Lately I’ve been thinking about Microsites. Not so much because I wanted too, but because clients have been asking for them.
I suppose I was a bit surprised these things still existed. For those who don’t keep up on these trends Microsites began as a few pages of content focusing on highlighting specific topics of a larger site. For example if I had a website that was covering winter activities, I would create a microsite about snowboards. The microsite would have its own domain and often times it could be duplicated out onto fellow affiliate sites in order to bring more users back to the main site.
The original benefits of Microsites was that they could be used as targeting tools to elevate your brand as well as provide a testing ground for various key words or test out user generated content.
Unfortunately as the web evolves I see less and less use from these sites when it relates to SEO. The reason is most often when a microsite is given out to affiliates they rarely take the time to customize the content, headings, titles, etc. So you end up with numerous identical sites and fall prey to duplicate content devaluation in rankings, and depending on how quality these affiliate sites of yours are, the backlinks may not even be taken into consideration, or worse, they may hurt your site’s ranking.
On the other hand, if built efficiently and quickly they can be a great “added value” to your affiliates, though I strongly recommend they personalize each one with some unique information. For example, using my winter activity site from earlier, let’s say I sell snowboard, ski equipment etc. I create a microsite for each of my affiliates on these topics, such as ice skates, which links back to the ice skate section of my online store. While the microsite may be linking to the same content, I’d want my affiliates to customize the microsite with their brand name in the titles, perhaps even their contact info and address.
Of course this creates a new issue, how much time should be spent on a microsite before you’re basically creating your own niche website? Therein pops up a new issue we have to consider, because we all know Niche sites no longer work.