Are Microsites Worth Your Time?

Written by Nick Leffler | No Comments | 8 min read

Home » The Online Presence Blog » Search Engine Optimization » Are Microsites Worth Your Time?

I’ve received a lot of questions about microsites. There are many companies who believe microsites are great for SEO (search engine optimization). these companies put focus (and their client’s money) on them. There is some confusion around what a microsite, landing page, or local page is, though.

Because there is confusion with most users between microsites, landing pages, and local pages, I’m going to cover them all.

What is a microsite?

It sounds like you could interchange the terms microsite, landing page, and local page but in fact, they’re different.

Explaining The Confusion

  • Microsite: A microsite has a marketing purpose beyond just converting visitors. They’re often used by larger companies who have a large marketing budget to set up small website (microsite) around a specific campaign. Think of a consumer product company that creates a small game and accompanying website for a new product or service (think Domino’s DXP).
  • Landing Page: This is any page on your website where a visitor lands. When you hear landing page, though, it means a single purpose page on your website meant to convert visitors. An example is an advertising campaign you’re running on Facebook that directs people to a page where all they can do is sign up for your newsletter (or to get an awesome eBook). I wrote a post with the different between a web page and a landing page.
  • Local Page: This one can have a more varied meaning. If you’re a larger business and have multiple physical locations, you may have a local page for each place. This is often not the case for smaller organizations, though. Marketers and web designers use these pages to get views from people searching for a certain type of business in a specific location (ie. plumber in San Jose).

In each one of these circumstances, there is some confusion on what should and shouldn’t be done. If done the wrong way, the three types of pages above can get you in hot water with Google.

Aligning With Google

Google doesn’t like web pages that don’t benefit visitors to their search engine. Google is in the business of serving its users results for what they’re looking for. Problems arise because websites ranked with old search engine optimization method aren’t aligning themselves with Google. Some are only trying to get traffic and business to their website.

There's a discrepancy between the interest of Google/users and website owners, a constant battle. Click To Tweet

Because there is a discrepancy in interests between Google/users and website owners, it’s also important to cover what Google considers doorway pages. Each of the above examples if done incorrectly will be interpreted as a doorway page.

When Are They Good

Microsites

The example of a microsite I included above is the best way to do a microsite. It’s an independent website from Domino’s (except maybe a few links back that are subtle) created around a single service.

Because the website is a full website and is there to entertain or offer quality (arguably of course) information to visitors, it works out well for everybody. Companies create these microsites around a specific marketing campaign for a new product. Some movies get their own microsite to help promote and create a buzz for the movie. Jurassic World had an elaborate microsite to help create buzz for the movie.

Do you see a common theme with these websites?

They help answer a question for the visitor or entertain them. There’s something useful about them for visitors, not just the creator.

Landing Page

A landing page’s purpose is to convert visitors from a marketing campaign. Landing pages are usually fine because they’re created to convert visitors, not rank in search engines. The fact they’re not meant to rank in search engines means you should put minimal effort to optimize them.

You need to optimize landing pages for the visitors experience only. The experience involves understanding the offer, learning about it, and having a clear path to take action.

Local Page

These are great if they offer visitors some sort of useful information. A business which has multiple locations might offer slightly different services at each site. These pages are a great way to communicate that and would be helpful to visitors.

Think UPS.If I’m going to visit a specific store, I want to know what other services they offer. Some offer notary republics where others might offer mailboxes, this is information visitors searching for the page would be looking for and is helpful.

If I’m going to visit a specific store, I want to know what other services they offer. Some offer notary republics where others might offer mailboxes, this is information visitors searching for the page would be looking for and is helpful to them.

When Are They Bad

Microsites

If you try to create a microsite to funnel visitors into another website, it’s not going to help visitors.

What does a bad microsite look like that does this?

Creating a microsite with one page for a specific service you offer is an example of a microsite gone bad. I should never create a website with the URL sacramentowebdesign.com and try to funnel those visitors back to my website. This method can also be used for local pages but again, it’s considered equally bad.

Landing Page

Landing pages aren’t typically bad, but they could be bad as most things could. If a landing page has the sole purpose of ranking in a search engine and then funneling visitors back to the homepage (perfect definition of a doorway page), it’s bad and going to fail. Web pages without your site navigation and only one link funneling people back to a specific page on your site is bad for search. If it’s going to be optimized for search, it should contain the answer to a visitor’s questions on that page, not a link to another.

A landing page created in this way is also not going to work well to convert visitors either. If you dump a visitor off on a home page or somewhere that’s not optimized to answer their question, they’re going to leave immediately instead of hunting for their answer. Google and other search engines don’t like that.

Local Page

Local pages are used to help visitors somehow. To do a local page wrong, it would funnel visitors from a search engine searching for a service type in a local area. Local pages won’t help you or could harm you if done wrong. If the “local” page is just a template page with nothing more than the city and/or state changed then it will harm your website.

A poorly done local page also doesn’t show up in your main website navigation. If you create a local page in this way, it needs to be part of the main navigation. A “service area” main navigation page is ideal with sub-pages under that for each locale with helpful information for that location.

These types of pages aren’t as bad if they are on your main website, linked from your main website, and you don’t use them in excess. Just the major areas around you and not each location.

Avoid Doorway Pages

There are some things you should think about if you’re unsure you’re creating something that’s going to be penalized by Google.

First of all, know what Google considers a doorway page:

Doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries.

Avoid doing the following three things:

  • Having multiple domain names or pages targeted to specific cities or regions that funnel visitors to one page.
  • Page generated to funnel visitors somewhere else on your website. If you’re trying to funnel a visitor somewhere else, drop the page and just stick to the one that has information a visitors wants.
  • Pages that are very similar to each other. This is usually automatically created pages with minor changes in wording.

These three points were extrapolated from Google’s original webmaster support page that helps define and discourage doorway pages.

Focus On Valuable Content

Focusing on valuable content for your website is infinitely more valuable than creating sub-par pages with little valuable content for visitors. The goal is always creating content that’s valuable for your visitors. That means focusing on content and your blog.

By focusing on creating valuable content for visitors, you’re also going to be building authority and trust. Many customers aren’t going to immediately do business with you.

You won't have to compete on price if you build relationships with valuable content. Click To Tweet

By focusing on valuable content, it’s possible to build relationships and your brand at the same time, something more valuable than a one-time visitor. With a strong relationship and brand, you are creating more value for you customers and will stop competing only on price. Your work will provide more value and command a premium.

To answer the question proposed in the title of the article. No, but it depends (that’s deflection).

Limit the number of microsites (or local pages or whatever you want to call it) you create and be sure each has value. Posting more articles on your blog may be a better use of your time. If you don’t like how blog posts are dated, choose an evergreen topic you want to rank for and write a guide on it. Make sure you’re always keeping the guide updated, though.

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Author Bio:

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Nick Leffler

Nick Leffler is the owner of Exprance, a Sacramento web design and digital marketing agency which helps businesses reach their customer online. Nick has grown his online presence with a small marketing budget by blogging, organic social media posting, and email marketing.

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