It’s common to specialize in more than one field of law. Problem is, having multiple specialties can have an SEO knock-on effect.

Just like mixed messages in a romantic relationship, not having a clear, focused goal will lower your search engine rankings because Google doesn’t know what to rank you for. It figures you’re nonspecific and wooly and ditches you in favor of highly specialized websites.

Certainly, you can have a webpage dedicated to each specialty. But that comes with content performance risks.

You can’t expect to fit everything onto one website and not either:

  • Cover topics cursorily and not deliver enough quality and depth
  • List every microscopic detail and end up with a monster of a website that lags and is unnavigable

This doesn’t mean having your finger in more than one law-flavored pot is bad – just the opposite. But managing multiple specialties requires a little extra digital thinking.

You have two options – a microsite or a subdomain/subdirectory.  

In a nutshell, having a separate, auxiliary supplement to your main website can be a very effective method of connecting with niche clients.  

By nature, microsites and subdomains are specialized, so you can target your customers with content that’s strictly relevant to them. This means:

  • Customers won’t need to sift through unrelated material
  • You’re positioned as an expert, giving you Google brownie points because it recognizes the content as niche, focused and quality
  • You’re more likely to rank well for specific long-tail keywords
  • You could use the content to target locational demographics, career demographics and whatever else you need with Google Webmasters

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There’s also the option to make visual changes. If one of your specialties concerns older CEOs and the other helps young families, it might be best to go with different graphics, colors and tone to appeal to each audience.

If you go a step further and supplement each site with a blog, your content will also be much more shareable because it will appeal to those carefully cultivated target audiences.

For instance, that business veteran CEO isn’t going to care about getting his first mortgage, but that young family probably will.

Microsites 

A microsite is a domain separate from your main website.

Let’s say you run Smith & Smith at www.smithandsmith.com, for example. Your microsite wouldn’t share the domain. You could use a concurrent one like www.smithandsmithbusinesslaw.com or break right and try www.businesslaw.com. It’s not connected to your main website so you’ve got naming freedom.

For example, this Nursing Home Law Center is a microsite.

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It’s root domain is found through the “About the Firm” tab in the top right. It directs to Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, a broader website.

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While there are color themes here, such as blue navigation bars and orange call-outs, the visuals are very different and designed to entice different audiences.  The tone of the nursing home microsite is gentler with no exclamation marks or immediate phone numbers, while the home site has more urgency. This kind of subtle content differentiation can make a difference in securing niche customers.

That said, there are drawbacks.

Ranking for niche keywords is great, but it means starting from scratch. You have no pre-existing authority to rely on. If you were a law veteran, it would be mad to try and start at the bottom of the SEO pile when you already have great rank.

Don’t entrap yourself by linking up like a spider on caffeine between your microsites. That might seem like a good idea, but Google Panda won’t appreciate it. It’ll smack you with penalties that’ll take time to fix.

It can also be expensive. Hosting two websites with two dream domains and managing all the marketing, content and upkeep takes time and dollars. If your marketing budget won’t stretch to multiple websites, you might want to consider simply expanding your home website as described next.

Subdomains and Subdirectories

Managing subdomains and subdirectories can be a little easier on time and your firm’s wallet than a whole new microsite. Think of them as extra pockets in a bag rather than a separate purse.

The domain is the king of the castle – the top-level of the domain. Remember you’re www.smithandsmith.com. That’s the domain.

A subdomain acts as a prefix to the main domain, so business-law.smithandmsith.com.

A subdirectory is a folder of the domain, which is more commonly seen. It acts as a suffix to the URL after a forward-slash, so www.smithandsmith.com/business-law.

Catalyst summarizes the set-up clearly in this graphic.
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For example, this is the main website of a firm focused on personal injury.
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They have subdomains directed at different locations. This is their New Mexico subdomain.

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Their main website URL is http://www.2keller.com and the subdomain is http://newmexico.2keller.com.

It’s a quicker fix for great SEO because you’ve already got keyword stronghold with your main website. Google, for example, has a veritable plethora of subdomains because it essentially owns the Internet. There would be no point in starting from scratch with Webmaster, Blogger, Adwords and so on.

It’s not just a matter of SEO. People like to work with brands they know and trust, so if you’re well-established with a loyal customer base, using subdomains cuts out the relationship-building stage of marketing. You don’t have to spend as much time and money on lead nurturing.

You’ll also enjoy consistent visuals and user experience. If blue and white are your branding thing, then you can thread that seamlessly across all your subdomains.

As with microsites, subdomains aren’t blanket solutions.

You’ll have to deal with longer URLs which can get pretty complex. If you were confronted with a URL along the lines of www.smithandsmith.com/bill-of-particulars-and-certificate-of-readiness-and-court-of-limited-juridiction (for an exaggerated example) you might think twice about clicking.

If you have two vastly different specialties, you might want to completely differentiate the two to eliminate confusion.

So which is best?

It depends on your situation.

If you’re new blood and tech-savvy, build a microsite. Spend time strengthening its rank and then use tactical links to boost each website’s rank and visibility.

If you’re the law firm that’s been around since the dawn of time, use subdirectories and piggyback off your own pre-established authority. Just be sure to inject lots of quality content. A thin veneer of keywords won’t serve you half as well as more detailed content.

If you’re not exactly old or young and really need to differentiate your specialties without severing ties completely with your home base, stick to subdomains. They’re a little more detached than a subdirectory but not as standalone as a microsite. A kind of technical halfway house.

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