If you run or market a business online, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the “funnel vs website” debate. You’ll come across some ads claiming you don’t need a website, some ads that tell you normal funnels are dead, and vice versa. But what’s the difference between a sales funnel and a website? And when do you use each one?
This post will clear it up for you.
First we’ll dive into comparing sales funnels vs websites, so you understand the difference. Then we’ll discuss what purpose each serves, and which you might need.
Sales Funnels and Websites Explained
If you’re confused on what a funnel vs a website is, and which one you need, we first need to understand each one.
What’s a website?
Websites have been around since the inception of the internet. We’re all familiar with what a website is, right? It’s a collection of related pages at a specific address, like mywebsite.com, that tell you about the website’s goals, share information, provide products for sale, the list goes on. Perhaps the website shares the owner’s thoughts on a blog.
Point is, it’s a collection of pages at an address, that a user can navigate through in any order they want to find more information. Many pages will have a “call-to-action”, or a specific goal that you want users to take on that page. Sometimes they may have multiple – call us here, opt in here.
Most websites have:
- A templated header navigation that is the same across all pages
- A templated footer navigation that is again, the same across all pages
- A variety of body content in between the two
- Often a blog post or portfolio section for adding fresh new content
- CTAs (Calls to Action) for different goals across the website, often catered to the content the user is browsing on a specific page
There is not a singular goal on a website, or one specific path for browsing it. Users may pop around to different pages, visit multiple times and visit different pages each time, and interact with different goals or bits of information on one page.
On the other hand, there are funnels.
What’s a funnel?
Ever since the inception of Clickfunnels in 2014, the internet hasn’t really been the same and “funnel” has become a word used in everyday online business language. Everyone is on fire about funnels, and Russel Brunsen insists you’re only “one funnel away” – from what? From reaching all of your goals and dreams, I suppose.
Look, he’s not wrong. There is a reason funnels are amazing and effective. They’re designed to take a user through a very specific, pre-planned sequence of pages, optimized for very specific outcomes and goals, such as generating leads or making sales for a very specific product.
For example, ONE funnel structure that generates leads and makes sales might look like:
- Page 1: Opt in page (A simple page with no header or links to other pages)
- Page 2: Tripwire (An offer for a small, impulse-purchase product that comes after an opt-in)
- Page 3: Upsell (An offer for another product that the visitor only sees if they purchase the Tripwire)
Another funnel that leads directly to sales might look like:
- Page 1: Low ticket sales page
- Page 2: Checkout page
- Page 3: Upsell to a high ticket item or another program that will help you more with the thing you purchased on Page 1
Each funnel is designed very meticulously to make specific offers in a specific order. And when you have an aligned offer, an aligned audience, and an optimized funnel that you’re driving traffic to, the results can be amazing.
There are no links or distractions on a funnel, leading to other websites or pieces of information. The goal of each individual page in a funnel is very specifically designed for one, and only one, outcome – whether that’s to get a leads information, make a sale, book an appointment, etc.
See how when someone hits page 1 of a funnel, they are taken to the next step?
Funnels vs Websites
Clickfunnels claims that “Traditional Websites are Dying.”
Is this true?
My take – NO. Absolutely not. Of course they are claiming this – they want people to think that their software is “the” answer to online success. (Hint: It’s not.)
Funnels and websites serve two completely different purposes.
Funnels are great for driving traffic to very specific offers with very specific outcomes in mind. A lead page in a funnel will help you generate leads, and a sales page in a funnel will help you generate sales. Funnel software like Clickfunnels also tends to come with checkout software – so your lead forms, checkouts, payments, etc are all in one place, very conveniently.
On the other hand, websites are great for building and nurturing audiences.
The truth is, funnels don’t work if you don’t have an audience, and a website is just another way to build and nurture an audience.
Can you have a successful website without funnels?
Yes, if your other pages such as blog pages, service pages, and information pages are sufficient drivers of leads and sales. But a funnel can certainly help you optimize all of that, typically performing better than a traditional website. So they can help each other, because you can link to your conversion-optimized funnels from your audience-building website.
Can you build a funnel on your main website, without funnel software?
Absolutely, yes! A funnel is just a sequence of pages that lead from one to another. You don’t have to use a funnel software like Clickfunnels to build out sales pages, lead pages, and checkout pages. You can build them in whichever platform you prefer, whether that’s WordPress with Elementor or another theme, Squarespace, Showit, you name it. As long as you can build the pages the way you want them to look, you can create any sequence of pages you need, and then you can track the funnel stats in a separate platform like Google Analytics. Note that for this method, you do still need a cart that provides the features you want – for example if you want to offer upsells and one time offers, you do need a cart software that can handle the tech behind that (I love Thrivecart for this.)
Can you have a successful business based off of funnels, without a website?
Again yes! IF you have other means of building an audience and getting your funnels in front of people – such as constantly paying for ads or building up a social media presence – AND you don’t care about ever getting in front of audiences on search engines.
Are funnels just as SEO friendly as a website?
Definitely not! Not even a little bit. Just because funnel builders have an “SEO Settings” area for you to set a meta title and description for each page, does not mean they are as SEO-friendly as a website. Why?
SEO is not a “set a page title and you’re good to go” type of thing if you have a full search strategy. And only a full website ecosystem can provide the type of evidence and information search engines like Google want to see, when deciding which pages are high enough quality to show up in their search results.
Setting your title and description on your funnel will help people find that specific funnel or product, IF there is not a lot of other competition for that specific product name or phrase you’re targeting. But it doesn’t mean you’ve implemented a full SEO strategy.
Settling the Website & Funnel Debate
Funnels and websites work together, and serve two very different purposes. Yes, you can have a business that has one instead of the other. But you need to consider your specific business goals, where your audience hangs out, and what avenues you want to have to continually rely on in the future to reach them. If you’re fine with always spending on ads and promoting on social media, a funnel will do just fine. You can just have funnels and continue to drive traffic directly to them.
But if you ever want to get in front of people who are searching for the services and information you offer, or if you want a home base online where you can publish whatever information you want and link it to other pages in an organized manner that really nurtures your audience and allows them to dive deeper into your message and your products, you will need a full website.
For any business that expects to be a long-term business, having a website is a must. Your website is an audience-building tool. It allows you to publish content and gain free, evergreen, organic search traffic over time. So any business that wants longevity, wants to get off the hamster wheel of content creation and ads, and wants a professional online presence should prioritize having a website even if they have funnels that lead to specific offers. Then, you can use your website to lead into your funnels.
If there is only one thing you learn from this post, let it be this:
A funnel is not a website. It is a sales and lead generation tool.
A website is not a funnel. It is an audience building and nurturing tool.
Think about the tools you need for the job you want done, and choose them appropriately.