Microsites: we have quite enough domains already, thanks

I’m often told by clients that they’re setting up a ‘microsite’, and what do I think of it? My answer is normally: “I wish you’d asked earlier, because I’d have advised against it”. If I can think of an analogy, it would be that the sales director has decided to set up a dedicated showroom for a particular product, but for some reason has located the showroom in a building the other side of town, rather than on the company’s premises. Of course there might be reasons for doing this, but you’re making an awful lot of extra work for yourself in promoting it.

Why would you not want to put a product or a promotional campaign on its own website? One reason: SEO. All the search engine authority you’ve built up with your main website is simply disregarded if you decide to start again with a new site. Worse still, ‘microsites’ are usually set up for specific campaigns which are expected to hit the ground running from launch day. What a disappointment it is when this new site fails to get any traction in the search engines for about six months.

Understand two things:

  • Search engines favour larger sites with a history;
  • If you have two sites, you split the SEO benefit of any external links.

The justification for setting up a microsite is often: “Well our web design/advertising agency said it would be a great idea, it could look so much better than the main website, and the new campaign would be on the home page, not buried away somewhere”. Yes, and coincidentally, they get to design a whole new website from scratch too.

There’s a quite decent compromise. Set up the microsite, with a completely different design to your main site if you really want, but keep it on the main website’s domain. So instead of setting up your swanky new LoveMyWidget.com domain to support your ‘Love My Widget’ advertising campaign, just have it as www.bluewidgetcompany.co.uk/lovemywidget. You’ll discover that a lot more people will drop by.