What Are Microsites and Should Your Brand Be Using Them?

In a world where attention spans are getting shorter, while gamification and mobile browsing are on the rise, a microsite can help brands stand out from the crowd. However, they aren’t always an ideal solution.

So should you be using microsites as part of your eCommerce marketing? Read on to find out.

 

What is a microsite?

A microsite is a small-scale website that businesses can use to promote an individual product, sub-brand, campaign, event or competition. They can be made up of a single web page or a small cluster of pages.

Microsites are hosted separately from a brand’s main website. They usually have their own unique domain names, but they can be hosted on a subdomain too.

These simple sites don’t include ‘About us’ pages or information about brand values. They don’t usually have eCommerce functionality either. Instead, they feature informative, fun or interactive content that aims to engage visitors.

 

Microsite benefits

Microsites can help brands achieve a multitude of marketing goals. Whether they want to supercharge a product launch, generate leads or target audience segments with specific content, microsites can help.

Here are just a few microsite benefits worth mentioning:

Control over the customer journey

Whether you want to build top of mind awareness for a new product or highlight a brand partnership, microsites can keep visitors focused on the information you want them to see. They won’t get distracted by an unrelated page or click on the wrong button. Instead, microsites allow brands to manage and monitor the consumer journey.

Very insightful data

Because microsites concentrate on one particular product, brand, target market or promotional campaign, the analytics gathered are highly accurate and informative. Analysing data from your main brand website will generally provide less conclusive results.

This means microsites can be optimised for maximum impact. But a microsite is also the perfect medium for testing out new content. Brands can then use this data to make informed business decisions.

 

The disadvantages of a microsite

When implemented for the right reasons, a microsite benefits your brand in countless ways. But there are some downsides too.

It requires a lot of investment

Building a website from scratch requires significant time and money. You’ll need the help of designers, developers and copywriters. Then there’s ongoing costs like domain registration and site maintenance. While a microsite won’t require complex coding, it will cost more than adding pages to an existing brand website.

They’re only temporary

Once your event, campaign or competition ends, the microsite you created is no longer useful. So you need to consider if it’s worth the investment.

It can dilute your main site’s SEO efforts

In the past, many microsites enjoyed SEO success. Brands dominated search results with multiple domains and used backlinks to boost their main site. But Google has adapted.

Today, microsites don’t often generate huge amounts of organic traffic. They may even compete with your main website for keywords and backlinks – especially if you duplicate content. That’s why modern microsite campaigns are often launched alongside paid advertising campaigns.

 

When to use a microsite

We’ve already touched on lots of situations where microsites can prove useful. But here is an overview of what to consider before deciding to create one.

Is your content long-term or temporary?

Microsites are ideal for one-off events, temporary advertising campaigns and seasonal product promotions. Any content that doesn’t need to be on your brand’s main website year round could be a contender.

Will you be running an ad campaign alongside it?

Microsites work particularly well as landing pages for PPC ads. That’s because brands can send prospects to a microsite related to the ad viewed. By providing relevant content and clear navigation, brands can keep visitors’ attention and nudge them to take action.

Are you building awareness for a specific initiative?

If you want to direct attention to a specific product, sub-brand, influencer collaboration, brand partnership, event or any other company initiative, building a microsite might be the right choice.

Are you targeting a specific audience segment?

If you’re creating content for a subset of your target audience, hosting this content on its own website is advisable. This will give your brand the freedom to create distinctive content that will appeal to this audience segment – without alienating other key demographics.

Is your content experimental?

If you’re trying out something new, creating a microsite will allow you to accurately track the results without running the risk of ruining your main website’s user experience.

 

Three top microsite examples

To inspire your brand’s campaigns, here are three well-executed microsite examples we came across recently.

Walmart Drive-in

Walmart’s main site is jam-packed with content. So to promote its drive-in movie events, Walmart set up a standalone microsite.

Its simple design encourages users to find their nearest event and book tickets. Walmart has also used in-store advertising to promote this microsite, so having a simple domain name was important.

Crabtree & Evelyn

To build out its mailing list, Crabtree & Evelyn launched a free gift campaign at Halloween. It hosted the campaign’s content on a seasonal, black-and-orange microsite.

Through point-of-sale advertisements and online ads, the beauty brand directed shoppers to the site, which looked very different to its main website. This ‘No tricks, just treats’ campaign successfully increased footfall and online engagement for the brand.

Audi

Audi makes great use of microsites to present consumers with highly relevant content. It’s got a ton of microsite examples to choose from, but here are just a few.

In Ireland, Audi’s main website is www.audi.ie. But the car brand also owns www.audishop.ie, which appears at the top of search results for keywords like ‘audi accessories’ and ‘audi clothing’. But when Irish users search for ‘audi service’, www.audiservice.ie appears instead. Audi also uses microsites to direct consumers to information about their local dealership.

For shoppers in India, Audi has a microsite at www.auditestdrive.in which allows visitors to easily book a test drive.

 

How to create a microsite

The process of creating a microsite will vary depending on your brand’s goals and needs. But here are some general steps to follow.

1. Set out your objectives

Be clear about why you’re building a microsite and who it’s for. What do you want to achieve? Is a microsite the right solution? Have you created a buyer persona yet?

2. Choose a domain name

Be sure to buy a domain name that will appeal to your target audience. Will it stand out and be memorable enough for visitors to find again? Is it short enough to use offline?

3. Craft the content

Content is key when it comes to building a successful microsite. You need to connect with your target persona, while also considering how the keywords used could impact your brand’s main website. It may make sense to prioritise a niche keyword that won’t compete with your parent website.

4. Design your microsite

Your microsite should have a simple design that directs users towards a single CTA. But you can also get creative with colour and visuals, because you aren’t restricted by the branding of your parent brand’s website.

5. Connect your analytics and marketing tools

Because microsites provide in-depth insights into content performance and visitor behaviour, hooking up your analytics tools of choice is essential. Integrating an A/B testing solution is a good idea too.

Final thoughts

Microsites are a great way to promote products and generate targeted leads for your business. Whether your brand runs a D2C store or solely sells products through sites like Amazon, microsites can form an effective part of your eCommerce strategy.