If you’re like most business owners, you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about your homepage.
It’s like your virtual business card, you might hear—or your storefront, or simply the first impression you present to the online world.
Makes sense enough. But then, at some point, you find out about landing pages. And you hear some of the same comparisons, some of the same advice.
At the very least, it complicates the picture. What do you do now? Do you really need both kinds of pages? How do you begin to figure out where you should use a landing page vs. your homepage?
First, a couple of clear definitions may be in order.
Landing Page vs. Homepage: What’s the Difference?
A good homepage typically does the following things:
- Occupies your root domain (think www.yourwebsite.com)
- Gives a comprehensive overview of what your business does
- Links to every other important permanent page of your website
- Tells visitors how to connect with you in other ways (such as getting in touch with you in person or following you on social media)
A landing page, on the other hand, more often:
- Is designed to receive traffic from one or several specific sources (such as an ad or email campaign)—hence the “landing”
- Prompts visitors to take one well-defined action
- Stays focused on a single topic or offer throughout the page
- Omits or downplays navigation options
- Is not necessarily intended to be a permanent part of your website
Bonus Resource: For an easy way to understand landing pages better, we’ve created a free PDF guide, “15 Types of Landing Pages: How & When to Use Them to Grow Your Business.” Grab your copy now, then check it out once you’ve finished this article.
The breakdown above gets you started in the right direction. But personally, I find that things really start becoming clear once you dig into specific scenarios.
Landing Page vs. Homepage: When to Use Each One?
It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Let’s consider some of the most common scenarios that are likely to raise this question.
When You’re Getting Your Business Online for the First Time
Landing page or homepage? Homepage—maybe.
How come? A homepage is the natural starting point when you don’t have a website yet. And if you have a simple way to build a site, it usually makes sense to go ahead, establish a basic homepage, and expand your site from there.
But not every business does it that way. If you just want to create a quick, effective, and good-looking front door for your business, it can actually make more sense to use an easy landing page builder like Leadpages to create a minisite landing page.
What’s a minisite? Think of it this way. Whereas a traditional business site might devote different pages to its services, staff, location, testimonials, and maybe even a special offer—then link to those pages in its navigation bar—a minisite page covers all the important details in different sections of a single page.
Here’s an example of a minisite:
Using a Leadpages template, creating a page like this can be much faster than building a homepage as part of a traditional site. And it may be more effective. Notice that this page leads with a prominent call to action: opt in to get a list of tips on teeth whitening.
If a visitor opts in for this resource, then immediately exits the site, the dental clinic can still follow up with them via email and encourage them to come in for an appointment. They wouldn’t have that opportunity if they’d chosen a standard homepage that only allowed people to make an appointment (if that).
When You’re Listing Basic Business Information
Landing page or homepage? Homepage.
How come? Your address, phone number, office hours, parking information, staff names … logistical details like these don’t require an action-oriented landing page. Visitors will act on this information offline, by contacting or visiting you.
Still, consider adding an opt-in opportunity to your homepage anyhow alongside basic details like this—it can provide you an incremental but steady source of new leads.
When You’re Filling in the “Website” Field on Social Media Profiles (or Anywhere Else)
Landing page or homepage? Your well-optimized homepage is probably fine. But a landing page could be better.
How come? When people click through to your website from platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Medium, they’re probably expecting to find your homepage. And if that homepage is an engaging one, you’re probably doing just fine.
But there may be room to optimize even further. You can give social media followers the sense that they’ve lucked into something special by creating landing pages with a bonus made for each channel. Here’s an example:
A page like this is one tool you can use to move traffic from the “borrowed” channel of social media to the “owned” channel that is your email list—where you can show your audience exactly the content you want them to see, exactly when you want them to see it.
You can even transfer this tactic offline. Think about your business cards, brochures, flyers, and other print assets. You’ll want to make sure each one contains at least a link to your homepage.
But is there an even better asset to show the audience who’ll be encountering these resources? In some cases—think conferences, events, and other venues in which you’re handing out info to a limited group of people—there may be, and a landing page may be the best way to deliver it.
When You’re Running Facebook Ads (or Another Paid Social Campaign)
Landing page or homepage? Landing page.
How come? Unless you have a captivatingly unique business model (in which case you’re probably getting plenty of press attention you can leverage), simply informing people that your business exists is rarely an effective angle for your paid social campaigns. Facebook users didn’t come to Facebook for the purpose of looking at your ads, so it’ll usually take a little extra nudge to get them to click through and then connect with you.
The best way to do that: offer something special, such as a freebie (as seen in the dental example above), a signup bonus, or a limited-time discount. And while you can certainly tout things like this on your homepage, you’ll have much more space to make an impact—sans distractions—on a landing page.
Plus, when you use a page designed just for a particular campaign, you can track your success much more easily: just glance at your Leadpages dashboard to see how many people are opting in or making a purchase.
When You’re Running a Paid Search Campaign
Landing page or homepage? Landing page (usually).
How come? The same factors that make landing pages a good fit for paid social campaigns make them a wise choice for Google AdWords/PPC campaigns. (Check out this article for more on building your PPC strategy.) You’re probably choosing keywords that relate to specific things your business offers, and a landing page gives you room to get as specific as you need to be.
For instance, say the dental practice above wanted to use an AdWords campaign to promote its sedation dentistry services. Rather than redo their homepage to focus on sedation dentistry (which they would have to in order to get a good quality score on AdWords), their marketing team could create a landing page just for this service. Leadpages offers templates designed to support the kind of content and navigation options that Google prefers.
One possible exception: if you’re doing paid local search and targeting very broad keywords (think “restaurants near me”), simply advertising that you exist, you’re great, and you’re nearby may indeed be enough. In that case, running ads to a high-quality homepage or minisite page is likely to work fine.
The same goes for organic SEO. First, consider the keyword you’re targeting. If it’s relatively narrow compared to your industry as a whole, take the opportunity to create rich, search-optimized content around it on a landing page (or, potentially, a blog post you treat like a landing page by making sure it contains prominent opt-in opportunities).
When You’re Running Retargeting Ads
Landing page or homepage? It depends.
How come? Whether or not you use a landing page with retargeting ads may depend on how much you know about who you’re retargeting and how they engaged with your website on their first visit.
For instance, if they showed interest in a particular category of products or services you offer—or even a specific blog post—you’d do well to set up retargeting ads pointing them to a related page.
If someone only visited your homepage, you may not have enough information to do that—though you could consider running ads to a landing page representing the most successful and universally appealing offer you have. When the answer isn’t obvious, it’s always worth a test to find out for sure.
When You’re Launching Something New
Landing page or homepage? Landing page.
How come? Whether it’s a webinar, a live event, a big sale, a new book, or a whole new project, your next big thing will be best served by a landing page. A great landing page is a place where visitors can channel their excitement over something new into immediate action, providing immediate results for you.
The types of landing pages that fall into this category are too numerous to mention here, but we’ve put together a bonus resource to show you the possibilities. Click below to download our free guide, “15 Types of Landing Pages: How & When to Use Them to Grow Your Business.”
So, when should you use a landing page vs. a homepage?
To sum it up:
When you can pinpoint exactly the action you want your audience to take: show them a landing page.
When you can’t: your homepage is fine—but make sure it does at least allow for action. One way or another, you want your most enthusiastic visitors to have a way to connect with you ASAP, before any of that enthusiasm fades.