Before we can really talk about the pros and cons of microsites, it's probably wise to explain what a microsite is, to do this I'm going to compare it to something familiar with all of us, a company's main website. Whereas a main website will provide information on everything to do with itself including company history, services, products etc., microsites are small (often less than 5 pages), product/product range or service focused pages of content. Microsites can be part of a main website's domain, but often they are running on their own domain allowing the custom domain to be keyword search friendly. They are frequently produced to run in conjunction with other marketing efforts for the life of the product or service they are promoting.
A good example of a type of company that often produces microsites are construction companies. Companies such as these that specialise in new buildings or housing developments are often huge companies whose main website is often unwieldy to navigate and very corporate looking. As a company looking to show off their latest projects in the best possible way many of these companies (thankfully) have recognised that their main site is not the best platform for sales. Instead they use microsites that are typically visually very different to their main website often only subtly featuring corporate branding to focus on the branding of the project. This unique design opportunity provides marketing teams and designers the opportunity to tailor content to certain audiences, whether that is age, profession or even global location. Of those three audiences perhaps the global location is the most interesting. Companies are often looking to overseas investors for projects, tailoring a site for a specific audience can go a long way to winning investment.
This microsite has other benefits. From experience I know that the name of the development is often more memorable than the name of the construction company involved. As people use the development name as a search term it makes sense that they go to a site focused on that specific project. Without all the information noise from other services and projects typically found on a main website, possible customers are able to solely focus on what they came to see. Again from experience, most people search for property during the week, typically at lunch times before reviewing in detail over the weekend, microsites are far easier to navigate and typically concentrate on the most important information. The biggest benefit to the construction company is that it is easier to produce keyword rich search engine optimised content as it that is all the site should be focusing on. Another benefit would be that if the company employs sales reps, the microsite becomes a very useful sales tool as it acts much like a digital brochure except with the added benefit of being able to capture very specific information via forms and analytics.
So we've covered the pros, what about the cons.
There are some voices that say that by separating out your content you water down a brand's reputation and weight, and divert traffic away from a main website. But as mentioned if a company has different audiences for projects or services then really that shouldn't be too much of an issue, but they should bear it in mind before opting to separate obviously related content.
The biggest con that I can see is that a new domain will have no domain authority. Which many search engines use as one of the factors to determine a website's ranking. But again as many microsites are referenced from other very specific marketing channels and people will be pointed/directed to it, I don't see that as a large issue, unless a company is hoping for customers to find you organically through search engines.
So what should companies do.
Look at the product or service and decide:
- is this going to be marketed separately?
- is how it looks important and will it look good in the existing company framework?
- does this have a marketable lifespan?
If they can answer yes to those, then microsites are for them.
Still unsure? More great benefits can be found on this blog post.