Niche Sites, Microsites, Practice Sites for Lawyers. . . Oh No!

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Lately, we have been getting many requests to set up new microsites on a certain topic or practice area. A microsite is a small site that is independent of your main site. For instance, if you practice in Criminal Law and you want to rank high for DUI in your area, you may feel the need to set up a microsite on that topic area alone.

Whether you call them microsites, niche sites, practice area sites, or even blogs, you should know the pros and cons of this idea before you take the plunge. Let’s review and decide whether this is for your firm. If you are already bored and want to know the answer, for the most part we say no, except in a few good situations.

Pros & Reasons For a Microsite

  • Keyword Phrase in the Domains. Keyword phrases in the domains are highly prized by Google these days. Setting up a microsite can often quickly result in a top ranking for that keyword phrase. Do you have miami-dui-lawyer.com?”  Do you want to rank high for “Miami DUI Lawyer”?”  Great. So long as you build a decent enough amount of content to back that phrase up, you will probably succeed. Will this keyword phrase frenzy last forever with the search engines? Maybe. It is my opinion that it is a pretty good way to tell what a site is about (although abused a lot). For now, it is a safe way to get ranked high for specific keyword phrases, so long as you round out the site – i.e. no single page sites!”  So if you have some excellent keyword phrases, go ahead and launch UNIQUE web sites with UNIQUE content. That means, no stealing, scraping, or duplicating content. Of course, if your keyword phrase is that good, you might also consider making it your main site domain.
  • Different Brands, Services or Products. Do you practice mainly in criminal law, however, you also like to dabble in business law?”  In this case, it makes sense to develop a separate brand for those practices. This way the client believes that each practice area is your main concentration and you are the authority in that area. If you make your main site all about criminal law and then have a single page about business, naturally they believe criminal is your priority. So in this case, a practice microsite might be in order. Of course, through creative branding and design, you could also make your main site be tailored to both.
  • Blogs. Blogs are great microsites as they have a independent content, a lot. However, it is our opinion that the blog should be incorporated into the main site domain and share a directory under that domain. In fact, your main web site and blog should be a seamless information. So instead of doing YourBusinessLawBlog.com, you would do YourDomain.com/BusinessBlog/. This would allow your site to have more content, lower costs, and more inbound links (as explained below).

Cons & Reasons Why They Suck

  • Inbound Link Dilution. When you create multiple web sites, it has the possibility of diluting the amount of links into your main site. For instance, instead of placing that “hot” article on your main site, you now placed it on the microsite site. Instead of the link going to your main site, it’s going to the microsite. Ack!”  Put simply, you are now losing links to your main site.
  • Increased Costs. The next few points are going to talk about costs, as that is often overlooked when pitching microsites. First, with a microsite, you increase costs for Web Hosting Fees (unless you have a host that allows for unlimited sites, but then you run into an issue of same IP Class block). If you are paying $10, $20, or $30 per site, it can add up as you start to launch multiple sites.
  • More Increased Costs. Yes, more design fees, in that your web designer has to create those secondary sites, instead of building a single robust solution. Typically, the plan is to create a new “template” for these sites, but even that should be professionally done and therefore takes time and costs money.
  • Even More Costs. You will have more web maintenance fees. Even a simple address change now must be done on multiple sites. Fun for your web designer, if you are trying to do this on five sites. Instead of a five-minute change, they are looking at a 25-minute change.
  • Oh No, More Costs. If you are creating a link building campaign, you must now double your efforts and get links to two or more sites. Put simply, you now must register two sites with directories, portals, and other sites. It’s not a huge amount of time, but does require more time.
  • Duplicate Content. To save costs and time, you will most likely feel the urge to duplicate content on both sites. Fight that urge, but chances are in the long run you may end up duplicating some content on both sites and suffering the penalty.
  • SEOMOZ.org sums it up nicely in this video post, too. Since they are the gurus of SEO education, you might want to take a look at how and why it dilutes the linking (mentioned above).

Conspiracy Theory?

So why the sudden rush to all these microsites?”  It is in our own humble conspiracy opinion that this is being pushed by companies that want to sell more web sites. Why load in new content into your client’s main site, when you can sell the client a completely new product?”  Yes, even if you load in new content to the main site, it does still take time to organize the content on the main site in a way that draws attention, links and is indexed properly. However, the time that it takes to do that is very minimal when compared to creating a completely new site. More time, equals more fees for your designer. It’s also a very easy sale for a sales team as it’s a brand new product. So it makes fiscal sense to the web design and marketing company. But does it make sense to your firm?

The other part of the equation is that some firms have had some success with microsites. They were the first one to create a DUI only site and it worked!”  It drew traffic and the attention of competitors. They created another one on drug trafficking and it worked, too. Of course, they were the only game in town and had a wealth of resources on that site. However, who is to say that it would not have worked if they rounded out their main site with 10+ more pages of quality content, highlighted it effectively on their home page, and created the best portal on DUI law on their main site? Most likely it would have been just as effective.

Recommendation

Our recommendation: Make your own site the biggest, baddest web site around. Simple.

We are definitely all for more content on your web site. Go ahead, write more content, create something unique, and build your brand. Instead of building that microsite, build out your own main site in a way that creates more overall wealth of resources. Use the web hosting, web design, and web maintenance budget to write more content and improve your main site.

Yes, in certain situations, a microsite is a good tool. If you have practice areas that are unrelated and come across a great keyword domain, go ahead, create that microsite. However, make your main web site be the biggest, baddest web site.

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