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By B.L. Ochman

It’s time to banish 99% of micro-sites. They waste money, Google juice, and sales. Then there’s the 1% that work.

Definition: Micro-sites typically contain one to five pages of content and are promoted, independently of a company’s homepage, through traditional media and search engines.
They often run without so much as a link from a corporate homepage that gets millions of unique visitors, and that has high search ranking – not to mention a loyal customer base.
Instead of integrating all of their marketing efforts, many huge corporations spend millions of dollars to drive traffic to micro-sites. Then, after the promotion is over, the micro-site is often taken down. Oy vey!
That’s also bad from an SEO viewpoint because you don’t get the benefit of positive metrics and influence of an established site.
Integration is the name of the game
If you’re going to spend the time money and effort to create a special promotion, community, game, contest, etc, it makes sense – from an economic, marketing, and influence point of view – to send visitors to it from your homepage. The homepage should serve as your company’s dashboard.
Pepsi_Refresh2010.pngIf you’re promoting something people would actually want to know about — and if your company is already involved in social media – and has built a true community, you can employ it to drive traffic to the special promotion.
If you’re not obnoxious about it, you can Include your promotion in your Twitter stream, and your Facebook page, your Flickr page, your YouTube page, etc.
Pepsi is getting set to do just that in 2010 with its Refresh Everything site. Looks like it’ll be a terrific, integrated, multi-media initiative for the brand. Link from the corporate site? Nah!

  • Take a look at the new brand homepage, which serves as a dashboard for the brand’s scores of micro-sites and communities. Link from the corporate homepage? Nah!
  • Silos, status quo, fear
    Why do so many companies build so many micro-sites?

    • A lot of companies – Pepsi, for example, have an old-school corporate homepage that’s basic brochureware for investors. Legal, HR, and, I’m guessing, the board, would not be comfortable with the snazzy new brand image.
    • Often it’s because there is no cooperation between marketing and IT;

    • When the micro-sites promote social media initiatives, the lack of links from the homepage is often the result of corporate fear and indecision. “What if we get negative comments? What if people won’t like the idea? etc”
    • Management often doesn’t give marketing a seat at the strategy table, so marketing is pretty much forced to develop micro-sites. If you know you have a marketing budget for the year, the reasoning goes, why fight for integration. That battle could take years to win. Just build a micro-site.
    • Micro-sites are easier to get approved because management often perceives that they present less threat to the corporate profits, and are less likely to raise the ire of legal if they’re out in the ether instead of staring out from the homepage.
    • Agencies, in their quest for more billing, suggest micro-sites. Hey, it keeps their staffs employed.

    When micro-sites make sense
    Of course there are exceptions, and some times when a micro-site makes sense:

    • When you are launching a brand you are that will be spun off at a later date
    • When an available URL is a great descriptive, containing the exact keywords you know people will put in search engines.

    SEO Goddess Jill Whalen explains it in a nutshell: “Creating micro-sites is a very old SEO tactic that was never very effective, and it’s not something that the search engines generally appreciate….One great site is 1,000 times better than 50 small sites.”
    Bonus Link: Rich Nadworny, Connect Everything