Optimizing Search Engine Rankings with Microsites

A Guest Post by Dennis Gurock
Gurock Software Co-Founder

We here at Gurock Software recently started a SEO microsite experiment that we believe is very relevant to other MicroISVs. That’s why I would like to share the results of the experiment here on Bob’s blog and explain how it helped us improve our search engine rankings. But let’s recap the experiment for a minute. The idea was to launch a few microsites for certain topics related to our logging and tracing tool SmartInspect. The goal was to provide a useful starting point to developers new to logging tools and to get the sites ranked well for specific keywords (especially keywords we had trouble getting the SmartInspect website to rank well for). One of the questions we wanted to answer with this experiment was how important it is to have the actual keywords in the domain name. To test this, we launched the two microsites .NET logging and Java logging, hoping the keywords in the domain name would boost their search engine rankings.

Promoting the Sites

Before I share the actual results, let me first explain what we did to promote the sites. We needed to get at least a few inbound links to get Google & co. notice and index the new sites. Inbound links with relevant anchor texts are also important to get the sites ranked well. The first source of links came from reactions to our original posting with other blogs linking to our new sites. The next step was to include links to the microsites on some of our other websites, such as our blog and DelphiFeeds.com. We also announced the new sites on relevant forums, newsgroups and community sites, resulting in some additional links with useful anchor texts. We also added the sites to link directories and contacted some webmasters of Java and .NET link lists to include our sites.

We have also improved and extended the content since we launched the sites. We have, for example, split the single page we started with into multiple pages and added new Java logging comparison and .NET logging comparison pages to the site. We have also been adding additional links to tools and articles to both sites from time to time to keep the content fresh and up-to-date. We plan to do this regularly, as search engines love fresh and updated content. The main goal of promoting the sites was to build a few inbound links to get the sites indexed and ranked by search engines, and it worked surprisingly well.

The Rankings

So how did it work out? At the time of writing this posting, both microsites rank (far) better than our main SmartInspect website for many keywords, including important keywords such as .NET logging and Java logging. This is especially surprising considering how many more links the SmartInspect websites has compared to the new microsites (the quality of the links to the SmartInspect website is also a lot better, with links coming from domains such as microsoft.com and other relevant websites). Another thing that surprised us was how quickly the new sites ranked well. Just a week after launching the sites they got to the first page of the Google results for the main keywords. Although the Java site dropped from Google’s search results a few weeks after it launched, it’s back online and is working itself up in the results again. In fact, it’s ranked #4 for Java logging at the moment, ahead of popular logging tools such as log4j. The .NET microsite ranks #1 for .NET logging as of today, 7 ranks better than the SmartInspect site itself which enjoyed years of link building and buzz.

Although we are surprised by the very good rankings that the sites received so quickly, we also believe the new sites deserve good search engine rankings, as the content is useful and relevant to developers interested in the topic.

The Results

The traffic has been steadily increasing and because of the promotions and banners that we placed on the microsites, we also receive a good chunk of that traffic on the SmartInspect website. Most of the traffic comes from search engines, but we also get visitors from links and social websites (especially StumbleUpon).

The feedback from site visitors is very positive and we receive suggestions for improvements and additional links to new tools and articles from time to time. We are also able to convert site visitors to SmartInspect customers regularly, but the exact numbers are hard to tell, as SmartInspect sales are difficult to track (the developers who find and try SmartInspect usually do not place the orders directly, their managers or purchasing departments do).

Overall the microsites are a great success for us [full size screenshot of Google ranking :)] and are an impressive testament to how important keywords in the domain name really are for Google. We already plan to launch additional microsites for SmartInspect and for our upcoming test management software TestRail.
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Dennis Gurock is a director and co-founder at Gurock Software, a company specialized in software quality tools and makers of SmartInspect and test management. Dennis regularly blogs about Gurock’s products, the business of software and software quality on the Gurock Software blog and on NoBugLeftBehind.com. Dennis also twitters.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about a microsite for a while, and have been recommending them to other people as well. I think they work well for specialty searches, especially local searches where the business/domain name doesn’t reflect the locality or specialty.

    My problem was that I hadn’t been able to come up with some content that didn’t sound like a hollow long copy sales ad. This post has been inspiration for me to finally get one going.

  2. Bruce, microsites are definitely worth giving a try. We were quite surprised how good they worked for our niche.

  3. Thanks for the idea, Dennis. Following your advice I’ve just created a micro-site for one of our products. I’m much curious to test how it really works.

  4. Sounds great Dennis, good luck with your new microsites!

  5. Very interesting. So what do you think is the key to why the page ranks so well? If its a simple as key words in domain name then you would logically expect that this will have less effect in future because as people become more aware of it (and start to abuse it!) then it will become less of an ‘indicator of quality’ so you would expect the Gnerds to reduce its weighting.

  6. @Ryan domain names can’t really be abused because they are a scarce resource. Only a couple of people can own the keyphrase (via the .com, .net etc) in a domain, so it’s not open to widespread abuse. You can’t keyword-stuff a domain name. It’s not an economical way to spam search engines by purchasing every single domain name out there. Sure, people have built businesses by purchasing domain names and showing slender adsense arbitrage sites on them, but you’ve got to have massive volume for it to pay off, and it’s hopeless to think you can optimise like this for a lot of search phrases. If someone registers a domain name with certain keywords, then it’s pretty much a certainty that the content on that page is going to match. That’s why domain names rank well.

    This strategy pays off in the long tail markets, where the search volumes are probably pretty low in the scheme of things, but for a niche market being able to dominate several search phrases is enough of a business case to justify a mini-site.

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