Hosted Landing Pages vs. Embedded Forms

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A client asks:

“Should we be hosting our campaign landing pages in Marketo?  We’ve always hosted them on our main site and simply embedded Marketo forms.  Is there a big advantage to hosting them separately?”

This question comes up all the time in client work, and not just with Marketo customers.  The most common reasons given for hosting landing pages as part of a company’s main Website are these:

*  It allows us to derive SEO benefit from site traffic to our main domain
*  We have more design flexibility if we’re building pages in our CMS
*  The Web team owns the site and doesn’t want us creating pages on our own

As a matter of best practice, at our agency, we always recommend that clients host campaign landing pages on their marketing automation platform (MAP), but the advantages gained by going that route vary between systems, so the pros and cons differ also. 

In general, however, there are three primary reasons for opting for “native” landing pages and forms:

Control

Building and hosting landing pages in a MAP provides marketers more control over design, template, user experience, etc. without needing to go through the Web team or IT for every page.  It also allows marketing teams to make changes to those pages (for testing purposes, or optimization) more quickly.

Functionality

Depending on the system, native landing pages provide added functionality that isn’t available through embedded forms.  That functionality can include:

– tokens (great time-savers for Webinars and other events)
– personalized URLs (PURLs)
– forms are pre-filled automatically for “known” (cookied) leads
– progressive profiling (in Marketo, this works for both embedded forms AND native landing pages)
– added security like bot protection not available with form handlers

Effectiveness

Though this advantage isn’t inherent in native landing pages, in practice when landing pages are designed to reside on a main Website (and by that site’s Web team), those pages are more likely to follow the site’s main design template, including top navigation, sidebars, footers, etc. 

Native landing pages, meanwhile, are more effective and generate higher conversion rates, because they’re typically designed solely with the specific campaign (and offer) in mind, minus any external links or other distractions from the main call to action.

Now let’s talk to perceived and real benefits of hosting landing pages on a company’s main Website:

SEO

It’s true that pages hosted on the main URL vs. a subdomain will derive SEO benefit that flows up to the primary Website.  The issue here is that campaign pages – as I wrote earlier in this space – shouldn’t be designed for SEO in the first place.  Plus, the traffic to individual pages is such that impact on rankings is likely to be minimal.

Design Capability

It’s also true that a full-blown CMS will provide greater design flexibility than a marketing automation platform like Marketo, Pardot, or Hubspot.  But those systems weren’t really built with sophisticated Web design in mind.  The design functionality within most MAP systems is more intended to allow marketers to replicate, edit, and version pages (or emails) based on existing templates.  At Spear, we design and build all MAP landing pages in professional design software, and then port the HTML to the intended platform, which frees us from any and all design limitations that might exist.

Sensitive Data

One very real advantage of skipping the forms provided by your MAP, or utilizing form handlers, is that you can post the information to multiple databases.  This is beneficial for companies that might be handling sensitive personal data (e.g. credit card information or social security numbers) that you wouldn’t want stored in your MAP.  But those companies are in the minority, especially within B2B.

In my experience, the decision to host landing pages on anything other than a MAP is usually a legacy one, i.e. “we’ve always done it this way and the Web team won’t allow us to do otherwise.”  However, one of the primary business cases for marketing automation is that it frees up marketers to run campaigns, and yes, build landing pages, without the competing priorities of a company’s Web team.  Long term, for almost every B2B company, hosting landing pages in a marketing automation platform is more efficient and effective.

Photo by Andras Vas on Unsplash

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