I regularly get asked by vacation rental managers about starting a second or third website to promote their business. It seems they usually want to be told it is a good idea and that it will help them in Google. Typically microsites are a dangerous distraction and should be approached carefully.
There are two reasons why a microsite may not be a good idea:
- Google doesn’t want you to create multiple websites selling the same stuff. Many of their algorithm changes over the last few years have been targeted and penalizing websites that are not unique and valuable.
- Most VRMs struggle to make their primary website perform at a high level. Why spread yourself even thinner and create a second website? Focus on making your primary website better optimized, more user friendly and more content rich!
What is a a Microsite in the Vacation Rental Manager’s World? It could run the gamut of large to small, but here are the general ones I hear about:
- A completely new website that is essentially a duplicate (same size and scope) of the VRM’s main website. This is rarely a good idea! It is difficult to establish a new website and nearly impossible to do it in a way that “fools” Google.
- A completely new website that targets a different language. This is actually a great idea in some markets. Are you in a market that attracts a large number of foreign guests? Do you actively market to specific foreign markets? Do you have full-time staff to answer the phone in that language and handle correspondence in that language?
- A website that targets a geographic niche. If you represent properties across a wide geographic area on your main website, creating niche geographic websites can help. More and more vacation rental managers are establishing a business presence in different markets and even different countries. Creating a website for those geographic markets can be lucrative.
- A website that targets a specific resort where the Vacation Rental Manager has a presence. This is typically the most lucrative microsite available. It works especially well if you are the property manager in that resort and will benefit by marketing the resort as a brand. Do you answer the official phone number of the resort? Do you manage the resort’s Google Places listing? A website like this can also help you get new owners in that resort to sign up for your management program.
- A website for a specific home. This is growing in practice. Giving a homeowner their own dedicated site is a great way to provide extra value. It enables them to promote their property and distinguishes you from your competitors.
Additional benefits of microsites. One question worth asking in terms of your microsite strategy: are the benefits beyond potential search engine traffic you could enjoy? This is a critical question because it is likely that your new website will not enjoy a great Google ranking… certainly initially and maybe forever. Potential benefits may be:
- Ability to attract new homeowners or homeowner associations by showing them your website dedicated to them.
- Ability to retain your current homeowners and homeowner associations by providing extra value.
- Ability to claim the “Brand” name, phone number and Google Places (and Yahoo and MSN) listings for a resort via a resort website
- Ability to increase conversion rates by sending potential guests to a website more suited to their needs.
Checklist to consider when building microsites:
- Do you understand that new sites can take years to get established? What is your patience level?
- Are you willing to commit the necessary resources to make your new website succesful?
- Design and copywriting
- SEO and PPC marketing
- Dedicated email and social marketing campaigns
- Project Management
- Will your new website have unique content on the home page and supporting pages? will the property pages have unique descriptions and photos?
- Will your new website have a unique business name and contact information associated with it?
- Will your new website have a unique social internet presence? Will it have its own Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest accounts?
- Do you expect your website to perform in search and be competitive with other websites?
All of these are important considerations when designing a microsite strategy. Typically, microsites are costly and time consuming and should only be approached with realistic expectations.