Microsites Contd: Hard to Keep Customers Attention
Yesterday, I wrote about PremierGuide's innovative Microsites, which can act as searchable, full-featured alternative to Web sites. They're highly effective if you want to be found by a search engine, and also put all your expensively produced TV commercials, Yellow Pages display ads, etc., in once place. As I noted, PremierGuide joins EyeBallFarm in offering Microsites.
Today EyeBallFarm Leader Jim Bonfield wrote in to our sister site, The Local Onliner, to offer blunt comments on some of the challenges that EyeBall has encountered with Microsites ( Full Disclosure: I've provided some strategic help to EyeBall, but it has done the Microsites on its own).
The biggest problem is getting the small-business owner's attention. "A local pizza restaurant owner not only doesn't easily warm to the idea of building his own ad message, but he/she may not even understand why they should even care," says Bonfield. "'I already have a Web site, Jim …' They just want to sell more pizza."
This is the case whether the Microsites, aka enhanced listings, are offered at a premium or for free. For instance, when Bonfield worked with Travidia, a tools vendor for local media firms, he offered a full set of free tools to more than 500 merchants in Citrus Heights, California.
"We provided many weeks of training," he says. "But we still had to beg these merchants to log-in to our self-serve Adscripter and post text about sales and special events, etc. to the Microsite we had built for them. Once again, we were reminded that the pizza guy just wants to make pizza."
"Local directories will work. Many are working well now," adds Bonfield. But adding more elements to the sale is definitely confusing. "Hey pizza-maker, Can you FTP your .FLVs, .MP3s and .Wavs so I can stream them via Flash players, YouTube, Google Video, MySpace and Flicker?"
Bonfield's solution is to "build a service in combination WITH the platform. The tech is incredible and DOES allow the pizza guy to do it themselves, but they don't. So, we do it for them. WE aggregate their TV spots, Radio Ads, Print Ads, Direct mail pieces. WE convert them. We post them and buy THE RIGHT keyword ads on the search engines and deliver them a report at the end of the month that says 'You spent $XX and made $YY.' "
Bonfield acknowledges that "It is not easy. It is not a high margin business and finding people to make this work every day is kicking me in the head. BUT this approach works. The ROI is clear, easy to replicate and hard to argue with. The full-service approach ultimately serves to greatly increase client retention because in the end they get what they wanted all along … they sell more pizza!"
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There are 2 questions here I think:
1) Should a local business care about a microsite if they already have a website? Answer: Yes. A local newspaper/TV station website will generally rank higher than a local business’ stand-alone website. A microsite on a high-ranking local media website will generally get more search engine referral traffic than a stand-alone website. Even if it gets less traffic, the combined traffic will still be greater than it would be for a single site. And let's not forget the 50% of local businesses that advertise that do NOT have a website. For them, a microsite is a quick and easy way to get online with a local partner they know and trust.
2) Will local businesses use self-service interfaces to create and manage microsites? Answer: Not likely. These folks generally have neither the time nor the required skills. But this has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of microsites. It simply means that local media companies have to take the initiative to create and manage microsite for local advertisers. Any local media company that wants to own a chunk of the local search opportunity in their market must invest in building unique local search content. Content has value, and like anything of value, it requires an investment to acquire and manage.