What is a microsite you ask?
Think of it as a mini website. Micosites are particularly useful to generate interest and excitement around a campaign – recruitment (student or alumni) or fundraising campaigns, for example – because you can draw the site visitors into a singular, targeted experience that is impossible to duplicate on the more complex main website that must serve a variety of audiences.
Why are microsites effective?
- Focused content leads to higher attentiveness and emotional involvement, which leads to more frequent action. By building a microsite with a very directed focus, you are more likely to capture and retain the interest of visitors who are specifically looking for that kind of content. Virginia Tech’s (VT) inventyourfuture microsite is a great example of focusing prospective students on the benefits of the student experience at VT and in getting them excited about taking the next step – visiting campus or applying.
- Microsites can also establish your expertise and authority on a certain subject. For example, Proctor & Gamble’s microsite, Homemadesimple provides all sorts of ideas for DIY craft projects that do not necessarily tout P&G’s specific products, but serve the purpose of establishing P&G as an authority in all things homemade. As such, it is a useful tool for its audiences. This approach is particularly useful in university research applications and in discipline-specific microsites.
- Microsites increase audience engagement and expand your reach to new audiences. Office Max’s elfyourself microsite (as seen above) is a great example of this and has been hugely successful. It has nothing to do with what Office Max sells, but is directed at office staff members looking for a little holiday diversion and camaraderie. As such, it provides wonderful exposure for the Office Max brand…and, it’s a clever way to the company to capture email addresses for those visitors who choose to elf themselves.
Tips for Effective Microsites:
- Have a distinctive strategy and purpose for your microsite. Ask yourself the question: “What action(s) or outcomes do we want a specific audience segment to take as a result of visiting this site?”
- Size and scope of your microsite are critical factors. The complexity of the site should not exceed the available budget and human resources needed to maintain it.
- Microsites should have specific features that engage your audiences in interactivity, like allowing user-generated content, pertinent quizzes, access to customized data, or personalized facts and information.
- The name of your site is also important. Tying it to a specific campaign or your tagline, like Virginia Tech’s microsite (above), is a great way to build awareness and recall. The site doesn’t have to be an .edu site, but the most natural way to add a microsite is to use a subdomain (microsite.yourcollege.edu).
- The site’s topic, information, and call-to-action should be clear, compelling, and highly targeted. Unlike websites, microsites allow you to carefully guide the user down a specific planned path with an identified outcome such as visiting or applying, for example. Don’t publish the same content on your microsite as already exists on your website. The microsite should offer fresh information to the visitor, otherwise they will feel cheated.
- Think about how your brand ties into the microsite. Should it be closely associated or should it have it’s own look and feel like P&G’s homemadesimple example?
- Make sure to optimize the site for search and maximize the SEO by using topic-specific keywords throughout the content.
- Creating a microsite isn’t good enough. You have to actively promote it. In fact, depending on what unit the site represents, you should determine how the promotion of the site fits into the marketing strategy for that unit – i.e. an admissions microsite could be the call to action on search pieces, advertising, and in emails to prospective students at the beginning of the communication chain.