Not too long ago, WebriQ was essentially positioned as a service company leveraging the most modern web building techniques and platforms to provide our customers and especially their customers with a digital experience worth the name. Besides being a service company, we always had the ambition to bootstrapping niche applications such as WebriQ Studio, WebriQ Forms, and WebriQ Payment Forms.
A Little Bit of History
So how did this idea of building WebriQ Studio come to fruition? Back in 2016, we decided to abandon monolithic content management systems and focused on building websites and web apps on what the founders of Netlify coined as the Jam stack. A lot of learning was involved and the tools available at that time were scarce and almost uniquely focused on front-end developers. There was a lot of trial and error involved and plenty of groping in the dark. Frustrations accompanied successful launches.
However, in the last five years, the Jamstack ecosystem has grown to a decent size. All the vendors involved, the products that were developed and launched, as well as the marketing campaigns that were launched have one single target - the developer.
And whereas that is absolutely fine in the early years of the ecosystem, it needs to evolve into a mainstream technology stack adopted by marketers, digital marketers, business people and key decision-makers.
Marketers are not waiting for the next technology wave nor are they waiting for a new technology stack to emerge. They are not interested in finding out what best-of-breed technologies are or what composable commerce is all about.
Marketers are looking for ready-to-go products that enable them to publish content seamlessly, quickly, and in collaboration with teammates. They are looking for ease of use and ease of operation.
And lastly, they are looking for products that are flexible and decently supported by the vendor.
Forging Forward with WebriQ Studio
What marketers and website owners need have always resonated with us and that is what we built with WebriQ Studio. WebriQ Studio is a flexible web publishing platform that enables marketing teams to manage, edit and publish various content blocks in a stress-free manner. It also allows the coordination of named components at will and at scale on any website.
The end goal of the product is to enable marketing teams to deliver relevant content to their customers right when they need it
Integration - How Does W-Studio Fit into the Big Picture?
The next question we needed to answer is where could WebriQ Studio fit in a crowded market of CMS systems of all colors and flavors, open-source and closed-source technologies, easy to use and not so easy to use? WebriQ Studio has the capability to build personalized digital experiences, and whereas there is a need for that on almost all digital assets owned by companies, the best fit for our products is with Microsites.
What is a microsite?
A microsite is a branded webpage or a group of webpages, that exist separate from your main website. The idea behind a microsite is to offer yet another platform for potential customers to discover your brand with the objective that the unique content it holds will drive them to perform an action. This action can range anywhere from simply reading the content to signing up for email newsletters. While a microsite will often contain your brand components (logo, color schemes, fonts, etc.), you have the option of varying these to make the microsite stand out from your normal website or to drive home a specific message.
A microsite is obviously smaller than a corporate website, but it has a larger application than landing pages.
In a microsite, the UX is in the detail. With less information to distract users on a microsite, companies can provide more detail on each product and its reason for being.
Some sites are overcrowded and this seriously affects the navigation of the site. This makes it difficult to complete the action users came to achieve lowering conversions.
A microsite solves the issue by offloading product categories from the primary website, to another more streamlined and specific site. The more targeted the site, the more likely people are to be engaged by it.
With a clear understanding of a smaller user group, call to action and content can be tailored to increase interaction and user experience satisfaction. Creating a microsite for one product can allow you to become a specialist in that domain.
Having a stronger position in one market can then strengthen the entire brand allowing for more risk without damaging alternative brand extensions.
What is the difference between a microsite and a website?
Different domain name
One of the main differences between a microsite and a normal website is that a microsite lives on its own independent domain i.e. its own web address or URL that doesn’t necessarily need to contain your brand name. If your website is www.example.com, your microsite domain could be, say, www.brandmarketing.com.
Microsites are not subdomains
It’s important not to confuse microsites with subdomains, which are, as the name suggests, sites that exist under your main domain. You might have noticed the blog section of some of your favorite websites having the word ‘blog’ in front of their normal URLs. What you have there is a blog site that exists under the main website’s domain. Using the example above, your blogsite subdomain would be www.blog.example.com.
