Last year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced nearly 1,300 new Top Level Domains that are being released throughout 2014. In the world of online marketing, there has been much discussion surrounding these new internet properties and how they will impact websites and SEO.
The term Top Level Domain (TLD) is foreign to most attorneys. Simply defined, a TLD is the extension to your domain name. The most common ones in the United States are .com, .net, .org, .edu and .gov. Since the internet explosion of the 1990s, there have been approximately 280 TLDs in use (many countries have their own which explains the seemingly large number). With the new TLDs being introduced this year, there will be over 1500 top level domains that website owners can choose to employ for their domain names. Some of the new TLDs include .blog, .marketing, .store and .cars. For law professionals, some targeted TLDs include .attorney, .lawyer, .legal and .law. If you were to use one of these TLDs, rather than a traditional .com ending, your domain name would look something like www.mylawfirmontheweb.lawyer.
While it seems logical that all attorneys should run out and purchase these new top level domains, you should first evaluate the impact that this will have on your web presence. Consider the following questions:
Will a more relevant TLD help with your firm’s SEO?
According to Google’s Matt Cutts, these new TLDs will have no effect on the SEO.
Will a new legal TLD give your firm more credibility with users?
Since these TLDs have yet to be released, this is more difficult to answer because we just don’t have the data of how users perceive and use these domain name extensions. Generally speaking, web users have a tendency to assume .com is the extension of a domain name. It will likely take years before these TLDs infiltrate the industry and web users come to trust them (and more importantly even think to type them in when trying to find a specific website). To minimize confusion, we’d highly recommend that you refrain from switching over your website as soon as these TLDs are released to the public.
Should you buy all of the relevant TLDs for your firm once they are released?
While we wouldn’t recommend replacing your current domain name with one of the new TLDs, to protect your online reputation and ensure a competitor doesn’t snatch up your name with the new extension, you might consider purchasing these domain names in the months ahead. They are more expensive and in some cases, you will need to prove that you are licensed attorney to register the domain name. Your registrar should be able to provide you with additional information and many are already accepting pre-registrations for these new TLDs.