How Cook’s Direct Found Success With a Microsite Strategy

There’s a growing interest in microsites, which are online collections of distinct segments of merchandise from a larger range of products. If you sell a variety of housewares on your site, for example, you could break out the kitchenware to form a single microsite with a whole new name.

To work, a microsite must have a finely tuned and highly targeted collection of merchandise, and a completely different name than your main site so it has fresh perspective and pulling power when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).

Microsites were the subject of a May 25 session at the Direct Marketing Association’s Retail Marketing Conference 2010 in Orlando, Fla. Presenters included Jeff Breeden, CEO of Cook’s Direct, a multichannel seller of foodservice equipment and supplies; and Carol Worthington-Levy, partner, creative services at LENSER, a multichannel direct marketing firm.

During the session, Breeden gave attendees a step-by-step look at how his company implemented its microsite,

After careful research, Breeden said, Cook’s Direct chose the catering supplies niche for its microsite because the category met all of the company’s criteria, which include the following:

  • it was a smaller segment of a larger niche;
  • the product was unique, interesting and specific to the target customer;
  • the product could cross many customer types; and
  • the product offered Cook’s Direct the ability to advertise, attend trade shows and mail catalogs about it.

Cook’s Direct chose its microsite URL with the same care after extensive keyword research. “Your URL should give customers confidence in your brand, and not be too corny,” Breeden said. “What’s more, it must have a .com top-level domain. Other domains, such as .info, don’t work as well, I’ve found.”

The build process came next, Breeden said, and involved designing the microsite’s template, organizing the category structure, and selecting the products and pricing.

Out of Cook’s Direct’s 30,000 products, Breeden said about 2,000 were catering products, and 10,000 could have been included in a separate catering site as well as the main site.

While these were good numbers, Cook’s Direct wanted to ramp up the number of catering-specific products for its catering microsite, Breeden said, so it partnered with a firm in Vietnam that was able to create “5,000 new catering products for us and send them to us in 60 days.”

The whole microsite process took 90 days from start to launch, according to Breeden, and cost $15,000. Costs were attributed to two Cook’s Direct employees who worked on the project (as well as keeping their day jobs) and to outsourcing product load, link building, public relations and other SEO functions.

While there were some challenges — including modifying data, adding new products that spoke to the niche and the speed of the launch — the results were well worth it.

For one, Breeden said, “we climbed to number two in the primary term ‘catering supplies,’ and we’re also seeing sound double or triple listings.”

What’s more, Cook’s Direct saw a 51 percent traffic increase from referring sites, a 40 percent increase from search engines, a 5 percent increase from direct traffic and a 4 percent increase from other sources.

Microsite tips
During the presentation, Worthington-Levy offered a 10-tip checklist for a great microsite. It included the following:

  1. Make it easy to read. Ninety percent of web visitors are disappointed and put off by sites that are too hard to read.
  2. Make it easy to navigate. Seventy-five percent of web visitors are put off by confusing or uncomfortable navigation.
  3. Make sure the product is shown and described clearly.
  4. Make it interesting to look at, and populate it with good eye-flow practices.
  5. Make it attractive to search engines. This is important for strong organic search.
  6. Make it sticky. Ensure that it’s valuable or rewarding for consumers to stay on the microsite by using value-added features such as demos and articles.
  7. Make it practical. Your microsite should be built with templates that set up quickly and easily.
  8. Make it flexible. As you create different microsites for merchandise groups, make each look and feel different enough that each has its own targeted appeal.
  9. Narrow your selection. “When you do this and your visitors arrive,” Worthington-Levy said, “their prayers are answered, because you’re showing them nothing irrelevant.”
  10. Make sure the microsite has its own brand look and name. People will remember you and find you faster if you’re more specific in your approach.

To learn more about microsites, Worthington-Levy suggested checking out the approach taken by CSN Stores, a multichannel seller of home decor, tools, office furniture and more. Referring to it as the “poster child for microsites,” Worthington-Levy said CSN has more than 100 home decor microsites with names that say exactly what they sell, such as or

Melissa Campanelli is Editor-in-Chief of Total Retail. She is an industry veteran, having covered all aspects of retail, tech, digital, e-commerce, and marketing over the past 20 years. Melissa is also the co-founder of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle.

Publish date: May 26, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT