Tom Schmitz // Jan 23 2009
Today Rand Fishkin over at SEOmoz published a video proclaiming that microsites are a bad idea. Then, Michael Martinez, from Visible Technologies, countered that microsites can be effective on his SEO-Theory blog and his Best-SEO blog. What gives? Who’s right?
Actually, they’re both correct.
You create a microsite when you place your company’s or brand’s content on a separate domain or subdomain. If www.examplecompanysite.com is your main website then blog.examplecompanysite.com is a microsite.
Links are important for search engine rankings as a signal of trust and authority given to one web site by other web sites. According to Rand, search engines consider that receiving many links from a diversity of different websites is better than getting one link (or a site wide link) from one high-quality or authority site. As an analogy, would you rather get a friendly slap on the back from the most popular kid in school or would you rather have all the kids in school think that you too are popular?
According to Michael, most web sites should spend more time on content and keyword repetition than they focus on getting links. By writing two microsite mistake articles, one on each web site, then linking one to the other Michael creates content relevancy and link relevancy on both sites. (Many SEOs believe that a link from page about the same subject carries more weight than a link from an off-topic page.)
Until today, microsite mistake was not what you’d call a popular phrase and there was little competition, so getting a top ranking shouldn’t have been all that difficult. If your domain has a modicum of authority and your keywords have little competition then keyword repetition on a targeted page can rank very well.
But SEO clients usually want to rank for competitive phrases that will bring lots of traffic. I’m not saying that this is the correct approach for every situation. A broad long tail strategy can be effective too, especially for newer or less competitive web sites. But, earning top rankings for competitive keywords requires a combination of content and links. You must have either page-targeted relevant anchor text links or have enough domain links to turn your web site into a super authority such as Amazon.com or Wikipedia.
Here’s another fact of life. Most web sites just sit there, especially microsites. Companies put up microsites with static content then never look at them again except for the traffic numbers and referral counts. I’m not saying that this is good. It’s not. Succeeding with content requires regular additions of new, targeted content. Unfortunately most real world companies do not have the time, money, people or resources to do pure best practices web marketing. They do the best they can with the budget and resources available.
Here is my take on the microsite mistake debate, generally I do not like microsites. In most cases it is best to add new content to your primary web site and to promote that content. This way you boost your content, your keywords and your domain.
However, if I believe that I can get links, create enough high-quality, targeted and SEOed content…if I believe I will need a homepage push and that I will not be stealing from the main site…then, just maybe, I might, on a warm sunny day, recommend creating a microsite.