Let’s talk about microsites and traffic drops: ask an SEO


Today’s SEO question comes from Kate at Louisville, who wrote:

“I work for a company that builds microsites for its clients.

What factors should I focus on when there is a drop in organic traffic?

In the fourth quarter of 2021, for example, we rebranded and the metadata changed.

Would this have a massive impact on traffic in the future? »

Strictly speaking, there is nothing different when it comes to how search engines treat a microsite compared to a regular website.

They still look at URLs, links, titles, content, and hundreds of other ranking factors, so the same SEO best practices for diagnosing a ranking drop will also apply to microsites.

Let’s talk about traffic drops first

I want to share some thoughts on microsites in general, but before that, let’s look at how to deal with this drop in traffic.

The specific answer to your metadata question is: Maybe.

If you’ve drastically changed the title tag so it’s no longer relevant to your page, e.g. “home”, you’re probably not ranking as highly for your query and you’re not getting many clicks if you you rank.

(Just a reminder: meta descriptions and keywords are not ranking factors in major search engines. However, a description box have an effect on your click-through rates – when Google decides to show the one you wrote.)

The good news is that putting it back on and seeing what happens is a really easy and quick test to perform.

The first thing to do when there is a traffic drop on any site is to understand where the traffic drop has occurred.

Is it a specific query or a set of queries? is it a specific page or group of pages? Is it on the whole site?

Look for patterns. It can be a “style” of the keyword (for example, keywords around a specific section of the site) or a certain page template.

This information can direct you where to look.

Once you figure out where the traffic drop is, find that query/page and see what happens.

If you don’t show up at all, check your site for a technical issue.

If you show up, has someone else skipped your position?

If you have lost rankings, you should first ask what changes have been made to the page.

Often an unwanted title tag or random content change or technical issue can be to blame.

Assuming there is no change at fault, the next step requires introspection.

Ask yourself, “Is this really the best outcome for a user?” if i was looking for this query, is this what i would want? Is it better than what outclasses me?”

Often as SEO professionals we think in terms of push marketing – “how do I get this page to rank for this query”, but real success comes from a pull marketing mindset which is to figure out what the user is trying to do and create something that accomplishes that.

We see this a plot lately with major Google updates.

Search queries that previously returned product description pages now return recommendations and curated lists of the best products in that category.

Google has decided that these pages serve the user better than a single product page.

If something like this is happening in your area, the only solution is to reevaluate your content in the context of the query and what the engines are showing.

Usually it’s not fast or cheap, but it’s the best way to succeed.

OK, let’s talk about microsites

Except for a few rare cases, I’m not a big fan of microsites.

Big brands love them because they can hire a cheaper/faster vendor for a smaller project and separate it from the codebase, budgets, processes, etc. from their main website – but there are many downsides.

I’ve seen companies implement microsites to the point where user flow has become: enter the main website, click on a promotion to go to the microsite, then click on another call to action to return to the site Main web.

It looks like a lot of unnecessary overhead that introduces more starting points for conversion.

It can also be an analytics tracking nightmare.

From a strictly SEO perspective, a microsite starts over without the PageRank, link juice, or domain authority of the main website.

Whether or not you believe these metrics, links still matter – and often microsites have fewer links to their pages than if they were placed on the main domain.

The other problem is competition. Too often, a microsite made by another agency doesn’t collaborate with the agency that makes the main website, and they end up competing for the same keywords.

In some spaces it might be a good idea to own the search result and push other pages – but the key here is to have a plan and collaborate with the main site.

Having multiple search results or pushing something else for ORM (online reputation management) could be one of the reasons why you want to a microsite.

Paid search could also be another reason.

Google and Bing don’t allow you to show two ads from the same domain, but if you have a microsite, you can place 2 different ads on the same query.

In general though, if there is no good reason for a microsite, I would simply recommend creating a new page or section on the main site.

When in doubt, let user experience dictate the decision, not SEO.

If it’s going to be branded differently or there’s a good reason to separate users, create a microsite.

Otherwise, you will have better rankings and more success by including it in the main domain.

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