The Pros And Cons Of Microsites As An SEO Option

100% Organic - A Column From Search Engine Land I’ve never been a fan of “one page salesletter” web sites espoused by some marketers (here’s an example). Such sites seem to drone on, with so many screenfulls that I get tired of scrolling. And there are so few pages to the site that it’s an SEO nightmare. If each page should only have a maximum of three keyword themes, that doesn’t provide for very many keyword ranking opportunities. It’s like the antithesis of “long tail SEO.”

I feel differently about microsites. Optimized properly, a microsite may have dozens, or even hundreds of pages to it.

Consider for example Countrywide’s Credit Demystified microsite (disclosure: my company Netconcepts built the site), which has a tag cloud and tag pages that help boost the Google page count to 1,100. screenshot

There’s a time and place for creating a microsite, versus further building out your main web site. If your site is likely to gain more traction and interest with webmasters and bloggers by being at an arm’s length from your main site, then by all means consider it. For example, is a microsite on improving one’s credit which contains not only articles, but also podcasts and RSS feeds. Given how “bloggy” the site is, it’s more likely to get link love from bloggers than a series of articles hosted on Countrywide’s site will.

A microsite may have the added benefit of bypassing some of the legal and PR department hurdles and internal political battles. This could be a key consideration if you’re at a big monolithic corporation.

Realize though that, with a microsite, you’re giving up something. Content that is integrated into your main site will get to “ride on the coattails” of the trust, authority, age, history, etc. that your site has established over the years. Whereas a microsite on a brand new domain may wallow in the Google Sandbox for months.

So what to do if you want to launch a microsite? Consider buying an aged domain “aftermarket”—hopefully one that has had a site on it for a while (and no, a parking page doesn’t count!), then change the domain registration information slowly so that the site’s PageRank doesn’t get reset to zero. Or start the clock running as soon as possible on your new domain by posting at least a few pages to the URL and then getting a few links to it—as far as advance of the official launch as possible.

I’m partial to using WordPress as the content management system (CMS) for microsites, because of its support for such powerful features as tag clouds, tag pages, Technorati tags, RSS feeds, podcasts, pings, comments, trackbacks, etc. Refer to my WordPress as a CMS post for detailed reasoning behind this recommendation. If you go with WordPress, be sure to install my SEO Title Tag plugin so that you can craft longer, custom-written title tags that are separate from the “Titles” used in anchor text and H1 tags.

Stephan Spencer is founder and president of Netconcepts, a 12-year-old web agency specializing in search engine optimized ecommerce. He writes for several publications and blogs at the Natural Search Blog. The 100% Organic column appears Thursdays at Search Engine Land.

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

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | SEO: General


About The Author: is the author of Google Power Search, creator of the Science of SEO and co-author of The Art of SEO now in its second edition, both published by O'Reilly. Spencer is also the founder of Netconcepts and inventor of the SEO technology platform GravityStream. He also blogs on his own site, Stephan Spencer's Scatterings.

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  • randfish

    Stephan – I’m no fan of the one page salesletter either, but did you see this – – it’s tough to argue with success.

    Good note on Microsites. I still think they have a very tough time competing in an algo environment that favors big domains with lots of authority, but the “buy an old site” tactic is certainly a good one.


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