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Microsites: Effective Marketing or Bad Idea?
Microsites: Effective Marketing or Bad Idea?
Microsites: Effective Marketing or Bad Idea?
Microsites: Effective Marketing or Bad Idea?
Microsites: Effective Marketing or Bad Idea?
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Microsites: Effective Marketing or Bad Idea?

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A microsite is loosely defined as a small cluster of web pages that are differentiated from a parent website through unique design and layout, limited navigation options, and a unique domain URL to …

A microsite is loosely defined as a small cluster of web pages that are differentiated from a parent website through unique design and layout, limited navigation options, and a unique domain URL to set the site apart from the parent domain. Many companies have implemented microsites to promote specialized, short-term offers, product launches, or wholly new segments to their target audiences.

We’ve put together some practical guidelines on when to use — or avoid — a microsite strategy for your business.

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  • 1.   Microsites:  Effective  Marketing  or  Bad  Idea?  As  Google’s  search  algorithm  has  evolved  to  emphasize  trusted,  well-­‐established  domains  and  unique  content,  the  debate  is  heating  up  on  the  marketing  value  of  microsites.  Some  experts  believe  that  creating  a  microsite  is  never  a  good  idea,  diluting  the  brand  and  hurting  coveted  search  results,  while  others  think  they  still  have  a  place  in  a  targeted,  strategic  marketing  campaign.  A  microsite  is  loosely  defined  as  a  small  cluster  of  web  pages  that  are  differentiated  from  a  parent  website  through  unique  design  and  layout,  limited  navigation  options,  and  a  unique  domain  URL  to  set  the  site  apart  from  the  parent  domain.  Many  companies  have  implemented  microsites  to  promote  specialized,  short-­‐term  offers,  product  launches,  or  wholly  new  segments  to  their  target  audiences.  We’ve  put  together  some  practical  guidelines  on  when  to  use  —  or  avoid  —  a  microsite  strategy  for  your  business.  Don’t  Build  a  Microsite  to  Improve  Search  Rankings  Ever  since  Google  began  cracking  down  on  link  farms  and  giving  more  prominence  to  well-­‐established  domain  names  with  numerous  backlinks  and  unique  content,  the  argument  that  a  microsite  can  help  you  show  up  higher  on  search  engines  has  fallen  flat.  Google’s  focus  on  unique  content,  domain  age,  and  backlinks  are  an  effort  to  include  metrics  such  as  trust  and  relevancy  in  their  rankings.  A  microsite  can  hurt  your  SEO  for  the  follwing  reasons:   1. Microsites  that  live  on  a  separate  domain  than  your  main  website  will  not  share  any  of   the  “domain  credit”  that  Google  gives  your  primary  website.  Google  sees  the  microsite   URL  as  a  wholly  new  website,  forcing  you  to  build  up  its  search  value  with  new  backlinks   and  content  updates,  which  can  take  time  and  resources  that  are  better  spent   improving  your  main  site.   2. If  microsites  have  identical  content  to  any  pages  on  your  primary  site,  Google  will  not   regard  it  as  unique  content,  resulting  in  low  ranking  .  All  microsite  content  must  be   unique,  fresh  and  updated  often  for  good  rankings.  Simply  put:  there  are  no  shortcuts   for  good  SEO.   3. If  you  are  targeting  the  same  keywords  in  your  microsite  as  you  are  in  your  main  site,   you’re  simply  splitting  your  resources  and  your  sites  are  competing  with  each  other  for   rankings.  You’ll  be  spending  double  the  time  and  resources  required  to  achieve  high   search  rankings,  and  competing  against  yourself.  Don’t  do  it.  If  you  manage  to  climb  the  natural  search  mountain  and  achieve  high  listings  on  Google  for  your  microsite,  ensure  that  you’re  ready  to  maintain  and  update  it  for  the  long  haul.  Short-­‐term  microsites  that  are  scheduled  to  go  dark  after  a  set  period  of  time  don’t  do  you  any  good  in  search,  because  once  they’re  turned  off  they  become  broken  links  on  the  search  listings.   Created  by:    
