How many websites does your organization have? Of course there is the main site. Then there is the “old” site that includes all of the archival content. Then there are specialized microsites for various products, events, and advertising campaigns. And finally, there are all of the landing pages that support all of the search engine pay-per-click ads. It doesn’t take more than a few years to grow a mess that is both hard to understand and difficult to manage.
Here are some guidelines that can help unwind and rationalize a web “site” strategy:
Main domain: This is your organization’s main website, (ideas108.wpengine.com is an example), and doesn’t need much more explanation. All content should be attached to this domain, to improve discoverability – and so that all search engine optimization advantages accrue to this one domain.
Landing Pages: These are designed to provide direct access to a purpose-driven page, usually to improve conversion from an advertisement, but also as shorthand to get users to a specific content page. The advantage of a Landing Page is that it contains only relevant content (and navigation, and call-to-action) – no distracting debris. A downside is that over the years, the pages begin to multiply and collect dust. They often contain no-longer-valid offers, and can be confusing if a user finds their way to one. Recommendation: When you create landing pages use relevant – but not easily guessable names. Users may try guessing Landing Page names, thereby potentially exposing offers that they are not authorized to receive. Each year while you still remember their purpose, delete (or “un-publish”) any that are no longer valid.
Microsites: Microsites are usually smaller, special purpose websites that support a specific product, event, or marketing campaign. There are four approaches to creating a microsite:
- Type I: A completely new URL that links to a completely independent site. This alternative is appropriate if you are looking to distance the microsite’s objectives from the sponsoring organization, or aim at a completely different audience. Advocacy sites are an example of this. The Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores has a website aimed at it’s members – all corporate behemoths: www.cacds.com. Their special-purpose advocacy site – now off the air – is decidedly different:www.9000PointsOfCare.ca.
- Type II: A unique URL, but redirects to an internal section of an existing website. For example,www.108ideatrust.com redirects to www.108ideaspace/ideatrust. The user interface and branding might be completely different – the site would is built to achieve specific objectives, no different than a Type I microsite. An advantage of this is that the URL is far easier to remember and far easier to promote than a URL shortener such as burl or TinyURL. A separate advantage: all of the content helps increase the main site’s search engine ranking.
- Type III: A subdomain (http://support.google.com) to host all of the content. This alternative is most appropriate for a permanent site that is devoted to a specific purpose or audience: the login for an intranet, a portal for external service personnel, or perhaps a customer support site. “Transient” users often get confused when the subdomain is anything except www, so using a non-” www” subdomain for a heavily-marketed site should generally be avoided.
- Type IV: This alternative is not a traditional microsite, but rather a decision to host the microsite content on a social media site like Facebook: www.facebook.com/108ideaspace. The advantage of this approach is that the organization can develop a permanent relationship with the user if the page is “Liked”. The downside is that Facebook now also owns the relationship.
No matter which approach is taken, a key question is the microsite’s lifespan. Whether it is finite or forever, just asking this question opens issues of ongoing microsite marketing, content updates, and support.
This Week’s Action Plan: Whether you are doing competitive analysis, researching a new prospect, or looking for your next position, reviewing the family of websites (and their history) can provide tremendous insights. And if you want a bit more to do, consider rationalizing your site(s): while you might not be able to do it all at once, it doesn’t hurt to make an inventory.
Randall Craig, president of 108 ideaspace, is a leading Social Media & Web Strategist. We share Randall Craig’s blogs here on 108 ideaspace. However, the Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.
This post has been written by 108’s Senior Advisor and former CEO Randall Craig.