Updated August 5th 2016
“Never run an ad that doesn’t have its own landing page”
That’s one sentence I find myself say very often to founders and marketers who are trying to understand why the conversion rate and ROI of their PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns is low.
Usually, their next question is the following: Which tool should I use to build my landing page?!
That’s where my answer tends be a little longer… Many people don’t understand the difference between WIX, WordPress, Squarespace and real landing page platforms such as LeadPages, Unbounce, Instapage, and so on. So naturally, I feel it’s important to educate people on why they should use a dedicated landing page platform to build theirs, as well as which one to use according to their needs.
In this blog post, you will learn why you should use tools that are made specifically to build landing pages versus generic website builders, what you should look for when choosing such tool, and we’ll also explore my favorite ones, and why I love them so much.
Why use a dedicated landing page platform
Landing page platforms are built to do just that: build landing pages. I will agree with people saying that it is possible to create a landing page with a website builder like Wix, Squarespace or even WordPress; after all, a web page focused on one goal can qualify as a landing page. However…
What you want is not “just a landing page”, you want to create something that will convert. Suprise! That’s the goal of building a landing page: to persuade visitors to take the action you want them to take; whether it’s to click through to another page, make a purchase or enter their email addresses to sign up to your newsletter.
Having said that, using an out-of-the-box website builder could significantly reduce your conversion rate for your landing page, and mostly because they are not optimized for conversion. In addition, even though it might seem easier to use a website builder for those pages, adding the features, elements, integrations and customizations you need to build the perfect landing page can be daunting, and with certain builders, it’s an impossible task. If you want results, don’t lose your time, use the right tools.
Now of course, you can code a page from scratch… but that gets unnecessarily time consuming and expensive in resources. Not worth the effort when companies like Unbounce, Lander, LeadPages, Optimizepress, and so on makes the process so flawless…
Let’s look at a few more reasons to use a dedicated landing page platform:
1. It’s focused
The best landing pages doesn’t have any distracting elements: no navigations bars, no useless sidebars, no footer with “about us” text or a widget showing tweets, and so on. These are things that are often found on a website, and using a website builder, unless you spend tons of time doing crazy customizations, they’re elements that will be applied to every page you build.
Landing pages created with a landing page platform are hyper-focused. There are no distractions or fluff. Their ultimate goal is to give attention to your main conversion goal. Plain and simple.
2. Integrated A/B testing
At some point, you’ll have to A/B test your landing pages to see what changes you can make that will improve (or reduce) conversions. Tools like VWO or Optimizely can be used on any website to easily create A/B tests, and that includes website builders; however, with most landing page systems like Unbounce, LeadPages, Instapage, and many others, A/B testing is a feature that’s integrated within the software.
A landing page software with A/B testing capabilities means that you won’t need another tool specifically for testing your pages (which would result in additional costs). In addition, if you were to use a separate A/B testing tool to test your landing pages, you would not only create variations in your testing platform, but once you discover what on your landing page should be change, you will have to go back in your landing page creator and re-do the work. By creating your test variations directly inside your landing page builder, making your test variation live and the changes permanent is done with just a simple click.
3. Optimized templates
Every single landing page platforms that I’ve seen includes a bunch of templates. Not only are most templates super pretty, but they’re templates made to achieve your goals.
Being built specifically for landing pages, they’re pre-optimized for conversions and have one focus, but if you dig deeper, you will notice that landing page builders include templates based on the certain goals you may have for your page.
Launching a new product? Need to collect webinar registrations? Creating a giveaway? No worries, as pre-designed and pre-optimized templates are at your disposal. The best part: the majority are free.
4. Integrations you need
The goal of a landing page is very often to collect leads, to get people to register to our newsletter, or to register to a webinar. That being said, there are dozens of email marketing software and webinar platforms out there, so how do you make the process of adding people to your list or your webinar flawless?
Integrations! Of course. Landing page platforms knows this and they have partnered up with most of the major service providers for flawless integrations with your landing pages. Mailchimp, Aweber, Ontraport, ActiveCampaign, GoToWebinar…. name it, they have it. For example, landing page platform LeadPages boasts more than 18 integrations. Unbounce, GetResponse and all the others compete very well with that number too.
Now if we take a look at regular website builders, you might have the possibility to integrate your forms with two or three email marketing services, but that’s about how far integrations goes. Go that route, and you’ll be pulling your hair out in no time.
