A microsite is a small set of web pages under their own domain name dedicated to very specific subject. For example, you may have a microsite focused on a new product, bringing together a lot of material that can’t quite get the right focus within your website (a lot of car manufacturers use this to support new car launches for example).
Microsites have also become more popular as keyword rich domain names stopped working when all pointed to the same website – Google spots the fact that all domain names point to the same content (in theory) and will favour one in the results. Google hates duplicate content.
Some people got around this by putting together a quick page for each of their keyword rich domain names. However, as these are now effectively real websites (albeit it with just one page), you now have the additional job of getting these visible to Google – through good old fashioned SEO: link building etc. Whatsmore, if you create single page sites for each of your keyword rich domain names that all share the same content then you run smack back into the original problem that Google hates duplicate content, and only one of your microsites will stand much chance of being displayed.
So, people now have to make sure that each microsite page for each keyword rich domain name has unique content (text and photos). However, now we run into one of the ‘fundamentals’ of the search universe, which is that search engines don’t take one page sites very seriously (unless you are looking at very niche terms). Technically they assign a higher initial page rank to larger sites on a diminishing returns basis.
In conclusion, if you think you have a niche search term that you want to try to capture using a keyword rich domain name and specific content then think very carefully about how much effort it will take to deliver effective results. Use Google’s external keyword analysis tool to confirm the search volumes for this term are sufficient to warrant the work and think from a user point of view (the acid SEO test). If you can deliver content genuinely MORE useful for people searching for the keywords you are targeting than from your website, then that’s a green light – if you’re just putting out non-specific content copied from your existing website then that’s probably a red light.
Good example of a microsite:
You are a funeral director operating in the Cambridgeshire area, and you have offices in Huntingdon, Cambridge, Peterborough. You produce separate microsites for each town you operate in with location of offices, details of the nearest cemeteries & crematoria, details of local staff and their experience, photos of the office, testimonials from locals, details of local charity work you do.
Bad example of a microsite:
You are a hotel in Huntingdon and you want to attract searches for “hotels near Cambridge”. You produce a microsite for the hotel which contains details about the hotel but uses the words ‘near Cambridge’ a few more times than in the main website.