When browsing the web, it’s possible you could stumble upon a smaller website focused around a single topic — think events, individual product launches or campaigns. When this smaller site is a spinoff from a larger company website, it’s known as a microsite or a minisite.
“In its simplest terms, a microsite is a smaller site with a really specific focus. ‘Microsite’ off the bat implies that there is some larger parent site,” says Chief Design Officer Chris Mathieu.
For example, let’s say a video game publisher has a standard website for their company with product pages for all their titles, their mission statement, info about their team, etc. Microsites for individual video games might also exist with five or six pages focused on just the features and functionality of those games.
These microsites could be on a subdomain like “VideogameName.Publisher.com,” but they could also have a completely unique URL like “VideogameName.com.”
The Benefits of Using a Microsites
More creative freedom for sub-brands
Microsites present more creative possibilities. Marketers can evolve a brand’s typical visual style and messaging into a sub-brand without disrupting the user experience.
For example, if a microsite promotes a single product that’s used by only one buyer persona, you can tailor the design and messaging entirely to them, even if it slightly differs from your primary branding.
Additionally, since there is less content to impart, design can play a bigger role on microsites without the worry that it will overwhelm the material.
“Because your focus and content strategy is more singular, it allows you to kind of go nuts and do stuff that might not make sense for a big corporate website,” Chris says. “A big corporate site inherently needs to be scalable and cleaner, whereas with a microsite, scalability doesn’t matter.”
With microsites, you can create big rich media experiences, like extensive photo galleries, videos and interactive elements. A lot of award-winning websites tend to be microsites because of the creative opportunities they pose.
Navigations can sometimes be a catch-22: It’s common that company websites have large navigations to address all possible conversion paths. Yet, this can be overwhelming to users and in some cases make it difficult for them to find what they’re looking for.
Microsites have a more streamlined information architecture — and a concise navigation — that makes it easy for the user to focus on the single topic the site is promoting.
“Since [the microsite] is only about the one thing, you wouldn’t need the full navigation with everything on the main site. You’d really just have the handful of pages that were all relevant,” Chris says.
The more focused user experience also increases the likelihood of users increases engaging with your content and taking your desired action.
Increased reporting visibility
“If you have a microsite, everyone on that is interested in that one thing. They wouldn’t be on there if they were interested in another product or solution,” Chris says. “Both with organic and paid search, you can better understand how that one thing is getting people to it than if it’s on the main website.”
Additionally, if you’re using a CMS like HubSpot, you can keep the microsite’s contact database entirely separate from the contact database of your main site. This makes it easier to do segmentation and targeting around that campaign or offering.
Stronger alignment between the website and paid ads
When designed to match a paid ad campaign, microsites can create a really cohesive user experience.
“A lot of time these will be made to go hand-in-hand with a paid campaign too. So, the creative for the ad, the copy itself and maybe even the visual display ad then feels like the site,” Chris says.
The best ads tend to be flashy because they need to stand out and draw attention to themselves. Yet, these design best practices don’t hold true for marketing websites. Because microsites have more creative freedom and less content, you can make bolder design choices in order to match the website to your ad campaign.
An additional benefit: the alignment of user experience and messaging can help the relevancy of your ads and increase your quality scores, too.
Shorter creation timeline and smaller budget
Because they’re smaller, microsites can take significantly less time and resources to launch. If you want to start taking up space on the web for a given topic, they’re a great starting point.
For example, one of your products could be pretty disparate from the rest of your offerings and you want it to have its own 50-page standalone site someday. If you don’t have the resources to fully build the site out at present, you can start with a microsite.
Your main website will be a marketing website, and if you want to have other functionality without diluting your primary objective, you can separate those function-specific spaces into microsites.
For example, you can have a user forum or an interactive tool like a calculator live on a microsite so those tools don’t distract visitors on your marketing website.
The Cons of Microsites
Microsites offer a lot of possibilities for marketers in terms of creativity and user experience, and they can be beneficial for reporting and paid advertising strategies.
However, there are some cons too. While microsites are small and require less work to maintain than a full website, maintaining two sites of any size still requires more development work than just managing a single one.
“You’re going to have to maintain two separate codebases, assuming the sites look different. So, you have to upkeep two sites over time,” Chris says.
Additionally, while having a separate microsite can have SEO benefits for that topic, it won’t be contributing at all to the SEO efforts of your primary website.
“You’re not going to get increased domain authority on your main site by having microsites, you’re kind of spreading your SEO around,” Chris says.
3 Examples of How Marketers Use Microsites
Microsites can be used for a variety of reasons, including events, user forums, products, experiential platforms, campaigns and region-specific content.
Here are three examples of B2B microsites:
1. INBOUND: an event microsite
When you have timely content on your main website, you have to grapple with what to do with that content when it’s no longer relevant. Leaving it up indefinitely after users no longer engage with it could hurt your overall domain authority, but the alternative, taking those pages down and redirecting them can take up a lot of time.
By letting events live on their own microsite, you eliminate the potential negative SEO impact they can have on your main website. Additionally, you make it easier to do reporting and targeting based around interest in that event, which can be particularly beneficial if your event appeals to a broader audience than your products and services do.
HubSpot’s INBOUND event is a great example of that. The conference only lasts for a couple days each year and has a community that extends beyond HubSpot’s customer base. By providing all the content related to the event through a microsite, visitors looking for just that info can easily find it, and their marketing and sales teams don’t need to deal with website visitors on the main website who only want INBOUND updates.
2. Adobe Acrobat: a product microsite
If the audience for one of your products might differ from the primary audience of the rest of your website, it might be a strong use case for a microsite.
Adobe Acrobat is a good example of this. The range of potential users for Adobe Acrobat differs from potential users for creative cloud, and the creative-focused branding and messaging on Adobe’s main site might not resonate at all with someone just looking for a PDF-editing solution so they can convert and sign documents.
While the visual design of the Acrobat microsite isn’t off-brand for the company, its color scheme and visuals are a little scaled back.
3. Indigo Ag: regional microsites
In addition to your website language potentially needing to change from region to region, your product offerings and positioning might also differ.
“Sometimes your offering in a region is so different that it makes sense to have a microsite,” Chris says. “They might not need a full set of content because maybe it’s different and more focused on what you do in those regions.”
For example, the global website for sustainable agriculture solution has two audiences — buyers and growers — and a significant amount of content to address both audiences. The German website on the other hand only addresses growers, because Indigo serves a smaller audience in that region.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.