Search-Driven Microsites in Brand gTLDs – Top Trend for 2015

As digital marketers get ready for another year of big changes, the microsite in brand gTLDs (generic top-level domains) is sure to be top of the list of emerging trends. Half of the world’s top brands applied for a gTLD and all are on track to be under contract with ICANN by mid-year to start using their newest digital platform by the end of 2015. Many are preparing to launch new campaigns or microsites in their new spaces rather than full redirects of the home page.

Why are the new gTLDs ideal for microsites?

  • Completely blank canvas. The greatest asset of the top-level domain is it allows for complete big-sky thinking for digital marketers. If you can dream of it, you can build out a microsite that’s branded at the top level and securely in your own space rather than relying on another domain name, social network or other company.
  • Guaranteed use and availability. No longer do you have to search desperately for a .com or other domain name, within your branded top-level domain, you have complete control and ability to create domain names that fit your marketing strategy. You no longer have to maintain thousands of Web addresses just in case you need them. When it’s in your own space, you have complete control over your most important digital assets.
  • Easy to remember so you don’t need search. Great microsites in the new TLD space are easy to remember, so promoting them in traditional print, outdoor, television, in-store experiences or in other digital media will be easy for your customer to remember. Think about: Watch.fox or movies.fox, yourcloset.calvinklein or travel.amex and points.amex, jeans.gap, hurricane.weather, now.mlb, service.bmw , engagement.cartier, backtoschool.walmart, scarves.hermes, replay.nba, and the list goes on and on. If the consumer simply remembers these names and types it directly into the browser, particularly on a mobile device if they don’t have an app, then they don’t potentially lose them in a search result that doesn’t include your microsite or an ad that lures them away from their intended target – you!
  • SEO likely to generate better results if they get to you by search. When you are relying on search, the initial indication is that a brand top-level domain may perform better than a .com. Think about what a brand TLD means – it means it’s 100 percent authentic. Only BMW can issue a .BMW domain name. Only Chanel can issue a .chanel domain name. Only JP Morgan can issue a .jpmorgan address. This means the algorithms will quickly learn and recognize the .brands as valid, which will give them a boost in everything to the left of the dot. If microsites are then tailored to a specific need, the rest of traditional SEO tactics should fall into place, creating a greater likelihood of customers finding you in organic search.
  • Perfectly balances with apps and other mobile experiences. Microsites in new top-level domains also balance out well with apps and mobile experiences. If you think about what you use apps to do – perform one specific function – then creating microsites that essentially do the same thing is an easy way to translate that experience onto the personal computer experience. For example, track.fedex or now.mlb or myflight.delta are all spaces that can be created in microsites within the TLD. When your customers surf the net with a browser, this makes it easy to cross over from one experience to the other, particularly if they don’t have the app.
  • Ties to in-store or brick-and-mortar experiences. Microsites can also tie nicely to in-store experiences. As retailers create special promotions or reasons to come to the store, they can extend the experience with special offers online. For example: cybermonday.macys, holdit.tjmaxx, moredeals.tjmaxx, as well as linking up with other brands like Mizrahi.target or inc.macys.
  • Can create different microsites for different targeted customers. What’s so great about having your own TLD is that you can build out microsites that essentially sell the same product but to different targeted audiences. Macy’s may want to sell Kate Spade to both a 40+-year-old working mom and a teenager. The brand might be the same, but the messaging may be starkly different. For example, Modernkatespade.macys may appeal to working mom versus hotkatespade.macys to a teenager. Likewise, Delta might want to promote to business and leisure travelers differently. Rather than trying to be all things to all people on delta.com they can build out microsites for vacations.delta or business.delta and cater to these very different travels. Delta could segment even deeper into Hawaii.delta or safari.delta and create customized spaces based upon what people want and need.
  • Easiest way to start using the brand gTLD. The most likely reason we will see microsites in the new band TLDs is that migrating the entire home page or all of your pages into the new TLD is cumbersome and doesn’t really make sense. Building out new campaigns or microsites is the safest way for these big companies to dip their toe in the waters of gTLDs and see what happens. Since microsites are already trending, this seems like a logical next step and with the number of brands entering the TLD landscape, we will like see a surge of these later this year.

In case you’re new to gTLDs, just a few of the companies who applied to operate their own gTLD include: Google (applied for 101 TLDs), Amazon (applied for 76), Microsoft, IBM, Macys, TJ Maxx, Ralph Lauren, Target, Gap, Home Depot, Delta, Virgin, Marriott, Netflix, ABC, CBS, Comcast, HBO, Dish Network, NBA, MLB and NFL, to name just a very few. As they all start building out their plans, we’ll likely see the introduction of microsites rather than mass migration of their existing home page environments as a top digital trend in 2015.

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