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The how and why of mini-sites for content marketing

Issue-specific sites, sites devoted to a single product or service, and mini-sites for other purposes can be a great alternative to building out new sections of your main online presence. Here’s why.

Content management systems (CMS) have been, on the whole, a great step forward in the evolution of the web. They allow site owners to maintain their own sites without the friction (in time and money) of having to go through a technical team to add, edit, and delete content. This has fueled the rise of content marketing and increased the power and value of a well-crafted website.

But the capabilities that a CMS gives a marketing team also can create Frankenstein’s monster: a website that over time comes to feel as if it as cobbled together from discarded parts of other websites.

Frequently this is because the marketing team is in the habit of making the changes it wants, when it wants to make them, and may not realize that an addition may not really work within the structure of the site they have.

That is a perfect opportunity to build a mini-site – when you need to present your story in a way that your current site won’t easily allow.

Usability Issues

Frequently, this is less a technical issue than it is a usability issue. A mini-site avoids forcing your site visitors to change gears quite so abruptly. A well implemented CMS will allow you to add new templates to accommodate your new content, but those templates won’t always mesh well with what already exists on the site. So you wind up forcing your audience to make a leap, which can be jarring. A mini-site can re-calibrate expectations and eliminate these usability issues.

Flexibility

The other side of this same coin is the flexibility that a clean slate gives you. Your team can think outside of the design and navigational constraints in place on your existing site. Marketers and graphic designers can collaborate to create an entirely different experience if that serves the mini-site’s purposes.

Add Attention

You may not always want to make that kind of splash, but when you do, a complete change of scenery will help draw additional attention to your message and set it apart from your regular message. In this case, a mini-site is akin to a talking head saying, “We now bring you this breaking news” into one camera before turning to another and, well, delivering the breaking news.

Extend Your Brand

Another reason to consider a mini-site is to support brand extension. A new initiative may be a bit outside the norm of your offerings. You may feel that even though you have an eye toward making it a part of your main suite of products or services, for now, your overall brand and the new extension would both benefit from a little space. The mini-site, especially if it is designed to be distinct from but clearly related to your main brand, will help you accomplish this.

From a practical perspective, it can also make sense to build a stand-alone site if you know the site isn’t permanent and adding and then deleting it from your main presence is more work than building and deleting. This can be true even if the mini-site is seasonal and will be re-used in the future.

Don’t Forget SEO

There can be SEO and other implications to building a new site, so be sure to include your SEO team at the earliest opportunity in your planning.

A stand-alone site can be launched in a number of ways – on a separate domain entirely, as a subdomain of your main presence (minisite.yourdomain.com) or in a subdirectory of your existing site. (yourdomain.com/minisite). There are advantages and disadvantages to all these approaches, so be sure to explore them before making your final decision.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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