Building a massive number of microsites targeting very narrow specific niches and keywords was a strategy that was very popular in the late 2000s and very early 2010s.
While this is not a method of profitable site building I threw full energy into, it was something I saw practiced frequently when I was starting in the niche website business.
What are Microsites?
Microsites are sites that generally have a very small number of pages with a very narrow focus. These are sites that tend to be 1-10 posts total, often including all pages on the menu. This intense focus might be on a very specific topic, an incredibly niche community, or even a single one-time event.
These sites are designed to be mostly complete once the page setup and initial content has been written.
Brief History of Microsites
Microsites were incredibly popular in the early to mid-2000’s because they worked. Sites would pop up looking at a high-paying ebook, a Clickbank product, or other big-ticket item and a site would be created around that and a series of very niche topics as supporting content.
All the content would be based on long tail keywords, closely related to the product or topic the product covered that could still be used to make a pitch.
Why Microsites Fell Out of Style
The easy answer is Google. When major changes came with the original Panda and Penguin updates, these took away the ability for thin-content sites to rank high in the search engines. These updates also made obsolete the strategy of pouring spam links onto a microsite.
This had previously worked to allow mere 5 or 10 page sites to rank for some decent keywords, but this became far less common after both of these updates had time to fully integrate with Google’s algorithm.
Since microsites stopped ranking, they stopped bringing in traffic and stopped making money for the website owners. Google wanted better sites with more content, and more in-depth content, and that is the polar opposite of what the microsite model provided.
Pros and Cons of Microsites
That was the past, but what role do microsites play online today? This is a question that interested me since it’s such a divergence from the mass content strategy that so many niche website builders practice.
Are microsites dead, or do they still offer some advantages that make them worth considering in certain situations?
The negatives are obvious to those of us used to working with niche sites. Google wants authority, and they want a lot of content. This is clearly on the other side of the coin to what microsite offers.
This means microsites have limited ways to get traffic, and often will require at least some paid traffic to make it work. Paid ad arbitrage is very difficult to pull off as an affiliate, limiting the monetization options that remain for a microsite owner.
- Easy to build
- Narrow focus
- Good for promoting one-time events or focused cause
- Funnel for product/sales
- Directs attention fully to what you want it on
- Not going to win authority in Google’s eyes
- Doesn’t work well for ads/affiliates
- Almost always need outside marketing to drive traffic
- Not a viable long-term strategy for passive income
When to Build Microsites
While the cons may outweigh the pros when it comes to microsites, especially when looking at it under the lens of affiliate or display ad websites (aka “mini-niche sites”), there are times when it actually makes sense to build a microsite.
Microsites can serve a very niche purpose, and when they are used correctly, they can be quite effective.
What are the best reasons for creating and then promoting a microsite?
- Promoting a specific event
- Creating a small targeted site with information on a specific product or service being offered
- Announce a new or updated product line
- Announcing a company campaign or initiative
This is a situation where you don’t want a specific topic, product, or event to have its attention swallowed up by all the other content on your site.
Promote a Specific Event
Building a microsite can be a great way to promote a specific event, especially if you’re not sure whether or not it will be a recurring yearly thing. This might be a one-time marketing conference, co-sponsoring a cultural event, or announcing a new creative project or endeavor.
If that specific event is going to be at the forefront of a business push, then giving it its own microsite can make a lot of sense.
Pushing a New Product Line, Campaign, or Initiative
Even many large companies will do this. You see this a lot in the food and beverage industry in particular where a company will announce a new flavor or food, and then a microsite will be built to hype the new offering.
This can be a great way to bring major attention to a new product or initiative and have that one spot where people who are interested can find concise information on that very specific thing without having to dig through a full company website.
Creating an Expanded Funnel
In marketing setting up a funnel to a sales page has been a strong way to entice visitors to a potential sale. While this is still a popular method, some marketers have found creating an entire microsite creates a degree of trust that converts better.
The purpose is still to push visitors to a funnel page, but with a microsite there are multiple pages that can soft sell, push to the actual sales page, or fill out the information for a more “media-friendly” package that can open up options for garnering attention.
When to Focus on Other Types of Sites
While microsites have some uses, there are many times when focusing on a more conventional niche site model or large authority content sites makes more sense.
Any time the long-term goal is organic traffic, passive income, or something that works without active marketing, a microsite will not get the job done. These are cases where going with the more conventional model of niche site building will almost certainly provide much better results.
Going the larger content site route over microsites makes sense when:
- The goal is to sell the website
- The goal is passive income
- The focus is on more than just one product, one event, or one single announcement
- Monetization focus is affiliate or display ads
- There is no major advertising budget or social media following to direct to a microsite
Far more often than not, a niche website heavy on content and articles will serve the purpose of most bloggers or marketers versus a microsite, especially in the situations listed in the previous bullet points.
Microsites aren’t nearly as popular, or as powerful, as they used to be. While their place as part of a large passive income portfolio of sites has passed, there are situations where they can still provide excellent focused value.
- Mass producing microsites is no longer a winning strategy
- Microsites aren’t for passive income or website flips
- Microsites are best used as a focused promotional strategy
- Microsites will require marketing and advertising versus organic traffic
Understanding where each type of site can be useful, and where it won’t, can make sure every site you build is done with the strategy that makes it most likely to be effective.