I recently came across an attorney listserv thread discussing the use of multiple websites. This topic also came up at Avvo’s Lawyernomics Conference. So, I thought I’d offer some input on deciding whether to use multiple websites, and if so, how.
Why Multiple Websites?
Why would anyone want to have multiple websites? Isn’t one site enough? What about multiple blogs?
There are a lot of reasons lawyers might choose to have more than one website or blog. Some make sense, many others are a mistake.
Firms that are segmented into a variety of specific niches, practice areas or practice groups might decide that it makes more sense to have separate sites to focus on different users. Different audiences, different messaging, different topics, therefore, different sites. Firms with multiple office locations might also choose to do the same for somewhat similar reasons. This makes sense.
Websites and blogs that try to “do too much” don’t resonate with visitors as well as those that are very specific.
So, having a handful of different sites and blogs that focus on different subjects and are intended for different audiences can generally be a good thing. Of course, there are additional considerations that come into play (how will these various sites and blogs be managed? who will be responsible for content on the sites? do you care about search engines?).
On the other hand, some lawyers have come to believe that having numerous websites will allow them to cast a larger visitor net in search engines. In fact, this was the motivation of the lawyers discussing the subject of multiple firm websites both on the listserv, as well as, at Lawyernomics.
In fact, these lawyers were discussing having literally hundreds of websites and “blogs.” And while you may believe that these are obscure exceptions, I’m here to tell you that there are many lawyers that have adopted this “strategy” and that having 20, 50, 100 websites is much more common than you would probably suspect.
Does Google Like Multiple Websites?
Sure. Google has no problem with people, businesses, law firms, etc, having multiple websites. Having multiple sites isn’t a violation of their webmaster guidelines per se, so long as the sites contribute unique and compelling content that adds valuable information to the web:
While you’re free to run as many sites as you want, keep in mind that users prefer to see unique and compelling content. It is a good idea to give each site its own content, personality and function. This is true of any website, regardless of whether it’s a single-page hobby-site or part of a large portfolio. When you create a website, try to add something new or some value to the Internet; make something your users have never seen before, something that inspires and fascinates them, something they can’t wait to recommend to their friends.
Of course, creating unique and compelling content for one site or blog is very challenging. Creating unique and compelling content for hundreds of sites is, well, laughable:
The truth is that no law firms are creating unique and compelling content for hundreds of sites. Instead, they’re hiring “writers” to regularly churn out pages and posts. At worst, these posts are scraped (read plagiarized) from other sites or generated (or spun) from a seed article. At best, they’re just crappy.
Of course, lawyers and the internet marketing ninjas who advise this approach, will cry, “But it works!” But we need to explore what “works” really means here.
Admittedly, at a very basic level, getting more pages indexed in a search engine, theoretically means more opportunity to appear in search results. Just like buying more lottery tickets means more chances to win.
But obviously, merely having more pages in an index doesn’t necessarily translate to more visitors. And more visitors doesn’t necessarily translate into more potential client inquiries. And more potential client inquiries doesn’t necessarily translate into more viable potential clients.
And even if you are able to make this search engine carpet-bombing strategy “work” for a little while, you shouldn’t be surprised when your blog or website begins to lose traffic due to a search engine update.
If you track search engine updates, you know that Google recently went live with its Penguin 4 update. And so, if you have a ridiculous number of websites and you decide to link them together, you simply have no excuse for being surprised when your pages stop appearing prominently in search results, if not altogether.
Considerations for Implementing Multiple Websites & Blogs
If you have decided that having multiple websites and/or blogs makes sense for your firm, here are some things to consider:
- Uncommon – Make each site unique. Give it unique design elements. Obviously, publish unique content on each site. Stay specific to the purpose of each unique site. Don’t merely repeat information that can be found elsewhere.
- Value – What’s the value of each site? Why would someone come there, share information or link to it? Is it merely to provide information about the lawyers in a specific practice group or office location? If so, how can that information be most effectively communicated to provide something of value to visitors?
- Fresh – Do you have enough information to share to warrant an entire site? Can you regularly publish fresh information on the subject? If not, perhaps the topic is better relegated to a category instead of entire new site.
- Linking – Would linking your sites to one another provide something helpful for visitors? If so, use judicious linking. I challenge you to suggest why you should link every page of hundreds of site together.
Do you have multiple websites or blogs? Why or why not? How many do you have? How do you add content to them? Have you noticed any dramatic changes to your traffic recently?