Microsites continue to be a prominent aspect of marketing. They create SEO value and provide an alternate way to engage with your customers. The ability to turn on these experiences has typically been a development exercise. In today’s world, though, marketers don’t have that luxury. Instead of waiting days and sometimes weeks to build out a microsite experience, marketers need to be able to build and launch these experiences in hours—it’s what today’s customers expect.
Looking at the Microsite Problem
Microsites create an exciting opportunity for organizations trying to market a specific event, highlight a new product or otherwise engage in a timely initiative. They become problematic if companies can't manage them efficiently.
A recent Forbes story by contributor Mat Zucker highlighted a potential microsite nightmare. In this example, a hypothetical microsite launched in 2007 to run alongside television ads for a short campaign. Early conversions and ROI were good. The problem is the site is still up, uses outdated technologies, performs poorly and siphons search results from the main domain.
This microsite initially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in IT expenses and agency fees, and the company is still paying for hosting and generating negative customer experiences, even though the campaign is over, Zucker explained.
This exemplifies the overarching problem of microsites—they can divide a brand's online presence and create significant management overhead. While Zucker was describing a theoretical example, he used an experience many businesses have encountered. The problem is real, but effective strategies can overcome some of these concerns.
Countering the Microsite Problem
In order for companies to reap the benefits, a good microsite strategy must:
- Have a clear start and end to avoid wasted hosting expenses
- Align with the brand's SEO and customer experience goals
- Function as part of a larger marketing strategy, not an isolated instance
- Do something unique—either visually or in terms of interactivity—to make it stand out as an independent entity
Each of these tactics is easier to enact with the right technology in place. Getting a site out on time is effortless when the content management system allows for rapid development and customization. Getting messaging on point is simpler in a CMS with robust editing, commenting and approval tools.
A microsite must be heavily branded, not a one-off experiment. A report from The SEM Post describing a Google Hangout hosted by the search engine giant's John Mueller reinforces this point.
During the Hangout, Mueller explained that Google generally frowns on the idea of creating a bunch of small sites focusing on individual topics. Mueller warned that brands taking this approach can get overwhelmed managing and maintaining these distinct pages and are generally better able to drive conversions and achieve goals by focusing on fewer sites.
Mueller isn't saying microsites themselves are the problem but that they become an issue when organizations can't manage and maintain them well. Businesses can take advantage of the benefits microsites offer while avoiding potential downsides by eliminating operational overhead. A good CMS enables organizations to streamline development, content creation, editing and publishing processes. Simplifying these back-end procedures makes it easier to not only create a microsite but also manage it throughout its life.
Using a CMS to Keep Microsites Valuable
Establishing a microsite used to create development and technical burdens that made rolling out new experiences challenging. In today’s world, it is essential that any microsite be developed and managed within the same platform as the rest of the organization's content. Building microsites from the same CMS allows companies to take preexisting development work, media assets and content processes and apply them to the microsite.
Web content management systems like Brightspot allow organizations to take all their brand guidelines, design elements, reporting systems and management capabilities and apply them to microsites. This means a unique site can be rolled out quickly and easily within the core CMS, making it easier to manage and support the microsite over time and shut it down at the end of the campaign. By being able to quickly roll out custom microsites without building everything from scratch or learning new interfaces, companies can get the value of microsites without the headaches.