A microsite is an Internet web design term referring to an individual web page or a small cluster (around 1 to 7) pages which are meant to function as an auxiliary supplement to a primary website. The microsite's main landing page most likely has its own domain name or subdomain.
They are typically used to add a specialized group of information either editorial or commercial. Such sites may be linked in to a main site or not or taken completely off a site's server when the site is used for a temporary purpose. The main distinction of a microsite versus its parent site is its purpose and specific cohesiveness as compared to the microsite's broader overall parent website.
Microsites used for editorial purposes may be a page or group of pages that, for example, might contain information about a holiday, an event or similar item which gives more detailed information than a site's general content area may provide. A community organization may have its main site with all of the organization's basic information, but creates a separate, temporary microsite to inform about a particular activity, event or similar.
Often, microsites will be used for editorial purposes by a commercial business to add editorial value. For example, a retailer of party goods may create a microsite with editorial content about the history of Halloween or some other holiday or event. The commercial purpose of such editorial microsites, (beyond driving product sales), may include adding value to the site's visitors for branding purposes as well as providing editorial content and keywords allowing for greater chances of search engine inclusion. Normally, microsites do not contain web applications.
Microsites may be used for purely commercial purposes to create in-depth information about a particular product, service or as editorial support towards a specific product, such as describing a new technology. A car manufacturer, for example, may present a new hybrid vehicle and support the sales presentation with a microsite specific to explaining hybrid technology.
With the prevalence of keyword contextual advertising, (more commonly referred to as Pay per click or PPC), microsites may be created specifically to carry such contextual advertising. Or along a similar tactic, they're created in order to specifically carry topic-specific, keyword-rich content with the goal of having search engines rank them highly when search engine users seek such content topics.
An additional benefit of a microsite is that it can lower your PPC cost because the microsite can focus on specific keywords improving your Quality Score therefore lowering your cost per click.
Creating a network of micro-sites for the sake of link power manipulation is a controversial technique; hence it has become risky to interlink your own websites even for very “white hat” purposes (e.g. to let your readers know about your other relevant sites). Nonetheless, link building with micro-sites can be a highly effective technique if done correctly.
My main idea is that creating micro-sites around your main web resource is not necessarily done for the sake of interlinking and spreading the link power. When done wisely, the strategy can aim at multiple great purposes:
build link power of several resources simultaneously ( = if the microsite is closely associated with the main site, many webmasters will link to the both resources when talking about either of them). Michael Martinez in
his recent post on one-way link building put it greatly:
satellite site networks succeed because each site brings enough unique content and concepts to the user experience that it makes sense for people to link to them all be on the safe side: aggressive (or any other) link baits can be both fail or win, that’s always hard to predict; if you host your link bait on a separate site, you will always keep your main site protected from the campaign (probably dangerous) circumstances;
create multiple / additional positive / sticky brand associations (citing Michael, “split a brand value across multiple sub-brands“);
reach broader audience or attract some particular audience – that might be hard for a well known site that is strongly associated with one age group, for example, to rebrand so that it could appeal to much younger / older audience. Creating a microsite and optimizing it for a new audience group you want to target can be a better idea than relaunch your established site.
broaden your link building scope (e.g. promoting a corporate site in social media could be tough as it is not “social media friendly” enough for the campaign to be successful).
get people promote your site: by encouraging customers’ active participation, you will enroll most Internet-savvy audience; almost all representatives of this audience run websites and blogs of their own where they will be glad to promote your site.
See how others use micro-site strategy to both build links and brand awareness (examples from Mashable and WOMMA):
host relevant but different content: Coca-Cola Conversations blog focuses on Coke collectibles.
encourage viral marketing: a social network of photo enthusiasts around Fujifilm newest camera.
host link bait: to promote its new T.V. series “Back to You,” Fox Broadcasting created a micro-site where users can upload photos of themselves to create an image that shows them seated at the anchor desk between the show’s stars, Patricia Heaton and Kelsey Grammer.host different type of content (e.g. user-generated content): Southwest Airlines employees and customers share the “Nuts About Southwest” on a separate blog.