5. Optimized forms
I’ve always found forms to be a hassle to create and customize in website builders… and guess what? Forms DO impact conversions. Many of the form in these builders can’t be customized, they lack integration options, and are simply not made to convert (often just made to look pretty).
So if you’re planning to include a form on your landing page, a form that’s optimized following forms best practices will help quite a lot. A landing page builder will have that covered.
6. Multiple domains
If you want to create landing pages for different products or services, you might want them to have each their own domains. For example, my monthly A/B testing service, Splitbase, is on it’s own domain (Splitbase.io). If I decide to launch courses or other products in the future, in certain cases they will possibly have their own domains too.
Using many different domain just for a landing page using website builders can become an annoying and expensive process. For example, if you’re using WordPress.org (the self-hosted version), that means you will have to create a new WordPress install for each domain, or setup redirects, which will be a little more messy. Using Squarespace, each domain will count as a website and will cost you a minimum of $12/month.
However, using a landing page builder, adding different domains for different pages is a breeze. Unbounce charges only $5 per extra domain, Instapage allows up to 3 with their basic account, and you can get unlimited domain with LeadPages and Lander.
7. Easy to setup and create new pages
Something I love with landing page builders is that building most of a page (excluding the copywriting) can usually done in a blink. With templates having existing content area and being beautifully designed, there’s no need to build anything from scratch and spend hours working with a designer to create a page to sell your product. Duplicating a page and creating a variation is done in a click, and the whole experience is much more relaxing to the mind than coding a landing page from scratch or using platforms made to build whole websites.
8. Simple multi-user accounts and user permissions
A landing page inevitably includes graphical elements and lots of copywriting. So what do you do if you want a designer, a copywriter or maybe a campaign manager to work on your landing page?
Fortunately, most landing page platforms nowadays includes features where you can give access to multiple users, create sub-accounts, and manage permissions. Working as a team gets much easier. C’mon passing around passwords is way too old school…
Which Landing Page Builder is Right for You?
Landing page builders won’t make your landing pages convert. Companies who quickly want a high-converting landing page for instant results are best to get one built by conversion rate experts. However, if you can’t yet afford professional services or simply want to go DIY and create one yourself, you’ve got quite a few options.
Here are a few I’ve tried, and my thoughts on each:
I would be ready to bet that Unbounce is the best-known platform for building landing pages out there. They’re without a doubt the best landing page builder for PPC campaigns, are the only ones that support SSL encryption, and not only have they done a wonderful getting known throughout the marketing community, but the whole product really rocks too – although I don’t think it’s for everyone.
- Easy to use drag and drop interface. Unbounce can very well be highly flexible, but that does not mean it makes it hard to use. Unbounce’s interface is fully drag and drop. Adding buttons and page elements, resizing objects, changing colors or modifying text with their full WYSIWYG editor ensure any marketer can get their landing page up and running in no time. Believe it or not, but you can even add parallax scrolling effects or full page images without touching a line of code. Designers will love it too.
- Dynamic text replacement for PPC campaigns. This feature can be extremely useful. When a prospect searches for certain keywords in Google, Unbounce automatically swaps out select keywords on your landing pages to match up with the keywords that were searched for. This takes out the need of creating numerous individual landing pages for each keyword. A real time saver.
- When I originally wrote this post, Unbounce did not integrate with WordPress and for someone like me who does almost everything on WordPress, it was a big problem. The good news is that things have changed and Unbounce now have the best WordPress integration of all landing page builders I’ve tried. Once your landing page is ready, you don’t even need to login to WordPress – you’re able to publish it directly from your Unbounce account in one click.
- It’s a complex tool. For those who are perfectionists, you might find yourself spending too much time customizing the landing page to your likings. Not only that, but with customization comes responsibility for optimization of your own. Think about it: If you use a template that’s proven to convert well but you change it completely, it could have the opposite effect and convert horribly. I would never ask Unbounce to make the platform less flexible, as that’s one of their platform’s strength when used correctly; I’d just say it’s for slightly more advanced users… It’s a real power tool.
- Mobile responsiveness can sometimes be a bit tricky… I know, because I messed up many of my landing pages when I was trying to learn how to use the feature. When I would create a mobile responsive version of the main landing page, elements would often go all over the place, and if I would try to re-position them to make it look like it’s supposed to on the mobile version, it would also change the main landing page’s elements. It got messy, until I learned how to use the feature properly (which I recommend you do).
