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Landing Pages vs Websites: What’s The Difference?

In today’s post, you’ll discover the key differences between websites and landing pages, and how both should be used to build a conversion-focused online presence for your business.

You’ll learn my maybe controversial definition of a website, and how it differs from a presence on someone else’s online platform.

Finally, we’ll also compare how landing pages and websites differ in terms of traffic, goal, content strategy and design.

Let’s jump right in...

More...

What Is a Landing Page?

A landing page is a web page that starts a visitor’s journey though a marketing campaign or funnel. For example:

  • A sales page
  • An email opt-in page
  • A webinar registration page
  • A contact form
  • A quiz

Landing pages originally got their name from the fact visitors ‘land’ on them when they follow marketing links from external websites – banners, social media, affiliate links, buttons etc.

However, over time, the definition of a landing page has widened to also include pages that mark the beginning of an internal sales or marketing funnel.

It’s more accurate to think of landing pages less as a page to ‘land’ on, and more as a page designed to focus visitors on a defined journey on your website.

In the examples below, ALL of the pages in green can be considered landing pages...

Social Media

Opt-In Page

2 Step Opt-In Prompt

Confirmation Page

YouTube Channel

Welcome Page

LAtest Blog Posts

Homepage

Half Price Sale Page

eCommerce Pages

Checkout

Affiliate Partners

Exclusive Special Offer

Checkout

Blog Post CTA

Online Quiz Splash Page

Quiz Questions

Quiz Results Page

Is a Product Page a Landing Page?

If you already have product pages – either bespoke or eCommerce – you might be wondering if these are already considered landing pages by default.

The short answer is yes: if a product page is the best match for a specific advertising campaign, then it meets all the criteria of a landing page.

The longer answer is...

Consider how closely aligned your product page is to the promises and expectations you set out in your advertising. How likely is it to convert leads?

Let me give you an example. Which of these pages do you consider a worthy landing page for this advertisement?

Build muscle and improve your fitness.

Great deals on creatine supplements and mixes!

An eCommerce product page for a 250g bag of creative powder. No special promotion.

An eCommerce product page for the same item. 20% off with free delivery if you join the newsletter today.

A dedicated page about how creatine supports the goal of building muscle, with a short compelling video, some testimonials, and a limited time special offer.

The first one is only a landing page by virtue of it somewhat matching the original advertisement. Yes, you can buy creatine, but why is this product a great deal? How does it help build muscle?

The second one is better. It features a deal and a clear call-to-action that probably feeds into a more developed marketing funnel.

The third page is much better. It features social proof, scarcity marketing, and different media designed to encourage visitors to take action.

Remember, a true landing page is designed to connect to the preceding message... whether that’s from an external website, or from an internal call-to-action on your website.

When Do You Need A Landing Page?

You’ll need a landing page whenever you create a marketing or sales funnel with a defined ‘starting page’.

If you’re running Facebook or Google Adwords ads, you’ll need a conversion-focused page to send people to.

If you’re creating an online quiz, you’ll need a fun and engaging splash page that communicates the benefits and results of taking the quiz.

If you’re collecting coaching leads, you’ll need a landing page that defines a common pain point and the transformation you offer, while allowing people to submit their contact details.

What Is a Website?

A website is an online publishing platform where you fully control the content and design.

Let’s look at some examples...

A Facebook page

Can you publish content?

Yes.

Do you have control over your content?

Only within Facebook’s content rules.

Do you have control over the design?

No.

Do you have exclusive rights to publish?

No, you’re one of millions.

Is your Facebook page a website?

Not within our definition.

An Etsy shop

Can you publish content?

Yes.

Do you have control over your content?

Only within Etsy’s content rules.

Do you have control over the design?

No.

Do you have exclusive rights to publish?

No, you’re one of millions.

Is your Etsy Shop a website?

Not within our definition.

A YouTube channel

Can you publish content?

Yes.

Do you have control over your content?

Only within YouTube’s content rules.

Do you have control over the design?

No. Zero.

Do you have exclusive rights to publish?

No, you’re one of millions

Is your YouTube channel a website?

Not within our definition.

