The Pros and Cons of .com, .lawyer, and .law Domain Names

Potential clients can find your law firm on the internet through your website. Your website can be found through your domain name. Knowing which domain name to use for your firm’s website requires some strategic planning.

The past years have seen an increase in people relying on the internet when they need a lawyer. If you are a legal professional, you want your potential clients to find you in the vast internet global community easily.

AnchorYour law firm website is your direct link to potential clients and existing clients on the internet. It helps potential clients create the first impression of your law firm. More importantly, your website builds your firm’s online and offline reputation.

With the right domain name, you can place your law firm in the center of potential clients. The right domain name allows you to have an increasing amount of new business, and by knowing which of the marketing strategies you implemented is working best for your law firm, you can continue to focus on what works.

What is a Domain Name?

A website and the right domain name are two of the most critical aspects that contribute to your law firm’s success. Your firm’s website contains all the information about your law firm. It includes content referring to your firm’s contact information and area of practice. Your law firm’s domain name is the address users will type to direct them to your website.

A web address has a standard format like, for example, https//www.californiadivorcelawyer.com. The word after “www.” and before the word “.com” is your domain name: “californiadivorcelawyer.” This domain name is registered to you and cannot be used by any website with a “.com” designation. The “.com” is your domain name extension.

A law firm should not ignore the importance of choosing the right domain name. For example, your law firm only has one area of law – divorce law, and you practice divorce law in the California area. When a potential client type in your domain name “californiadivorcelawyer.com,” it will positively affect your potential client. This is so because your domain name has already confirmed and reinforced your law firm’s specific service.

There used to be only three domain names lawyers, and law firms can choose from: “.com,”  “.net,” and “.org” with the “.com” names as the most sought after. Every lawyer or law firm made a rush to acquire the “.com” domain name because it was considered an asset that would appreciate hundreds of thousands of times its original value.

In the past years, more domains were launched, including “.us,” “.me,” and “.info.” “.mobi” domains were likewise launched when users started to access websites more through their mobile devices.

The Difference between a Domain Name, Business Entity, and Trademark

When you go online to purchase a name for your law firm so it can be viewed online, you purchase a domain name. A law firm’s domain name can end in .com, .law, or .lawyer known as domain name extensions.

A domain name is useful online, but it does not provide protection unless you purchase a trademark for the brand (law firm name). A domain name does not also have protections against any privacy features, because no one usually knows who owns the domain name. Additionally, a domain name is only the name of a law firm website.

A law firm needs a legal organization, partnership or a business entity and should, therefore, register the company with the state or federal government and the Bar Association. A law firm can also get a registered trademark for its brand (law firm name) or logo. A trademark ensures protection that no entity or person may use the trademarked brand or logo.

Some people think that a domain name and a business entity are the same. They are often used interchangeably at one point or another.   They are, however, different in all ways:

• A domain name is the name of a website, while a business entity is referred to as the legal type of a valid business.

• The domain name of your website can be changed, but your business entity’s name often remains the same.

• A domain name may refer to a company’s legal presence and may provide details and information about the owners.

Top Domain Names for Law Firms

Most potential clients to your law firms rely on the internet to search for legal advice or representation. The truth is, most consumers rely on the internet of any information they need. This has made the internet an over-crowded marketplace.

It can be challenging to find a high-quality domain name that meets your digital marketing needs. There are over 100,000 million websites with .com domain name extensions. Even spam websites have a .com domain name extension.

It is almost close to impossible to find a significant domain name that is still available for your law firm with a .com extension. Enter .law and .lawyer domain name extensions.

The .law and .lawyer extensions allow only licensed legal professionals to register in these domain spaces; thus, they clearly communicate who you are or the legal services you provide.

Potential clients who click on websites with .law and .lawyer domain name extensions are assured they are a licensed legal professional and authorized to provide legal services or authorized legal institutions.

There are currently three top domain names for lawyers and law firms:

.lawyer

.law

.attorney

The lawyer and law domain names are exclusive to qualified lawyers in the same way the .gov, .edu, and .org domain names can only be used by government, educational, and non-profit organizations.

Carefully choose your website’s domain name because it will be on your email address and business cards. Your domain name will also be included as you build links for your website.

While the .com domain name is the most popular of all domain names, lawyers and law firms are increasingly going for the .law and .lawyer domain names. These domain names have eligibility requirements, though.

What is a .com Domain Name?

Com is a domain name considered in the Domain Name System as a top-level domain (TLV). Com, coming from the word commercial, was launched as a domain name extension in 1985. This means that domain registered with the com domain name was intended for commercial organizations.