Can’t publish directly to WordPress. This one is my favorite feature with LeadPages and Instapage, but with Unbounce, a little more manual labour will be required to setup your pages under your domain.Plus, if you want to publish a page to different domains, it’ll set you back by $5/month/domain.
Who should use it / When to use it
- If you do a lot of PPC campaigns, Unbounce is the best option for the destination of your ads. Their dynamic text replacement feature will save you tons of time and it just can’t be beaten. Additionally, they offer campaign grouping to keep your pages neatly organized.
- If you require a high degree of customization either design wise or feature wise, you’re set. Unbounce is the top pick for companies such as LinkedIn, Canon, Amazon, and the likes.
- At a minimum, if you understand the basics of conversion rate optimization. This is because pages can be customized quite a lot; so if you play too much with the page structure, colors and don’t understand some of the base concepts of CRO, you’re at risk of creating a poorly performing page. I recommend hiring landing page experts to build one for you in Unbounce to guarantee you get a landing page optimized for conversions.
Instapage in another well known player in the world of landing pages. Their basic plan, being less expensive that most of the other leading platforms like Unbounce and LeadPages, often makes Instapage one of the favorite platform among beginners and those with infrequent landing page needs. Their landing pages are mobile responsive, and they even have a cool feature that will allow you to copy any page on the web and transform it into an Instapage template you can use.
- Less expensive. Many of the best landing page platforms are expensive. Instapage’s basic plan is almost half of what other platforms ask, and it accomplishes the job of getting you a great landing page just as well as the others.
- Great integrations. With an array of over 20+ integrations ranging from Infusionsoft, WebHook to Salesforce, importing and sharing leads within your online marketing systems is easier than ever. On top of that, just like LeadPages, their WordPress integration allows you to instantly publish your landing page on your WordPress site within seconds. This is one of my favorite feature; a real time-saver and it makes the process of publishing your landing pages incredibly painless.
- A drag and drop builder that offers the just the right amount of flexibility. As mentioned above, Unbounce’s interface can be overwhelming for beginners, and as you’ll read below, LeadPage’s platform is almost too limited when it comes to customization; however, Instapage is the perfect balance between both. It offer a drag and drop builder without getting too crazy with additional customization features. The interface remains clean, intuitive, and very easy to use.
- If you’re the type of person who hates emailing support and prefer to have a chat over the phone when you have questions, Instapage’s phone support is only available in the top-tier “Unlimited” plan which cost $179/month. It’s not a huge game changer, but definitely expensive for phone support.
Who should use it
- Anyone that needs a landing page, really.
OptimizePress is a WordPress based solution for building landing pages. Instead of your landing pages being hosted on their servers (like most of the other solutions), everything is hosted on your website and hosting account. It doesn’t make it harder to use, but if your hosting sucks, your landing page won’t load as fast or be up as often as it would if you would use Instapage, Unbounce or LeadPages.
- Pay once. No monthly fee. Now that the world of softwares has shifted into a subscription economy, it feels great to find something that you only have to pay once. Of course, OptimizePress might be more expensive upfront than the other solutions, but it’s not a big difference with their first package starting at only $97. Overtime, you’ll save substantial sums of money.
- Fully integrated into WordPress, it comes in both a theme and plugin format. If you’re using WordPress (.org / the self-hosted version) as your website builder and you love having all your tools centralized, OptimizePress might be an option to consider.
- Ability to create membership sites and portals. This is a BIG feature when it comes to differentiating OptimizePress and its competitors. Using a special plugin, you can give to your customers secure to your content with their own membership account. Although I’m not the biggest fan of OptimizePress to create landing page, using it to create membership sections for things like courses and subscriber-only content is simply fantastic. It even goes as far as giving you the ability to create lesson and module listings, drip-release your lessons, and add users from your existing membership plugins. It’s great.
- A/B testing is not integrated. This is a feature that’s quite standard among landing page platforms, yet, you won’t find it in OptimizePress. Due to the low cost of the OptimizePress, the absence of such staple it easier to accept that if I would pay $67 per month like I do for my current LeadPages subscription. FYI – the absence of an integrated A/B testing engine doesn’t mean you shouldn’t A/B test your OptimizePress landing pages, it just means you’ll have to use a tool like Optimizely or VWO for your testing (which you should use for your website’s other pages anyways).
