their objectives and traffic sources. Without proper knowledge of key differences between the two, your digital marketing efforts could be suffering as a result of the confusion.
This post will help clear up the differences between the two so you can use them for their intended purposes. We’ll also be identifying and explaining which of the two is better for your PPC efforts.
The Basics: What's the difference between a landing page and a website?
Alright, we’ll start with some basic info about how a landing page is different from a website so you’ll be able to easily identify both.
As you should already know, a business's website is intended to give visitors information about a product, service or topic. It contains multiple pages for people all across the customer journey. lt allows and encourages you to navigate through various pages.
It’s meant to satisfy visitor's questions and curiosities
A landing page is a single web page that is meant to focus the visitor on performing the goal action of the page creator.
Depending on the objective of the conversion, there are varieties of landing pages to choose from. Here are some landing page examples:
- Lead Gen Landing Page
- Click-Through Landing Page
- Lead Magnet Landing Page
- Waitlist Landing Page
- ChatBot Landing Page
- Smoke Test Landing Page
- Multi-Step Landing Page
Let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of both types of pages and discuss some apparent differences between the two. We’ll be presenting examples from Alco Products, a client of ours, showcasing their home page as well as their landing page designed by Klientboost designers. This way, you can see the differences between landing pages versus home pages not only in design, but in functionality as well.
The General Build Of A Website Page
There is no “right” way to build a website page. They vary with each business. But there are some key elements that a home page, for example, should have.
Let’s take a look at Alco’s home page to see what essential features it contains.
The Navigation Bar
This is the horizontal bar you usually see at the top of the page consisting of clickable links. They’ll most commonly consist of categories that answer the most commonly asked questions from potential customers. Categories like types of services, pricing, about us pages, case studies, and your blog are some examples. These links allow the visitor to quickly visit any section of the site and provide them with the information they seek.
You may also see a navigation section at the bottom of the page with listed links that are more specific. Some sites also employ a sticky navigation bar on the side of the page that follows users as they scroll down the page. Depending on how many subcategories your navigation feature has, most digital marketers like to refer to these navigation menus as “hamburger menus.”
The Headline And Sub Headline
Since you only have about seven seconds to grab a visitor’s attention, the headlines should clearly convey what is being offered and give a short description of the company’s unique value proposition.
The hero image is usually found in the background of the headline and subheadline. It should show the product or service of your business. The image shouldn’t be too distracting and should try to be relatable to the visitor.
Call To Action
The CTA is what you’re asking the visitor to do (hence the name Call To Action). Some home pages will have multiple CTAs scattered across the page. They usually serve different purposes spanning from educating users on their brand to downloading different content assets to enter the marketing funnel at different levels.
For example, you might want the visitor to sign up for a custom quote. But you also want to include other CTA’s just in case they are wanting to learn more without signing up. You could include a “learn more” CTA button or a “download our free eBook” CTA as well.
These sections showcase your company’s expertise and explain your value proposition. Presenting benefits and features can help visitors distinguish what makes you stand out amongst your competitors. Awards legitimize your company and establish trust.
This section is another powerful indicator of trust and adds credibility. They can be in the form of reviews or even case studies. In terms of generating user trust in your brand, the late, great, P.T. Barnum really said it best:
“Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.”
Social proof serves to not only familiarize your brand as trustworth to potential clients/customers, but also legitimizes your authority in the field with actual experience and proof to back it.
The General Build Of A Landing Page
Truth be told, a landing page has pretty much the same elements as a website homepage...minus a few things here and there. Most of the time, a company’s landing page will be very simple. Why? The short answer is: because the simpler your landing page is, the easier it will be for your users to focus on your goal conversion.
Now, let’s look at Alco’s landing page to see all the similar elements.
The Headline and Sub Headline
Because Alco is using this page in their PPC ads, the headline only describes one product that Alco offers — the product that Alco is advertising in this specific campaign. Any visitor who visits this page would be searching for roofing services. So making a dedicated landing page for the roofing area of Alco’s business will help increase their accounts landing page experience and ultimate quality score.
Alco’s hero image also paints a pretty picture of a beautiful home easily attainable with their services. It’s simple and non-distracting.
Here Alco is presenting their first qualifying question, demonstrating the breadcrumb technique. The idea behind this technique is to lead the visitor down a series of qualifying questions that will lead to the action of converting. To visitors, these questions are less aggressive than leaving their name, number, and email right from the get-go. They will be more likely to leave this valuable info after they've felt like they already committed to answering the first few questions. This is why we call them micro-conversions.
Also, keep in mind that you can get valuable information from these question. Picking a budget range from a drop-down menu, for example, can let Alco know whether or not that inquiry is worth following through to a sale.
Call To Action
You’ll always want to make sure that the CTAs match the temperature of the traffic. If your traffic is colder you might want to present a much less aggressive offer.
We’ll hold off on discussing temperatures of traffic for a different post.
You’ll notice that some of Alco’s awards are not present in the page. Although awards are definitely a positive, too many can look too cluttered and distracting. Choosing a few impressive awards is much more appealing for a landing page. Remember, you want to keep your users focused on a singular action: your CTA.
Benefits and Features
You’ll notice that the benefits section has been edited down to short blurbs of information. Just like in their homepage, this section is meant to show their credibility, but because we want to present information in easy-to-read sections, the explanations have been reduced to four short descriptions. We’ll explain more about why this is later in the post.
