Multiple Websites for a Single Firm: Smart Marketing or SEO Spam?

I happened to notice a flood of press releases over the last couple days announcing a flood of new law firm websites. The press releases all have two things in common. They all announce a single law firm’s launch of multiple websites. And they all come from the same source, Scorpion Design, a web-design company whose tagline is, “Effective & Aggressive Internet Marketing.”

As an example, one press release issued yesterday proclaims, “Law Firm M. Stephen Cho Attorney at Law Launches Four New Websites Targeting Corona.” I must have missed the same press release for Rancho Cucamonga, because the Cho firm actually has a total of nine websites — one umbrella site and then four separate sites (criminal defense, divorce, bankruptcy and civil litigation) for each of Corona, Calif., and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Here’s how they break down:

The same design firm did something similar for Ned Barnett, a Houston criminal defense attorney. In addition to his general law firm site, he has a DWI attorney site, a sex crime lawyer site, and others not listed in the press release, which touts, “Attorney Ned Barnett Launches 5 New Websites Reaching Out to Houston Area Residents.” And it goes on, with Scorpion creating three new websites for Martin & Wallentine in Olathe, Kansas; five new websites for Okabe & Haushalter in Las Vegas; four new websites for Joseph M. Tosti, a bankruptcy lawyer in Irvine, Calif.

Is this Just SEO Spam?

No question, this tactic — producing separate websites for different practice areas and different geographic targets — is probably quite effective from the standpoint of SEO. But is SEO-optimization the most important characteristic of a law firm website? I sure don’t think so.

One concern I have about this approach is that it is not transparent to the consumer. In fact, it could be downright confusing to a consumer. Not to pick on the Cho firm mentioned above, but if you go to its Corona bankruptcy site, the site describes the firm as a “Corona bankruptcy attorney” and lists the firm’s practice areas as a variety of bankruptcy-related practices (Chapter 7, Chapter 13, etc.).

Nowhere does the site indicate that the firm also has practices focused on criminal defense, divorce and litigation. In this sense, the site paints an incomplete picture of the firm. In my opinion, the consumer has the right to get the complete picture. Maybe, for example, the consumer specifically wants a firm that concentrates exclusively in bankruptcy. The only indication I found on the bankruptcy site of the firm’s other practices was in Mr. Cho’s biography, which states, “M. Stephen Cho practices in all areas of civil, family and criminal litigation at the firm’s San Bernardino County office.”

There may be nothing inherently wrong about this approach of putting up separate websites. Even so, it strikes me as bad marketing. As I said, the multiple sites could be confusing or misleading to consumers. And this approach leaves each of these sites with a strong aftertaste of spam.

If any of you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.