Micro websiteWhat is a Microsite?

A Microsite is a small website usually focused on a particular product, service or geographical location. You may have seen car manufacturers use microsites to launch a new model. Usually its a flashy affair full of stunning graphics and snazzy sounds. You’ll also notice that its heavily linked from the main site and from adword listings.  Some national home improvement companies have also invested heavily in microsites with a focus on town names and their main industry keyword.

Why would anybody need a Microsite?

To answer this you have to understand the basic principle that I have spoken about throughout this website.

“Google is committed to delivering the most relevant results”

With that in mind let me explain what happens in the world of SEO and search engines. Google has software called an algorithm, what the algorithm does is look at many different attributes for each website that it indexes. It may look at content, layout, level of onsite advertising, grammar, number and quality of links pointing to the website, the age of the domain, the age of the content, the originality of the content, the ease of navigation, compliance with current standards, page load speed, location of the host, keyword density, and lots more. The algorithm is very highly developed and complex and will give weight to certain attributes more than others, it then decides how to display the results when somebody types in a search term. It will do this based on what the algorithm decides are the most relevant results based on the search term used.

So lets say that I’m a Web Designer in St Helens but I want to attract clients from Anglesey also, What I may do is buy a domain name relevant to that area and my industry and set about building a microsite to appeal to the people who live in that area and are searching for the term “Website design”. I’d make the website specific to the area with lots of Anglesey related information on there too. I may also link back to my main St Helens Website that has more content about web design. This is traditionally how microsites have been used.

So should I be building microsites?

Well just hold on a moment, let me explain further. The algorithm that we spoke about is changing constantly and here’s why.

Google is rather secretive about their algorithm and rightly so. Do a search for anything on google and look at the sheer number of results. The internet is huge, truly bursting at the seams with information, products for sale, company websites, personal blogs and much more. In order that Google can continue to deliver “the most relevant results” it remains tight lipped about what and how it weights the different attributes of each website that it indexes. It does this because everybody wants to be on page one and if Google were to say for instance “we like big red text at the top of the website” (don’t go and do this as I’ve just made it up) then we would within hours of the announcement see thousands of websites with big red text at the top.

Google once looked at the meta keywords tag in the head section of a website. It announced many years ago that it no longer gives weight to these as web designers and SEO providers were stuffing the tags full of repeated keywords. Many web designers still choose to include a relevant keyword tag as one day Google may tweak it’s algorithm to give the smallest bit of weight back to this tag without warning.

Google has an employee by the name of Matt Cutts, who is the head of the web spam team at Google. Matt often produces videos which are in a question and answer format. He’s exceptionally good at being vague because he has to be. You can however, watch his videos and digest the information they contain and keeping in mind the phrase “most relevant results” you can come away with a better understanding of what constitutes a relevant website.

So with that in mind, back to microsites. If you already have them and they are ranking then I’d suggest that at some point  you consider redesigning your main website to include a section on the area of focus that your microsite covers. I’d then do a 301 redirect on the microsite to point at the sub directory on your main website. Google likes content, It likes providing relevant results and a good search experience. So lets look again at my example of earlier.

This website has many pages and posts about Website design and SEO. It’s geographical focus is St Helens, Merseyside. The imaginary microsite that we spoke of would only be a page or two and so although it would have a focus on Anglesey it wouldn’t have an authority on web design due to lack of content. Better then to create a sub directory on the main domain focused on the geo graphical area and yet still nested within a website that is focused on the subject matter. Also, as I think we’ve mentioned already, the Google algorithm is incredible advanced, if your existing microsites link back to your main domain then Google will eventually discover that your link strategy is based on domains owned by you. This isn’t conducive to a good search experience for the end user as it is clearly a marketing exercise and not a natural linking policy based on content merit.

I already have microsites, have these been a waste of money?

No not at all! I see many clients who have bought multiple domain names and simply pointed them at their main website. Unless they intend to publicise these additional domains they wont get any benefit at all from them. If however these additional domains are hosting microsites then they will have hopefully gained some rank in their own right. Closing these microsites and pointing the domain via a 301 redirect at relevant new content on their main website will pass any “rank juice” that the microsite has to the main domain which can only be a good thing. Google will like it, your readers will like it and so its a win win situation.

If you have several domains and /or microsites and would like to use them to your advantage then please get in touch. I’d be happy to help.

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