Here are the 8 steps I go through to knock out starter minisites in under 90 minutes (excluding the uniquely written content if you are doing this yourself).
These are sites that I want to encourage users to spend a little more time on, navigating around – in order to hopefully achieve a higher CTR. They are not supposed to be authority sites, which are an entirely different beast!
As ever, I use the trusty Genesis Theme to help me get the job done quickly and easily but any WP theme will do if you know your way around it.
1. Keywords define the pages
As a rule of thumb I set up my minisites with between 6-8 pages of unique content as I’ve found that this amount of internal navigation links is optimal for encouraging users to have a look around a site. Go to the ever helpful Google Keyword Tool and type in your descriptive domain name keyword phrase, tick the ‘related ideas’ and ‘exact’ matches tick boxes, search and then order the results by global monthly exacts. What you’re looking for here is to find the 6-8 most searched for keyword terms that relate closely to your domain name (keyword). Filter to only show ‘High’ competition phrases as that’s the kind of CPC you want to be going after.
Here’s an example below assuming that you owned rattanfurniture.com (if only.. this would be a great domain to have in your portfolio!) and wanted to build out a 6 page minisite. Picking out five related keyword phrases (plus your original landing/homepage for the phrase ‘rattan furniture’) would give you 6 keyword focused pages to build for your minisite. Aim for keyword phrases that include all words from the domain name so that you get that extra SEO lift from the URL.
I’m sure you know all about on-site SEO so I won’t go into the details here but each of these keyword phrases will be the page title, keyword, description and content focus of the individual pages that will make up your minisite. Create each page in WordPress in the usual way and cover off these SEO points when adding your content later on (Step 5).
2. Strategically placed text links for page navigation
I’ve done a lot of heat map and Google Analytics testing around the type and placement of navigation links that are best suited for encouraging users to click around a site. Text links are of course best for SEO but my analysis has also shown that they get the highest amounts of user click through when compared to image / drop-down / flyover type CSS links.
It’s also important to put them in the right place and I have found this to be in the top right sidebar (as indicated here). Luckily WordPress makes this really easy to do so just add a text widget to your primary sidebar and put in a simple HTML table to hold the required links to each of the different keyword-driven pages.
3. Affiliate / product links and ad placement must be CTR optimised
When it comes to the placement of affiliate links and ad units on a website it’s important not to locate them without carrying out the right amount of testing beforehand. I’m a real believer in testing anything that has an impact on how much revenue I can earn and as a result have spent a fair amount of time on this subject. The diagram below shows the optimum placement and type of links to use on a site in order to achieve the highest CTR (based on results of tests I have carried out on my ‘DIY Domain Parking‘ and minisite templates). I’m not saying that this is definitively the best combination/location for links in all situations but this layout consistently outperformed all others during my testing so I’d certainly recommend it.
Some key take-out points from my testing were that:
- The affiliate / product link within the header drew the attention of users and as it is highly targeted to their needs achieved good levels of CTR (12%).
- Putting an image (rather than text/content) directly in-between the left content and right 250×250 ad unit helps to break up the page and enhances readability.
- Whilst having a comparably low CTR (8%) (compared to the header affiliate product link), the 468×15 ad link unit achieved decent CPC as it often gets served highly relevant and targeted links.
4. One image per page
There is no need to go overboard when it comes to using images for a minisite. I’ve seen a lot of situations where images are over-used and I don’t think this helps when it comes to minisite design. The template I use only has space for one central image on each page. Having the image in the centre adds flow to the page and gives the user a visual cue that they are in the right place i.e. your highly targeted webpage!
So where should you get your images from?
If your domain is a product of some sort then you’re best off using images from Amazon and linking to the product pages there with an affiliate link. Although this will take some users away from your site (so they don’t click on an ad) it does save a huge amount of time hunting around for images and they will hopefully buy a product at Amazon so all is good.
If your domain is not a product then I’ve found that the following sites will cover most bases, each having their positives and negatives..
- Flickr.com – vast catalogue of images but author attribution is required
- Shutterstock.com – cheaper of the stock photo sites but still pricey
5. Unique content
I tend to write my own content for my minisites and because I enjoy writing this works out well for me as I can turn a 400-500 word piece of content out fairly quickly. Whether you do this yourself or use a VA to do it for you just be sure that the content is unique, helpful and informative as it’s important to provide users with the details they are looking for. This should also keep the users on your pages for as long as possible which is great for your bounce rate and increase the chances of getting some CTR to your affiliate products or ads.
I try to come up with one really useful hint or tip within each piece of content and find that this helps me reach my 400 word target pretty quickly. Remember to get the relevant keyword(s) into your articles but don’t go overboard with this, just make sure that they’re in there and that the sentences read well.
6. Social proof
Unless you are setting up a monster minisite then there isn’t really much point having a Twitter and Facebook page for it because managing social media engagement can be a very time consuming task in itself. Remember that the point of this minisite is to try and capitalise on the type in traffic that you’re already getting for your domain so don’t get too hung up on these things at the moment.
You will however need to give users the ability to tweet or like your content pages so make sure you add some kind of social icons to your pages. There are lots of WordPress plugins out there that make this job nice and easy. You will probably recognise my preferred plugin (screenshot below) – SexyBookmarks by Shareaholic.
7. Add a sitemap
Having created your minisite you don’t want your new pages to pass Google by so make sure you add sitemap functionality within your WP admin area. I use the Google XML Sitemaps plugin as this is really easy to use and comes with all the required options pre-selected upon install. Google will pick up your new pages very quickly if you have something like this in place from the outset.
8. Add a header logo
Last but not least.. I think that a logo really sets off a minisite design nicely but just skip this step if you don’t want to use one. Whenever I need a logo I contact the guys at LogoNerds and let them take care of this for me. I opt for the cheapest option that they offer and they always deliver me something that looks great. Just explain what you want the logo to look like and what (if any) strap line you want to use and they will do the rest.
That’s it.. you’re done!
However, don’t forget to monitor and analyse the ongoing performance of your minisite by tracking it in Google Analytics. I’ve found this tool to be really useful for keeping tabs on my minisites and it has highlighted areas within some sites that could benefit from further tweaking. If one of your pages is getting more traffic than the others then there may be a case for adding extra content and affiliate links to maximise your ROI.. don’t miss out on these opportunities!
If you’d like the HTML code that I use within my minisite templates then just let me know and I’ll get it across to you right away. It works perfectly with the Genesis Theme but can also be used with most other WP themes.