Computer key with the word "strategy"This post continues my discussion on why .attorney and .lawyer domains will matter in your law firm’s marketing. My last post briefly discussed the launch of the new domain extensions that were available for attorneys. In this post I’m going to go over the first reason why these new domains will impact search. That reason is that they allow for better categorization of websites.

It’s important to remember that these domains aren’t exclusive to the legal profession. In addition to the new .attorney and .lawyer extensions, a variety of other extensions have been made available such as .photography, .pizza., etc. This is going to allow people to place their website into the category of business for which it wishes to be considered by search engines. Let’s talk now about what this means for your firm.

A search engine’s ability to categorize websites will impact your law firm’s marketing

One needs to put themselves in the role of a search engine to understand why the ability to categorize websites, by business type, is important. Google’s entire role/goal is to provide searchers with the most relevant results to a given query. Google’s ability to provide these relevant results, however, is limited by the fact that it can’t read. By this I mean that the search engine can’t look at a paragraph and give it meaning/context in the way we do as human beings. Instead, search engines attempt to discern meaning by looking at wording patterns as well as several other factors. This method of discerning meaning has its limits.

Let’s look at two examples to understand a search engine’s limitations:

  • Say a bankruptcy attorney and a non-lawyer financial advisor both write blog articles on the subject of “should one file for bankruptcy.” These discussions would be very similar. Now say a potential bankruptcy client searches “lawyer to help one decide on bankruptcy.” There’s a good chance that the non-lawyers blog post will show up in these search results because it would contain much of the same information/phrases. This is in spite of the fact that the search query was specifically looking for a lawyer.
  • To prepare for this article, I searched “lawyers to help one with child custody in Las Vegas.” The local Court’s self-help website came up on the first page even though I was specifically looking for lawyers.

These are examples of how search’s current limitations lead to people getting results other than what they are looking for. This is because Google can’t read and it has difficulty differentiating between lawyer and non-lawyer websites.

The new .attorney and .lawyer domains are going to allow search engines to categorize websites by business types so that the needs of searchers can be better met. If someone is looking for a lawyer then they will be much more likely to be provided with attorney websites rather than pages that belong to paralegals, self-help centers, or other non-attorneys. This is why we see the use of these domains becoming a ranking factor in the near future.

How the new .attorney & .lawyer domains will allow search engines to better categorize sites

Traffic sign that says to embrace changeYou may be wondering if these new domains will really help search engines categorize sites. After all, what’s to stop a paralegal service from buying a .attorney domain? The answer is simple – they can’t. When you go to purchase your .attorney & .lawyer domains you will be required to verify which State Bar you are an attorney with and you will be required to give the Bar’s contact information. In other words, your position as an attorney is verified as part of purchasing these domains. This verification of who owns a site takes categorization a long way; if I search for “lawyer to help me with xyz legal issue,” then Google will know which sites actually belong to attorneys and those sites will be more likely to be returned in the search results.

Has Google already made these domains part of its search method? Nope. Is it a given that these domains will matter in the foreseeable future – absolutely. This is why we’re suggesting to lawyers and law firms that they, as soon as possible, lock up domains that they believe they may wish to use in their law practice.

In my next post I’ll be discussing another way in which these new domain extensions will impact search – their soon-to-be-role in Google’s “knowledge graph” and how they go a long way in verifying identity on the web. Have you locked up your new domains yet? If not then you’re making a mistake.