As search marketers, mini-sites might not seem to make sense. Why put content on a new domain when you could just put it on your existing domain, so it can benefit from all the link love?

Mini-sites have been around forever, but with a new report from eMarketer showing they provide the best results for viral marketing, more people are likely to give these a shot. This makes it more important than ever to know when it makes sense to use a mini-site and when it doesn’t.

The truth is that sometimes mini-sites do work, and there certainly is a time and place for them. Sometimes we need to think more like traditional marketers and less like search marketers. There are other things in life besides links.

When do mini-sites make sense?

1) Content Not Related To Your Brand Or Site

When we launched the Search Engine Smackdown game on Pronet Advertising, it was very successful. There was no point is launching the game as its own mini-site since it was so closely related to the existing theme of the site.

In contrast, would the game have had the same success if it were launched on a debt consolidation site? Probably not. In certain cases, where the viral content is not related to your existing site, it might make sense to use a mini-site.

2) Content Will Spread Better Away From Your Domain

One of my favorite examples of a mini-site was the Elf Yourself campaign from OfficeMax. Unfortunately it now redirects to the OfficeMax site (free tip: use a 301 redirect and not a JavaScript refresh), so I can’t show it as an example. The campaign probably wouldn’t have been as successful if it had been on the main OfficeMax domain. The reason is that people don’t like to feel like they’re being blatantly marketed to. By distancing the campaign from the domain, people don’t have that feeling that they’re being pushed a message by a corporation or company, and they’re a little more willing to tell their friends and spread the word.

3) Your Brand Or Industry Isn’t Sexy

Let’s say your company is XYZ Payday Loans. It doesn’t matter how clever your viral content is, chances are that when it’s directly attached to your company’s domain or brand, it won’t spread very well.

4) Reputation Management

Mini-sites are a great way to own another spot on the top ten results of a search engine for reputation management purposes.

5) Your Domain Or Brand Is Diluted

If you get enough content on one domain that goes viral through social media sites, you can start to dilute your brand in social media. Users of these social sites will begin to notice that your site continually gets popular, and they may perceive you as a spammer and start voting all of your submissions down. If this is the case, you might not have any choice but to create mini-sites to continue to leverage social media.

I am not saying that it never makes sense to put viral content on your own domain. In many cases, it does. But sometimes the content won’t go viral unless you use a mini-site. What are your experiences with mini-sites?

Cameron Olthuis is director of marketing and design for ACS and writes regularly on social media issues through the company’s blog, Pronet Advertising. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search & Social | Social Media Marketing

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About The Author: is the Director of Audience Development at Clicker, the complete programming guide for Internet television. He develops and leads the company's marketing initiatives, utilizing traffic acquisition strategies for maximizing traffic and search engine exposure. You can follow Cameron on Twitter @factive.

Connect with the author via: Email



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  • http://dev.peekyou.com/USA/New_York/New_York/Michael_Hussey/5 popcontest

    This is a great example of what you are talking about:
    http://www.nashvilleistalking.com/2007/04/30/barbie-cars-are-not-for-boys/

  • Matt McGee

    Thanks for this, Cameron – couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen so many posts in recent months saying microsites should never be an option, and I just shake my head….

  • AussieWebmaster

    I love the use of the term “Reputation Management” – I think I have to nod to Dave Naylor on the first one I heard using the term…. some SES last year.

  • AussieWebmaster

    A great informative article BTW….

  • http://www.eyefall.co.uk/blog ciaran

    Hi Cameron,

    Great article – really well explained. Just wanted to put one thing past you.

    “The campaign probably wouldn’t have been as successful if it had been on the main OfficeMax domain.”

    Do you think this is always the case? So if they had had the game on their main site, but only after redirecting from a funky URL, and the page you were taken to had nothing to suggest it was part of the main site (except that the URL yuo’re redirected to might me http://www.boringdomain.com/coolgame), would this still be the case do you think?

    Cheers

  • http://www.cameronolthuis.com Cameron Olthuis

    Claran, thanks for the compliments.

    I don’t think that it is always the case. I think a lot of it has to do with your brand/company perception. It also has a lot to do with the viral content you are working with. For example, I think the Tea Partay campaign from Smirnoff would’ve worked fine on the company domain.

  • DanCummings

    I apologize if this has already been defined and posted about, What is your definition of a microsite from an SEO perspective? Is it one of the options below, all three? Let me know!

    http://www.foobar.com/microsite
    OR
    microsite.foobar.com
    OR
    http://www.totallydifferentdomain.com

    Thanks!

 

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