When people visit your site, more often than not they do so because they’re looking for something specific. For companies with several types of content or products aimed at different target markets, using “sub-sites” can make it easier for people in each audience to find what they are looking for.
There are several ways to use sub-sites for targeting and branding, but the main benefit remains the same: Sub-sites make it easy for people to quickly find their way through a large amount of content to locate what they’re looking for.
The use of sub-sites is not new. Large content site such as CNET, ZDNet, and CMPnet have used branded multiple sites some with their own look and feel for a long time. For instance, web developers who go to CNET’s www.builder.com see a complete, self-contained site dedicated to their needs, but they also see links to other parts of the CNET site.
While sites such as Builder.com have their own domain as an entry point into the site, another way to identify sub-sites is to add a “host name” in front of the domain name. About.com makes extensive use of this technique with sub-sites such as advertising.about.com.
But corporate marketing and commerce sites can use similar techniques, too.
For example, IBM has several web sites that operate under the IBM.com domain, such as www.software.ibm.com and www.ibm.com/linux.
General Electric sells thousands of different products from light bulbs to locomotives engines, so they need multiple sites to make it easy for each target audience to quickly find the information and products they’re looking for. For example, GE’s small business site, gesmallbusiness.com, has its own domain with navigation links that keep readers within that sub-site. On the other hand, the GE Capital IT Solutions operation has a URL within the GE domain, www.gecits.ge.com.
A number of popular sites target females with general information, such as iVillage and Oxygen Media, which is motivating more general sites to develop targeted content and sites on more narrow topics. Another site that now has content and commerce aimed at women is the Cindy Margolis site. It has a section for women only, with material about women’s diet, health, and beauty products.
As you find target markets that would benefit from just a portion of your whole site, there are a few questions to consider in planning the sub-site:
- URL Branding: Should the sub-site have its own domain, have a host name in front of the main domain, or have a “slash section” name after the normal URL?
- Navigation: Should the main navigation keep people within the sub-site, or make it easy for them to explore the whole site?
- Look and Feel: Should the sub-site use graphics and formats differently than the main site does to create a separate identity, or should the style be consistent with that of the main site?
Then, there are the more technical questions about how to implement a sub-site, such as:
- Site Hosting: Will the sub-site be hosted with the main site, or on servers at a separate location?
- Content Management: Can the current content management system (CMS) easily handle the new content, which may require a database different from the current site’s content database?
- Workflow Management: Should the existing content creation team handle the new site, or will it need its own team of content creators?
For many years television was dominated by the three major networks; however, as the subscriber base for cable and satellite grew, so did the number of channels offering narrowly targeted content. As the Internet population continues to grow, and the different types of Internet appliances increase, we’ll see more markets interested in more narrowly targeted content.
Readers benefit from having an easy way to find just the right content, and advertisers benefit by having an easy way to target their messages.