Will the ‘New’ Domain Names Make or Break You?

There’s a big shake up going on in the world of internet domain names.  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is accepting applications for new generic Top Level Domains (TLDs). Top Level Domains are the second half of your website name – the part that follows the “dot,” such as .com, .net and .info. Historically, ICANN authorized only 22 generic TLDs and 248 country code TLDs, like .ca or .fr. Recently, however, ICANN began accepting applications for the issuance of new descriptive TLDs, such as .book or .auto, .cloud, .movie and more.

So why should you care about all this mumbo jumbo?

Because this might be a chance to snag a more useful domain name for your firm than XYZLaw.com. Some of the new extensions applied for are .law, .lawyer and .attorney. By way of illustration, the domain RealEstateLawyer.com  appears to be owned by a real estate developer, not even a law firm. Now you might have the chance to register “RealEstate.Lawyer” and take back that territory.

Domain names can be so valuable that, according to The Wall Street Journal, big companies like Amazon.com are vying over the ability to control the issuance of new TLDs like “.book” or “.author.” On March 26, 2013 some of the new generic TLDs will begin rolling out. Owners of trademarks will get priority opportunities to register their related new domain names at that time.

Get the details here.

If you want more background on these new developments, Texas intellectual property lawyer, Heidi Williams, provided some guidance to useful resources. A list of domains that have been applied for can be found on the ICANN website, as well as an ICANN guidebook to usher applicants through the process. Williams also points to a wealth of information about the process on the website for the International Trademark Association.

How does a good domain name make a difference?

Here are some reasons to try to get the best domain name you can for your firm, and what to strive for:

1. More memorable. A memorable domain name will help a potential client find your website after meeting you at that networking event. It will also be easier for referral sources to mention when they meet someone who has a problem that you can solve.

2. Search engine popularity. If the domain name contains keywords that your potential client searches on, search engines may give a slight boost to your website in the search results. I’m not a Search Engine Optimization expert, but my internet research suggests that domain names still matter in SEO, although not as much as they used to.

3. Keyword domain names. Even though we know that it may not be true, we have a tendency to assume that a website with a keyword-rich name has been around since the earlier days of the web, especially if it has a .com extension. It just seems to give the website more gravitas, and may subtly imply that the lawyer at that website has a lot of experience.

4. Some internet users type in a domain URL directly. If they can remember a domain name, some don’t bother to search for others. That means they won’t be getting exposed to your competition on the way to your website. Some people even enter a complete domain name, such as “EstatePlanningAttorney.com” into a Google search.

5. Search engines give a little extra weight to old domain names. Google gives preference to sustainable websites. They don’t want to send their search clients to fly-by-night websites that just popped up last week and will soon be gone. The age of the domain name provides some indication of longevity and sustainability, even if it was previously owned by someone else.

Don’t skip the fundamentals.

Despite all this hoopla about domain names, search engines still primarily look for the existence of plenty of relevant website content to determine search result ranking. So don’t expect a good domain name to work miracles on your law firm’s malnourished website. That’s the good news, however, if someone beats you to the punch for your favorite attorney domain name, again. You can still work your way to the top of the list by continually adding new, relevant content to your site.

Please come back to the comments and tell us about it, if you get one of the new domain names when they come out. Remember that you don’t have to abandon your current domain name. You can have both of them pointing to your website.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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