Marketers and content creators love microsites, and for good reason. Sometimes it's more beneficial to start a separate website or channel dedicated to a niche or specific topic. Of course, lots of experts will advise against this, claiming them to be nothing more than a waste of resources that have little to no SEO value. But is that true? Are microsites really nothing more than a waste?
The real answer is that it depends. As with most things, there are pros and cons to consider. To understand if a microsite would be beneficial, you must first weigh both sides.
The Basics of Microsites
Microsites are designed to highlight a specific topic or product, away from the main channel of a brand. For example, let’s say a smartphone company releases their first smartwatch and they want it to reach a separate audience because it is a different kind of device. They could create a microsite dedicated to the smartwatch, with its own URL, content and design. Any visitors wanting to view the page for the watch would be redirected to the microsite.
A great example is CJ Pony Parts, a company that provides Mustang parts to auto enthusiasts. For the longest time, Mustang parts were their only focus. More recently, they started selling parts for other vehicles like the Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta, and F-150. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to highlight parts for other vehicles on a site dedicated to Mustangs, so they created a microsite called Spool Tuning to market and sell the other vehicle parts.
As you can see, there was a good reason to create a microsite in the examples above. The purpose was to generate a targeted channel for a specific product or topic. More importantly, the brands needed to offer a separate channel for customers to avoid confusion. They didn’t create the microsite simply to have another website floating around. They actually needed it, which brings us to our list of pros and cons.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Microsite?
The biggest drawback — and perhaps the hinging factor — is that a microsite will take additional resources to create, maintain and operate. You’ll need a separate team to update content, ensure the site is secure, handle any performance issues or bugs, and address visitors. For all intents and purposes, you’ll be running two websites simultaneously, and they will each require attention and manpower. As Google’s SEO guru Matt Cutts says, “There’s a lot of overhead in terms of managing microsites.” If you don’t have the resources to handle this, it can be a problem.
In addition, because you’re focusing on one specific product or target, you have to consider the lifespan of the microsite. For example, if your product is not successful, you have wasted a lot of resources. In CJ Pony Part’s case, their microsite focuses on multiple vehicle types, thus boosting the lifespan of their microsite.
The biggest benefit is that you can create a personalized, more direct design for the site. Going back to the example of the smartphone manufacturer above, their main site would be littered with visuals, descriptions and info about smartphones since that’s what they deal in most. Customers coming to the site looking for a smartwatch might get lost in all of that noise. The microsite would allow them to create a tailored design just for their smartwatch, essentially giving them more control over the separate site. It is this design boundary that can offer the most important benefit.
With microsites, you can focus on different keywords, so they can boost SEO rankings tremendously. Remember, websites generally can only have one or two keywords in their domain name, and that often sets the focus of a site. With a separate domain name, you can generate a targeted, more effective keyword-rich site for your niche product or topic.
Take extra care in how you funnel your audience to the new site. Create a one-to-one flow between the two sites. You don’t want your main site to send people away from it in favor of the microsite and vice versa.
In the end, you’ll need to decide if a microsite would truly benefit your brand or product, or if it would hinder any progress you’ve made thus far.
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