Microsites are temporary
Diamonds might be forever but microsites are not. In most cases, microsites tend to be temporary sites. Brands use them as part of specific marketing campaigns or strategies (more on what microsites are used for below). Once the campaign comes to an end, so does the microsite. This is not always the case however, some microsites are continuously updated, repurposed by brands, or end up being incorporated into the main website. A microsite example of the latter is Red Bull’s ‘Red Bulletin’ microsite which was later amalgamated with the brand’s main website and now sits under the redbull.com domain.
Microsites hold different content
A microsite is for all intents and purposes its own entity. It often contains media elements such as audio, image, or video that aren’t on the main website. Creative engagement functions are often exclusively built into microsites.
Size doesn’t always matter
Compared to a regular website, a microsite often has a small number of pages. What brands want to do with microsites is to minimize clutter and distraction so content is much more focused.
Microsites require their own strategy
A digital marketing campaign is not a real one if it doesn’t factor in keyword targeting, user intent, customer targeting, call-to-action, social media strategy, link building (referral links from high quality third party websites to your microsite), and email marketing amongst others. How a brand approaches these factors for a microsite will differ from how it handles them for its main website. The idea is to streamline these factors for a specific, targeted campaign. These factors can then be used as metrics to measure performance and set benchmarks.
Now that you have a clearer idea of what a microsite is and how it differs from a normal website, let’s move on to exactly what purpose microsites serve.
What is a microsite used for?
You might be wondering why brands, especially those with brand recognition and good market share, would decide to set up a mini-site that exists outside of their main website. It’s almost counterintuitive to the principles of marketing where brand equity is vital. But a good way to look at this is how world-renowned authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling choose to write some of their work under pseudonyms because it allows them to experiment, branch out beyond what they are typically known to write about, and be seen in a different light.
Brands use microsites for very similar reasons. A microsite allows a brand to use alternative content strategies to reach a particular audience. In many cases, companies have websites that are quite rigid in their structure, design, and messaging. This is not to say that is a bad thing: sometimes it makes sense for brands in certain verticals to have such websites. What a microsite would allow such brands (and indeed any brand) to do is:
Get really creative
Target specific audiences that require messaging different from the brand’s standard type
Experiment with different media formats, i.e blogs, video, audio etc.
Create another platform to gain online visibility
Get eyes and attention on a new product or service they are launching
Create an alternative way to capture emails or build social media followers
Show another side to the brand, including a change in tone of voice
If your website has hundreds or thousands of pages, a microsite is a great way to summarize or filter down to the essence of what you are about.
Microsites are a great way for brands to take advantage of what digital marketing has to offer, especially if they operate in competitive sectors.
What makes a good microsite?
Targeting is a word that’s come up a few times thus far in this article and that’s because it is foundational to microsites. It goes without saying then, that a good microsite has to be precise with its messaging and satisfy both the marketing intent of the brand and satisfy the user intent of the visitor. A good way to do this is to make your microsite simple while still packing a punch. Here are a few more things that make for a good microsite:
The microsite should have content that’s as unique as possible and can stand alone and stand out from what is on a brand’s regular website.
If a microsite has more than one page, it should be easy and intuitive to navigate.
An interactive element that engages the user
Gamification (the integration of gaming mechanics) or a quiz are a great way to get the user to participate in a campaign and make them stay on the site longer. The longer they stay, the longer the memory of their visit lasts.
A microsite should have buttons that make it easy to share on social media, mobile apps, email, etc.
A good microsite has to have a call to action that is clear and actionable.
Great microsites are connected to performance analysis tools that allow you to measure your KPIs (who says it has to be all about the user).
Optimized URL/Domain name
When possible, a good microsite should have a URL that includes any of the slogan, campaign name, target keyword, product name, etc., the microsite was built. This gives the microsite the chance to rank well on search engines while being specific as to what the microsite is about. A user is more likely to visit a microsite that has a web address that contains the keywords they searched for.
What are the benefits of a microsite?
