man holding sign which says "seo"This is the next post in my series on why the new .Attorney and .Lawyer domains are going to matter in your firm’s marketing. My last discussion looked at why Google will be able to use these domains to better categorize websites. In this article I’ll be looking at how these domains will help Google with two of it’s big goals – disambiguating identity and further helping the search engine move away from keyword based search.

Again, it’s important to remember that the new domain extensions, such as .lawyer and .attorney, are part of a larger set of new top level domains (TLD’s). In order for one to buy a .lawyer or .attorney extension they need to verify that they are, in fact, a lawyer. This means that Google can rest assured that the person who owns a website is actually an attorney. Let’s look at how this is going to help Google meet two of its goals that I just mentioned.

.Attorney & .Lawyer domains will allow Google to disambiguate identity on the web

Identity on the web has traditionally been ambiguous. Anyone can put up a website with few restrictions. The problem with this is that John Q. Public really has no way of understanding who it is he’s dealing with when he looks at a business’ web page. This, even today, remains a hurdle in getting more people to see the web as a trustworthy source of information. This lack of a firm identity leaves a lot of web searchers with a feeling of distrust because they can’t be sure whether or not they’re dealing with an internet scammer like this guy:

Internet spammer wearing a mask

Google has been well aware of the “identity on the web” problem for some time.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman talked at length about the need to establish identity on the web in 2011. The company had tried to do so with products like Orkut and Google Buzz. In talking about the need to establish identity, Schmidt stressed that:

“For years I said we [were missing] something, which was identity. Identity is incredibly useful because, in the online world, you need to know who you’re dealing with.1

Their latest attempt, which didn’t work out like Google had hoped, was Google+. The bottom line is that Google still needs a way to help determine identity on the web so that people can have trust in a website they are viewing.

The ability to verify that a website actually belongs to an attorney will go a long way towards helping the search engine be comfortable in the results it is giving to its users. Over the foreseeable future we see the use of the new TLD’s becoming a meaningful ranking factor in search.

Newly available domain extensions will help Google further move away from keyword based search

Google has been gradually moving away from keyword based search for some time.  Matt Cutts has described the search engine’s attempt to provide results based on “things and not strings.” In other words, Google wants to understand the intent behind a query and the intent behind a website, rather than just matching the phrase someone is looking for with the phrase on a website. 

It’s important to understand this. Say someone uses a search query that contains the word “boxer.” Are they talking about a fighter, a breed of dog, or boxer briefs? As Google moves more towards understanding the intent of a query, it needs to be able to return results which match that intent rather than simply providing the user with a list of websites which contain the word “boxer” in them. Let’s consider how this will apply to law firms. 

Say someone searches with the phrase “I need a lawyer for my child custody case.” A paralegal’s website, containing the phrase “paralegals are cheaper than a lawyer for a child custody case” may be returned because it matches many of the keywords. The intent of the search, however, was to find a lawyer and not a paralegal. By understanding that a website actually belongs to an attorney, through the use of a .lawyer or .attorney domain, Google will be able to better return results which actually match the intent of the query.

Google has made clear it has moved, and continues to move, in this “things not strings” direction. The future impact of these domains, for law firm marketing, is hard to understate. That’s why we’re suggesting to attorneys that they deal with they lock up any domains they may wish to use in their practice.

 

Reference:

1 Eric Schmidt D9 Conference Interview – accessed at: http://www.wsj.com/video/d9-video-eric-schmidt-full-session/B1989AE0-4248-4745-BE22-055F25442E36.html