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What's Between Landing Pages, Microsites?

There's "the Web site." The big enchilada. The www.yourcompany.com main stage.

But for many marketers, there are also satellites around the Web site--landing pages and microsites--deployed for targeted campaigns.

Landing pages are small and simple, a single page (maybe two if you count a "thank you" page). They're fast and inexpensive to create--and, unfortunately, many of them look that way too. But their power is that they're highly focused, matched to very specific ads or keywords.

Microsites are on the other end of the spectrum. They're relatively big productions with their own navigation, highly branded Flash and video content, and interactive features such as games and social media. They look great, but they're expensive and time consuming to build. Accordingly, they are broader in scope and handle traffic from a wider range of sources.

But what's in between a landing page and a microsite?

To use a metaphor of monetary denominations, the main Web site is a $100 bill. Landing pages are pennies. Microsites are $5 or $10 bills. What's missing are the nickels, dimes, and quarters.

Why should this matter?

As online advertising becomes more competitive--and more accountable--the battle increasingly shifts to what happens after the click. I don't just mean optimization of "the Web site." That's important too, but as Long Tail strategies are adopted more widely, these satellite landing experiences become the front line in the online marketing mission.

In some ways, these landing experiences-the first few pages someone sees after they click on an ad-are more a part of the advertising than they are a part of the site. They're the bridge that connects a 3-line search ad or catchy-but-shallow banner to the substance of a company's offerings.

This is the realm of post-click marketing.

But for the most part, there hasn't been a lot of innovation in this space. Landing pages look and behave today about the same as they did 5 years ago. They've become cliché.

However, this presents a tremendous opportunity for marketers to differentiate with more creative post-click marketing-landing experiences that are more than a plain old landing page, but less than a full-blown microsite.

In between a landing page and a microsite are ideas such as "conversion paths," two- or three-step paths that guide respondents to the most relevant content and offers. These multi-step experiences don't have to cram everything into a single page, so they can take a more conversational approach. This also provides a great mechanism for transparent behavioral segmentation.

Other ideas include bringing more microsite-style interactivity--widgets, applications, social media features--into the context of smaller-scale experiences such as landing pages or conversion paths. The same goes for raising the bar of presentation with better quality design and more engaging content with Flash and video.

By leveraging re-usable objects such as widgets and parameterized Flash movies--with a little contextual tweaking--marketers can have the best of both worlds: highly targeted landing pages boosted by the branding and engagement of microsite sensibilities.

This is an especially untapped reservoir of value-add for many online agencies, who can apply their creative talents to give clients a post-click marketing edge as an integral part of their advertising plan.

Break out of the box of plain old landing pages.

Between landing pages and microsites awaits a world of highly imaginative possibilities.

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