A hosted Squarespace site

Can you publish content?

Yes.

Do you have control over your content?

Mostly, but within Squarespace’s content rules. For example you cannot publish content they consider too risky, such as sexually explicit material or political extremism with the potential to incite.

Do you have control over the design?

Mostly, within Squarespace’s self-hosted visual builder design limitations.

Do you have exclusive rights to publish?

Yes, within your subdomain. There is no cross-promotion. However, the URL contains clear Squarespace branding unless you use a domain name.

Is your Squarespace site a website?

Yes, mostly.

The Thrive Themes site

Can you publish content?

Yes.

Do you have control over your content?

Yes, within the limits of the law and our web host limitations.

Do you have control over the design?

Yes.

Do you have exclusive rights to publish?

Yes.

Is the Thrive Themes site a website?

Yes.

So while Facebook, Etsy and YouTube are technically websites, they’re not your website and should never be treated as such. Your content and audience is always one change of terms away from disappearing overnight.

I realize not everyone will agree with our definition of a website, and that’s just fine. Let me know your own definitions in the comments below.

How many pages does a website need?

A website can feature any number of pages, from a one-page brochure with a simple call-to-action, to a huge blog or wiki with thousands of pages.

I’ve seen some impressive one-page websites that perfectly fit their business and audience.

However, I think our definition could be expanded to say you have the power to add as many pages to your website as you want. If you’re technically restricted to just one page, it’s more like renting a market stall rather than owning an entire shop.

When Do You Need A Website?

You’ll need a website if you want a permanent online place to publish your content, interact with your audience, and sell your products or services.

While it’s true that many businesses can do all this from their Facebook page (for example), they’re never in control of their visitors’ experience, and their entire online presence can be disabled by Facebook without any notice or recourse.

That’s a scary thought, especially if losing your Facebook page would result in your business’ revenue coming to a screeching halt

Key Differences Between Websites and Landing Pages

So now we’ve gone over what landing pages or websites are, it’s time to see how they compare. Let’s explore some top-level factors (traffic, goals, design and content) so we can see how they differ across these types of web presence.

Traffic

Not all incoming visitors are the same. Some come from targeted messages and calls-to-action on other websites, and therefore have expectations about what they hope to find. Other visitors are simply browsing, and are happy to take time to search out the information on your site that appeals to them.

Landing Page Traffic

Landing pages are designed to inspire action from a specific message, such as an advertisement or call-to-action. This means they’re intended for a specific audience or demographic.

Irrelevant or misaligned traffic will convert poorly, if at all.

It’s worth noting that landing pages designed for external visitors (such as paid ads) need to be crafted with laser-focused headlines, copywriting and calls-to-action. These visitors have very little patience or time to search for the benefits of your offer, and they will quickly leave if it’s not obvious.

Website Traffic

Websites are designed to appeal to all segments of your audience, from new visitors who’ve never heard of your brand before looking for information to a search query, to those who are ready to take action (with wallet in hand!).

This is why it’s so important to plan the structure and hierarchy of content on your website. New visitors should be able to find a path to quick wins in order to build trust with your brand. Recurring visitors should be able to find valuable content and products without having to wade through any introductory funnels.

Traffic to websites can come from any source (ads, search engine results, referrals, 3rd party links, etc.), so it pays to make sure your content is accessible to all these different visitors.

Goals

Encouraging visitors to take action is a vital part of running an online business, so it’s important to define the goals you want visitors to achieve.

Landing Page Goals

The goal of a landing page is to guide, convince or straight up push the visitor to the next stage in your funnel. That might be to make a purchase, download a file, subscribe to an email list, leave a testimonial, start a quiz, or whatever you need them to do.

Your job in building a landing page therefore, is to include anything that encourages them to achieve that goal.

Website Goals

The goal of a website is to connect the visitor to the information they need as quickly and as clearly as possible. All other conversion goals (sales, leads, etc.) rely on this fundamental principle.

Other goals of websites include communicating a professional and trustworthy brand, providing a place for your audience and community to interact with you and each other, and of course encouraging people to buy your products or services... often by directing them towards a landing page!

