First impressions matter. Whether you’re meeting your girlfriend’s parents, interviewing for a new job or conquering the Aztecs, that first impression could make or break the whole enterprise. Heck, Ben Stiller built his entire career on the perilous pursuit of putting your best foot forward.

That holds just as true for brands in the digital space as anything else. How you engage first-time site visitors could either kickstart a successful customer journey that slowly guides a prospect through the sales funnel or completely turns away a viable sales lead.

In many cases, landing pages give website visitors an initial glimpse of what your brand is all about. We’ve talked before about the parallels between website design and “curb appeal” in real estate – well, that same concept applies here too. When done right, landing pages provide useful and relevant content and information, offer tangible next steps for additional engagement opportunities and give your brand more insight into the individual who’s landed on your site.

What exactly is a landing page?

If you search around the good ol’ net for a clear-cut definition of landing pages, you’re likely to find some bizarrely rigid interpretations. Some folks make a clear distinction between landing pages and homepages. Others will tell you that a web page can only truly be considered a landing page if it has a contact fill form embedded in it. Interesting takes, but perhaps a little too needlessly strict for our tastes.

So, how does Brafton define a landing page? Simply put, it’s the initial point of contact between your website and a visitor. Maybe they clicked on a paid ad or reached you by way of good, old-fashioned organic search results. Either way, that first point of entry is a landing page.

By that definition, of course a homepage could also be a landing page if it appears high enough in search results or pops up as an AdWords advertisement. And, yes, many landing pages do indeed have fill forms for users to submit their contact info in exchange for an asset download, register for a webinar or sign up for a monthly newsletter. But that doesn’t mean they have to.

The problem with viewing landing pages through such a narrow prism is you wind up obsessing over the wrong goals. If a landing page always needs a contact form fill, then its purpose will inevitably be to generate leads. Not every person who lands on that page – especially if it’s their first experience with your brand – is looking to take that step. There’s a good chance they just want some quick information before moving on with their day. Expand your concept of what a landing page can be, and you’ll find numerous applications for them within your marketing campaigns, from lead gen to brand awareness.

Why should you use landing pages?

As we noted above, there are many instances where a potential customer’s first interaction with a brand comes through organic and paid search. As such, landing pages are a vital touchpoint, serving as an initial brand interaction, an avenue to nurture leads with compelling content or an opportunity to generate qualified leads through form fills.

Simply put, marketing campaigns that don’t factor in landing pages in some fashion are inherently flawed. Still not convinced you need to incorporate landing pages into your digital marketing strategy? We thought you might say that, which is why we’ve put together just about every conceivable benefit that landing pages bring to the table.

Strap yourself in, because the list is pretty lengthy:

1. They leave a good first impression

Not to repeat ourselves (OK, we’re repeating ourselves), but there’s a very good chance that many of your potential customers’ first experience with your brand will be on your website. And a good chunk of those individuals will have found your site through organic search. So, in many ways, landing pages serve as the front door to your business, regardless of where they exist on your website.

Well-crafted landing pages that provide value for the reader and offer tangible next steps (like, say, a call-to-action button or links to related content on the site), improve click-through rates and effectively jumpstart the customer journey. With the average B2B customer holding off on contacting an actual sales representative until they’re 70 percent of the way through the sales process, those digital touchpoints are essential.

2. They generate leads and conversions

There’s no question that landing pages help create more qualified leads and result in higher conversion rates when pairing compelling downloadable assets with form fills. You want to know who’s most interested in your IT managed services? Well, it’s a fair bet that the guy willing to wade through a 2000-word white paper on network monitoring solutions is ready to talk.

Swapping contact information for unique insights into the most pressing issues facing your industry is a pretty fair tradeoff. Creating dedicated pages for downloadable assets is a smart way to identify your most promising sales leads.

3. They promote new products and services

Let’s say your company has just put the finishing touches on an exciting new piece of software that will be incorporated into your product platform. It’s cutting-edge, and it totally changes the way your product functions and how users interact with it.

How do you get the word out that you’ve just pushed the envelope on innovation in your space? Obviously, hitting up the press release distribution channels and social networks is going to be necessary. But, creating a dedicated landing page for that feature, tool or technology really shines a light on the value it adds to both your product and your customers.

Keep in mind that 89 percent of B2B customers say that winning vendors show clear ROI and compelling business cases to work with them. Landing pages can zero in on specific products and features and give them a chance to shine. It’s a lot easier to bring real-world benefits to light with a landing page devoted to a particular service.

4. They are direct and to the point

There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to landing pages – good ones are concise and, especially in the case of product or service pages, clearly lay out the value your brand can offer site visitors. That directness can be very refreshing for a B2B audience that just wants to find a solution to whatever problem they’re facing or is in the process of vetting different vendors and wants a clear-cut presentation of the ROI each one brings to the table.

Landing pages are perfect vessels for communicating your core brand messaging and value adds in the most efficient and stripped-down fashion possible. In the right circumstances, that’s exactly what your target audience needs.

5. They build credibility

Landing pages that take a problem/solution approach demonstrate to site visitors that your company can provide relief for whatever pain point they’re coping with. You can really hammer the point home by displaying customer testimonials or showcasing some of your former and current satisfied clients.

