Like a Swiss Army knife, your law firm’s website performs many important and discrete functions. Your website is your billboard, business card, virtual front door, portfolio, resource library and even your receptionist. Like a multipurpose knife, your website should be thoughtfully and specifically designed—all for your firm’s unique marketing needs.
In the eyes of your firm’s partners, your current website may be missing something. Perhaps they feel their individual practices warrant more digital real estate. Or maybe your firm’s website has a few usability glitches that no one can seem to resolve.
You could construct a separate, smaller offshoot site (microsite) that houses information that either doesn’t fit in or doesn’t function well on your parent website. A microsite might seem a smart solution, like adding another blade to add to your firm’s marketing knife.
Unfortunately though, if you’re entertaining the idea of adding a microsite to your firm’s main site, you may end up pouring time and effort into a tool with negligible utility. Instead of neatly solving problems, microsites often cause bigger problems—like rifts between partners, pricey workarounds to ill-performing functions and user confusion.
Before building a microsite, make sure you know the risks to your firm’s reputation—and the one and only scenario when it’s likely to be a reward.
What Is a Microsite for a Website?
A microsite is a web page (or web pages) that connects to your main website but functions as an offshoot. Microsites can have independent domain names. They’re usually designed to promote or support a specific campaign—temporarily.
Microsites can serve as space to creatively experiment with your firm’s brand and build brand awareness. You can incorporate audio, video, blogging and visual design choices that are outside your firm’s templates.
Microsites can deliver tailored content to specific audiences. They can be a way to educate visitors and launch new practice areas.
Microsites can be powerful marketing assets. But like any other tool, microsites can be misused and quickly cause damage.
Adding a Microsite Can Put Your Firm’s Website at Risk
Microsites provide a space for unique content and creative experimentation. But microsites need to be tactical—part of your firm’s overarching marketing plan. Without the underpinnings of a comprehensive strategy, microsites can whittle away (or deliver a massive chop to) your brand integrity.
Microsites Can Waste Your Firm’s Resources
Cobbling together a solution for a bigger website problem with a microsite can save your firm in a pinch. Ultimately, though, patching on a microsite may inadvertently exacerbate your website problems.
Just like every other element in your marketing plan, microsites need to be strategically positioned—not slapped on. Microsites are another face of your brand. Just like your main website, your firm should rely on strategic design to ensure every element of your microsite reflects your firm’s unique personality, even if it’s stylistically different.
Don’t sink time, energy and dollars into a microsite and its maintenance when it doesn’t fit into your comprehensive marketing strategy. Evaluate the benefit of investing in a microsite by answering these questions:
- Are you prepared to offer fresh content and content updates? Google will see your microsite as a new website—it won’t benefit from the search value you’ve achieved on your firm’s main site.
- Can you employ new keywords? If you duplicate keywords from your main website, you very well may be competing against yourself! The same goes for any paid search ads.
- Does the short-term content you intend to feature on your microsite support your holistic, long-term marketing plan? For your firm rather than just not one partner’s practice?
Microsites Can Confuse Your Firm’s Prospects
While microsites offer a place to attract and educate new prospects, these smaller site offshoots can unwittingly undo the cohesiveness of your brand identity. Consider the following risks to your brand positioning:
- Your firm’s website visitors may click away to your microsite and forget their way home. Since they’ll find and open the microsite from your main site—and the URL is different—they may not come back to it. (Even if your UX design makes it fairly easy to do so.)
- If your microsite doesn’t follow the main site’s brand guidelines, the strength and recognition of your brand can erode. Quicker than you may think.
Microsites have a hard job to do. They need to be both familiar and new. Your microsite will only add value to your firm if it becomes yet another useful tool on the Swiss Army knife they already know.
Empower Your Website With the Right Kind of Microsite
There’s only one condition that validates having a microsite on your law firm’s website: a different audience you’re trying to attract as part of your marketing strategy. That condition can be met in a variety of ways.
- Recruiting: Latham & Watkins’ microsite is an excellent example: It is narrowly focused on recruiting job applicants. Whereas L&W’s frame-designed parent site appears outdated, the microsite is more contemporary. The microsite design choices will speak better to their prospective recruits, who are more digitally savvy.
- Housing a publication: The prospects who normally visit your site don’t need easy access to your annual report. That’s likely a publication you’d prefer to share with a limited audience. Users who want to read reports and other industry-specific publications can be ushered into a separate microsite.
- Supporting a practice specialty: Walden Macht & Haran’s microsite is devoted to one practice only—whistleblowing. Because confidentiality is paramount in these cases, the microsite assures privacy and the URL reiterates the nature of the practice. This microsite carries through the overall visual design of its parent website (colors, font, layout and tone).
Before launching a microsite for your firm’s website, take the time to confirm it’s in alignment with who you really are as a firm—and with the direction you want to go. If it does, a microsite that effectively engages a new audience may just be the sharp marketing tool you need it to be.