When it comes to SEO, most people understand the value in doing optimizations to your website. I think it’s also a good assumption to say that most people understand the value of social media. Finally, it’s fair to say that fewer people understand how the two should work together and even fewer people understand how to bridge that gap. Well, people, you’re in luck. There is a way to get everything working together and it goes beyond simply adding your social links to your home page. The answer is the minisite and when done properly, a minisite can leverage all of your social media to help drive traffic, increase brand awareness, and synchronize your message.
So you might be wondering what a minisite is. Simply put, it’s a website separate from your main site, which contains a unique message. There are lots of examples to choose from but today I’ll give you two, starting with Frosted Mini-Wheats and later I’ll show an example from Newmar Motorhomes.
You can take a look at Kellogs, versus their Frosted Mini-Wheats page (sorry, I couldn’t resist the use of mini), versus their Mini-Wheats minisite you’ll notice some distinct differences. There is actually one other level to this multi-channel campaign and that is their “Mom’s Homeroom” page on MSN, which is a specialized social site that Frosted Mini-Wheats sponsors. Each page has a purpose and is an integral part of Mini-Wheats’ presence online. Now at this point it probably all seems a little confusing but hopefully this screen shot will help clear things up:
The minisite actually outranks the Kellogs’ website. The minisite also delivers more of a message around the product, while the corporate page is focused more on, well, corporate stuff. Utilizing a minisite allowed them to deliver a better message and drive traffic to the places that are most likely to result in an eventual sale or to where they can better interact with the brand. The pages are all setup in a manner that promotes SEO, utilizing their social campaigns to help spread links.
If you look at their link strategy for example, not every page links to each other. The minisite is used as a hub to navigate to all the different social and media pages. It’s the center of the Frosted Mini-Wheats information architecture and does a tremendous job of spreading their message. Structuring your links in this manner also helps to ensure every pages’ link juice is being spread and not cancelled by sharing links. The most important thing to recognize with the Mini-Wheats example, is that the minisite accomplishes more than the corporate page ever could have on its own. By separating the Mini-Wheats brand from the Kellogs brand, they were able to succeed in getting their message across.
The second example of how to utilize a minisite to improve rankings and bridge the social media gap comes from Newmar Motorhomes. They recently launched a promotional tour to show off their new 2011 models and decided a multi-channel social campaign was in order. It was also the perfect launch vehicle (pun only slightly intended) for social media. With the decision to move forward came the birth of Go Newmar!.
The Go Newmar! page, again, is the hub of their social network. In addition to the page being the center piece that ties Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube together, it also tied in their direct marketing, in the form of having staff traveling the country to meet potential and current customers, with their online presence. The objective of this minisite is different than what we experienced in Kellogs. The minisite for Newmar was successful in promoting a particular campaign while also generating a boost in SEO the Newmar homepage and supported communication with their customers through social pages.
Again, the individual pages don’t link to each other. The Newmar homepage offers a link to the social pages. The social pages offer links to the minisite. The minisite offers links back to the home page. This system forms a daisy chain that helps spread the link juice while avoiding link sharing (as much as possible). Newmar has seen a giant boost in their Social presence and interaction, particularly with YouTube (over 1500 views) and Facebook (almost 400 “likes”). The minisite was a great way to begin people on the path of interacting with the brand online and although the motorhome tour has recently ended, their social media pages continue to have interaction.
So now that you’ve seen a couple good examples of using a minisite to bridge to social media gap, how exactly should you plan your own? Here is a simple step-by-step guide to get you going in the right direction.
1. Define your goal. As you can see from the two examples above, not every minisite is going to have the same objective. You need to understand what message you are trying to deliver.
2. Decide on what social media platforms you’ll be using. A lot of the decision behind this will have to do with resources, financial and human. You might not be able to shoot video so YouTube is out or you don’t have the option to have your own social page hosted on MSN. Most companies can find the resources for Twitter and Facebook, which is a good place to start. Bottom line, if you can’t stay active, don’t use it.
3. Develop a linking strategy to help promote SEO. Remember, don’t share links within all of the pages. Daisy chaining one page to the next and back to your original is a good strategy or setting up your target page as the hub of a wheel are two good strategies.
4. Coordinate your content throughout the pages. If you have a blog or media page on your website, that’s a good place to announce the development of the minisite. Use your minisite to promote your social sites and to expand on the message you are trying to deliver. Finally, use your social sites to interact with your customers.
5. Stay with it. While you can certainly create a minisite without the intent to update it frequently, you can’t do that with social media. Staying active on your social pages is extremely important so if don’t think you’ll have time to keep up with it, refer back to step 2.
Robert is an Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.