As 1 Bold Step’s resident Content Producer, I have to keep my content marketing skills sharp. Typically that includes reading up on the latest trends, writing a variety of content, and doing a lot of A/B testing. Most recently, I took a content marketing intensive course to refresh some of what I know and pick up a few new tips. The course covered everything from the top content trends of 2022, brand storytelling, how to harness video and expiring content, better ways to measure your content marketing strategies, and more.
One thing that stuck out to me was the conversation around microsites and their growing popularity among marketers. You might be asking yourself — what the heck is a microsite? Fair enough, I asked the same question during the course session.
A microsite is smaller than a traditional website and typically designed for a specific purpose or campaign. They are typically published on a temporary basis, and often (but not always) published independently of the parent company’s branded site. That sounds a lot like a marketing tool we already know, doesn’t it?
By definition, a microsite sounds a lot like a landing page. But I promise you, there are some key differences between them. In this blog, I’m going to break down the difference between microsites and landing pages, and while I’m at it, I’m going to clear up any confusion between landing pages as well. Keep reading for a list of pros and cons of each content piece and how they might fit into your content marketing strategy.
Microsites vs. Landing Pages
Microsites and landing pages are the most similar of the three. They can be the same size, and have the same purpose and lifetime. As I said earlier, microsites are often smaller than traditional websites. Typically, so are landing pages. Both microsites and landing pages are created for specific campaigns. And finally, they’re both (normally) temporary — but that’s not always the case.
Where microsites and landing pages differ are in the details. A landing page is typically just one, single page. Microsites can be one page, but often include a handful of pages, while still being smaller than a traditional website. A landing page will always be published on its branded parent website or as part of its parent website. Whereas, a microsite can be published as part of the parent site or all on its own, featuring completely different branding, tone of voice, or even navigation.
Pillar Pages 101
So, where do pillar pages come in? Pillar pages aren’t really similar to microsites or landing pages, but they are often confused with them in planning and building a campaign. Pillar pages are longer, very comprehensive in-depth guides that explore topics, answer questions, and sometimes serve as a hub of links to other related content on a website. They are almost always ungated and are considered the cores of “topic clusters,” which are used to organize the content found on websites. Pillar pages are great for search engine optimization because they make your content easier to crawl and satisfy search intent. They are imperative to your content strategy because they showcase your most important content themes and introduce website visitors to related subjects.
How They Stack Up (and some examples)
The main difference between microsites, landing pages, and pillar pages is your end goal. A landing page is designed to get users to take action — whether that’s to download, sign-up, buy, RSVP, or any other call-to-action. It’s not connected to your website’s navigation and typically doesn’t include links that might drive your prospects off the page. A microsite is designed to build up brand awareness. They are great for hyper-campaign-focused marketing efforts because they normally feature highly engaging content that will educate your audience about your company, product, or service. A pillar page is designed to be a table of contents. They provide a broad overview of the main topic and link out to in-depth articles about specific subtopics.
The best way to help explain these three campaign assets is to visualize them. Below are some of my favorite examples of a microsite, a landing page, and a pillar page.
Microsite: Adobe’s Reshaping the Customer Experience
Adobe’s “Reshaping Customer Experience Management: The Future of #CXM” campaign featured a very unique and interactive digital story with a wealth of B2B content to increase awareness of Adobe’s Customer Experience Management solutions. It’s beautifully designed, very educational, and a single page full of resources.
Landing Page: Slack
Slack’s landing page employs some very common best practices, but it works. Bold and direct headline, strong supporting subheading, a simple submission form, and a great hero image all above the fold. Once you’ve scrolled through the fold, Slack leverages an impressive client list to build trust and features rich descriptions and images of the platform’s most important features — including integrations, which address Slack’s versatility and adaptability.
Pillar Page: HubSpot Marketing Content Strategy
When looking for examples, I had to highlight the founders of pillar pages: HubSpot. This content marketing strategy pillar page does a great job of pointing out all the basics that someone should know. And because pillar pages can be very extensive, it’s a good idea to allow the reader to download the information as a PDF (which is a great way to add a form for lead capturing). HubSpot’s pillar page does this in a nice and unobtrusive way. This pillar page also features chapter links, which means visitors can jump to sections that are most relevant to them. And finally, once you’ve gotten to the end, HubSpot does a good job of making sure there’s a CTA that offers up even more information to those who want it.
So, which one is better?
None of them are really “better” than the other. Ultimately, it depends on your goals, especially since there are limitations to all of them. But in the grand scheme of things, there may be some instances where you'll want to use a landing page over a pillar page or a microsite over a landing page (and vice versa).
Here are some of the pros and cons of microsites, landing pages, and pillar pages so you can get a better idea of which you’d want to utilize.
- Excellent for experimenting with new ideas without putting your primary brand at risk
- Helps to lower bounce rates to your main website by targeting a more specific segment of your audience
- Great for educating and entertaining your audience with highly engaging content
- A good way to showcase a product or countdown to a product launch
- A good way to generate interest/hype in an upcoming event
- Doesn’t require as much initial investment as a full website
- Can be confusing and complicated to manage
- Can take a long time to put together
- Can often require a lot of maintenance
- Campaign-specific content/URLs may confuse your audience/fans of the parent brand
- Doesn’t have an established SEO authority and can reduce backlink opportunities
Landing Page: Pros
- Easy and affordable to create
- Great for converting or getting the target audience to engage with your call to action
- You already own the hosting and domain name, so you don’t need to make another
- You can deploy landing pages quickly and get rid of them when you’re done
- There’s no heavy maintenance
- Landing pages are excellent ways of tracking and data gathering
- There are different kinds of landing pages that
Landing Page: Cons
- Most landing pages often convey only very basic information
- Landing pages aren’t particularly engaging
- Can be costly ad spend to get traffic, especially without conversions
Pillar Pages: Pros
- Pillar pages provide a content road made for your team and website visitors
- Pillar pages are great for SEO, they rank really well and for a ton of keywords
- Improves overall authority of websites
- They are likely to earn backlinks
- Faster content creation, because content can fall into keyword-rich themes
Pillar Pages: Cons
- Pillar pages don’t work by themselves, they draw SEO strength from cluster pages
- They take a lot of time to produce
- Pillar pages get less advantageous as competition increases
Pillar pages, landing pages, and microsites can have a positive impact on the campaigns that you run and the content you share, but it’s important to remember they’re all intended for different goals. If you’re looking to create engagement and educate your audience about your company, product, or service — you might consider a microsite with multiple pages. If you’re looking to drive up traffic and conversions, a landing page is your best bet. If you have a lot of content to organize on your website, a pillar page may be the best route.
The wonderful thing about marketing is that it isn't often one or the other. You don’t really have to decide between a microsite or a landing page, instead, you can use a combination of different assets to create a bigger and more comprehensive campaign. You may have both microsites and landing pages in your toolkit that you use for different strategic plans throughout the year.