A microsite (also: micro-website) is an auxiliary website with independent links and address that is usually accessed from a larger site. Typically, the microsite is related to the larger site by topic, but focuses on one or a few specific points.
Examples include the presentation of a given product type, a particular campaign or event. Microsites have a separate URL and can also work creatively independent. They are optimized for specific keywords and are connected through backlinks to the main website or its larger corporate Internet presence. Unlike unlawful doorway pages, microsites can definitely provide informative content to users.
Microsites have important advantages for online marketing. They address users on very specific subjects, for example, a special price promotion for a particular smartphone model or the current exhibition in a museum. You can steer the focused attention of visitors to individual marketing campaigns, or order and subscription forms, and increase customer awareness thereof.
Users will not be distracted as much by other information or choices on microsites. Microsites often receive higher visitor numbers for the site operator. They are more likely to be found by visitors who are already looking for an exact specific thing. By linking, visitors can be directed to the larger main website, for example, to the smartphone manufacturer or the museum where new prospects and customers can be won. A microsite is an especially useful marketing tool when a single product or an action is more well-known than the parent company’s website.
Some companies utilize microsites for search engine optimization. Smaller keyword-optimized microsites are meant to produce a better ranking, especially when the actual company’s website is not sufficiently optimized. Whether they actually fulfill this purpose, however, is questionable (see “cons”). In any case, for a good ranking, microsites also need suitable copy and informative content instead of randomly distributed keywords.
Shortly before the turn of the millennium the first microsites appeared on the Internet. For targeted interactive marketing campaigns, larger websites were often too cumbersome. Therefore it was obvious to build smaller auxiliary sites for such special promotions that could be loaded faster. One of the first microsites that caused a stir worldwide was Burger King's “Subservient Chicken” campaign, for a chicken burger from 2004. The small site with the chicken, which users could order about, has been clicked three-quarters of a million times. Other companies followed suit quickly, and some with even greater success. Now, microsites are everywhere.
Experience in online marketing has shown that microsites can also confuse users if they direct them away from the main website and to its own URL with possibly a different design or user guidance. Many microsites also lack a clear path to the larger website.
Online security experts have expressed criticism that users do not feel secure enough against viruses or spam on small auxiliary pages without the domain authority of a large website. Some users may therefore avoid microsites.
The cost of a microsite with its own design, own CMS template and maintenance that will be necessary in the long term are relatively high. It should not exceed the advertising benefits actually achieved from it.
If you use microsites mainly for search engine optimization, you could be disappointed. Meanwhile, factors such as authority and credibility of a website are more important than pure visitor numbers. One must also be careful not to draw most of the traffic and backlinks to microsites. These are needed for the good ranking of a company on the main page.