What is a microsite?
A microsite is a branded content site that promotes a company’s product, service, campaign or event. Microsites typically use a different domain/subdomain and brand identity than a company’s main website, but often link to the main site. These interactive, visual and content-heavy sites help brands connect with their users. As their name suggests, microsites are small—sometimes just a single web page—but if done right, can positively impact a brand.
A microsite has a different purpose from its parent website, and often has a more tailored aesthetic compared to the broader site. They tend to be information-heavy, and yet do not provide much information about the parent brand or company itself. For example, they do not typically contain pages like “About Us,” “About The Team,” etc.
A website is a company’s “face,” and yet it doesn’t need to present every campaign, event, or new products. Microsites can therefore be the perfect one-off, short-lived platform to keep your launch tight and targeted.
Microsite vs landing page
Don’t confuse microsites with landing pages. Landing pages are typically single pages within microsites or parent sites that appear in response to a search result listing, marketing promo, marketing email or online ad. Companies use landing pages for lead generation. A microsite is not a type of landing page.
By contrast, companies use microsites to communicate a specific message, generate interest, spread to a new market or simply engage users.
Not everyone loves microsites. Some critics have noted that big brands favor microsites because they let them hire a cheaper or faster vendor for a smaller project separate from their main website’s codebase, budgets, processes, etc. Those same critics note that tracking microsites’ analytics can be extremely tricky – from an SEO perspective, they involve starting over without any of the parent website’s domain authority, PageRank clout or existing links.
But for many companies, particularly those on the smaller side, the benefits of microsites can outweigh these potential negatives.
Why and how can I launch a microsite?
Companies use microsites as a platform for potential customers to discover their brand and perform a given action. That action can range anywhere from simply reading the content to registering for email newsletters or making a purchase. While a microsite can share brand components with the parent site (such as logo design, color schemes, typefaces etc.), you may also choose to change these to make the microsite stand out or communicate a distinct message.
Many companies turn to microsites to provide information about a certain product, service, or new technology. For example, a carmaker might unveil a microsite for a new model. Or a party goods site or events hall might launch a site for a certain holiday (Halloween, Christmas) or special event (the Super Bowl). And with the rising prevalence of as pay per click (PPC) advertising, microsites may carry specific, contextual ads or keyword-rich content with the intent of boosting SEO ranking.
Wix has tons of resources for building your microsite. You can start here:
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All-stars: Microsites that get the job done
IKEA. The European multinational leveraged its established branding as a one-stop home shop to address COVID-19’s dramatic lifestyle change: Spending nearly all of our time at home. Its Life at Home microsite presented a visually compelling, easy-to-use but also informative report on maintaining mental wellbeing during a stressful, unexpected and “abnormal” time. It even came with a snappy tagline (“A home space for our headspace.”) Above all, the microsite formed positive associations between the importance of healthy relationships and living spaces with IKEA’s branding, making customers likely to make online IKEA purchases even while physically visiting the stores remained impossible.
Patagonia. The California clothing retailer partnered with the film studio Farm League to build a Blue Heart microsite, highlighting the environmental damage caused by hydroelectric dams to Europe’s last remaining wild rivers. Unlike most microsites, Blue Heart avoids prominent Calls-to-Action (CTAs) that would lead visitors back to the company’s main site. Rather, through a short film, interactive map and articles, it focuses on the higher cause. The microsite transcends mere lead-generation, instead showcasing the parent company’s genuine commitment to a pressing international mission.
Adobe. Visitors to My Creative Type complete a short, 15-question survey gauging their thinking, behavior and outlook. A playful, visually creative video illustrates what each answer says about the person completing the test. Finally, the site assigns one of eight creative “personality types,” reflecting the visitor’s strengths, motivations, potential and advice for furthering creative goals. Visitors can then download their results and share them on social media. This fun, fascinating microsite not only allows users to assess their own creative strengths, but also connects them to Adobe’s array of creative software choices.
While a microsite is not a landing page, there are many elements of landing page design that work to make a microsite a success too.