Owning your .com address isn’t enough — buy the other URLs, possibly including that new .law extension
December 23, 2015
We recommend your law firm buy most of the more commonly used domain extensions of its name — what are called uniform resources locators, or URLs — the unique address for a file that is accessible on the Internet.
There is no question you should do this if your firm uses a single name as its URL. For example, as the venerable Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom does, www.skadden.com. Now that .law extensions are becoming generally available it is even more important you do this if you are in a situation like Skadden’s.
Yes, you will read that this is unnecessary to buy a .law extension or switch to one purely for search marketing purposes, and we agree with everyone making that point. However, there is another reason to make the purchase(s), below is perspective and an explanation.
Ultimately, .com is still the strongest domain extension. Your firm’s name is a critical element of its “branding”, as well. So protect your firm from marketplace confusion and buy the .net, .info, .biz and .org extensions of it. This is true even though .org extensions really are intended for non-profits and trade groups and .info is for resource-heavy sites. You never know, you may have a non-profit or training strategy in your future. And, as to simple confusion, do you even recall what .com represents? It stands for the word “commercial”, or otherwise a business.
We’re talking less than $20 annually to do this for each of the more common extensions. That’s inexpensive brand protection insurance. GoDaddy and Network Solutions are easy places to buy these common domains. This will prevent anyone or group with the same name as that of your firm (lawyer or not) from getting these addresses and possibly creating some market confusion. (Jackson.com is a financial services company, but jackson.org is a hospital. At least they aren’t in the same town as two law firms with the first name O’Neil are in Milwaukee.)
Buying .attorney or .lawyer will be several times more expensive than the most common URLs listed above. You may be required to prove you are a practicing attorney/firm, but if you have strong firm name recognition in your area and use your name as your URL you might as well buy them, too. You will pay even more for the new .law extension, about $210 annually at this point, we’re told. You will have to buy the .law extension from a list of providers less well-known than GoDaddy.
Don’t forget to have all of these URLs set to redirect visitors to your .com site. Your webmaster or IT person can do this. Absent a redirect, if accidentally used, a searcher will go to a largely blank screen with an error message on their phone, tablet or computer screen.
Recently, The Cyber Advocate discussed marketing confusion and the practice of “cybersquatting”.
The Cyber Advocate said: “Cybersquatting occurs when someone adopts your domain name, but with a different extension, like someone using www.thecyberadvocate.net instead of www.thecyberadvocate.com. The cybersquatter’s purpose is usually to free-ride off of your marketing efforts, getting visitors who intended to go to your website.
“However, they can also be used for more malicious purposes, such as to affiliate your law firm with false, lewd or defamatory content. They can be dangerous,” The Cyber Advocate said, adding that “Not only do you risk a potential PR nightmare, but there could potentially be ethical implications, even though you don’t have ownership of the other site (do you actually trust the state ethics board to understand the difference prior to a hearing?).”