Back to Microsites
Back to Microsites

What's the difference between a website and a microsite?

website vs. microsite differences illustration

Microsites can serve many needs, but generally are intended to support specific digital campaign goals that diverge slightly from your main website or require a dedicated set of styles, content and calls to action in support of the campaign. Let's delve deeper into the ways a microsite differs to a website, and how your CMS needs to be configured to support the different objectives and programming needs for each.

CMS use cases
Manage your portfolio of microsites with a CMS that’s flexible enough to support individual campaign customization alongside shared features like assets, templates, integrations and more.

Your website is the face of your business. Marketers know better than anyone that even though the main website is the gateway—the digital hub—for the organization, it doesn’t always need to present every piece of information, from campaigns, to events, to new products.

That’s where microsites come into play. These branded content sites can be the perfect one-off, short-lived platform to keep your launch or campaign clean and concise, tight and targeted.

Website vs. microsite: What's the difference?

  • A website is a company’s main site that serves as the "face" of the business. It captures information for all services, products and solutions for the company, typically has multiple landing pages with different information the user may be searching for, and is meant to serve as a persistent gateway across all channels.
  • A microsite is a branded content site—or a "content hub"—that lives outside of your company website and/or brand URL. Microsites do not need to have completely different URLs; they can be subdomains of your main website or even a subdirectory within it. Microsites serve as a tool that allows marketers to launch a new product or promotion, reach a new audience or raise awareness in a specific, targeted way that conveys some creative flexibility beyond your main website.

How does a landing page differ from a website or microsite?

In short, it doesn't. Landing pages are individual web pages that tie back into the main experience of a website or a microsite. They are designed to provide online visitors with more information about services, products or solutions for that particular digital experience. Sometimes they include a call to action, perhaps so the company can learn more about the site visitor, or they provide links that drive deeper into the respective experience for that visitor to explore and learn more.

Obviously, a landing page is a single entity page by definition, whereas a website or microsite could include several or many landing pages (along with additional content types like articles, galleries or topic areas). That said, a microsite could comprise a single landing page should that be enough to convey appropriate messaging; it is highly unlikely a website would contain a single landing page.

What are some good examples of microsites that show the difference between a microsite and website?

The following are four examples of microsites built by customers using features in Brightspot CMS to bring different digital campaigns and initiatives to life. Although these microsites utilize unique design elements, language and calls-to-action, they are built on the shared foundation of the respective parent websites and/or brands.

Mattress Firm: Unjunk Your Sleep

As part of a high-profile campaign during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics—and featuring on NBC News and in The Wall Street Journal—Mattress Firm redesigned and launched the microsite for "Unjunk Your Sleep" in just 10 business days with Brightspot. This is a good example of the ways a microsite approach can help bring messaging and products to market quickly while being easy to both archive following the success completion of a microsite campaign as well as reintroduce over time.
Unjunk Your Sleep microsite from the Mattress Firm

Special Olympics: Eunice Kennedy Shriver

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver microsite is a section published on that's dedicated to the pioneering vision of the Special Olympics' founder. Presenting facts and resources, it's also a place for media and journalists to explore more resources to tell the movement's story.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver microsite on
Having the Eunice Kennedy Shriver microsite within gave it great discoverability. Even in the short time that we've been integrated, we’ve seen traffic to it go up about 61% in the past year.
Crystal Hudson, VP, Digital Marketing & Fundraising, Special Olympics

Discover Your Forest

The Discover the Forest campaign is a partnership between the Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service. The microsite encourages families to explore nature by connecting visitors to parks and forests in their area, along with outdoor activity suggestions and relevant resources. With an accessible and welcoming interface, this microsite features a clear call-to-action in service of the campaign goals.
Discover the Forest microsite

WWE & Special Olympics: School of Strength

The Special Olympics's School of Strength microsite was launched in partnership with WWE, which is a hugely popular brand with the intellectual disability (ID) community. In 2020, WWE and the organization worked on a special video campaign to raise awareness of fitness for ID athletes using WWE superstars to encourage these athletes.
WWE School of Strength website promo
This microsite has been so successful that we’ve created a second series in Spanish to reach a broader audience. WWE was really happy with how it turned out, as this was a really cool microsite that we were able to build with very minimal, if any, development work.
Crystal Hudson, VP, Digital Marketing & Fundraising, Special Olympics

When to create a microsite, and when to shut it down

Microsites allow you to experiment, be creative and engage targeted audiences for campaigns that may include specific goal, conversion and brand objectives that need to be addressed and tracked separately from your main website. You’re able to hyper-focus the microsite on one specific business goal or message, making the microsite a strong marketing tactic to build credibility within your industry, increase customer engagement and awareness, or generate new leads.

