Microsites in the Restaurant Marketplace

Most businesses agree that greater exposure to their product or service can lead to greater increases in brand awareness and, ultimately, greater profits. Their marketing plans often include strategies to make their businesses known to a larger audience. In the restaurant industry, reaching new customers is essential to business growth, and some restaurants are finding that creating a microsite is one way to increase their reach. Unfortunately, many are not considering the long-term effects of this tactic on their business.

Depending on which marketing authority you talk to, a microsite is either a genius way to provide quality information to potential customers, or a nuisance that is watering down your brand and distracting your audience. Microsites are Web pages or Web sites with few pages that have a separate URL and design than the main business page. As these are small sites, they may have limited or no navigation and fewer opportunities for user interaction and engagement.

Microsites usually have a narrow focus or theme – often a particular event or offer, but they can be used to help build subscriber lists or promote new products or services to a new or target audience.

While microsites may be part of a restaurant’s marketing plan and generated by their publicity team, most are created by third-party vendors with whom restaurants have partnered to increase their reach. These can include middle-man ordering platforms, online reservation platforms, review sites, daily deal sites and menu hosting sites. Many local directories, chambers of commerce, and municipal business sites also create microsites, some that may only list your restaurant’s name and a map showing your location.

Microsites and Me: How Are They Affecting my Business?

When someone gets online to search for your restaurant, the goal is for the user to end up on your restaurant’s Web page, which contains the most accurate, up-to-date menu, hours, prices and details pertinent to visiting your restaurant. As part of your search engine optimization, your site should be the absolute authority, with quality content centered around your restaurant.

Microsites designed for a particular purpose should also have quality content focused solely on that purpose: increasing brand awareness, building a list of subscribers, publicizing events and generating interest in offshoot brands are ideal concentrations for microsites – if you’ve created them and have the resources to manage them. If they are successful or designed for a long-term purpose, they may end up becoming part of your restaurant’s main page.

Otherwise, microsites that don’t provide valuable or sufficient content, or that are poorly managed, could be hurting your primary site and Web goals. Google may penalize low-quality, spammy-looking sites that seem to have been designed strictly for SEO. If you’ve built the page, consider a plan for redirection when the microsite is taken down. If you haven’t created the page, you may want to consider more serious action.

Microsite Mitigation: Cleaning up the Internet

The first step addressing the situation is to find out how many microsites for your restaurant exist online. Start by doing a quick Web search on various engines for your restaurant’s name and your restaurant’s name and city. Ideally, your restaurant’s Web site will be the first listing. If other sites for your business are on the first page or returned as higher-ranked listings than your restaurant’s page, your brand is possibly being diluted and weakened as traffic and revenue are directed to the microsites.

If these are sites you have created, you may want to revisit your online marketing efforts. Rather than trying to maintain different content across several sites, you may have a higher return on investment by focusing your energy, money and time on a single site. Keeping quality content on a single site will also help to prevent Google from seeing your microsites as spam and keeping that individual site’s content from potential customers.

For third-party sites, it’s important to consider the benefits. Non-transaction sites, which could be directories from municipalities, chambers of commerce and locally-focused sites that send readers to your restaurant’s page can help improve your traffic and reach.

Others, however, may provide incorrect information, especially if they are not highly monitored. They may not give users the experience you would like them to have with your restaurant, or, more seriously, they could be directing traffic and profit away from your site. Start by claiming your Google business page, increase your SEO for your restaurant’s page, and contact the third-party hosts of the microsites you want closed to begin the process of shutting those sites down.

The process is not one that will be fast, but one that may be beneficial in the long run for your business. Consulting a marketer with SEO experience or working more closely with your existing marketing team may be a good first step toward enhancing and auditing your online presence to ensure a positive return for your restaurant and your customers.