  • 2. Don’t  Build  a  Digital  Band-­‐Aid  Imagine  that  your  existing  website  is  outdated,  messy  and  hard  to  use.  But  the  idea  of  starting  over  –  rebuilding  the  site’s  architecture,  design  and  content  flow  –  is  just  too  overwhelming,  not  to  mention  the  budget  you’ll  need  to  pull  it  off.  You  may  be  tempted  to  consider  a  microsite  as  a  quick  fix  to  this  challenge.  A  small  number  of  newly-­‐designed  pages,  free  of  the  confines  of  your  existing,  hard-­‐to-­‐navigate  site,  can  be  very  tempting  because  it’s  limited  in  its  scope.  Avoid  the  temptation  to  remedy  an  outdated  site  with  this  digital  band-­‐aid.  Here’s  why:   1. As  mentioned  above,  Google  places  value  on  older  domains  and  existing  backlinks,  so   investing  in  your  main  site  is  paramount  for  good  SEO.  You’re  just  making  more  work  for   yourself  when  you  reinvent  your  existing  site  in  a  microsite’s  new  wrapper.   2. From  a  branding  standpoint,  it’s  never  good  to  look  scattered  to  your  target  audience.   Having  two  separate  sites  to  address  the  same  users  can  be  confusing  and  doesn’t   present  your  brand  as  organized,  strategic  or  focused.  If  you’re  already  too  resource-­‐strapped  to  maintain  a  great  user  experience  on  your  existing  site,  the  same  can  probably  be  said  for  a  microsite.  Though  it  may  be  limited  in  scope,  a  microsite  still  requires  time  and  resources  to  plan,  build,  and  most  important,  to  maintain  and  keep  fresh.  That’s  time  better  spent  improving  your  main  site  if  you  really  want  to  see  a  return  on  your  web  investment.  It’s  also  worth  noting  that  microsites  that  are  linked  to  from  your  main  site  can  cause  what  we  at  TREW  like  to  call  “digital  whiplash”.  Web  visitors  on  your  site  have  the  expectation  that  as  they  navigate  your  content,  they  will  stay  within  the  structure  and  feel  of  your  site.  If  they  click  on  a  link  that  suddenly  delivers  them  to  an  new  site  with  an  entirely  different  navigation,  with  no  easy  way  to  get  back  to  where  they  were,  it  can  be  disorienting.  If  the  visitor  feels  lost,  they’re  less  likely  to  remain  on  your  site  or  come  back.  So,  when  are  microsites  a  good  idea?  As  a  Short-­‐term  Promotional  Vehicle  If  you’re  planning  a  quick  promotional  campaign  that  doesn’t  easily  fit  into  your  existing  site,  and  you  want  to  limit  your  web  visitor’s  experience  to  emphasize  your  campaign  message,  a  microsite  can  offer:   1. A  focused,  clean,  task-­‐based  user  experience   2. No  risk  of  distracting  the  web  visitor  away  from  the  desired  task,  because  the  corporate   site  content  is  not  accessible   3. Specific  metrics  tied  directly  to  your  campaign,  because  your  web  analytics  are  separate   from  your  corporate  site  Quanser  Academics,  a  leader  in  the  development  of  real-­‐time  control  design  systems  for  academic  research  and  teaching,  wanted  to  increase  adoption  of  their  products  among  university  teaching  staff  throughout  North  America.  They  developed  a  short-­‐term  campaign   Created  by:    
