The Lightweight Alternative
The definition of a microsite is an auxiliary website with independent links and address that is accessed mainly from a larger site. They are separate from a company’s full website and are dedicated to serving one purpose: eliminating the clutter and distractions that come with a full website.
They are not to be confused with landing pages in that microsites are less oriented to driving immediate action and geared towards exploring a product or subject more deeply without having to navigate through the rest of your general website.
In the Corporate world, they have become a ‘lightweight alternative’ to the overwhelming, main website that has an enormous amount of content that doesn’t meet the visitors exact need. They provide deeper content that’s easier to consume, but, are brief enough to avoid being overwhelming, each step serving a purpose of generating new leads.
Some companies use microsites to highlight a specific campaign, launch a promotion, target specific buyer personas, tell a short story or to inspire a specific call-to-action that full websites cannot. Microsites also have more viral potential because they can be understood quickly and companies seem to place more risky content on them.
Also, another reason companies create microsites is because the main website often fails to meet Google’s Quality Score guidelines to power Adwords ads. They are a good way to comply with SEO specifications.
Generate New Leads
But what our ultimate goal is to generate new leads and make sales. Microsites often use different forms of branding to reach new target audiences and generate new leads for your business. And some are using directional cues to drive users to complete a certain call-to-action, removing any other distraction or navigation bar entirely.
In a study performed by Forrester Research, a microsite was four times more effective than a traditional marketing campaign. And in a seperate study by MECLABS, they further found the content arrangement made all the difference. The microsite that placed the majority of their information on a single page, or long-copy strategy, had an increase of conversions by 155% over ‘multiple step’ design. The less favorable, multiple step design included all the decision making information but required visitors to take multiple steps to see it. Less steps = increased conversions.
Characteristics of an Effective Microsite
There are certain characteristics that result in an effective microsite.
- A focused topic – you can use a microsite to support a specific campaign. Keep it simple to keep people on the page but not take up too much of their time.
- Creative design – branch out from the design of your main site with more of an edge.
- Engaging user interaction – just one or two calls to action, minimizing the steps to find information
- Quality information – provide more, in depth information about one topic
The Beauty of Microsites
Microsites have the ability of being discrete from a company’s main website, allowing the designer to be more flexible with the design, content and tone while maintaining a consistent message. Designers can be more creative and let their ‘freak flag fly.’ The riskiness allows a greater possibility of it being shared and more likely to go viral.
- Visitors can quickly navigate to the content most relevant to their search.
- Marketers can easily use the data to naturally segment their audience.
- Build reusable templates that let you leverage the design assets of one concept across a number of campaigns.
- They are quick to create and can often be deployed quickly.
- You can use A/B testing to compare the performance.
- The new breed of microsites are HTML… they load quickly, built quickly, they’re SEO friendly and inexpensive.
- Helps leverage your social media marketing, extending your reach and building awareness organically.
- Have to adapt to different interfaces when visitors access the microsite while exploring the main site.
- May cause confusion for those who saw the campaign and didn’t make a note of the URL.
- A poorly designed microsite can actually reduce conversions.
- It requires long-term maintenance, which can be expensive.
- It can become inaccessible for a significant part of its target audience as technology changes.
Using a microsite is a company’s preference, however, I think the pros outweigh the cons. Why not, if you have the resources… and it can extend your audience reach.
What do you think? What is your experience? We’d love to know.