Man in a suit holding an seo buttonI wanted to take a minute to talk about whether the domain your using for your firm’s website impacts search performance. The answer is YES. The reason I’m writing a one-time post on this is because it’s something that came up recently and I wanted to explain why the domain you choose matters in search and why lawyers should buy .lawyer & .attorney domains. Let’s get to it.

The domain an attorney uses for their website impacts their SEO efforts

A few times recently I’ve seen discussions over whether the domain one chooses impacts their performance in search. The answer is yes it does. What do I base this conclusion on? The fact that Google says so. Here’s the official word from Google:

A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible. Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers)….

Consider using punctuation in your URLs. The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs1.

Translated into English, Google wants your domain to use words which readers will identify as relevant to your content (ie “keywords”) and those keywords should be separated by hyphens. Matt Cutts, a Google Exec, talked about this point in the following discussion (this is a long video, the relevant portion is at the 19:00-22:30 portion):

Besides the obvious discussion regarding the importance of keywords in a URL, did you pick up on the fact that Brother Cutts stated “no spaces is pretty bad?” In other words, you’re URL needs keywords and they need the separators.

I’ve read a few articles in which people try to argue that separators (the hyphens) don’t matter. Again – GOOGLE SAYS THEY DO! Imagine going into Court and the Judge explicitly tells you “X” is the law. Would you turn to your client and tell him or her that the Judge is wrong and that they should instead believe that the law is what some law professor claims it to be in a law review article? Well, if your SEO consultant says that keywords and hyphens in a domain don’t matter then they’re ignoring the explicitly stated mandate of the Judge (Google in this case) and are telling you (their client) to listen to the words of a law professor (some self-proclaimed “seo expert” with a blog) who is free to write whatever they want. Listen to the Judge, who is the decision maker after all; Judge Google is telling you the keywords matter in the domain and to use separators.

Law firms should place their site on a .lawyer or .attorney domain

I’ve written at length about the value of the newer .attorney and .lawyer domains. I won’t re-hash those statements here. To take a gander at that wonderful writing just check out these articles:

Since these domains were made available in late 2014 we have launched multiple client websites on them, as part of our attorney website design and SEO services, and those sites are doing well in search. We consider this success to be due to other factors for the time-being and do not consider the domains as currently providing an additional benefit (nor are they a negative). The reason we launched on these domains is to “future proof” the websites. We strongly, strongly, strongly (strongly) believe that these domains will be impacting search in the future for the reasons explained in the above articles. Now ask yourself if you want to build a website today just to change the domain in the future or if you want to go to purchase a good domain in the future only to find it unavailable (because someone else already bought it). In order to protect your future interests I’d suggest buying .lawyer or .attorney domains you reasonably expect to use at some point.

Notice I said to buy domains you expect to use at some point. Some attorneys, for reasons beyond my understanding, often buy up domains in mass. Only buy a URL you actually think you will put a site on. Otherwise you’re just wasting your money (which is a subject for a future article).

One thing I’ll add is that people who think that the newer domains don’t matter are simply missing the bigger picture. It’s important to understand that the .lawyer and .attorney links weren’t dreamed up by a company like GoDaddy for the purpose of selling them. Companies like GoDaddy are able to sell such domains after they are developed and cleared by an organization known as “ICANN.” Who is ICANN? This is who they are:

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a nonprofit organization that is responsible for the coordination of maintenance and methodology of several databases of unique identifiers related to the namespaces of the Internet, and ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation.

Most visibly, much of its work has concerned the Internet’s global Domain Name System, including policy development for internationalization of the DNS system, introduction of new generic top-level domains (TLDs)…

ICANN’s primary principles of operation have been described as helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of the global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.

In other words, .lawyer and .attorney domains became available after a non-profit organization, charged with preserving “the operational stability of the internet,” thought they were necessary2. In my opinion, a suggestion that these domains won’t matter in the future is short-sighted.

Arguments as to whether these domains are important have been largely based on a view of search as it exists today. Is search the same as it was ten years ago? Nope. Will search be the same in ten years as it is today? Nope. Is life all about change? Yep. Are you going to be prepared for that change? It’s up to you. We strongly suggest that any new law firm websites be built on .attorney or .lawyer domains and that existing sites, at some point in the near future, be migrated – you can migrate your existing site and maintain your search ranking following Google’s “change of address standard” which is discussed in one of the above-referenced articles.

For tips on picking domain visit our page on picking a domain for your law firm.

References:
1Google Content Guidelines; Accessed at: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/76329

2ICANN; Wikipedia, accessed at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICANN