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The Mighty Microsite: When, Why, and How to Use One

19 Jan , 2017 | Mason

Microsites can be a creative playground for brands with a specific campaign, message, or call-to-action to showcase. Rather than be limited by the presentation and structure of an existing website, a microsite allows the brand to design a new experience that’s especially well-suited to the desired outcome, whether that’s awareness, advocacy, sharing, purchasing, or some combination of results.

So what is a microsite, and how might it come in handy?

A microsite is, in many ways, just what it sounds like: a small web property, limited in size and scope, which serves as an auxiliary website for a larger ‘parent’ site. It has its own URL and is typically designed and branded independently from the parent site.

A microsite often houses a unique promotion, a highlighted topic, a focused campaign, an alternative brand experience (such as a branded game), or a particular product or piece of content. It is usually just a few pages deep and might even be contained on a single page.

Some examples of microsites:

  • VisitConnecticut.com, a subsidiary of VisitNewEngland.com, which also has microsites for five other states in the region. All the sites have similar branding and point back to the parent site, but each is built out with content specific to its target state.
  • Red Bull maintains several microsites for its many events, such as Flugtag and the Soapbox Race.
  • Mason launched ClosertoFree.com on behalf of Yale New Haven Health’s Smilow Cancer Hospital to draw attention to their mission of making the world cancer free.
  • IKEA and its Norwegian agency created ‘A Good Day Starts Here,’ an interactive film that, at various points, directs viewers to specific IKEA products used around the home.

Microsites can be practical as well as promotional – some companies choose to house their job listings and application tools, employee portals, or resources for existing clients or members, under a URL separate from their main website.

5 Reasons to Consider a Microsite

microsite on a laptop

There are several advantages to creating an independent microsite rather than just adding a new page or section to an existing brand website.

Microsites connect the promotional message directly to additional info.

This is the need that motivates the creation of most microsites. Instead of referring viewers to a general site, where information may not look the same or be easily found, a microsite brings everything together in one place with no distractions. The only content on the page is that which is relevant to the highlighted product or service. Calls to action are limited and explicit. There are no easy “outs” – links to other sections of the parent site or banners promoting a different message, for example. All emphasis is given to the subject at hand.

Microsites offer a blank slate in both design and navigation.

The destination page doesn’t get buried or crowded out by other menu options, and the content isn’t limited to the structure and style of the parent site. For example, the parent site might not be designed in a way that allows full-screen graphics or clever interactives.

A branded microsite doesn’t compete with the parent brand.

A campaign with distinct branding might clash with the look and feel of the parent brand if they both occupied the same site. On a microsite, the parent brand can still be present while the campaign itself takes the spotlight.

Microsites are back in vogue as social media organic reach has dwindled.

For a while, brands would simply create unique social media profiles, like Facebook Pages, for their independent campaigns or special initiatives. But as social media has increasingly become a ‘pay to play’ environment, these Pages are less attractive standalone options.

 

Of course, microsites aren’t without their drawbacks. Some users may be confused or put off by a different interface or user experience than they’re used to, particularly if they clicked over from the parent site. Microsites also require ongoing maintenance and may even demand a different content management system or hosting solution than the parent site (and don’t forget the mobile version), and those resources add up. Not every campaign merits its own microsite.

But for those that do, microsites can be an effective, creative, and even fun way for brands to get a specific message in front of their audience. It’s a chance to break out of the box and do something unexpected without a total overhaul of your existing digital real estate.

Love microsites? Hate ‘em? Want to know more? Leave your comments and questions below.

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