Are Microsites Still Relevant For SEO?

Brendan Egan

Are Microsites Still Relevant For SEO?

After spending countless hours perfecting your main website, you may be discouraged to find out your work may not be over just yet. Microsites, which are branded sites that are completely separate from your homepage and branded URL, are still a big part of many companies’ SEO strategies. But do they make a difference?
The short answer? Yes and no.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of using microsites to improve your SEO will depend on a number of different factors. So before you place a frantic call to your web developer asking him to start creating microsites, learn about the different scenarios in which microsites will and will not be beneficial to your SEO strategy.

Microsites Will Work if…

You have the resources.
There are no quick fixes when it comes to SEO, so don’t expect a microsite to magically improve your ranking overnight. If you want to try incorporating microsites into your SEO strategy, you have to be willing to invest the necessary resources to make it work.
What kinds of resources go into making a microsite? Basically, the same that would go into creating a website: content creation and link building. First, you will need to create enough content so you can launch the site without it looking completely bare. After this job is complete, you will need someone to create content on a regular basis to ensure the pages are frequently updated. The longer a page sits without being touched, the less attractive it becomes to search engines.
Many marketers may be thinking, “Can’t I just use the content I’ve already created on my homepage?” No! You can’t just copy and paste the content you have already created and posted on your homepage—it has to be unique content if you want to improve your SEO ranking. You should also be willing to dedicate link building resources to your microsite strategy so you can convince search engines to start viewing your microsites as trusted, highly cited pages. But, perhaps the most important resource you will need to dedicate to creating microsites is time. Building the microsite, writing content and acquiring inbound links all takes time, so this should be viewed as a long-term strategy.
You target certain keywords.
What keywords are you targeting with your SEO strategy? The answer to this will help you determine if you should begin to build microsites. Let’s say you run a pizza shop in Chicago, Illinois that serves gourmet, gluten-free, vegan pizzas. Targeting “Chicago pizza restaurant” is probably not a wise move for your business. Why? Not only is this keyword highly competitive, but it’s so broad that it doesn’t truly describe your business. Change your target to “Chicago gluten free vegan pizzas,” and you won’t have to compete with as many other companies because after all, how many gluten-free and vegan pizza shops could there really be in one city?
If you choose the latter approach to keywords—that is, picking long tailed keywords that are very specific to your business—microsites will be a great addition to your SEO strategy. Use microsites to completely dominate these long tail keywords so when users search for them, your homepage and microsites are the only results they see.
You need more exposure on the first page of results.
Type your brand name into a search engine and see what shows up on the first page. Hopefully, the first result is the homepage of your website, but what about the rest of the results on the first page? If the rest of the results are unrelated to your brand or unflattering (such as bad press or customer reviews), it may be wise to create microsites. Use these pages to fill up the remaining slots on the first page of the search results so you can get rid of anything you don’t want your customers to see.

Microsites Will NOT Work if…

You are not willing to invest.
Now that you understand the resources that go into creating and maintaining microsites, it’s important to reevaluate your current situation to see if you are willing and able to invest in this strategy. If you don’t have the time, don’t attempt to make this strategy work. Simply building the website and letting Google and other search engines find it is not enough to make it rank high on the results page—even if it is an exact match domain name.
You are targeting highly competitive keywords.
Let’s go back to the previous “Chicago pizza” example that was mentioned earlier. This is obviously a highly competitive keyword phrase, since there are dozens of pizza restaurants in Chicago that are vying to rank in the search results. The chances of your microsite beating out all of these other competitors is slim—that is, unless you want to dedicate countless resources to build up the authority of the microsite, but that is definitely not recommended. So, before deciding whether you should begin using microsites, ask yourself what keywords you want to target. The broader the keyword, the less effective a microsite will be.

Our Recommendations

Where do we stand in the microsite debate? Ideally, we would recommend focusing more on the branded website than multiple microsites. By this point, you have probably spent a great deal of time building your website and tweaking your SEO strategy to improve your ranking. If you create a microsite, you will have to start building that authority again from the ground up, which may not be the best way to expend your resources.
If your SEO ranking is not where you would like it to be, concentrate your efforts on revamping your website instead of branching out to create microsites. Why? Think of your homepage as the foundation of a home—you need to make sure this is sturdy and secure before you begin throwing other elements of the house’s construction into the mix. In our experience, we have found it is easier, more realistic, and more economical to strengthen the homepage with targeted content and specific landing pages before launching multiple microsites.  While we do use microsites for select clients, most of our clients find better results strengthening their main site.