  • 3. promoting  a  free  inverted  pendulum  to  professors  who  purchased  a  workstation  for  a  limited  time.  With  TREW’s  help,  Quanser  developed  a  specialized  microsite,  as  well  as  a  targeted  direct  marketing  push  to  promote  the  sale  and  the  microsite.  The  focus  was  not  on  SEO  or  long-­‐term  gains,  but  on  specific  sales  goals  within  a  limited  period  of  time.    Quansers  Microsite  Because  the  Quanser  campaign  had  a  specific  goal  of  compelling  professors  to  purchase  specific  products,  the  microsite  provided  a  more  seamless  experience  than  the  Quanser  parent  site,  because  it  only  offered  links  to  those  product  options,  and  didn’t  distract  web  visitors  with  ancillary  content.  One  additional  note  on  the  short-­‐term  microsite  approach:  Be  sure  to  develop  a  redirect  strategy  when  the  site  is  taken  down.  It  should  address  where  the  links  to  the  microsite  will  go,  and  you  should  ensure  that  your  IT  staff  create  301  redirects  when  the  site  goes  dark.  As  a  Vehicle  to  Establish  a  Wholly  New  Segment  or  Product  Area  If  your  company  is  planning  to  launch  a  new  business  segment  or  product  offering  that  stretches  beyond  your  typical  target  audience,  you  may  discover  that  fitting  it  into  your  existing  website  is  like  the  proverbial  square  peg  in  a  round  hole.  When  your  site  is  clean  and  usable,  performs  well  and  has  a  logical  site  structure,  adding  a  completely  different  segment  to  the  web  mix  can  prove  to  be  a  real  challenge,  especially  if  you  want  to  make  a  big  splash.  A  microsite  can  be  a  good  approach  if:   Created  by:    
  • 4. 1. You’re  marketing  the  new  product/segment  to  a  target  audience  that  your  corporate   site  doesn’t  address  directly.  A  microsite  allows  you  to  speak  directly  to  the  target   audience  with  industry-­‐specific  vocabulary  and  build  credibility  immediately.   2. Your  new  product/segment  is  innovative  and  very  new,  and  the  design  and  navigation   needs  can’t  be  addressed  in  your  corporate  site’s  design  templates.   3. The  new  segment  must  distinguish  itself  from  the  corporate  site  because  it’s  approach,   strategy  or  focus  are  so  different  and  new  for  the  company.  When  Nissan  decided  to  introduce  their  new  electric  car,  the  Leaf,  they  wanted  the  innovation  and  cutting  edge  technology  of  their  product  to  be  evident  in  their  web  promotion  of  the  car.  Taking  a  microsite  approach  afforded  Nissan  that  freedom.  The  navigation  and  design  of  the  Leaf  web  pages  are  like  no  other  product  page  on  the  Nissan  site.  And  since  this  is  a  long-­‐term  microsite,  Nissan  built  it  into  their  existing  site  architecture,  ensuring  that  the  Leaf  web  pages  enjoy  the  SEO  benefits  of  the  Nissan.com  domain.    The  Nissan  Leaf  Microsite  TREW  client  Bloomy  Energy  Systems  recently  launched  as  a  new  division  of  Bloomy  Controls,  who  provides  automated  test,  data  acquisition  and  control  systems  for  product  development  in  industries  such  as  aerospace,  automotive  and  consumer  electronics.  Because  the  new  energy  division  at  Bloomy  targets  the  energy  storage  techonology  audience,  with  very  specific  vocabulary  and  product  needs,  the  company  wanted  to  approach  their  marketing  strategy  with  this  in  mind.  TREW  built  a  microsite  for  Bloomy  Energy  Systems  that  is  completely  focused  on  energy  storage  needs  and  solutions.  The  microsite  approach  gave  Bloomy  the  ability  to  offer  a  clean,  industry-­‐specific  experience  for  their  energy  storage  audience,  a  segment  that  doesn’t  easily  fit  into  corporate  site’s  structure  and  focus.  In  addition,  the  Bloomy  corporate  site  is  still  able  to  address  the  full  range  of  solutions  and  industries  it  always  has.   Created  by:    
  • 5.  The  Bloomy  Microsite  Final  Thoughts  A  microsite  can  be  a  smart  approach  for  specific  campaigns  and  product  introductions.  It  is  not  appropriate  as  a  short-­‐cut  for  SEO  or  to  skirt  poor  performance  on  your  main  website.  It  can  provide  a  truly  seamless,  easy-­‐to-­‐navigate,  task-­‐based  approach  to  your  target  audience.  And  that’s  a  customer  experience  that’s  worth  the  effort.  Ready  to  get  started  on  your  website  project?  Contact  TREW  Marketing  to  get  started  today.     Created  by:    

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