Microsites are typically built for a specific campaign or a discrete objective. Because most of these objectives have a finite end—such as a launch or an upcoming event—they usually live online for a distinct period of time.

In many cases, it’s important to shut down a microsite when the campaign is complete or the objective is reached.

Why? First, so you don't harm your SEO score. It may be that your microsite was built specifically to serve certain campaign messaging tied to a broader push around, say, advertising or a product launch. If information becomes stale or even outdated over time, this has the potential to affect your overall SEO quality score in the eyes of search engines like Google. Further, it may be that certain features expire or stop working if and when a campaign's resources and budgets have ended. A broken or poor page experience does your site visitors no favors, and search engines are quick to flag when pages don't meet the threshold for a positive user experience.

Second, and following on directly from the above, you don’t want to frustrate visitors if the call-to-action is no longer relevant. An unhappy, confused or frustrated customer is not going to respond well in the moment, or in the future when they happen to re-engage with your brand.

To redirect microsite visitors back to the main website, your CMS should support the process to sunset a microsite in order to mitigate the above negative outcomes. Brightspot, for example, has built-in tools, including 1:1 redirects, wildcards (which bring users to a page that matches a pattern) and support for vanity URLs. These are easy to configure and also require no intervention from developers to manage directly within the CMS' publishing UI.

Finish Your Diploma Microsite

How to create a microsite with Brightspot

Once you’ve decided to build a microsite for your campaign and established its goal, it's time to create the site content with information that is concise, relevant and accurate. Visitors should be able to clearly understand why they’re on the site and leave with exactly the message you are trying to get across.

In Ad Council’s Finish Your Diploma campaign, for example, you can see that time and care went into understanding who their audience is, and what exactly they might be looking for if they land on this microsite. Overall, the campaign encourages those without a high school diploma to take the first steps towards a better future. They have created both an English and Spanish version of the site to ensure that its message is accessible to different demographics that the campaign could be targeted towards.

With the Brightspot CMS, you gain access to multisite capabilities, which allow you to create unlimited sites within a single instance of the CMS, supporting either a network of websites and/or individual microsites, along with your main website. You can:

  • Launch one or hundreds of microsites easily via the CMS, as the platform allows you to take all of your brand guidelines, design elements, reporting systems and management capabilities and apply them to any microsite. 
  • Maintain complete control over the content-development lifecycle with a visual, easy-to-use content approval workflow that enables editors to oversee each step of the process from submission to publish. Content that is created for one microsite can be shared throughout, or kept separate. Likewise, any content created exclusively for a microsite campaign that needs to live on after the original microsite expires can be quickly shared and published to other sites as needed.
  • Customize the microsite, allowing each site to have a discrete look and feel that matches the campaign while still maintaining brand consistency.
  • Leverage out-of-the-box translation services, including Google and Amazon, as well as the ability to work with third-party translation management services like WorldServer and LingoTek—or any others you want to integrate with, helping you reach global audiences.

The result of using Brightspot for your microsite needs is creating a unique site that can be rolled out quickly and easily from within the core CMS, making it simple to launch, manage and support over time and shut it down at the end of the campaign.

Discover the Forest microsite

In summary: The difference between a website and microsite explained

What is a microsite, and how does it differ from a traditional website?

A microsite is a separate, focused web page or small group of pages that are designed to serve a specific purpose or audience. It differs from a traditional website in that it is often temporary, has a more specific goal and is usually part of a larger campaign or project.

When should you use a microsite instead of a website, and vice versa?

The decision to use a microsite versus a website depends on the specific goals and needs of the project. A microsite may be more appropriate when the content is time-sensitive or campaign-specific, requires a unique design or functionality, or targets a specific audience. A website may be more appropriate when the content is broader in scope, requires a more comprehensive design or has a long-term purpose.

What are the benefits of creating a microsite over a website?

Benefits of creating a microsite include increased focus, improved engagement and more targeted messaging to a specific audience. Microsites can also be more cost-effective and require less time and resources to create than a full website.

What are the disadvantages of creating a microsite over a website?

Disadvantages of creating a microsite include potential confusion for users who are trying to navigate between the microsite and the main website, as well as the potential for the microsite to appear disconnected from the larger brand or organization.

Can a microsite be integrated with a website, and how does this affect the overall user experience?

A microsite can be integrated with a website, and this can provide a seamless user experience if the design and messaging are consistent across both platforms. Integration can also help to drive traffic to the main website, improve SEO and provide a more comprehensive user experience.


Let us give you a demo

Hear how Brightspot can turn your digital strategy goals into a reality and see how the lives of your content creators and developers will be changed using our platform.

Request Demo