- It’s self-hosted in your WordPress. Some people will love this, and some won’t. For me, I find WordPress to be my favorite website builder by far. I’ve used it for more than 6 years and I know it more than well, but no matter how great it is, WordPress can sometimes be a bit clunky, sometimes it’s slow, and once in a while this will reflect in the OptimizePress editor. On top of that, I rather trust LeadPages or Unbounce to deliver my landing pages on my behalf, knowing the load time will be super fast. I rarely experience problems with my own website, but not being a hosting and website speed genius, I rather take a breath of fresh air away from WordPress and my own host and use other services I love and don’t mind paying for.
Who should use it
- If you use and love WordPress
- If you already use an external A/B testing tool to test your pages
LeadPages is my second favorite after Unbounce. It’s unique features like LeadBoxes, LeadMagnets, LeadLinks and LeadDigits are straight up awesome, landing pages takes minutes to setup, and they can be published to WordPress in a click.
- LeadBoxes is one of my favorite tools, and although I don’t use LeadPages too often anymore to build landing pages as I need greater degrees of customization (and prefer Unbounce for the task), LeadBoxes is a feature I still use for many clients. It allows you to create links, buttons or clickable images that opens a modal window where visitors can enter their email addresses to subscriber to your newsletter, request more information, and so on. LeadBoxes can even be set to appear after a designated amount of time or when a visitor is about to leave your site.
- Easiest way to create landing pages. If you don’t want to spend hours customizing a landing page, LeadPages allows me to do just that because the truth is you can’t customize as much as you can in say Instapage or Unbounce. So since you’re very limited to what you can do in terms of customization, you pick one of their conversion-tested template, stick with it, and focus on creating a good copy and content – what ultimately, you should really focus on when the design is already optimized.
- Filter landing pages templates by conversion rate. This feature is unique to LeadPages and it allows you to sort templates by their ability to convert. In order to do this, LeadPages test their templates and over time, analyzes over 1 billion (yes, billion) data points. When they’re all aggregated, this give LeadPages the ability to show you the templates that produced the best results for their customers. Since you can’t really play with the design of their templates, it becomes quite useful when you want to be sure you pick a template that’s fully optimized for conversions (especially helpful for those who are new to the world of conversion optimization and landing page best practices).
- It’s extremely limited in terms of customization. Want to add a second button on below a picture, or add a testimonial section just above a certain paragraph? Unfortunately, if the section is not already within the template you picked, for most templates forget about it, you won’t be able to add sections or custom elements in a click. Although you can choose to hide or show pretty much anything that’s in a template, that’s about it – drag and drop features are limited, and there’s no complex WYSIWYG text editor either. Limited customization makes sense because they are able to pin-point what converts and what doesn’t in their templates (hence why you’re able to sort templates by the ones that convert best), but sometime you REALLY want to resize a picture that doesn’t quite fit the template’s placeholder, and you’ll want to pull your hair out.
Who should use it
- DIY’ers who want to quickly create a landing page without worrying about customization too much
- Ideal for people that produce a lot of webinars as there are many webinar landing pages and thank you pages. Their LeadLinks features that allows signups in one click is also really useful for webinar registrations.
- If you have a blog or produce lots of content. (Their LeadBoxes will become an every day tool for you if you want to grow your subscriber list or increase registrations. Ideal for content upgrades too)
The bottom line
Using standard website builders to build landing pages is an ill-advised move if you expect results. Doing so is nothing else that a waste of time that could hurt your business more than it would help. No matter your needs or budget, there are landing page builders for everyone, for the beginner, to the advanced marketer.
Personally as a conversion optimizer, Unbounce is my favorite landing page builder of all and I’ve built well over 100’s of landing pages with the platform. They have an awesome product, a fantastic team, and I even offer custom Unbounce landing page services for those who want a world-class landing page built for conversions. For those you want to go DIY, who don’t have much knowledge on how to build high-converting landing pages, and simply want something that works, LeadPages is my recommendation.
I realize that choosing the right tools for the job can sometimes be a daunting task, but I hope this article has helped guide you. At the end of the day, the tools matter, but it’s often how you use them that matters most. So pick a platform, build your landing pages, test, enjoy the conversions!
What is your favorite landing page platform? And why? Let me know in the comments below!