Are microsites targeted tools or segmentation traps?

Any time your content isn’t all under the same roof, there is the potential for fragmentation. However, there are legitimate strategies where microsites are not only appropriate, but preferred.

Microsites are specialty websites that are related to, but separate from, your main organization (parent) website. They can be created in a similar look and feel to the parent website, or can have a totally different design, structure and content focus.

Checklist: Best uses of microsites

  • Are you trying to reach a different population from your core audience? Some organizations find it’s preferable to maintain separate but related sites for the general public or special segments of an industry.
  • Do you have a targeted, specific and/or finite communication need?Microsites are the most successful when they provide very distinct content to a targeted audience segment. For example, microsites for events or specific initiatives serve very specific needs as compared with a more content diverse parent site.
  • Is there a clear content differentiation? A microsite works best if there’s very little cross-talk or content overlap needed between the parent site and microsite.
  • Marketing is all about segmentation and targeting, and microsites help you do that. A separate site and name (such as meetingname.association.org) can make content easier to find with search engines and facilitate direct marketing.
  • Do you need a direct path to key information? Not everyone comes through the home page of your site so a microsite can help elevate high-profile content.

When to consider a microsite

Keep in mind that a microsite should only be considered as a solution to audience or content needs, and never as a fix for poor site organization. Anything that is an integral part of your association does not warrant a microsite — they need dedicated sections within your main site.

Therefore, a microsite should be created only after it’s been determined that there is no way for your parent site to adequately meet your communication needs.

If you are considering a microsite because of inadequate sections to house the content, or unclear navigation to reach the content or poor technology tools to or address the specific audience on the parent site, you should first explore whether some reorganization, navigation or programmatic changes would mitigate issues. Only then should a microsite be considered as an effective solution.

Key considerations and pitfalls to avoid when creating a microsite

Microsites are an extension of your organization, and as such, great care needs to be taken in the creation and upkeep for them to maximize your investment. It’s essential to consider and keep the following caveats in mind as you develop:

  • Will having different sites affect your marketing efforts? Will you have to duplicate some tactics (and how will this be managed)?
  • Are there overlaps in the content you want your microsite audiences to view versus your parent website? Will you be able to take full advantage of cross-fertilization opportunities (e.g. “If you’re considering this book, you may want to register for our webinar on this topic”), and will the microsite enhance or reduce those?
  • Branding and integration with the rest of the organization is imperative. If you decide to create a microsite, you need to ensure a very clear relationship to the main site – otherwise, visitors may not know the microsite is owned by your organization.
  • Navigation on your microsite will likely differ from your parent site, so providing clear ways to reach the main organization website and making it clear when you go back and forth are essential.

We’d love to hear from those of you with microsites — any other best practices or caveats to add?

Layla Masri

About Layla Masri

Layla is a co-founder of Bean Creative. She leverages her ad agency background and 15-plus years as a marketing and web copywriter to maximize interactive impact for strategic planning, usability/accessibility, and digital promotion.
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