If you build lots of them they will come….
I see it everyday, in every market. Lawyers are spammers. Yes, I am probably talking about you. With your 50+ individual “unique” websites (a.k.a. Microsites) all for one law firm. “Oh, but I practice in multiple cities and have multiple practice areas” you say. You are still a spammer.
To give you some credit, a year or two ago this was a surefire way to have multiple websites ranking well in different areas, especially if you got lucky and registered a bunch of EMD’s (Exact Match Domains) and had your SEO team build out websites for each domain.
Your SEO team rejoiced and encouraged this tactic, because:
- The odds were in your favor, it may just work.
- They get to stay very busy with this strategy and make lots of $$ money off of you.
The truth is, you can rank one website for all those different practice areas, case types and even rank in multiple cities, counties and states. I’ve seen it done. Build a strong authoritative domain and any page you add to it will rank quicker and higher than building a new website and starting from scratch with no authority. I promise you. Your budget is better spent building a better site. Learn how to target those different areas through better design & quality, more useful content.
Since early 2011 Google has been busy making major quality changes to it’s algorithm. Panda was first and targeted content farms. Panda has continued to roll out many updates (and still is currently) even further targeting sites with poor quality and thin content. Next came Penguin this past April. It first targeted spammy on-page optimization tactics such as keyword stuffing. Soon, those unnatural link warnings started rolling in and those with backlink profiles made up of primarily spammy links were penalized. Then, this fall came the EMD update which drastically diminished the value of exact match domains. This means that your domain name no longer has an advantage for ranking its key phrase like it used to. The website now needs to be of quality.
Truth is, you don’t have an unlimited marketing budget. You have wasted a ton of money building out all these websites, most of which are worthless now. Your attempts at ranking multiple website for the same markets looks spammy. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Google doesn’t see the connection between these sites and doesn’t know you are responsible for them. These sites aren’t unique. Yes they have a different design and yes, I know you learned years ago that you can’t copy the same content from one site and use it on ten others and you had all the content “uniquely written”. Truth is, there are only so many ways you can talk about the same thing. Majority of the copy I read on a lawyer’s site is nothing but thin sales copy. It may work for the search engines, but is it going to actually convert and get you clients? Probably not.
Going forward, you should consider consolidating your domains of value into your main “branded” website. Start thinking about building your “Brand” online, and focus on quality, out-of-the-box content ideas that will actually get you the kind of backlinks that you want. Stop spreading your marketing budget so thin between your sites that none of them have the chance to be of quality. Funnel your budget into your main website and start marketing smarter. If your SEO team is not on-board with that, it’s time to start looking for a new one. They have not evolved with the changes that the industry is going through and will only work against you and waste your money. In fact, if they are still encouraging you to “Let’s build out a new site for that!”, you should be running the other way. They are not thinking about your future and are only thinking about making more money from you.
You started with SEO because you knew PPC was only a temporary and expensive fix to lead generation. You wanted those organic rankings which would benefit you for years to come. So STOP using short-term ranking tactics. Start practicing ethical online marketing and implement long term strategies. Using unethical techniques for rankings is not a long-term strategy for your practice.
Now, stop spamming the web and get busy contributing to it.
Foot Note: there are in some instances where have more than one site is fine and I will post an article detailing those soon. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to stay up-to-date on new posts.
Stacey Cavanagh says
Brilliant post, Shelly. I anticipate seeing less of the EMD type microsite spam following the EMD update (hopefully, anyway!).
Agree with you entirely – making one domain absolutely awesome can indeed have it ranking in multiple locations.
Shelly Fagin says
Thank you Stacey! Yes, I anticipate the same. I have a strong suspicion that all these little “microsites” with thin, generic content and spammy back-links will come back to hurt the rankings of their primary site just by association. Google has long established that they don’t like spammers. Will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Peter Park says
Thank you, Shelly for the great article. I have been thinking about the same issue myself as I do my own SEO for my law office. I’m relocating to another city in the same state in a next year or two so I started building a new website but this didn’t seem to work as much especially after I linked it from my old site, which used to do descent in the old city. It’s not like back in the days anymore..
So I’m thinking about building upon my old site and changing things around to start building the new location but I’m wondering whether I should go with a subdomain, or build a page and link a lot of new pages talking about that new location and blog posts to it. Between the two, I just can’t seem to decide what’s better because I sure would like to start this on the right foundation. Any ideas?