Microsites vs. Landing pages; which is the better choice? We review the pros and cons to help you decide what is best. Tell us which you prefer and why.

Argument Progress

Landing Pages or Microsites? The Debate Rages On!

Tue Dec 10, 2013

The debate around whether landing pages or microsites are better for online marketers generates strong opinions and heated discussion, like just about any web marketing topic. Rather than take sides or play favorites, we wanted to take a deep breath, count to ten, and step back from the answers to ask the only deciding question that matters: what is your goal?

Both, landing pages and microsites are targeted to a segment of your site visitors and should serve them with focused information and the opportunity (and invitation) to take action. Here’s a breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, and the bottom line on where and how they can serve you best.

Landing Pages

Top view: A landing page is designed to welcome visitors from a specific campaign, be it a social network postemail campaign, or a link scanned via QR code on a restaurant napkin. They are oriented to filtering out the rest of the website in order to underscore and amplify the message of your campaign and get your visitor to take a specific action, be it download something, sign up for a free trial, or make a purchase.

Landing Page ProsLanding Page Cons
  • Focused message and content that is designed around call to action
  • Easy to test effectiveness with fewer page elements and alternate versions of landing page
  • Maintains brand and design continuity with main website
  • If viewed at the wrong buying stage, can lose visitors
  • Focused content provides low opportunity for engagement
  • Continuity with site design, content, and tone can be restrictive

Bottom line: The landing page wastes no time and gets right to business. If your goal is to get someone to take an action, you should remove all roadblocks and distractions, and optimize everything from your headline, to your CTA text, to button colors and placement, to all other content on the page. Landing pages provide a controlled, testing-friendly environment where there is a clear indicator of effectiveness: someone either clicked the button, or not. If you’re asking your visitor to complete a simple task, then keep things simple with a landing page that makes it easy.

Microsites

Top view: Microsites are not a condensed version of your website. Instead, they are small sites, with just a few pages, but built around a focused message. The microsite can be dedicated to an academic program, a special holiday offer, a campaign, or anything that merits a variety of content to serve one specific area of your business. Unlike a landing page, microsites are less oriented to driving immediate action, but are a much better way to explore a product or subject in depth without having to navigate through the rest of your website.

Microsite ProsMicrosite Cons
  • Creativity and flexibility in design and information architecture
  • Many opportunities to engage visitors
  • Great way to pilot design and content ideas before implementing them sitewide
  • Requires dedicated or at the very least repurposed content
  • Has the potential to dilute brand identify
  • More challenging to have a clear CTA with larger site
  • Governance challenges in decentralizing administration of site

Bottom line: Getting someone to complete a purchase isn’t always as simple as saying “buy now.” If you understand that the buying process around your product or service is lengthy and complex, microsites are a great way to serve up content that becomes an experiential tasting menu for your prospective customer. Whereas with a landing page you get to “yes” or “no” right away, with a microsite, you can give a customer reasons to keep coming back, until she has a sense of your brand, a deeper desire for your offering, and is ready to buy.

So which is the best for you?

Sometimes a deep divide between two schools of thought implies that there might be two right answers, and that we’re just asking the wrong questions. Choosing one approach over another doesn’t have to be an article of faith. It really depends on what you’re trying to do.

Technology factors often figure into the decision between microsites and landing pages, and that’s where many marketers get tripped up. It could be the CMS doesn’t have a good way to integrate third party forms and it’s just easier to build pages. Or the cost of creating dedicated content and hiring an agency to build a microsite is so daunting that you put up one page and hope for the best. Ideally your CMS allows you to share content and assets across microsites even if the design is different or content modified.


Using a landing page or a microsite for your campaign is a decision that should be based on your goals and what will serve them best. If your technology is skewing your decision, well, that’s another conversation.

Tell us which you prefer and let us know if there is an important pro or con you think deserves to be mentioned.

Karo Kilfeather, content marketing manager at Percussion Software
Karo Kilfeather
Content Marketing Manager | Percussion Software

Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.