Neil Patel notes that a core component to establishing credibility with landing pages is incorporating social proof into that content. The basic idea behind social proof is that all of us are more likely to make a purchase if we can see that other people are happy with that product or service. With B2B landing pages, that means proving to visitors that your brand and your solutions have a long track record of success.

Even just a rolling scroll of company logos highlighting former clients can help build up your credibility with sales prospects. The bigger names, the better, obviously. A glowing pull quote from one of your happy customers personalizes the brand experience and shows potential leads the tangible benefits of working with your brand.

All of this shows your target audience that you don’t just talk the talk – you can back it up with real, tangible results. And if you’ve delivered major ROI to clients in the past, there’s no reason for site visitors to think you won’t do the same for them.

6. They can be tested

There are a lot of different factors that determine how successful any landing page is. For instance, did you know that landing pages featuring video content are more likely to deliver ROI than those without? It’s true.

Optimizing landing pages requires a lot of tinkering to get everything just right. Every facet of the page design, content, layout, CTAs and more impacts how site visitors will respond to a given landing page. Going back to the example of social proof, displaying social media share counters can actually work against you if no one is actually sharing your content.

Bottom line: You can’t really be sure which aspects of your landing page content drive engagement and produce qualified leads, and which hold these efforts back, without really digging into the details and analyzing every component.

Thankfully, landing pages easily lend themselves to A/B testing, enabling digital marketers to finetune their web content and create the perfectly optimized solution for whatever goals they have.

So, if you’ve got a gut feeling that something on your landing page content isn’t working – or better yet, you have the site metrics to back up that suspicion – take some time to try out different approaches to the same page and compare the results side by side. You might be surprised by what you uncover.

7. They increase your search traffic

An optimized landing page that is search-friendly, uses targeted keywords and follows search engine optimization best practices will drive more organic traffic to your site. That’s a guarantee. We’ve done it countless times.

However, once you’re satisfied with your landing page content, don’t get too comfy. It’s always a good idea to routinely assess your pages’ performance, identify potential execution gaps and update your landing page content accordingly.

Maybe your messaging needs to account for new developments in your industry or a recent Google algorithm change shifts search ranking criteria from one focal point to another. Success in the digital marketing space is a never-ending pursuit. Hey, no one ever said it was easy.

8. They cull qualified leads from your search traffic

Driving up organic search traffic is great, but if a healthy percentage of those site visitors don’t take the next step forward in the sales funnel, it won’t mean that much to your company’s bottom line.

That’s why a robust internal linking strategy is so important to content marketing, giving your audience a clear path toward further engagement and inching them along the customer journey. Well-placed CTAs and internal links shepherding site visitors to relevant landing pages help you separate the wheat from the chaff by giving those people who are interested in your services or just want to read more of your content a way to stay engaged.

Adding a contact form for downloadable assets, newsletter subscriptions and webinar registrations lets you easily identify your most promising sales prospects. Speaking of which …

9. They increase webinar engagement

Want to get more people to sign up for your webinars? Create dedicated landing pages that can be readily found either through organic search or internal links on your site. Link those pages to blogs that discuss related topics and promote them on your social media channels, and you’re guaranteed to see an uptick in webinar attendance. Be sure to build specific landing pages for each webinar you host or participate in to bring in as many qualified leads as possible.

10. They drive asset downloads

In a similar fashion, dedicated landing pages help you direct more site traffic to your gated content. It’s a little disheartening how often brands’ valuable white papers, eBooks and other downloadable assets are so well-hidden that they are virtually impossible to find without a direct link.

Using CTA buttons, internal links and other calls to action to guide site visitors to asset landing pages will increase the number of downloads for this content as well as help you increase conversions.

Landing pages also provide an easy way to promote assets externally through newsletter emails. Include a link to gated content in each of your weekly newsletters, sit back and watch your downloads skyrocket.

11. They zero in on your messaging

It would be foolish to assume that every person who visits a blog on your site reads through to the end, or that every video viewer sits through the whole thing. People check out, get distracted or just fail to engage with a piece of content and make the connection between the subject matter and the message.

That doesn’t really happen with landing pages, though. Landing page content favors a more direct approach that clearly communicates your brand values and specific product or service benefits.

12. They support your business goals

Pretty much everything we discuss on this blog – organic search, SEO, content marketing, etc. – is just a means to an end. This is a results-oriented industry, and if all of these fancy digital marketing strategies don’t help companies achieve their broader business goals, then they really aren’t worth the trouble.

Whatever your current business goals may be – increasing sales figures, growing your customer base, expanding your footprint into new markets or launching a new product or service, among others – well-crafted landing pages support those objectives. That’s kind of the beauty of landing page content: It’s eminently customizable and flexible. You can contort landing pages for any situation and bolster any campaign, strategy or initiative you have in the works.

In that way, landing pages are kind of like the Swiss Army Knife of the content marketing world: ready to help you tackle any problem and achieve any goal. So, if you haven’t already, take stock of your landing pages to identify where you could use more and refine your existing content to make it more search-friendly.

If you’ve got a good landing-page game, you’ll drive organic search traffic, increase conversions and capture more qualified leads. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Jeff Keleher is a writer and editor at Brafton. A man of simple tastes, he enjoys playing guitar, playing video games and playing with his dog - sometimes all at once. He still hasn't gotten over Illinois' loss in the 2005 NCAA National Championship game, and he probably never will.