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May 05, 2017

The Microsite - Is Your Content Creation a Home Run?

“Content is king” is commonly heard these days. Around ENGINEERING.com, we also like to say “content is a gift that keeps on giving.” Once you get good content published, it can live on its own and keep generating interest – and leads. This is in contrast to advertising, which when you shut off the tap, the leads dry up immediately.

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Figure 1 -Turn off the advertising and the leads dry up immediately. Sponsor some content, and the leads will keep coming as long as the article is online.

But where to publish content? It would be easiest to publish it on your own site. Your site may be very popular. Some vendor sites, like Microsoft and Autodesk, generate tremendous traffic. But you would only be reaching your own customers, or in other words, preaching to the choir. The customers you want to acquire may never see it. Those that do stumble upon are likely to dismiss anything on your site as biased. That may be unfair. Sorry.

You could shop your content around, pitching your “great story” to the popular sites where content is trusted, unbiased. At ENGINEERING.com, we get a lot of those pitches. Marketers know every engineer will check out ENGINEERING.com at some point and are anxious to use our site as a platform for their products and services. However, most editors would rather commission or write their own stories rather than be fed a “great story” from a company with an agenda. This way, they can be sure that bias or gratuitous promotion doesn’t sneak in and affect our credibility with our audience.

Another way to serve your content is to create an altogether new site to house your content, with a different domain and different branding. This will buy you some time. Readers who come across it will not immediately associate it with your company and you can establish a little trust as readers read your articles.

Don’t try to be sneaky. The articles should be unbiased, informative and interesting.  If you venture into the land of marketing hyperbole your site will be summarily dismissed. Instead, create content that demonstrate the impact of your products but don’t make them the star of the story. 

Are you a design software company?  Tell the story of how a startup rocketed from a garage to a serious player, oh and by the way, they were helped along by your low cost entrepreneur targeted offering.  Do you make collaborative robots?  How about you flip the script and talk about how automation will create good paying jobs, not take jobs away?  There are an infinite number interesting stories you could tell, you just need to look for them (and stay away from the marketing hyperbole!)

Another thing that is critical to the success of your microsite is maintaining independence.  A good way to do that is to use different writers.  Industry experts are the best because they come with their own credibility.  Each will have their own perspective of your industry and will write that into their story, side-stepping the problem of every story sounding the same and appearing to be “on message.”   

Microsites in Action

An examples of a microsite we admire is RedShift.com, by Autodesk. The site is different enough from its corporate creator. Different logos, different look, etc. It’s not about pitching the company’s product -- okay, maybe a little. But, it tries to do only as appropriate. The writers at Redshift are chosen for their industry experience and writing ability. You’ll not see any bylines from corporate shills. The small group that creates Redshift, essentially a publishing organization within the software company, resists product promotion. They have stiff armed many a product manager that comes to them convinced their product is the best and most deserving of attention.

We also have some experience with microsites here at ENGINEERING.com We started a microsite when a customer needed exactly the credibility a third party publisher was able to give.

Growing Traffic.png

For EngineersRule.com, we published 10 sponsored articles a month and watched the traffic grow. The chart above shows the growth in organic search traffic to Engineers Rule from the beginning of January of last year up to the end of March. You can see steady growth after the first six months and that it starts taking off in the 2nd six months—even though the rate of publication stayed the same. It wasn’t just organic traffic though, as we saw healthy rates of return traffic as well. By March of this year, we had 11,800 sessions of organic search from a total of 17,500 sessions total.

Microsites are a major undertaking, but offer a bevy of unique benefits more traditional marketing initiatives can only dream of.  I’ve only outlined the basic here, but if you’d like to know more feel free to send me an email or ask in the comments section below. 

Until Next Time,

Roopinder

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Research Report: How Engineers Find Information
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