Why using microsites for specific campaigns might not be a smart idea

Road sign: Ghost Town Road

For a long time now I’ve thought that for a new product, service or campaign it could make sense to create a microsite with its own unique domain name. I thought it would be good for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing generally.

But lately, looking at some of our sites which are now more of historical interest than of evident current business value, I’ve been re-thinking that approach.

With at least a couple of the sites which  I set up on a stand-alone basis I could probably have achieved the same, perhaps even better results, by incorporating the content in this Des Walsh dot Com site, or another which was more likely to continue as a live site.

Reading a couple of blog posts today (both written back in November last year) has moved me further along the path of skepticism about mini-sites. The posts have a context of  campaigns much more expensive than mine, but the underlying principles seem to me to apply as much for small business as for large enterprises.

In his post Stop Building Microsites? Todd Defren wonders about their value and while in seeming to be generally not in favor of building microsites, finishes with a less than conclusive observation that brand marketers “think long & hard about developing microsites”.  He also has the grace to mention that his firm was at the time building a microsite for a client. I found his outlining of the pros and cons helpful and I concluded from his comments that, particularly for a small business, the possible benefits of a microsite would usually be outweighed by the disadvantages. Particularly telling for me was his comment that “It’s rare to see a microsite with any real traction”.

In her post Building Channel or Why Microsites are a Bad Idea Maggie Fox is more definite – and definitely not in favor of microsites – arguing that companies generally need to start thinking like media companies and “build channel”. I like all the points she makes, especially about building online real estate:

Your plan should be to build permanent real estate (your own and on the social networks of choice for the people you are trying to reach) that can be strategically leveraged to let you connect with the people you want to talk to most and who want to talk to you.

So am I convinced? Will I no longer use microsites for my businesses or for clients? I think the answer for me has to be a “definite maybe”.

While I believe I’m over microsites for the most part, there are a couple of examples in Todd Defren’s post and related comments that suggest it could be a good idea to not rule out completely the possibility of microsites being useful in certain circumstances.

If you have examples of where you or others have used microsites successfully,  I hope you will share them here.

Photo was snapped by me from the freeway,  en route from Las Vegas NV to Los Angeles CA late in 2008

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).