Content

You content what people come to your site for, whether that’s blog posts, product pages, guides, FAQs, videos, or any other media. It’s important to match the type and style of media to the right tool and source of traffic.

Landing Page Content

Every heading, paragraph, image and video on your landing page needs to show you understand your visitors’ needs, communicate a solution, and encourage action.

If your landing pages don’t do this, delete or update them!

This means landing page content needs to be super focused on connecting an audience with an expectation (from an external promotion or an internal call-to-action) to a promised solution or result.

Website Content

By their very nature, websites are designed to cater to all segments of your audience: casual visitors, brand advocates, potential leads and customers, disgruntled customers of the competition, etc.

Therefore, your website should contain content that speaks to these different types of visitors.

Some great content tools include FAQs, blog posts, videos, product pages, case studies, testimonials and reviews.

Design

While web design is an opportunity to show off your creative personality, it needs to be built on proven principles to help you achieve your business goals across your landing pages and website. Here’s how they differ...

Landing Page Design

There’s no rule that says the visual design of your landing pages has to match your website aesthetic or brand.

In fact, the rule is: use the design that converts best!

For example, some people prefer to remove the main header navigation and footer on landing pages to eliminate distractions from its primary call-to-action.

We encourage you to constantly test elements of your landing page design using A/B testing.

In fact, there are some proven design techniques that generally produce better results, such as leading with a compelling headline, including testimonials, and using helpful formulas to better structure the flow and layout of your content.

Website Design

Entire books have been written about website design, but the underlying principles are pretty simple:

  1. Can your visitors easily and consistently find the content they’re looking for?
  2. Does your website look professional and communicate the value and personality of your brand?
  3. Does the design of EACH PAGE of your website encourage visitors to achieve a specific goal?
  4. Does your website look and work amazing on devices of every type and size?

Get those 4 principles right and your website’s design will be in the top 1% of existing websites.

It's OK to be creative when designing your website. It's an expression of you and your brand. Go ahead and make something beautiful!

But every design choice needs to be underpinned by solid principles.

And web design principles need to be tied to real goals.

Can You Use a Landing Page as a Website?

Yes, you can.

Many businesses in a super defined, narrow niche do well with a one-page website focused on a single call-to-action. For example, I know someone who created a one-page website with the singular purpose of selling their glider plane... everything was neatly communicated using sections, images, and tight, compelling copy.

So can you use a landing page as a website? Absolutely.

Can You Use a Website as a Landing Page?

Maybe...

Some products or services are so expensive or complex that they need more than a single page to properly organize and communicate everything that visitors need to see before making a decision. Think:

  • Real estate agent selling a commercial or industrial property
  • Shipping brokers selling a passenger vessel
  • High-end catering services for large scale events
  • Exclusive multi-stop, guided safari tour operators
  • Cosmetic surgery practices that offer different treatments

I’m not saying you can’t distill these down into a single landing page, but it may help to include a submenu or tabs to guide visitors towards more relevant information... at which point, you’ve built a microsite.

In general, I wouldn’t advise trying to build a ‘website style’ landing page until you’ve been running a single-page site for some time, and are ready to run some tests expanding your site’s page footprint. You may find there are better web design elements to test first that are much faster to implement and more likely to increase your conversions.

So What’s Best for You? A Website or Landing Page?

I hope this article has helped you to understand the difference between landing pages and websites, and how you can use one or both to best serve your business.

There are two powerful tools included inside Thrive Suite to help you create beautiful and conversion-focused landing pages and websites — without any design skills or coding knowledge needed!

  1. Thrive Architect lets you create stunning landing pages, and includes hundreds of professionally designed templates that you can customize to match your business, brand and products.
  2. Thrive Theme Builder lets you build your own marketing focused WordPress website with our 100% front-end visual editor. Pages, posts, menus, footers... the works!

So are you ready to build your online business? Discover how people are using Thrive Suite to build successful businesses today!

About the Author David Lindop


David is a writer who is passionate about ethical and sustainable online marketing. He relaxes by writing fiction, learning foreign languages, and making things out of wood - but probably not all at the same time.

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