At the onset of this project, there were several critical items that needed to be considered:
- Multiple Domains: Lerners LLP had a series of microsites (about 10 in total), each one representing a different practice area. These microsites were set up at a time when Google’s search engine valued keyword-rich domain names; however, in recent years, Google has begun to de-value keyword rich microsites, making the management of 10 domains on a regular basis a staggering task. Today, a big metric for SEO success is making sure a website is updated on an ongoing basis and building strength in one domain, with optimized, keyword-rich subdomains, which is exactly how we approached it for Lerners LLP.
- Diverse Practice Area Needs: Lerners LLP has 13 practice areas in total, each with a diverse mission, target audience, and range of legal solutions for its client base. Since Lerners LLP is a full multi-disciplinary firm, a more complex branding problem presented itself: their new website and accompanying brand identity will not only need to continue to show the breadth of Lerners LLP’s expertise, but also take into consideration the 13 practice areas’ requirements.
- Content Production: Over 70% of Lerners LLP’s website traffic was coming through its articles via Organic Search traffic. To take advantage of this trend, any website solution should focus on lawyers to produce more content.
Lerners LLP runs a large organization with 350 staff and 130+ lawyers across 13 practice areas. It is important for each practice area to be able share their knowledge base and position itself within the overall integrated website. These individual lawyer contributions will balance the need to highlight individual practices and the firm as a whole, to emphasize their successful as a larger unit while further conveying the nuance differences between each practice area need to be taken into consideration.
tbk Creative’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Melissa McInerney, led a series of discovery meetings where she met wit leadership in every practice area (who operate as completely separate entities) to hear their unique needs and develop a strategy to build out their subdomain as a part of lerners.ca. We needed to work with leadership from each group to figure out how to create something that each individual practice area would be proud to be a part of.
After a discovery process that spanned across over a dozen practice areas, over a hundred hours of knowledge sharing, and involving about 20 lawyers and 5 support staff, tbk Creative had the knowledge base to get to work.
The following is a list of core features that make the new website stand out against many of its competitors:
WordPress: Originally established as a blogging platform, WordPress has evolved into a full robust website content management system that now powers over 25% of the world’s websites. It’s also known to be user-friendly for non-technical staff who may be in charge of updating the site. For a firm that was already generating over 70% of their website traffic from content, WordPress was a natural choice for the new Learners.ca because of its powerful, content management system.
Merging Microsites: Lerners LLP and tbk Creative decided to merge the ~13 microsites into one single .ca*. By implementing this SEO change, Google will, over time, see Lerners.ca as a more authoritative domain.
Unique Practice Areas: In the website world, most websites are either built with zero design files (they are built right in the browser using CSS/HTML) or are built from pre-designed themes (and may have up to two design files). One of the differential factors in tbk Creative’s higher-end websites is the volume of custom high-fidelity artwork files we create for a project. The 13 practice areas were a part of the Lerners LLP brand but acted as their own business units with their own unique legal solutions and target audiences. tbk Creative created 6 custom design files for each individual practice area, allowing the practice areas to not only remain a part of the new website, and benefit from the Lerners LLP and domain authority, but to also have the ability to be customized to fit their unique differences.
As depicted above, each practice area had its own set of unique subpages. This almost created an effect where there were sites within the main Lerners.ca domain to effectively optimize search engines.
LernX: With over 70% of website traffic arriving on content-pages via Google, we created a sophisticated blogging and content sharing area that we termed “LernX”.
Many unique and useful features were implemented:
- The ability to filter content based on different variables such as practice areas.
- The installation of hero images with a gradient effect so that each image fades out. This was built into WordPress, where managers of the system only have to upload a given picture.
- The incorporation of an Author Spotlight: a big part of a law firm’s success is adequate recognition of its lawyers. For each article, an author could be selected within WordPress from its lawyer database, a byline created at the start of the article and a large call to action with more of their personal information at the bottom.
- The implementation of a Reading Time plugin: based on an article’s number of words, the plugin provides readers the estimated number of minutes it takes to read the article.
Desktop Menu System: A website like Lerners consists of thousands of pages and dozens of divisions or partitioned areas. One of the challenges websites often get into when there is a plethora of content to distribute is organizing it all. The upfront time put into the discovery stage is crucial in designing a content architecture that will work, make sense, and not be overwhelming.
We deployed a hero menu that systematically displays the disparate pieces of content through very simple navigation. We felt this was the best available tactic to get the information across in a sharply organized way.
Finding a Lawyer: The Find a Lawyer search tool was prominently featured near the logo. In the professional services field, it’s more unique to not put this key hyperlink with the regular links in the menu navigation; instead, we decided to move the link so it prominently stands out near the logo.
In addition to the Find a Lawyer search tool, we custom-designed and custom-built a global search module. People often see search features as simple, but are actually quite complex. In this case, one single search bar searches 4 types of content at once and the user can click any result and go straight to the content.
- Date Range: August 1st, 2016 – April 30th, 2017
- Total Sessions: +35.19% (119,607 > 161,695)
- Organic Search: +30.69% (103,389 > 135,120)
- User navigating new practice area menu: 87%
- LERNx (blog) entries: +81.11% (from 5,510 to 9,979)
- Lawyer bio PDF downloads: +1500 at the 2012 Internet Advertising Competition.