By now you’re probably starting to have an idea of how beneficial a microsite can be as part of your digital marketing campaign. Time to dive into the specific benefits of building a microsite…
Increase brand visibility
Microsites offer another way for brands to boost their brand awareness online. Because they are used for content that is engaging, fun, informative, creative, from the left field, and innovative, they can help gain or maintain top-of-mind awareness. The internet is a competitive field. Anything that can give you the edge over competitors is worth investing in.
New Lead Generation
The headline sounds like the name of a modern-day punk rock band, but this microsite benefit is an important one. Gaining new leads is at the heart of every business’s marketing objectives. Done well, a microsite can pull a potential customer in, rather than push them towards an action that will turn them into a lead. Customers have never been more conscious or wary of targeted advertising online. The way successful brands are circumventing this is by creating experiences that come across as informative and engaging rather than the usual hard sell or push marketing tactics. The right microsite provides an effortless, seamless process from curiosity to genuine interest. Prospects move on to the next step in the sales funnel because a microsite has offered them an experience.
Microsite can be as cheap as you can afford or as expensive as your budget allows. Because lots of money spent doesn’t always equal great results (you’ll be amazed how rubbish some expensively built websites are), the affordability of microsites can even out the playing field. This means smaller brands can compete with the big boys by being creative and providing great content.
Part of a customer’s purchase journey
The internet has added layers to the way consumers go through the sales process. Touchpoints and the purchase funnel are elements that have been forever changed by the web. The Google coined “Micro-moments” (consumers reflexively going on devices – often smartphones – for information gathering purposes that can lead to purchasing) is becoming a huge part of customer behavior. Having a microsite that can deliver the information sorted out by a consumer is a fantastic way to be right there wherever they are in their purchase journey. You can create a microsite for every one of the steps in the purchase funnel.
Boost customer engagement
We are in an age where megastar celebrities reply to the tweets of their fans. Likewise, consumers demand more from brands these days. A television advert, radio commercial, or a “Please buy from us now!!!” banner on a website just won’t do anymore. Customers want interaction, they crave engagement. A microsite is an easier way to do this. If you offer this to them, they will thank you for your efforts by sharing your content, growing your brand popularity through word-of-mouth marketing, therefore, becoming brand advocates, coming back for return visits, and more.
Can improve SEO performance
If there’s a particular area of your business you’d like to see perform better in search engines, a microsite can help achieve this. By targeting a specific keyword, topic, or area of expertise and placing it on a site dedicated to that alone, you have a chance of ranking well for it. While on a surface level this might seem only beneficial to brands that choose to host their microsites on their main website domain (this is sometimes referred to as a “branded vertical”), brands that host SEO-rich content on a separate microsite domain can still benefit immensely by:
Having links going to their main website
Contacting third party websites that have linked to the microsite and asking them to also link to the main website
Having the microsite URL redirect to a relevant page on the main website once the campaign is over
Microsites are also perfect for SEO elements such as structured data (schema) and AMP (accelerated mobile pages), two search engine results feature that boost clicks.
Great for CRM
Any brand worth its salt knows the importance of customer retention marketing. While email newsletters are still a great way to keep your existing/previous customers informed and (hopefully) coming back for more business, they can end up being repetitive and boring. With a microsite, your marketing communication can be more diverse, dynamic, inventive, engaging, and memorable. Depending on your business type, you can personalize a microsite by including features that make it unique to the user. It could, for example, use their previous purchase history to show their personality type. Cross-selling additional products and services to existing customers via this channel can be more effective than a simple “You might also like this” email. Want to keep them coming back for more? Give them more!
Search engine marketing can be a very complex thing that leads to complex data and analysis. Compared to a regular website, however, a microsite is focused on one campaign and a set of goals and/or objectives (sometimes as few as one). This means setting KPIs and determining what metrics should be used to gauge success is much easier. With fantastic tools like Google Analytics, figuring out the ROI of your microsite is a breeze. In fact, working on a microsite can possibly help you streamline how you approach measuring success on your main website.