The .com domain is the most familiar domain name extension and, until today, is still regarded as the one with the most significant value for most companies and businesses.  This is so because most customers and potential law firm clients instinctively assume that the company or law firm website has a .com domain name extension.

Pros

Most common domain name extension and most users will instinctively type “abcd.com” when searching for a website.

• It is a “commercial” domain name extension and can immediately signify the website’s intention to promote legal services.

• Professional and reliable and can, therefore, be trusted.

• Your website address will not be confused for something else.

Cons

• An overused website domain name extension; thus, it can be tough to register a perfect domain name with a .com extension.

• It is expensive and difficult to buy an existing domain name with a .com extensive.

• Many believe that having a .com domain name extension impacts the website’s search engine ranking. Google still prefers .com as a preferred domain name extension.  It is such a popular domain name extension that most keyboards of computers and mobile devices have a “.com” button.

What is a .lawyer Domain Name?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) says that a .lawyer domain name extension is available only to lawyers, law firms, or anyone involved in rendering legal services. With .lawyer, you can create a custom and unique internet presence.

The most common domain name for .lawyer is www.yourname.lawyer or divorce.lawyer. A location + category domain (californiadivorce.lawyer) is perfect for search engine optimization.

Pros

• Creates a good brand for your law firm.

• It allows your law firm to have a descriptive domain name.

• It captures the core of your legal services.

• It creates trust among users searching for a law firm online because the registration process requires you to provide a phone number.

• It does not allow law firms to hide their registered information.

• It provides a professional and official impact on the online presence of your law firm.

• It allows you to target your specific market.

• It allows you to quickly send your message to your target market.

Cons

• It does not have an impact on search engine optimization.

• Search engines treat this domain name in the same way it would other domain names.

Instead of choosing a generic domain name, a .lawyer domain name extension immediately shows your brand (your law firm). It is a high-value domain name that quickly makes it known that you are a legal professional.

What is a .law Domain Name?

The .law is a top-level domain name (TLD) extension. These exclusive web spaces promote trust in the legal industry because it is exclusive only to:

• Licensed lawyers

• Law schools

• Courts of law

• States bar associations

• Legal regulators

If you wish to register a .law domain name for your law firm, you must provide a phone number. This additional step in the registration process helps promote the users’ trust in searching for a law firm on the internet.

A .law domain name is descriptive of the services you provide. When deciding on a domain name, it is always wise to include your name and area of practice.

Pros

• A trusted domain name.

• A less crowded domain name space because it is a new domain name extension.

• Useful for website optimization and digital marketing strategies.

• Ranks well in search engines because it shows authority.

• The additional step in the registration process (providing a phone number) provides added credibility.

• Allow you to create a memorable and strong band.

• Provides a distinct touch to the online presence of your law firm.

Cons

• It does not help boost search engine optimization.

• Will be treated by search engines similar to other domain names.

What’s in a Domain Name?

Domain name extension such as .law and .are are often referred to as merely vanity domains because they do not offer much practical use. While many law firm websites have registered in these domain spaces, the number of law firms actively using them is a different question.

Many law firms may have registered with the .law and .lawyer domain spaces to protect and secure their brand and prevent any other law firm from registering them but only a few, it seems, to be actively using them.

Some law firms even redirect website traffic from their .law or .lawyer domain to their main .com domain. Few law firms still use a .law or a .lawyer domain as their primary domain. Try checking Google and see for yourself.

While the American Bar Association (ABA) predicted a rush for lawyers and law firms to the .law and .lawyer, it never happened. Law firms still imbibe the basic rule of law firm digital marketing: focusing marketing efforts on what has proven to deliver results. In this case, the .com domain name.

Final Thoughts

While the .com domain name is still widely used by most law firms in their websites, the .law and .lawyer domain name extensions offer more benefits, especially in terms of the trust, professionalism, brand strategy, and credibility.

While having a top-level domain is essential for the branding and recall of your website, it is how you use it to the advantage of your law firm that matters. You can have the best domain name, but if your website lacks relevant content and does not adhere to Google’s best-recommended practices, your website will not earn a top rank in search engine results pages (SERPs). Whether you use a .com, .law, or .lawyer domain name extension, make sure your website contains high-quality and relevant content for your target audience and potential clients.

Your law firm website should also never engage in spurious Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices such as keyword stuffing, purchasing links, or other things that are against Google’s warnings.

Will it be .com, .law, or .lawyer? Each domain name has advantages and disadvantages. Choose the right domain name and domain name extension for your law firm website based on your goals as well as digital marketing strategies.

Martin Vermaak

The Lawyer Marketing Pro Digital Marketing Agency for Lawyers and Law Firms.

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