Microsite vs website: What’s the difference between a microsite and a website?
More importantly, do you need one more than the other for your new campaign?
As any good web designer or developer will know, there’s more than one kind of website out there. There are sites devoted to news and reporting the latest stories in a specific industry, and sites that are specifically intended for eCommerce. Sometimes, if you’re focusing on something very small, like a single marketing campaign or product, then you might not need a full website at all.
A microsite, according to the Content Standard, is a branded digital asset that lives just outside of the company homepage or brand URL. These sites generally last for a shorter period than full websites and are focused on a particular goal, like raising awareness for an event, or testing copy for a sales strategy.
Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between a microsite, and a website.
Microsite vs website: What’s the difference?
Here’s where things get confusing.
One of the reasons why people have so many problems separating microsite from websites is that they’re the same on a mechanical, or fundamental level.
You still need a domain name for a microsite, as well as a hosting package to keep your site active and ready to go online. Additionally, microsites still require regular maintenance and upgrades if you want them to stay relevant.
The main difference is that your website is the heart and soul of your online presence. Your website is the primary connection point between you and your customers, your prospects, employees, and even contractors. It’s where you attract people to learn about everything you are, and whatever you do.
A microsite, on the other hand, is a website with a special purpose. While your website draws attention to all of your products or services, your microsite might only focus on one very important component of what you do. Often, when it comes to choosing between a website vs microsite, you’ll opt for a microsite when you’re looking at reaching a specific audience or highlighting a unique product.
Microsites are not:
A full website that covers a lot of products and services.
A landing page intended to generate leads for a specific office.
A subdomain for a website or company.
Small and highly focused segments of online content.
Packed with information that features consistent themes and keywords.
Supported by its own social media and marketing campaign.
Often temporary or seasonal in nature.
When would you use a microsite?
So, when would you use a microsite rather than just relying on a basic website?
That depends on a lot of things. Generally, microsites are websites that consist of only a handful of pages – perhaps only one. Usually, they’re used alongside a parent website or domain, although they’ll have their own focused domain name.
By focusing on a particular product or idea, then limiting the amount of information shared to just a few pages, Microsites create a very easy to consume resource for your customers. In the decision of when to use a microsite vs a website, a microsite makes sense when you need to:
Test a new campaign or the impact of a product.
Target a very specific audience or share information on a single product.
Promote a special once-off event or seasonal products.
Setup new marketing and pay-per-click campaigns.
Experiment with new customer outreach efforts.
Host competitions or contests.
Microsites are all about offering unique experiences to people in your target market while separating the event from your main website. Usually, it’s much easier to use a standard website than to rely on a microsite for your campaigns.
Microsite pros and cons: The ups and downs of mini websites
Ultimately, though microsites have become something of a trending concept in the current design landscape, they’re not necessarily the right tools for everyone. While microsites can offer unique experiences for your audience, and fantastic opportunities to test your campaign, they’re only suitable in particular situations.
Understanding the difference between a microsite and a website can help you to understand which one you might need. However, it’s also worth getting an overview of the various microsite pros and cons that you should be aware of too. For instance, microsites offer:
Excellent targeting opportunities: It’s hard to stay laser-focused on a specific audience or idea when you launch an entire website, even when you’re focused on consistency. However, with a microsite, you’ll find that it’s much easier to achieve better control over your content, your tone of voice, and more. You can create a campaign that’s completely tailor-made for the audience that you want to reach, and no-one else.
Less risk for your primary brand: Because microsites are kept separate from your parent website, they’re less likely to have a long-standing impact on your company’s reputation. If your microsite doesn’t have the effect you were hoping for, it’s easy to brush off the loss and continue as normal without an issue.
Plenty of options for experimentation: You can learn a lot with a microsite. For instance, you could use multiple microsites to determine which domain name leads to the most visitors for your new website, or which campaigns your customers like the most. Microsites give you a very focused way to gather useful information.
However, there are downsides to microsites too. For instance, one of the most significant problems with these sites is that they can confuse your audience. When your customers come across a microsite and see you experimenting with different tones of voice and advertising strategies, they’re going to start questioning your core identity. Microsites might make your audience wonder if you’re as genuine as you seem, or whether you’re just telling people what they want to hear.
Additionally, although your microsite might have less of an impact on your overall brand than your whole website, they’re still going to affect how people feel about you. If your microsite goes viral, then you can use it to give your brand personality a boost – unless you’ve earned attention from your customers for all the wrong reasons.
What’s more, when comparing a website vs microsite, a lot of business owners assume that microsites will be less expensive than a full website. However, the truth is that most companies will end up having a primary site, even if they do create a microsite, this means that you could be taking on unnecessary additional expense if you’re using your microsite to do something that you could have just as easily done with your basic website.
The longer you continue to rely on your microsite, the more money you’ll spend on maintaining that new digital entity and ensuring that it continues to deliver results. Although some microsites can pay off in the long-term, you’ll need to think carefully about whether you’re going to get your money’s worth out of each tool you design.
Choosing between a microsite and website
As mentioned above, most people don’t choose between a microsite and a website when they’re deciding how to build their online presence. Instead, it’s often easier to make a fundamental site, and use microsites as extra supplemental tools when they’re necessary. More often than not, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals with your standard website and marketing campaigns.
However, there may be occasional instances where you find a microsite to be useful. Before you start creating one, however, ask yourself:
How long does this site need to be live? If the microsite is going to be around for a few months, then it might be appropriate. However, if you want to create a new piece of long-term content, then it needs to go on your main website.
How does it affect the user journey? Will your microsite make it easier for your target audience to find the information that they need? Or could it confuse your customers by sending them on a roundabout adventure to your main website?
Could you accomplish the same thing with your main website? Why is the microsite necessary? If you’re not using different branding or targeting a new audience to your official website, then is it essential to make a microsite at all?
Successfully deciding when to build a microsite and when to stick with a comprehensive website is all about calculating your ROI. If you can figure out why your microsite is going to deliver value to both you and your customers, then go ahead. If you can’t, avoid the microsite entirely.
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