Guest post by Conrad Saam.
Starting on October 12th, lawyers will be able to purchase domains with the .law top-level domain (TLD). We are most familiar with TLDs like .com, .org, .edu, etc., and soon you could have a domain like personalinjury.law or seattledui.law. According to the ABA Journal, lawyers are forecasted to spend “north of $200 million” registering .law domains (each is $200/year).
Law firms have long been ponying up money to purchase domains defensively (to protect their brand) or offensively (to lock others out of the market). The new .law domains may also be a good option for new lawyers, or firms with annoyingly long and convoluted domains who want a “reset.” But the .law domains are also being aggressively marketed as a silver bullet for SEO.
From the ABA Journal:
A firm’s search engine strategy should also be taken into account when choosing a domain name.
And from FindLaw:
From both a consumer and an SEO perspective, a verified, restricted top-level domain provides a level of confidence that you know who you are dealing with online. Which leads us to today and the .law domain.
And from nic.law, one of the few resellers that can actually provide .law domains:
Since only lawyers can own .law domains, lawyers and law firms will be able to increase credibility in search results as compared to other top level domains.
The promise of Google dominating .law domains has been predicted to set off a “domain gold rush.” But before we head off to the URL Yukon, let’s first examine the facts about just how TLDs impact SEO. Let’s first look at the official Google handling of TLDs and their impact on search ranking. In a July post this year on Google’s handling of new top level domains, Googler John Muller explained:
Q: How will new gTLDs affect search? Is Google changing the search algorithm to favor these TLDs? How important are they really in search?
A: Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.
In simple terms, John says the new TLDs will not result in search gold (my emphasis):
Somewhat simplified: if you spot a domain name on a new TLD that you really like, you’re keen on using it for longer, and understand there’s no magical SEO bonus, then go for it :-).
In the spirit of trust but verify, I enlisted the help of Dan Weeks to find out whether Muller’s statements are accurate. New TLDs have been available for a good while — .lawyer and .attorney domains have been around for a more than a year — so I asked Dan to look through his data to answer this question: “Is there inherent value in a legal specific TLD?” Dan looked at the search results for hundreds of transactional personal-injury keywords in the Los Angeles market, analyzing 7,325 different domains that showed up. Just 14 of the domains had a .lawyer or .attorney TLD. Thats less than 1 in 500 (and none of those were first-page results).
So about that gold rush … it’s not happening.
Conrad Saam is the founder of Mockingbird Marketing – an agency delivering advanced online marketing exclusively for the legal industry. Prior to Mockingbird, Conrad architected Avvo’s ascendancy from concept to legal directory market leader through advanced search engine optimization tactics. He previously ran the marketing team for the widely popular restaurant app, Urbanspoon. Conrad writes the In-House column for Search Engine Land, has been featured in USA Today, the New York Times and the Huffington Post and is the author of The FindLaw Jailbreak Guide. You can follow him @conradsaam.