If you want to market an individual product, service or event, should you build a landing page, or a microsite? For many companies, there is confusion regarding the definitions, purposes and differences between these two lead-generating web properties.

With a little help from leading industry experts and practitioners, we’ve highlighted the key differences between microsites and landing pages — so you know what to build for your next project.

What Is a Microsite?

A microsite is a type of branded content site that is rooted in a subdomain of your company's main site (i.e. micrositename.yourwebsite.com), or it has its own independent URL that is distinct to the main site.

Kathleen Booth, VP of marketing at IMPACT, describes a microsite as being a website-within-a-website. “[Microsites] often have multiple pages and may or may not have a unique design and different navigation menu than the main site,” Booth said.

When we spoke with Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva, he explained that the general purpose of a microsite is to improve brand awareness and generate engagement. “A microsite is not generally intended to close a sale,” Masjedi explained. “Microsites serve to raise awareness at the top of the funnel, position your brand as an authority and educate.”

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The Pros and Cons of Microsites

Paul Ronto, CMO and director of digital content at RunRepeat, said one of the main benefits of microsites is that they can deliver “fully immersive experiences” for a particular product or category. He also added that microsites can help you rank in search results along with your brand's main site, "giving you more opportunity for clicks.”

And since microsites are focused on a specific product or category, “you can ensure your users are getting the information they are looking for and not be distracted by your other categories or product lines,” Ronto said.

But despite a microsite’s ability to provide more “meaningful” interaction, Keri Lindenmuth, marketing manager at Kyle David Group, said, “a microsite's pros include longer and more meaningful interactions between your users and your brand. However, microsites can be time-consuming to set up and somewhat expensive.”

Ronto elaborated further that, “microsites can be a lot of work to build out, you need to buy additional domains and create new designs, possibly on a new CMS, which can be confusing for your team to manage.” Ronto added that some customers may become confused as to whether the microsite is officially a part of the main brand's online presence or if it's a third-party also selling the product.

What Is a Landing Page?

A landing page is an individual web page that is rooted to the domain of the main website (i.e. website.com/landingpage). They are pages designed to encourage the user to complete a Call to Action (CTA), which can be signing up to be on a mailing list, purchasing a product or registering interest. “The goal of a landing page is to convert a website visitor into a lead and because of this, they often don't have navigation menus,” said Booth.

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“A landing page is ideal when you want your users to experience a single product or service immediately upon entering your website,” said Ronto. “These pages are typically simple in design and purpose, they usually describe the benefits of the product or service and have a clear CTA. They are meant to convince users to act rather than surf your site.”

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The Pros and Cons of Landing Pages

Lindenmuth noted that the main advantage of landing pages is that they can be quicker to set up and easier to manage because they are rooted in your website’s domain. However, she did share that the focus is very limited. “[Landing pages] should only focus on one service and one CTA, which means your content has to be engaging right from the start or you'll miss out on conversions.”

But, if the copy on the landing page is executed properly, these pages can deliver results in a cost-effective manner. “Landing pages help you focus the user's attention on the product or service you are trying to sell, they tend to convert better than a homepage, they are built on your existing site [so] don't require any new domains to be purchased, [and] they are easy to track with your existing site's analytics,” Ronto said.

Ronto noted there are limitations. Since you have only a single page to convince your customers to act, they “usually don't” have all the information about your product or brand, which means they “cannot tell your whole brand's story” like a full website can.

Consider Goals When Choosing Either a Microsite or a Landing Page

When we asked Lindenmuth which to choose, she said this to say, “Both landing pages and microsites hope to bring awareness to your brand and its services, and both are much smaller than a traditional site. “However, a microsite oftentimes creates more engagement by allowing users to click through multiple pages, watch videos and interact.”

As for which brands should utilize, Samantha Russell, chief marketing and business development officer at Twenty Over Ten, advised brands to review their objectives. “If you're looking to convert visitors into leads then landing pages are your golden ticket. Looking to increase brand awareness? Microsites are the way to go. While both tools are great to have in your marketing arsenal, they function differently and achieve different marketing goals for your business,” Russell said.

In other words, if you’re looking to create engagement and educate your audience about your company, product, or service, a broader microsite with multiple pages is wise. However, if you’re looking to close as many sales as possible, as quickly as possible, a landing page is your best bet.