Microsites and SEO – friends or foes?

I often see companies starting microsites. Most of them don’t realize the impact a microsite can have on their SEO efforts. Microsites aren’t always a bad idea, but it’s important to understand the pros and cons before you spend any time/money building one.

The purpose of a microsite

There are a few possible reasons you might be considering building a microsite:

1. Adding the content to your own site isn’t easy/feasible

    This could be because of legal rules, technological issues, branding issues, look-and-feel issues, ownership issues, or any number of reasons.

    2. You want to dominate more than two spots in the SERPs

      One site gets a maximum of two spots on any search engine results page. So, a separate site is the only way to dominate more than two spots in the organic SERPs.

      The downside of a microsite

      There are a few downsides to building a microsite instead of just adding new content to your main site.

      1. It will be much harder to rank

        Your microsite will be at a disadvantage in the SERPs for two reasons right off the bat: age and size. All else being equal, an older domain outperforms a younger domain and all else being equal, a larger site outperforms a smaller site. Almost by definition, microsites are new and small. Therefore, your microsite starts out at a disadvantage.

        2. Your main site misses out

          For a microsite to have any chance in hell of ranking, it needs incoming links and totally new content. But because of the reasons stated above, even with those links and content, it still might not rank. Any effort you put into a site that doesn’t rank is, from an SEO perspective, wasted. Alternatively, if you’d added that content and pointed those links to your main site, you could’ve seen real gains in the SERPs.

          The bottom line

          There are only two situations when launching a microsite is a good idea.

          1. You really can’t add the content to the main site

            I don’t mean it’s hard, or legal is a pain, or you’re an agency and it’s just easier for you to throw up three pretty flash pages. If you really can’t do it, which is rarely the case, then build a microsite. Then fix whatever problems you have with your main site/processes that are keeping you from adding content.

            2. Your main site is already dominating the top two spots for every keyphrase you care to target.

              This is very, very rare, and usually means you’re not aiming high enough or haven’t yet dug into the long-tail keywords you should target. But if you’re really dominating with your main site, and think grabbing the 3rd and 4th slots are worth launching a whole new site, by all means, go for it.

              Read more about microsites and SEO:

              http://www.seriousdigitalideas.com/blog/are-microsites-a-good-idea/
              http://reciprocalconsultingblog.com/internet-marketing/are-microsites-a-good-internet-marketing-strategy/
              http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/18514.asp
              http://www.seomoz.org/blog/whiteboard-friday-the-microsite-mistake
              http://www.pr-squared.com/index.php/2009/11/stop-building-microsites
              http://www.searchviews.com/index.php/archives/2008/07/seo-why-microsites-are-weakening-your-seo-results-%E2%80%93-dr-naveel-builds-your-immunity.php
              http://searchengineland.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-microsites-as-an-seo-option-12224
              http://www.ninebyblue.com/blog/microsites-a-bad-idea-most-of-the-time/
              http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/seo-blog/index.php/microsites/
              http://dailyseotip.com/consolidation-and-amalgamation-of-your-websites-the-pros-and-cons/876/
              http://smallbiztrends.com/2010/06/9-expert-seo-tips-for-small-businesses.html

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