Have you landed on a micro site lately? You know, a micro site, those special purpose websites that were created by companies for special promotions, brands, offers, etc. Sometimes they were just one page, sometimes a few laser-focused pages. Just a few years ago lots of brands were building these sites as a way to capture traffic from online campaigns or to highlight a unique offer for a limited period of time. Micro sites were also useful for SEO, especially when you wanted to have high visibility around a few targeted keywords for a limited period of time.
Yeah, figured you hadn’t seen many lately. Instead, brands are using Facebook and other social tools to create more engaging destinations without the expense of designing a site from the ground up. Or, brands realized that they could design their main site in a way that would easily accommodate inbound traffic from a campaign without having to create a whole new site. Maybe brands have switched over to using a dedicated app as the way to connect with their customers.
Micro sites might be dead, but the dead can sometimes keep on living. Recently I was doing some investigative work for a client and stumbled upon a “rat’s nest” of interlinked micro sites. I don’t know the strategy behind this set of sites, but I can guess the thinking went something like this:
We are going to introduce this new brand X and we should have a site for it. Bring that up. But we want to link them to the new pricing calculator we just built on the main site.
(three months later) We are going to introduce this new brand Y and we should have a site for it. Bring it up. But, it uses the same calculator widget as brand X, so just link them back to the main site.
(three more months later) We are running this great promo. Bring up a landing page for the promo. And, make sure you have links on the landing page for the main site, brand X and brand Y. Never know what they might be interested in!
And so on.
If you poke around online, especially in the consumer and retail segments, you can find plenty of examples just like this. The web of sites starts getting weaved with the best intentions, but then teams move on to the next thing and forget about the old. Maybe someone is responsible for the care and feeding of a site and then they get laid off. Before you know it, the micro site has become a “zombie” site, just waiting patiently in the Internet for someone to stop by and click.
The micro site problem, in a nutshell, is that marketers forget that they should be temporary, focused, self-contained — BUT that someone has to shut them down after a reasonable period of time. When this doesn’t happen, things just turn ugly.
Do micro sites even make sense in today’s market?
I think brands can still incorporate micro sites into their online strategies effectively in the sense that in the right circumstances they can live in partnership with both the main site as well as Facebook and other social environments. Smart brands will do what we here at [wire] stone typically help brands do — determine the best and highest use for each digital property in the ecosystem of digital marketing tools and experiences they create to engage people.
Often, that results in helping brands consider the micro site much as they would a “pop up” store in Times Square. Be brutally clear on the goals for the micro site — capture leads; generate traffic through to main site; fulfill claims on discounts and offers — and develop a timetable for launch as well as close-down. In short, incorporate the micro site as a tactic to the overall strategy that lets customers engage through multiple channels (e.g. a quick interaction on Facebook; a longer engagement with a mobile app; coupon redemption on the micro site) and get the information they need to make smart buying decisions.
Finally, beware of the zombie sites you might already have lurking out there. Here’s an example — not to be critical of the brand (they are a client and my former employer) or the agency that did the work (they do very good work) but as an example of what can be found floating around online. I think the time has passed when this campaign from 2008 is still relevant, don’t you?