Microsites: Good or Bad?

Mark Edgington
Nov 8 · 5 min read

I was asked about this a fair few times about Microsite’s in the last few months, so I have collated this from my replies.

What Is a Microsite?

A microsite tends to be a branded content site that is rooted in a subdomain of your company’s main site (i.e. micrositename.yourwebsite.com), or it has its own independent URL that is distinct to the main site. Often it does not contain the name of the main company.

As you would expect by ‘Micro’ these are smaller, specific sites that promote a focused message. It should not contain any content that the main www.yourwebsite.com contains

Microsites work best when populated with a variety of pieces of content (such as videos, articles, and infographics) that are designed to provide information and get people excited about a particular campaign.

Microsite’s are a great solution if you need to:

  • Tell a story
  • Experiment
  • Reach a specific target audience or market
  • Launch Quickly

With the right microsite strategy and approach, it’s possible to get the top rankings on search engines and block the competition from achieving top search results.

A Microsite’s Main Advantages

Branding

Provides the freedom to extend or ignore the main sites branding and create a unique experience, together with URL and content.

User Flows & Experience

A massive plus is the fact that user flows can be significantly simplified. The narrow focus designed to attract and appeal to users who want those specific things. All creating a much more positive experience by having an immersive and tailored experiences for a particular product or service.

SEO

While you are not benefiting from your main sites traffic you do have the ability to established SEO authority for the microsite. This is because the new pages can be keyword-rich for your targeted terms to bring in better qualified traffic to the new site.

Analytics

If you use Google Analytics well you can create a new site profile, with more specific goals and custom segmentation. It also makes it clearer to navigate your analytics as the Microsite will have its own interface.

Increased Brand Recognition

The addition of a website can make it can be easier for people to learn about your business (through targeted content specific to their needs), they may then take an interest in what you have as a whole.

Efficient Email Campaigns

You can use a microsite as a type of landing page to gather email addresses and get people signed up for your business’s newsletter. This will make it easier for you to stay in touch with potential customers and stay at the top of their mind with offers and promotions.

Provide More Value

Provides an opportunity to provide targeted value to your existing customers. Especially If you have information that you want to share does not fit well into your main site.

A Microsite’s Main Disadvantage

SEO

It is possible for microsite can hurt your SEO!

  • Having a separate domain means it will not share any of the credit that Google has assigned to your main website. This is because Google sees the microsite URL as a wholly new website. Meaning you must build up its search value with new backlinks and content updates, which will take time and resources.
  • If you make the mistake of duplicating content found on your main site Google will not regard it as unique content, this resulting in low ranking. You can mitigate this by having unique, fresh and often content.
  • If you are looking to target the same keywords as you are in your main site, you’re competing for rankings against yourself!
  • In some cases, your microsite may pull traffic away from your main website. If this happens, your main site could be penalised and not rank as well.

This final SEO point is worth debunking a little

The argument is that once established the microsite will pull traffic away from the parent site. So, with Google only caring about the bottom line on traffic and links, you’re better off putting all your resources into your main site.

However, this argument does not always hold, it depends on the point of the microsite.

If the microsite has been created to only appeal to a select group of users, who are searching for keywords related to a unique product or service; then even though the microsite could take some traffic from your main site any negative impact is likely to be offset by the quality of traffic your microsite is getting.

Lack of Information

If you don’t have enough content users will find the information to be too sparse, they will leave or if you are lucky may navigate back to your main site in order to get the full information they’re looking for. But In this case, the site is just getting in the way of the users and may hurt the overall experience they have with your brand.

Confusion

In some cases, using a microsite to spin-off a product or service can be confusing to site visitors who are already familiar with the parent site.

Time-Consuming

It takes time to set up an effective microsite. The time and costs may be better spent updating the main site. Note, this is less true if everything is content managed, but that is only really worthwhile if the microsite if long living.

Microsite Conclusion

By now you probably have an idea advantages outweigh the disadvantaged for your needs.

But, just in case you don’t, ask yourself these key questions.

  • Who is coming to your site currently?
  • Are they the users who are the main target for the information you want to provide?
  • If they are is there already content?
  • What are they looking for and why?
  • Can the content be found and is it tailored to answer the user’s needs?
  • Can that content be tailored to give a great experience? i.e. does your Content Management System contain templates and navigation that would allow for the content.

If you’re looking to engage and educate your audience about your company’s specific product or service, a microsite with multiple pages and the ability to make an experience and tell a story can be a wise choice.

The alternative to a microsite is a Landing Page?

A landing page is an individual web page of the main website (i.e. Yourwebsite.com/landingpage).

A landing page is ideal when you want your users to experience a single product or service immediately upon entering your website.

These pages are typically simple in design and purpose, they usually describe the benefits of the product or service and have a clear CTA. They are meant to convince users to Act.

Landing pages help you focus the user’s attention on the product or service you are trying to sell, they tend to convert better than a homepage, they are built on your existing site not requiring any new, they are also easy to track with your existing site’s analytics.

Landing Page Advantages

  • Landing pages can be easy and relatively inexpensive to create **
  • They can be deployed quickly **
  • It’s not necessary to buy additional domain names
  • They don’t require extra maintenance
  • The budgets may be smaller
  • They sit in your current analytics tool

Landing Page Disadvantage

  • The information is unlikely to be as rich
  • As such they tend to not be very engaging
  • The content is likely to have a scatter gun approach rather than target a subset of users
  • If your IT team and CMS is not up-to scratch they can be costly or time consuming

** if a well setup CMS is in place

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Mark Edgington

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