In defense of microsites

by

iMedia Connection

http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/19131.asp

Despite some strong contrary opinions, a microsite can be an essential element of a marketing campaign. Find out how to ensure its success.

While my fellow iMedia contributor Sean Cummings preaches ditching your microsite, microsites are actually a perfect vehicle for extending a brand identity into a new environment to create a consistent yet unique brand experience. They are an intermediate step in driving a visitor to take action: register, purchase something, or request deeper information about a product or service. The action is considered to be the end goal or “reason for being” of a microsite.

This end goal is dictated by the overall campaign strategy. It is extremely important to define a basic strategy approach before developing the microsite. Who are the target users? How are they willing to accept information? What is the motivation for creating the microsite?

Once the strategy is developed, the user journey must be scripted. The microsite needs to create a logical journey that is clearly crafted based on customer profiles, customer expectations and the end goal of the microsite. By providing interactive touchpoints with visitors such as, for example, calculators, an interactive demo, or a means to supply feedback, the site is leading the visitor along a path.

The journey must be a consistent brand experience. Tone of voice, use of brand images, colors, and means or style of engaging visitors should all be consistent with the corporate site. Most importantly, the path needs to lead somewhere other than a dead-end each time.

The microsite URL word choice should of course be highly relevant to the campaign. Generally speaking, there are two approaches. The first is to register an independent URL such as microsites.com. One challenge with this approach is that domain names are becoming increasingly scarce, and finding an available great phrase can be difficult.

The second approach is the “forward slash” approach — for example: concepglobal.com/microsites.

Importantly, the site should be optimized so that visitors searching for the site on search engines will find it easily, as this is where most visitors are starting. Also, the company home page should visibly and efficiently lead interested visitors to the microsite.

The return on investment with microsites can be extraordinary because of the highly effective measurement capabilities available. Visitors can be tracked from origination source, various types of data can be collected if this is required, and final sales can be measured depending on the nature of the campaign and product or service being sold. A microsite is the only way to truly engage the audience with the brand, product or service, and it’s the only way to gather actual feedback in a measurable way. Mailers, posters, and advertisements do not afford this capability.

Guidelines:

  • Don’t leave microsites hanging around; they are meant to be present for a limited time, just like event posters.
  • Don’t use a microsite as a substitute for the main site.
  • Don’t overwhelm visitors with too much information; keep the site targeted and create a logical journey catered towards each visitor.
  • Don’t provide a dead-end journey that fails to deliver.
  • Do keep the branding consistent.
  • Do select an effective URL.
  • Do ensure that the site has a reason for being (or call to action), that it’s not simply asking visitors to make an effort with a new URL just to view advertising copy.
  • Do create one central focus of the microsite — i.e., one task for the user to accomplish.
  • Do include tracking code to see who’s visiting the site.

In conclusion, starting off with a sound strategy is the first step in creating a meaningful microsite that is part of an overall strategic campaign. This means understanding the motivations behind the campaign and staying aware of the audience’s journey at every step. With consistent branding and coding that will maximize search engine visits, the microsite will be poised for success.

Dwain Thomas is managing director, Concep Evolution.

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