If you’re like most business owners, you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about your homepage. Things like what to put in your hero section. What information needs to be easy to find right away? Do you put a testimonial on it?
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. But at some point, you hear about landing pages. And you’re left wondering: what do they do? How are they different? Do you need to use both? Is a landing page better than a homepage? You have a hundred questions and very few answers.
We’re going to break each page type down to its most basic elements so you understand the distinct differences between them. But we’re also going to discuss some of the similarities, so that not only do you know the differences like a pro, you’ll also understand why some people confuse the two, so that you’re better prepared to design your own homepage.
By the end of this post, you’ll be know
- The difference between the two page types
- Why some people confuse the two
- When and where to use each
Is a landing page the same as a homepage?
The short answer? No.
The long answer? Still no, but with a bit more nuance.
Most of the time, they’re completely different pages that serve completely different functions.
That said, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking they’re the same. In many cases, they look the same and they share a lot of the same content.
In a few very unique cases, they can be one in the same. We’ll get to that a bit later. But for the purpose of this article, let’s consider them different for now.
The biggest difference is in what each page’s job is. And we’re going to jump into those details right now.
What is a homepage?
A homepage is usually the first page most people will see when they arrive at your website after searching for your name or company. It should instantly tell a visitor who you are and what you do. It also acts as a hub for the rest of your website, allowing visitors to poke around and learn more about your business. It typically has these key elements:
- 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)
What is a landing page on a website?
A landing page, on the other hand, plays a different role—it’s more of a promotional tool. It usually focuses on getting the visitor to do one thing—like sign up for an email list, subscribe to a service, or purchase a product. Landing pages usually remove the navigation options (home/about/contact us/etc) so that you don’t click away. Landing pages are designed to:
- Receive traffic from one or several specific sources (such as an ad or email campaign)—hence the term “landing”
- Prompt visitors to take one well-defined action
- Stay focused on a single topic or offer throughout the page
- Omit or downplays navigation options
- Act as a separate or semi-permanent part of your website
Are landing pages necessary?
If you’re just getting your business online, you may want to first focus on building your website with a strong homepage. Eventually, as you ramp up your marketing efforts with email and ad campaigns, you’ll want to start using landing pages to drive prospects to take specific actions to generate leads and sell your stuff. They’ll let you focus on a specific call to action—such as an offer—and allow you to add key persuasive elements to that page. They also let you collect important customer data—like how effective an ad campaign was and where most of your traffic came from. Landing pages have so many advantages, so we recommend using them when you’re trying to build your email list with leads or promote a product or service.
Can you have a landing page without a homepage or website?
You don’t necessarily need a website to have a landing page. A landing page can live on an island as a stand-alone page. But, we’d recommend that being a temporary means to an end while you create a more permanent website design as websites do provide your leads and customers with important information and build brand credibility.
That said, if your goal is to get more leads for your business, you don’t necessarily need to create a large multi-page website to achieve that goal. You could create a simple landing page that is focused on gathering leads.
So, yes, you can have a landing page without a website or homepage. But because they typically serve different needs, we recommend using both as part of your digital marketing toolbox.
Bonus resource: For an easy way to understand landing pages better, we’ve created a free PDF guide featuring an all-encompassing look at landing pages. From learning how to create landing pages and designing landing pages, to learning how to send traffic to your landing pages, the guide covers it all. Grab your copy now, then check it out once you’ve finished this article.
The overview above should give you a big-picture understanding of each page type’s role and how they work. But things really start becoming clear once you dig into specific scenarios. Let’s take a closer look at when you should use a landing page vs a homepage.
Landing page vs. homepage: When to use each one?
When should you use a landing page versus other types of websites or homepages? It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Are you just getting started with your business? Or are you running a promotion? are you posting contact information or are you gathering leads? As you’re probably starting to see, these two pages, while similar at the outside, really do play hugely different roles. Let’s consider some of the most common scenarios that are likely to raise this question.
1 – When you’re getting your business online for the first time
Landing page vs. website/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.
An exception to this “rule” is if you just want to create a quick, effective, and good-looking front door for your business. It may actually make more sense to use an easy landing page builder like Leadpages to create a mini-site landing page/homepage hybrid.
What’s a mini-site? 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 mini-site page covers all the important details in different sections of a single page.
Here’s an example of a minisite:
Depending on the size, scope, and objectives of your business (and website), using a Leadpages template to create a page like this can be faster than building a homepage as part of a larger, traditional website. And it may be more effective in capturing leads and generation new business. For example, this page starts 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).
If the visitor doesn’t leave the page right away, they’ll likely find the information they came for in the first place. So it’s a win-win.
2 – When you’re listing basic business information
Landing page vs. homepage? Homepage.
How come? Your address, phone number, office hours, parking information, staff names, etc—logistical details like these don’t require an action-oriented landing page. Very few, if any, visitors to your landing pages will be looking for this information (they’ll be looking for more information on the content or offer you were promoting).
Basic business information is something that customers will actively search for via Google or their favorite search engine. So it should always be on your website and easy to find.
Still, consider adding an opt-in opportunity to your homepage alongside basic details like this—it can provide you an incremental but steady source of new leads.
3 – When you’re filling in the “website” field on social media profiles (or anywhere else)
Homepage vs. landing page? Your well-optimized homepage is usually the best way to go. But there could be an opportunity to generate leads here, too.
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 and has the information they’re looking for, it’s doing its job.
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 can 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. Now that most social networks use an algorithm that can be really selective about showing your content to your audience, this can be a great way to make sure they don’t miss important announcements, promotions, etc.
But a word of caution: This tactic can come off as spammy if not executed properly. Make sure your messaging is clear and honest. For example: “Join our mailing list to content and offers you won’t see on social”. And make sure there is a clear way for them to get to your website from there: “No thanks—take me to your website.
4 – When you’re running Facebook ads (or another paid social campaign)
Landing page vs. 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 don’t click on your ads simply to learn more about who your company is, what you do, and what your business’s irl address is. They clicked it because you offered something compelling—a piece of content, a product, or a webinar that they want to learn more about, sign up for, or buy.
You need a landing page that answers to that—and is persuasive enough to get them to convert.
Here, the page will focus on the offer at hand. It’ll demonstrate its main benefit at the top with a big bright CTA that’s just begging to be clicked. Further down the page there will be features to support that benefit. There will be testimonials from past customers or clients. There may be a bit about who you are and what your business is. But ultimately, it’s about the offer and capturing the lead or the sale. And while you can sometimes 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.
5 – When you’re running a paid search campaign
Landing page vs. 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 we used in the example 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 mini-site page is likely to be your best option.
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).
6 – When you’re launching something new
Homepage vs. landing page? 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. Again, it’s because the landing page allows you to focus on one specific thing and achieving a specific goal. A great landing page is a place where visitors can channel their excitement over something new into immediate action, providing immediate results for you.
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.
Have any other quandaries about when to use a landing page vs. a homepage? Ask us in the comments.