What are microsites?
A microsite is a website generally focused on one topic, and separate from your normal website.
They typically come hand-in-hand with marketing campaigns, and can have their own web address (for instance, Burger King’s McWhopper site), or can be built as ‘extensions’ from your existing website on a subdomain (these will typically look something like microsite.yourcompany.com).
What are the benefits?
Due to the more focused nature of a microsite compared to your main website (where you may be advertising all of your products), microsites provide higher conversion rates than full-fledged websites. Tying this in with a focused email marketing strategy (read more about that here), you could see higher engagement and more sales than a campaign without a microsite.
Another benefit of the single-topic focus of microsites is that you may be able to rank higher in keyword searches – and boost this even further with a pay-per-click campaign or a similar SEO strategy.
A microsite can usually afford to be flashier than your company’s actual website. This is largely because they will contain less information, or are smaller as a whole so more development time can be spent on bringing the site to life and impressing your users. As microsites tend to be smaller and easier to digest than a full website, they are also generally more likely to keep your users engaged for the entire experience.
The greater potential to amuse or amaze your customers will often lead to them sharing your microsite with friends, increasing traffic and getting your message, product or promotion out to more users.
Email marketing service MailChimp recently launched a series of microsites themed around misheard or mistyped versions of their name, with sites like MailShrimp, JailBlimp and WhaleSynth showing up. The reasoning that MailChimp provides on their microsite hub page for this collection is that “we’re not so concerned with what people call us. We’d much rather show you who we are.”
Not only does this give MailChimp the chance to create some amusing viral marketing, but it also humanises the brand and is a powerful tool in emphasising the voice and messaging that they’ve built over the years.
Microsites that are launched for a promotion or alongside marketing material generally live a shorter lifespan than bigger websites. Because of this, a microsite can give you a chance to change your voice or branding, without going through a rebrand. Using a microsite in this way may also give you the opportunity and the testing you need to determine whether it’s time for a rebrand.
What are the downsides?
Launching a microsite is often a great way to engage with your customers, but you might actually confuse your existing customers by having them find a new web address with your branding, and new customers might not dig deeper and find your main website, instead assuming that the microsite is all you have to offer online.
Launching a microsite isn’t always cheap – they can cost as much as full websites depending on how complex they are, and that’s without any added hosting costs or domain names. While you can negate these costs by ‘extending’ your main website with your microsite, any standalone microsite will come with the added costs of the domain name, and you’ll then have to pay for hosting on top.
For the cost and the development time, if you launch your microsite to go hand-in-hand with a specific promotion or campaign, it may be irrelevant by the time that campaign ends. Their niche nature also makes them completely irrelevant to people that aren’t directly targeted by the focus of your marketing or by the messaging on the site. Unlike your main website, where there may be multiple areas of interest for a customer, a microsite is more than likely only going to feature one topic – meaning that capturing the ‘just browsing’ customer is less likely.
What do we think?
As with everything, microsites have their pros and cons. They can be, however, be a powerful tool to reach out to your existing customers and stretch even further.
Whether you’ve just launched a new product or service, want to try out a new marketing tactic or need a focused hub for a promotion, a microsite could be the perfect be the way forward.