Use of the microsite as an SEO tactic has been a persistent topic of online marketing strategy for years. Generally, its popularity and effectiveness has waned.
Your average hospitality business is more likely to be saddled with a tenured set of microsites than seriously considering a new microsite effort. Remember, back in the days, building microsites was typically a profitable endeavor. They performed well in search engines and enjoyed high conversion rates if thoughtfully designed… which was probably rare. That is why there are so many legacy microsites.
Over the last few years Google started discouraging the practice in both its words and its algorithms. And for good reason: using microsites to manipulate organic search isn’t good for the consumer. For the business owner, microsites are a double-edged sword. They involve risk. BTW, we say microsites instead of microsite usually because people seem to build them in groups. It is a herd animal.
Today, the reasons most hotels or resorts use microsites are threefold:
- A needed technology, tool or content management system cannot be installed within a website, so it is hosted at a subdomain. Examples include booking engines, tee-time or table reservation functionality, guest/customer loyalty area, blog, etc. This is a good reason to have a microsite.
- The resort has a unique product (restaurant, spa, golf course) that justifies having its own dedicated web presence and marketing effort. This may also be a good reason for a microsite.
- They have a few old clunky microsites and won’t give them up!
It is that third reason we want to discuss today. Give them up now, before Google pries them from your cold dead hands!
It is easy to understand why many hospitality businesses don’t want to give up micro websites: they are driving traffic and even revenue. Unfortunately, their downsides are that they frequently:
- Confuse consumers and guests.
- Have lower conversion rates than the primary website.
- Confuse search engines and listing websites. Which website is yours?
- Drain human resources to keep updated… or aren’t being updated. Which is worse?
- Lower your primary websites rankings.
Online marketing hacks are still out there doing crappy link building, spammy key-wording and recommending microsites. If you have someone giving you that advice, take a few moments and research what some highly respected experts are saying recently about microsites:
The Microsite Mistake by Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz. In the video Rand discusses issues such as link populaity, domain diversity, and strategy while looking at how and why microsites are frequently used ineffectively.
SearchEngineLand has two experts weighing in on the pros and cons and different reasons for utilizing microsites.
- Can Microsites Harm Your Primary Site’s Rankings? by Eric Enge and SearchEngineLand.
- The Pros and Cons of Microsites As An SEO Option by Stephen Spencer and SearchEngineLand
The Smaller, The Better: When Microsites are the Solution is a whitepaper from iprospect that explores the topic in a little more detail.
If microsites are a mistake, what is the alternative? The “new microsite” is more likely to be a niche content provider with a social network: a website where you can control your own content and generate search engine rankings and traffic.
Right now, that includes a few general sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Yahoo Travel. It also includes lots of niche websites, depending on your industry and location. Hotels and resorts are creating relevant content and interacting with real people, in those networks. And, they are popping in the search engines. Here is a photo-shopped example to make a point:
So, start cleaning up those websites. At Blizzard we have been taking down a few old legacy microsites and if the content in them is relevant, moving it over to the main website. If done carefully, any drop in traffic can be minimized and should be regained in the mid-term.