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SEO Website Audit

Best Practices for 50 Micro-sites

May 9, 2007

Hi Jill,


I wanted to discuss the possibility of developing a best practice/checklist
guide for our company to follow.  Our new  initiative will be to launch 50
or so micro-sites focused on our key product categories.  These sites will
need to be rolled  out quickly.






++Jillís Response++


Hi Chris,


Iím not sure that we can help you with what youíre asking for, because
creating 50 micro-sites would not be something we  would recommend.  Iím
concerned that youíve been provided with some bad info from somewhere if
youíre thinking that this  is the way to go.  Creating micro-sites is a very
old SEO tactic that was never very effective, and itís not something that
the  search engines generally appreciate.  Perhaps you were thinking that
only the home page of a site can rank well in the  engines?  If so, this
isnít the case at all.


A much smarter idea would be to fix up your current corporate site so that
every page of it is optimized in such a way that  each of your main
categories and each individual product page would rank on its own merits.

One great site is 1,000  times better than 50 small sites.


Hope this information puts you on the right track with your SEO strategy!






[As you can imagine, Chris wasnít too thrilled with my response and replied
with a bit more explanation.  See his/her  response with my comments
interspersed below.]


> Appreciate your feedback.  Our plan was the following.  Please let me
> know if you still have the same feeling regarding our strategy.


Jill: Sure, see my comments below:


> 1. Create transparent micro-sites using our flagship name.
> Example:


Jill: Yes, thatís how I originally assumed you would be doing it.  Again,
bad idea.


> 2. Become an authority through the use of forums, RSS and general site
> content (trends, how toís), portable media and community evangelists
> to be the go-to place for all things relevant to the category.


Jill: How do you suppose small sites can become an authority?  The idea is
to have one large, great company that will  become an authority because its
links and word of mouth will make it so.  It will be next to impossible to
try to make 50  different sites become authority sites because youíd be
splitting the potential authoritativeness between 50 domains  instead of
one.  Again, bad idea.


> 3. Use unique navigation structure and product information to create a
> rich, unique experience.


Jill: This sounds like a branding nightmare to me.  Every site will have
different navigation, even though they are selling  products from the same
company. Again, bad idea.  Very bad idea.


> 4. Use SEO best practices to gain traction on the engines - including
> link acquisition.


Jill: You canít use SEO best practices because the original premise (50
sites for one company) is already bad SEO  practice, so anything you do from
there is going to be bad SEO practice. 


> Still not a good idea?  I would really appreciate some additional
> feedback.  We are committed to doing what is the most
> appropriate long-term strategy.


As you can see, itís most definitely, in my opinion, 100%, a huge mistake
for you to go this route.  I think if you do some  research on SEO best
practices for the 21st century youíll find that the majority of professional
SEOs would agree.


Good luck!



Post Comment

 Tony Payne said:
Comment @ 05/09/07 at 7:35 pm Jill how do you always hit the nail on the head? Every time! What percentage do you think, of web site marketers, know what best SEO practices are?
 Jill said:
Comment @ 05/09/07 at 8:16 pm Hi Tony, Iíd say less than 10%.
 Brian said:
Comment @ 05/10/07 at 8:08 am How do you explain the tremendous success of micro-site conglomerates & They rank well organically for each of the niche sites they have setup and they take it to the extreme. They have over 100 stores each; They could have 5 different clock stores, (wall, desk, office, digital,etc) We have checked their D&Bís, they are experiencing huge growth and as an SEO I can see how well they rank organically for each of their product nicheís.
 SEO Practices said:
Comment @ 05/10/07 at 9:39 am Hi Jill, great information, thanks. I would say there are basic SEO Pratices we have to have in account when developing an SEO campaign, but for most we have to develop and build our own strategies. What worked in the pass may not work today, what works for others may not work for us, SEO is a constant changing field.
 Sean King said:
Comment @ 05/10/07 at 9:48 am Brian, I think you hit it on the head. I believe it makes sense to use microsites to bring focus to a particular vertical or horizontal market. Because of this microsites tend to be a good solution for very LARGE companies or conglomerates looking for better performance in their individual companies or genre of products sold. The tie-in to the larger corporation gives weight to the microsite while providing focused content and product for a more specific audience (Iím not sure, but I think this may be what Chris was alluding to). However, using microsites to gain better SEO within the SAME market just dilutes your brand message and weight, leaving your company with little to no SEO value and a confusing experience for your customers. Moral of the story, use microsites if youíre company is so large you find it difficult to give your customers an easy experience finding your product/service and doing business with you. If youíre using this tactic simply to gain SEO, you are missing the point.
 Trend said:
Comment @ 05/10/07 at 9:50 am While I agree with your assessment I question your ability to think outside of the box. There are many companies that do this exact thing. I know for a fact that there are many large companies (both pure plays and multi channel retailers) that are finding great success at building sites that are category specific. Having 100ís even 1000ís of products to sell is without question relevant. What if they have more blenders than anyone on the web? It does matter, and success can be had. I spent a few minutes trying to find a good example for you. Here is one. Search for Outdoor Lighting and Table Lamps and see how well the shop____ sites are ranking for very competitive terms. does incredibly well also. The shop____ sites have been live for less than 12 months.
 Brian said:
Comment @ 05/11/07 at 9:41 am I took a particular interest in this advsor article because we have similar plans to create multiple microsites, each catering to a specific product line & niche market. Hearing Jillís pessimism about that strategy was a litle unsettling (I respect her opinion greatly), however we will still be progressing with that strategy as it goes beyond simply SEO. Iíll be sure to pass along a coupon to the forum members once weíre ready ;)
 Preston said:
I'm new to SEO, and one of the things that stands out to me about Jill's comments is search engine integrity of microsites. They sound like a great idea for large corporations with several dozen niche markets, but it may actually deter a certain group of visitors from having user-friendly access to their specific microsites. When someone is looking for a specific item or product, whether they know the brand and features or not, then microsites are good on the user-end. But with people who search for a corporate product catalog with multiple brands/niches/features, it would be a nightmare to navigate more than 5-10 microsites. I think SEO is consistently based on the premise that switching from one site to another, micro or macro, results in a watered-down and often confusing user experience. Case in point, I am using a different computer than had been for the past several years, and don't have MS Office on it since a computer breakdown recently. I searched for the trial version of Word, and despite visiting multiple pages within Microsoft's web site, including ones that may be construed as microsites, I could not find it. There were links saying Word 2007 free 60-day trial, and other links I followed that were strongly associated with my several search terms, but none of them led to an actual download page or external link to a download. How is this sort of thing handled by microsites and internal, customized search engines for visitors who do not have a specific goal or product in mind? It appears as an oblivion of links, info, and navigation to a user. Perhaps microsites can work when users are given a set of tools from the outset of visiting the corporate site, or the microsites individually. Now I can understand external linking to microsites from the corporate web site, but microsites on their own probably don't have much efficacy in SEO at this time.
 dwm said:
Microsites aren't primarily for SEO...they are for conversions. Very often the corporate web app can't provide a sufficient experience, or provide enough information to gin up the excitement needed. Moreover, the beancounters and IT geek wannabes are in control of the way the web app presents information - a microsite frees marketing and sales to make their pitch, then deliver the customer right back to the corporate shopping cart.

I'm not sure SEO is much of a consideration, so I agree with the essayist, but I think the point of a microsite was missed entirely.