Generally speaking, Using Microsites is a bad idea. However, Using Microsites is a good idea is when you are conducting an ORM campaign (Online Reputation Management) and are looking to displace some negative or unfavorable results. In this post, I’ll cover the basic theory, give some tips on how to use them, and show you an example.
Unless there is a legal precedent or court ruling, it’s nearly impossible to get a page removed from Google. In fact, trying to get a page removed often gets it more attention and links and actually ends up making things worse for you (see the the Streisand effect). Ideally, you want to displace those negative SERP listings you have no control or influence over with positive listings of sites you do control and influence. If you don’t currently have sites that work for this, you’ll need to create sites that you do control and can link to.
The Research and Information Angle
People love getting things for free, especially if it’s valuable research or information. Giving away free white papers or PDF’s is a tried and true practice, but when you are doing it for ORM you need to remember your ONLY goal is building links to that website. You want to make sure you are giving away something that is really high quality–something on par with the research from HubSpot or Trendwatching. While those sites are using the free research as a lead generation or sales tool, you want to avoid even the slightest hint of commercialization. You want the research to be as high quality as possible, as uncommercialized as possible, and as easy to obtain and share the link as you can get. The site should be small and have minimal navigation. You will want to have one page optimized for the company or person’s name you are performing the ORM campaign for. The page should be linked to from every other page on the website. It should have optimal internal anchor text.
The Charity Angle
If the company or person you are doing ORM for participates in charitable events or is big donor to charities, you can create a separate domain highlighting this activity. If they aren’t, I would strongly suggest it. Create a small website with very little commercial intent and highlight all of of the charity work being done. Use pictures and multi-media. Try to show this is a long term involvement and not just a new initiative. Try to get a link from the charity directly to the microsite with anchor text as optimal as you can. Remember the person’s name or company’s name is optimal. Do NOT use commercial keywords.
If the company you are doing ORM work for has done or been involved in any notable industry accomplishments, create a website highlighting it. If they have a diverse makeup, highlight that. If they are involved in community projects, highlight that. Basically, anything that is noteworthy and not self-serving is a possible item to consider adding. Again, keep the microsite as commercial free as possible. The less commercial it looks, the easier it will be to get links for. The more links and the more authoritative the links you build, the better the microsite will rank.
If you are doing ORM for a company with a long, rich, or noteworthy history, highlighting that on its own microsite is another option. While it’s clearly a lot more self-serving than the other options mentioned above, sometimes you need to occupy a few slots and this can help you do it it.
Contests are tricky: every state has its own laws and regulations about what you can and can’t do. However, if you can give away a decent enough prize, building links is a walk in the park. For maximum effectiveness try to include a UGC component and encourage people to link/share the URL of their submission. Doing so puts free link building and social proof right at your fingertips.
Linkbait and viral content are tried and true link building methods. If you put the content on a microsite, you can often be a lot edgier that your main website. Unless it completely backfires, edgier almost always gets you more links and higher SERPS.
Try to choose domain names with the terms you are trying to rank for. The closer to an exact match, the better. The only reason you might want to avoid an exact match is domain length and billboard quality. The power and potential of short domains and easy to remember domains should not be underestimated.
Design the site to be as low maintenance as possible. You should refresh or add some new content at least once a year, but keep it reasonable. Also remember that you will have to renew the domain names and hosting as long as the bad pages you need to displace exist. Think about and consider the long term consequences and obligations.
You don’t want to create the appearance of constructing a link nest or link brothel. Interlink sparingly and only when needed. Linking to every microsite from the main company site makes sense, but linking them all to each other looks “funny.” Additionally, the sites will all rank better if they have unique sets of backlinks.
Despite being the largest fast food company in the United States, McDonald’s had a ORM problem on the internet a few years ago. I’m not going to debate whether or not McDonald’s is trying to clean things up by adding healthy food options or if they are just pandering to the public with empty token gestures. What is true is that McDonald’s has done an amazing job of cleaning up their SERP from an ORM perspective [McDonalds]
Compare Mcdonalds to [High Fructose Corn Syrup]
So what are the takeaways from this post:
- While microsites generally aren’t a good idea for ORM, they are essential
- Create research sites and give away high quality information
- Create a website to highlight your charitable involvement and activities
- Create a website to highlight employees and noteworthy work or achievements
- Create a website to highlight company history or information
- Create a website for contests you run or your historical contests
- Create a viral content site that is edgier than your normal company tone
- Choose domain names with exact name and/or easy to remember qualities
- Design site to be as low maintenance as possible
- Keep sites as commercial free as possible
- Interlink sparingly. Don’t create a nest of sites or link brother to pump up your main domain. Strive to give each site its own diverse backlink profile