Just Say Maybe to Microsites: Why Nonprofits Should Just Say…

Digital AdvertisingDigital MediaSEO + Content MarketingWebsite Design + Optimization

Microsites can seem like a good idea to give nonprofit digital teams a clean slate to create something new. There is something attractive to have a fresh start on a digital campaign project. And, when done correctly, microsites can also be a powerful marketing tool for nonprofits.

Microsites are websites that exist separately from a nonprofit’s main website. They function as their own separate entity and usually have their own unique domain name. Nonprofits will often create microsites for specific campaigns or initiatives. For example, if a nonprofit is launching a new program, they might create a microsite to house all of the program’s information in one place. 

Just say ‘Yes’ to microsites

So why should your nonprofit say yes to microsites? Let’s take a look at three reasons:

1) Microsites can help simplify your message

In the age of information overload, it is more important than ever for nonprofits to simplify their message. A microsite can help you do just that by zeroing in on one specific campaign or initiative. This laser focus can be helpful in grabbing attention and driving results. 

2) Microsites can increase website traffic

If designed and promoted correctly, microsites can drive traffic to your main website – which is always a good thing! By creating targeted content and using effective digital marketing strategies, you can direct people to your microsite which will then lead them to your main website. 

3) Microsites can be a powerful marketing tool

When used correctly, microsites can be a powerful marketing tool for nonprofits. By utilizing digital marketing strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and email marketing, you can reach new audiences and promote your campaign or initiative in a cost-effective way. 

If you’re sold on a microsite separate from your main website, here are some platforms that can help spin up a website:

  • WordPress: Free open-source software that can be used for a wide range of websites, hosted solutions cost money.
  • Wix: All-in-one platform that provides everything you need to create a website, including templates, design tools, hosting, and more.
  • Weebly: Another all-in-one platform that provides everything you need to create a website without any design or coding knowledge required.
  • Squarespace: Drag-and-drop website builder with beautiful templates and features for creating professional websites.”

However, too much of a good thing, even microsites can become a problem.

Just say ‘No’ to microsites

Here is why your organization should say no to creating microsites:

1. Divided Brand

The biggest problem is that it creates multiple versions of your website, which can lead to decreased traffic and donations because people can’t find what they’re looking for, fragmenting your digital footprint. Each time you create a microsite with a new slogan or brand style it spreads the nonprofit’s brand a little thinner. This is bad because it confuses potential donors and makes it harder for them to find what they’re looking for. This problem is compounded if the microsites don’t mention the main nonprofit. 

2. Divided Attention

It divides your team’s attention so that they’re working on multiple projects instead of one cohesive website. It takes development teams longer to build and maintain multiple websites than it does one. It also may require the communications and content team to post new information in a completely new CMS (content management system). 

3. Increased Maintenance Costs

Not only does it take more time to maintain multiple websites, but it also costs more money. You have to pay for multiple domains, buy different SSL certificates, servers to host the sites and so on. All of these costs can add up quickly.

4. Sunsetting Microsites

Once a campaign is over the site content needs to be updated or migrated. People who search for an archive or report of the campaign will be lost if there isn’t a clean summary on the micro site or on the main site. This adds to the work involved with managing a site. 

5. Longterm SEO link loss

While a microsite may drive new traffic, if the site is going to be sunset that also means all of the inbound links and SEO value will be lost if the content is removed. Compare this to campaigns that are built into the main website that will build those links over time, adding to the domain reputation. 

Can you just tell me what to do?

How long is a piece of string? Sure it depends, but you’re reading this for an opinion so…

Knowing nothing about your organization and without any context, our blind recommendation at Whole Whale is generally to build a microsite on your own domain, matching the brand closely. Big picture, it is a lost opportunity to invest in the organization’s core website tech when money is spent on new design and development for temporary microsites that live outside the main site. 

Should your nonprofit say yes or no to microsites? As with anything in the nonprofit world, it depends on your specific situation. If you think a microsite might be a good fit for your next campaign or initiative, then go for it while acknowledging the downsides. If you’re not sure if a microsite is right for you, then maybe it’s best to just say no.