If your ideal domain name wasn’t available when you first established your law firm’s website, we have some good news for you! Two new general top-level domains (gTLDs) are now available for the taking, and they have legal professionals taking notice.
But some will cost you – while most start around $30 for a year’s registration, popular names like personalinjury.attorney drive a much steeper price – $68,750 at the moment.
So the question is – are these gTLDs worth the extra cost and effort? We asked some of our most trusted online marketing partners and learned that the world of gTLDs is still young, so it will take time before there’s a definitive answer. But if you’re getting ready to click the “Buy” button now for one of these domains, here’s what you should know.
Will gLTDs serve a purpose beyond vanity?
Prior to 2014, there were only 22 gTLDs available, and many of those were restricted to government or educational site owners or residents of certain countries. In February 2014, the first seven new gTLDs went live, and there are many more to come.
gTLDs were designed with branding in mind, so from a marketing standpoint, they sound like a great idea. James Tryon of Easily Amused, Inc. believes they’re the next level in brand management. “Protecting your brand is important,” he says. “Purchasing your brand’s domain names on the established and new gTLDs is an important part of avoiding abuse and misrepresentation of your brand.”
Other professionals aren’t so enthusiastic with the variety of new extensions available, saying they’re just gimmicks to sell more domain names. We posed the question to a network of marketing professionals on Twitter, and here are a few of the responses we received:
“People selling domains will happily scare you over ‘brand protection’ but there’s no number of domains to buy that will solve it.” – Jim Gray @grayj_, ioseed
“My cellphone has a .com button on it, not a .law button. It’s become too natural to automatically think .com” – David Laietta @davidlaietta, Orange Blossom Media
Speaking of cell phones, a word of caution with the newer gTLDs. Currently, if you try to send someone a URL that has one of the newer gTLDs like .attorney or .lawyer, SMS (text) messaging will not recognize it as a valid URL; therefore, it won’t be turned into a convenient, clickable hyperlink. This also used to be the case with social media sites, where links are extremely valuable, but the big guys like Twitter and Facebook have since addressed the issue.
We also sat down and spoke with Matt Mazur of Automattic (the people behind the WordPress platform), who had this to say about gTLDs:. “It’s up in the air as to how gTLDs will perform as far as authority, popularity and for SEO purposes. If your preferred domain is only a few bucks, I don’t see the harm in protecting it, but once you go into the hundreds of dollars for a single .attorney or .lawyer domain, it’s a waste.”
How do I get a gTLD?
Before a new gTLD domain name becomes publicly available, there’s a pre-registration period during which anyone who wishes can secure a preferred domain name. But trademark holders get the first opportunity to buy their trademarked names under a new gTLD. If you trademarked your law firm name or a slogan, that would be the time to secure your .attorney or .lawyer gTLD. To reserve a trademarked gTLD name, you’ll need to provide proof that you hold the rights to the trademark.
Pre-registration can come with an additional cost. Generally, prices start high and decrease as domains take longer to get snatched up. In a post to the YouMoz Blog, SEO and online marketer Bill Hartzer recalls observing the price of a domain drop through the pre-registration phase. He notes it started at $12,000, then dropped to $3,500 and finally, the day before it became available, it dropped to $150.
Eventually, the new gTLD becomes available just like any .com or .net domain. Any domains not already registered during pre-registration are now available at prices ranging from about $20 to tens of thousands of dollars for high-demand names. Hartzer recalls that on the first day of general registration, the domain mentioned above was $39.
If you’ve ever tried to register a domain name and were told that the name was “held back” or is a “premium domain,” that’s because there’s either a trademark issue with the name or it’s being put up for auction because the domain registrar knows it will be a highly sought-after domain and can fetch a higher price than the average domain name.
How do I build credibility on a new gTLD?
As with any website, you need to build up good, trustworthy content to establish that your new gTLD site contains quality content. Make sure you have content ready to post once the domain is in your control, and then continue to update it with fresh topics.
Google uses a concept called “query deserves freshness” to identify websites with fresh, relevant content on otherwise general or unpopular keywords. For example, there are likely thousands of queries for “San Francisco” on any given day, and those searches generally turn up results regarding travel information, tourist destinations, weather, and so on. However, if a significant earthquake just occurred in the SF area Google will place fresher articles with those related keywords (“earthquake,” in this case) higher than the normal travel and tourism pages.
Therefore, one of the best methods to launch a new gTLD and gain quick traction is to use it to publish articles on current news topics. For attorneys, this would be an excellent opportunity to create a self-branded blog and post about recent local cases, events and other hot legal topics. If you properly capture the content spike for those hot topics, your new gTLD will be in a better position of trust and authority in Google’s eyes because it’s giving timely news on important search topics. And if you post about hot topics, they might get more shares on social media, which can help your new site further.
One of the reasons many businesses are buying the new gTLDs is because their preferred .com domain was not available at the time they registered their current Web address. If you wish, you may choose to redirect your current site to your new gTLD site. Hartzer notes this may be a good way to get your new domain to rank quickly if you purchased a keyword-rich domain.
The Big Question: Will gTLDs Affect SEO Rankings in a Positive Way?
When the rumor mill was abuzz with talks of how gTLDs would affect search rankings, Google’s Matt Cutts addressed the myths. In a nutshell, Matt doesn’t see new gTLDs getting special preference over established .com sites and other original gTLDs – not now and not ever. Instead, Google remains focused on its Quality Review Guidelines – user-friendly design and E-A-T (Expert, Authority, Trust) content.
Most gTLDs in use today simply redirect to established .com websites. It’s possible this is done for two reasons: 1) it’s challenging for small-to-mid-size businesses to keep more than one company website updated with fresh, quality content; and 2) it’s bad practice to copy content from one site to another.
Robert Williams of Mockingbird Marketing doesn’t buy into gTLDs as a viable SEO strategy – yet. “No inherent SEO value from these types of TLDs. […] If you are buying one in hopes that it will help with search engine performance, don’t.”
The Final Word on .attorney and .lawyer Domains
There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer as to whether or not lawyers should rush out to secure their gTLDs. However, business owners who are adamant about protecting their brands, and their preferred domain names are within their marketing budgets, we say, “Go for it!”
A word of caution, though. Google doesn’t favor domain squatters and domains with little or no quality content. So if you’re going to buy a domain name, be prepared to do something of value with it. Below are some uses we recommend.
- Dedicated URL for pay-per-click landing pages
- URL for billboard ads
- URL for city bus banners or bench ads
- URL for scrolling ads on digital kiosks
- Or URL for small format ad pieces like business cards
Got some ideas you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them! Simply leave a comment below.
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