For those unfamiliar with what a Microsite is, a microsite is a secondary website typically hosted in one of two ways many use a separate URL from the parent site if the parent site is “ABCFord.com” the microsite might be “ABCFord.com” others use a subdomain “subdomain.ABCFord.com.”
For years dealers and SEOs alike have scratched their heads about the pros and potential cons of using a microsite. Here are my recommendations when I believe a microsite makes sense. NEVER. Well, almost never.
I’ll share why this old tactic isn’t needed in today’s marketing environment.
If given the option, I would never consider developing a microsite under any situation other than creating a blog. (Even so, standard folder structure within my domain would still be preferred) I simply cannot think of any other good reason for a car dealership to go in this direction for marketing.
So why do some many dealers resort to using microsites to build things like specials pages and vehicle landing pages (VLPs)? They do this because in most cases the technology needed to create and manage these elements efficiently on their native website is challenging – if not complicated and time-consuming, depending on the provider.
But if Microsites are such a BAD thing, why do so many agencies send paid search (SEM) traffic to them? Simple they do it out of necessity.
Most firms who offer this kind of solution for SEM services do so because it is easier and more convenient for THEM to manage vehicle offers and incentives here as opposed to on an existing website. But it is not easier (or better) for you, and it isn’t better for your customers. With their microsite in play, an agency can quickly make changes or even automate them and have a level of control over the content that would not be possible otherwise. Sounds good right? It isn’t!
Ask any good digital marketer, and they’ll agree the best conversions are the ones occurring on the dealer’s primary website (the one they are proud of and spend the most time working on). Your inventory is there. You have the best tracking capability there. Google, social media sites, and other search engines connect to it. Simply put that’s where the web knows you and your products are. Your website is where you want prospects and customers to shop. Send them to a destination that’s optimized to explain to you and your products best. Most, if not all of your conversions, will take place here.
Your website is where your content has the most value; it’s where your SEO and SEM efforts will have the most impact, it’s the place that is most reflective of you, your products, and your value proposition. There is no better place for you to lead a customer than directly to you.
Other holes in the microsite strategy including non-existent organic rankings. I have reviewed several Microsite-based strategies offered by others in both the automotive industry, and outside, and have yet to find a single example of one of their sites or even a page ranking on page one of the SERP.
Even more alarming I found a complete absence of branding (outside of a simple color scheme) that stands unique to any dealer’s brand. They often miss the very basic opportunities of using a microsite such as inbound linking (linking from one site to the dealer’s primary site).
In summary, here are the five key reasons I don’t recommend using landing pages as a marketing tactic:
1. Absence of consistent branding experiences – your experience is more than a logo
2. Lack of organic ranking signals – Search engines can’t find it
3. Lack of social signals – if the site can’t be found, who will share it?
4. Loss of personalization – content is often plain-vanilla and not contextual
5. No convenience – updating these pages is difficult
Dealers, you have an important choice to make. Should you focus on your main website where you have spent the majority of your time, effort and money making it your own or a generic microsite that offers no advantages to you but is easier for your agency to manage?
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