Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To Micro Site or Not Micro Site - Vanessa has an answer

Marketing in the Age of Google
As a long time fan of Vanessa Fox's work, and her book (above) I found her thoughtful summary (below) of Six (6) reasons why its good to avoid a microsite strategy insightful. Below are some highlights.


1. You lose brand identity and audience engagement

You spend significant corporate energy on positive brand perception and awareness. And then you start over completely from scratch with an entirely new brand. Woo? If you are reaching an entirely different audience and your current brand would be confusing, then you may in fact want to build out a new brand, but that case, you probably won’t be launching a microsite, you’ll launch a full site. In most cases, microsites are subsets of or promotions for the main site, with exactly the same audience. Do you really want to work at building up multiple brand identities? And do you really not want to benefit from the brand building in one category for another related category? (This comes especially important with ecommerce sites, such as those operates. Even today, we don’t want to hand over our credit card information to just any site.)

Brand awareness has a search impact as well. As I note in the searcher behavior chapter of my book, searchers quickly evaluate the search results page to determine which result to click on. Many things go into that evaluation, but certainly brand recognition helps in evaluating credibility and perceived value.

2. You lose the ability to leverage your audience

Let’s say you launch an awesome site with a fantastic user experience, great products, and unrivaled customer support. For instance, let’s say you’re Zappos. Someone writes up a positive article about you in say, the NY Times. Readers start clicking over to your site. They see you sell running shoes. They just read about how great you are, so they feel confident about purchasing some products from your site. But maybe those same readers also need some clothes to go running in. If you had a separate microsite, you’ve just missed a great opportunity to reach a targeted and motivated audience.

3. You confuse people and search engines

Oh, I won’t have that whole NY Times reader problem, you say. I’ll just keep a complete copy of my content on my main site too! That way, I can reach the audience for my main site as well as get all the additional audience potential of the microsite. Oh really? First, that’s just confusing. If someone becomes accustomed to shopping for athletic clothes on your main site and then clicking over for shoes, but then one day they end up on and everything looks the same… and yet the shoes are gone — that’s just not the experience you want to give users. read more...

4. You may have to spend substantial additional resources

The microsites run by all use the same template and content management system. So it seems like low engineering overhead to maintain them all. But wait. As you build out the content of both sites, you have to decide which content to put where. And decide how to spend marketing, PR, and advertising resources. When you issue a press release, which site do you talk up? All of them? What if you have 20? And you likely are doing social media. Do you now maintain 20 Facebook pages and 20 Twitter accounts? I’m tired just thinking about it. Read more...

5. You cobble your search acquisition efforts

A big part of ranking well in search engines continues to be the strength of the external links to the site. If you maintain multiple sites, then you are diluting that external link value. If five people link to your main site and five people link to your microsite, each site is competing for rankings against the rest of the web with those five links. Instead, you could have one site competing with ten links. Anything that you do for offsite search engine optimization, you have to repeat for each site.

6. It can be difficult to match promotions to search visiblity

One common case of microsites is when a company launches a new promotion. It seems to make perfect sense to launch a microsite as part of that promotion. You can tie branding to the promo and it can be a lot easier to outsource the development of the site to the agency that is managing the promotion creative than to try to coordinate in-house resources and add a section about the promotion to the main company website. Read more...

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