How To Use Microsites For Crisis Management
Microsites are poised to make a comeback after suffering from rampant abuse by black hat SEOs. These tiny websites were once used as a spammy method of outranking competitors in Google by leveraging the power of exact match domains, but they’ve recently been revived by brands in creative ways. There are several recent examples of how brands use microsites for crisis management.
What are Microsites?
For those who aren’t familiar, a microsite is nothing more complicated than a small-scale website with only a few pages. Some examples include web apps allowing users to play a game, survey pages, and the holiday favorite, Elf Yourself.
Marketers love microsites because they are laser-focused on one topic, making them ideal for tracking advertising. They’ve been used by politicians, charities, and brands with great success, and they’re incredibly versatile. Microsites have been widely adopted for digital marketing campaigns, fundraising, entertainment, public relations, and most recently as a crisis management tool.
Fortunately, companies are beginning to recognize the importance of crisis preparation and management, and are deploying microsites for crisis management.
How a Crisis Affects Your Company’s Website
On average, a business experiences a crisis every two years. Whatever the cause—product recall, employee scandal, industrial accident, political entanglement—the result is chaos.
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Negative online content quickly dominates your brand’s search landscape, pushing positive content out of view. Damaging articles will also impact your brand’s reputation and erode trust in your products or services. This is especially frustrating when emerging information is speculative or inaccurate.
Not only does bad press harm your brand’s reputation, it can ripple through your finances. When your digital properties lose search visibility, you’ll see a drop in vital metrics, including organic click through rate, traffic and conversions on your most valuable pages.
On the other hand, too much traffic can cause other problems. While some brands are dealing with a loss of traffic from depressed search visibility, others may be grappling with a massive increase of concurrent users. If your website can’t cope with the sudden influx of users, it could crash. With your primary website down, people may look to your social profiles for information and customer support. Unfortunately, this could result in a flood of negative comments for all to see. Additionally, your social media team may be unable to keep up with the surge of negative engagement.
Even if your site remains functional, users aren’t likely to find the information they’re seeking if it’s buried on an obscure page. This could result in hundreds or thousands of emails being sent to a general inbox maintained by one person. Without proper preparation, your entire customer care team could be monopolized with answering general FAQs instead of managing customer relationships. Companies are now using microsites to solve many of these issues.
How Brands Use Microsites For Crisis Management
As the crisis unfolds, it’s critical for everyone to have fast access to accurate information. Customers, business partners, shareholders, employees and the press will inundate your company with questions. Filling your homepage with details about the crisis could signal to Google that the topic is relevant to your brand. Furthermore, potential customers might be driven away when confronted by negative content on your website. Instead, brands can solve these problems with microsites for crisis management.
Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash
Turnkey activation is a major benefit of microsites. If the web property has already been developed, you can quickly update the content and go live as soon as a crisis breaks. Furthermore, you can keep this domain out of Google’s index until it’s needed, so you won’t have to migrate content before launching.
Controlling the narrative
Brands may receive thousands of inquiries during a crisis, but most of them will likely ask the same thing. By directing users to a microsite FAQ page, you ensure that all published information is pre-approved while reducing the risk of communication inconsistencies. It’s also wise to have a separate press page so media inquiries don’t get buried by customer concerns. When journalists can’t reach a company for comment they often reach out to others, including your competitors.
Expand your digital footprint
Microsites aren’t just for crisis-related content; they’re also an excellent way to expand your brand’s positive digital presence during negative news cycles. Many reputation management services incorporate this strategy to push negative articles down and recapture lost organic traffic. For example, launching and promoting a site dedicated to showcasing your corporate social responsibility efforts might offset some unflattering stories and give potential customers another reason to consider your brand.
Microsites For Crisis Management – Wrapping things up
Microsites have historically been used for sales and marketing, but companies continue finding new uses for these diminutive domains. One current example of a brand using a microsite for reputation management comes from Johnson & Johnson. They built a simple website in an effort to control negative press currently linking baby powder to cancer. The company has been battered by headlines about lawsuits and has made good use of a separate domain to address some of those concerns.
Microsites are an inexpensive security policy that can provide peace of mind should your company ever experience a crisis.
About the author:
Jonas Sickler has been developing and deploying marketing campaigns for nearly two decades. He has a wealth of experience with connecting multinational brands with influencers across social media, websites, and blogs. Jonas is also an expert in crisis management and online reputation repair. Follow along on Twitter.