How to create a microsite: The basics
Alright, now that you know the answer to “what is a microsite?” and you understand some of the basic benefits and downsides to create a microsite campaign, let’s move on to the next stage of our guide. Figuring out how to build a microsite isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Usually, these digital tools are a lot simpler and more basic than a fully-featured website, so they require a lot less work.
A website design expert should be able to create a microsite framework for you using just a couple of basic elements from a typical site. However, before you jump into microsite marketing for yourself, it’s essential to make sure you know how to use these tools. For instance:
Tell the right story
One of the biggest benefits of microsites is that they allow companies to target different kinds of customers – people who might not appear on their parent website. For instance, a food website might design a different microsite for vendors, home cooks, and restaurant owners. When you’re creating your microsite landing page and surrounding content, it’s crucial to ensure that it speaks the language of the audience you’re trying to reach.
Adjust your storytelling tactics with each microsite to ensure that you’re catering to the needs and expectations of the hyper-focused niche you’re appealing to.
Get the navigation right
Remember that a microsite is supposed to be simple and easy to use – not just for you but for your audience too. Think carefully about your microsite navigation, and how your audience will be able to explore your content. Remember that people might be visiting your microsite from their smartphones as well as computer desktops. With that in mind, make the font large and legible, and buttons easy to click.
Usually, brand microsites will have slightly different navigation experiences than the one that you would expect on a primary parent website. If you’re not sure how to give your audience the best possible experience, try speaking to a website designer about your options.
Get your message across
It’s important not to go off on a tangent when you’re using microsite platforms for a specific campaign or product. Ultimately, you’ve only got a minimal amount of space to work with, so you’re going to need to make sure that you’re getting your message across as concisely as possible.
Test your microsites carefully
Finally, just because a microsite is different from a fully-featured website, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be using some of the same strategies that you would use with a typical website here. Just like a standard website, you’ll want your microsite for a campaign to be as easy to understand as possible, professional-looking, and brimming with great features. What’s more, you’ll need to test and optimize the performance of your microsite framework with regular testing.
A/B testing things like the colors on your site, the CTA buttons, and language that you use, and even the kind of images you share can make a huge difference to your ROI. The more you test your microsites, the more you’ll be able to see which elements lead to conversions, and which make it harder to impress your target audience.
How Did We Pull this Off Technology Wise?
WebriQ Studio needed to comply with the MACH philosophy. Build around Microservices and APIs, Cloud-native and Headless. It needs to be seamless to use and operate. All components used in the products need to have an open-source philosophy.
So we came out with four major components:
Sanity and Sanity Studio for the headless CMS
Nextjs as the production framework
Serverless forms and payment forms through AWS
Netlify for the entire publishing workflow and Edge functionality
Let's also focus a bit more on the content schema put together for WebriQ Studio.
The content schema is prebuilt and serves as the core of the publishing tool and as the only UI that users need to learn and understand.
For each page you build, you can choose from 20 different components and each component has 5 different variables.
Examples of pre-configured components are Navigation, Header, Footer, Text, Call to action, Testimonial, Portfolio, FAQs, Blog, and more.
Each page with a distinct URL can be populated with one or multiple components. All components can be reused on other pages and all components that are uniquely tagged are updated throughout all pages when content updates are done to that component. All components can be uniquely designed and branded through a Windtail CSS library.
All pages can be previewed before publishing.
SEO settings can be done on all pages separately and there is an SEO preview functionality embedded.
Last but not least, we provide the possibility to publish your WebriQ Studio to any TLD or subdomain of choice and all WebriQ Studios are de facto integrated with WebriQ analytics.
Focusing on Customer Success
As a bootstrapped company we focus on customer success, lifestyle, and profitability instead of solely focusing on growth and valuation.
Without the VC's model's incentive and pressure, it allows us to be independent and extremely price-conscious. At the same time, we can stay in control over our technology platform and focus on critical user-centric measurements.
With WebriQ's core competencies at play and with WebriQ Studio, building a microsite for successful online marketing and branding needs is at your fingertips.