The reviews you see are non-clickable links to keep visitors on the page. Remember that we always want to keep visitors from leaving this page.
If by now you’ve noticed the lack of clickable links in the landing page, then you’re ahead of the game. Now we can discuss the differences between the two types of pages, focusing in on their different objectives, specifically.
Key Differences Between Landing Pages and Website Home Pages
The fact of the matter is, landing pages and home pages are different in their functionality and purpose. Listing out all the factors that contribute to these characteristics will help clarify what they’re each used for.
Simplicity (Focused Action Versus Informative)
We’ve already established that the purpose of a home page is to be informative while a landing page is meant to focus on the one action of converting. Comparing the two together would be like comparing apples to oranges. They have different goals and are built for very different people.
Traffic Sources (Broad Versus Specific)
A PPC campaign will ideally have a dedicated landing page where the visitor’s intent is very specific. In the Alco landing page example above, the visitor would have a specific interest in roofing. The landing page serves to connect what the visitors see directly to what they searched for.
Website home pages don't have the same effect on their visitors. Because traffic of home pages comes from various sources (organic, emails, content marketing) it wouldn’t make sense to tailor the homepage to one area of their business. That’s why homepages in PPC don’t show good performance. In having a general homepage showcasing all of a company’s services, PPC traffic wouldn’t see the relation to their search query.
Navigation (Full Range Versus None)
What you noticed in the above anatomy section is the lack of a navigation bar and clickable links. So why do you think that is?
Website pages are meant to inform and bring value to their readers/potential customers. A business will want to answer as many questions as possible and a home page will help direct them to the proper page that will answer their question. Visitors have full range to exploring and researching.
Landing pages are supposed to keep paid traffic on the one designated page and nudge them into performing an action. After all, your company paid for that click why would you want to lead them away to another page where they’re likely to lose interest? Especially in the day and age where we’ve become impatient and bored after a few measly seconds, keeping your users focused on your goal conversion is key.
Decision Making (Quick Versus Prolonged/None)
It’s true that guiding visitors to a conversion is what both pages inevitably want, but the speed and ease of converting may differ.
Website pages present more information and more links, meaning the visitor will stay reading and navigating through the website longer.
That’s good right? Doesn’t more information on one page always offer more value to the visitor?
Well, not necessarily. The website conversion action you want will get lost in all the distractions. With too many links, your homepage visitor will likely be saturated with too much info.
Landing pages encourage visitors to take action. Fewer choices help people make decisions faster and with less effort. Let’s give a little scenario.
Have you ever visited an expensive fine dining restaurant? You’ll notice their menu only presents a few meals to choose from. It’ll have maybe three different appetizers, two soups, four entrees, and two desserts. And although options are important, people would rather have a few options rather can six pages worth.
Customers can choose without much effort and time, allowing for a more enjoyable customer experience.
Conversion Rate Optimization (Goals Versus Bridge)
With CRO, optimizing on a landing page vs a website is a heck of a lot easier. That's not saying that optimizing a home page is impossible, but take into consideration everything we just discussed.
Website pages require a lot of time and patience from the visitor. Despite both pages’ goal to obtain conversions, a home page serves as a bridge in order to obtain said conversions. The research aspect of home page usage requires easy navigation. That could mean a lot of confusing variables to test when trying to optimize on metrics like “time on page” or “bounce rate.”
Landing pages, on the other hand, are quite the opposite. The one conversion goal of a landing page makes optimizing much more straightforward and easier to quantify. Without all the bridges, adhering to positive results can be much quicker.
This leads me to my next point…
Testing (Split Testing Versus Too Many Variables)
A/B Testing is undoubtedly the most impactful optimization practice you can employ on a landing page or web page. You can’t ever prove an idea works without testing and receiving measurable results.
With website pages, testing the multiple variables can be an uphill battle. When trying to determine what tests are leading to an increase in performance, results won’t be so easily pinpointed. The difficulty lies in all the bridges leading to conversions on other pages within your site.
Because landing pages are much simpler in their build and purpose, A/B testing (split testing) can result in quick implementation and fast results. Not to mention, it’s easier to determine which test/change contributed to which performance increase.
Why Landing Pages Beat Website Pages in PPC Advertising
So I know I just threw a lot of comparisons at you. By now it shouldn’t be too difficult to determine what type of page would work best for your PPC campaign.
The simplicity and direct approach to conversions allow for the bottom of the funnel visitors to easily convert without confusion or months of testing. The turnaround time for results is extremely fast and the goal revolves around revenue generations.
Defending Website Home Pages
Now, I’m not trying to say that home pages don’t have a place in PPC digital marketing. It’s completely possible to have a sort of hybrid home page/ landing page on your site.
Take the Klientboost website for instance. We use our home page as a way to explain our KB client process while still capturing leads.
Depending on how creative you are with your home page design, you can use pop-ups as conversion forms. Why not capture a few leads straight off the top of the funnel while still maintaining the navigational/informative functionality of a home page.
Landing Page vs Website: An Apple And An Orange
If there’s one takeaway from this post, it’s that landing pages and website pages aim to serve two different purposes. Although both pages are working towards more conversions, their place in your digital marketing strategy should try and play to their strong suites.
So long as you play to the strengths of each of these pages and cater your design/copy to the users’ intent, any digital campaign you run should be set up for success.