Many law firms are very fluid entities. A firm can experience major changes over the years like, mergers, dissolution, moving to another city or state, or changing practice areas. There are instances where you will have to make a decision on whether it is time to change the domain of your website to better reflect the changes of the firm itself.
The goal is to have a consistent experience for your users with your brand across the web. As always, take the necessary steps to salvage any of your past Law Firm SEO and attorney Internet marketing efforts from the original domain, which will be a blog post topic in the near future.
1. Rebranding of the firm.
Many law firms have their site on a vanity domain name, such as AutoInjuryHelp.com, or a firm name, such as JSchooleyLaw.com. You may decide to rebrand your firm from a firm domain name to a vanity domain name or vice versa.
Considerations: Firm domain names are broader by nature. Meaning it’s okay to have multiple practice areas on this domain. Vanity domains can be much more narrow. It wouldn’t make much sense to have bankruptcy page on AutoInjuryHelp.com. But if auto accidents are your bread and butter, conversion can be higher on a more “auto injury” focused website where most of the pages on the site will resonate with your clients’ needs.
2. Moving from a keyword rich domain name to a firm branded one or vice versa.
This is similar to Number 1. The main difference is the specific keyword phrase in the domain itself. There is a bit of controversy around keyword rich domains and whether to use them or not. If you follow the right guidelines, there is absolutely a case to made for using them.
Considerations: Use the Google Keyword Planner to check search volume for various keyword phrases. Make sure your domain isn’t too narrowly focused or too long like. Ex. MotorcycleAccidentAttorneyHoustonTexas.com.
Many desirable keyword rich domains are all bought up and unavailable. Use dashes (-) to separate words and try plurals to find more keyword rich options.
3. Firm restructuring.
This is most common when new partners join or leave the firm and the business entity itself has to change. There can be many reasons why partners leave. A partner could move out of state, lose their license, not want to practice law anymore, or get into trouble that makes the firm look bad.
Considerations: If someone is leaving the firm or it is being dissolved, some extra thought should go into what to do with the old domain. Sure, no one may be using it, but if it has age and authority from past SEO efforts, it would be best to pass that onto the new domain using redirects. We have witnessed disputes of ownership over domains when partners go separate ways. Therefore, it would be a good idea for every firm with multiple partners to have a plan for this scenario BEFORE that happens, just in case.
4. Expanding or focusing on other geographic markets.
Sometimes a law firm’s website domain will have the name of the city they have their office in. This may not be the best option if the firm opens an office in another city and it is definitely not the best option if they move out of that city completely.
Considerations: You really need to have an office in the city you are targeting in your online efforts. Users care about that. If they are looking for a Houston DUI attorney and they see a domain that has Galveston in it, they are less likely to click, even though Galveston is fairly close to Houston.
Maybe your focus is statewide and you have the state name in the domain, let’s say Florida, but you’ll take federal appeals work from anywhere in the U.S. You will waste a lot of money advertising nationwide because someone in Arizona is less likely to interact with a website that has Florida in the domain.
5. Expanding or focusing on various practice areas.
This has very similar logic to Number 4. Many practices start off with a wide net, accepting cases from most of the common practice areas of law. After a few years of doing this, they might decide to focus on whatever their bread and butter is.
On the flip-side, maybe the focus has been narrow and the firm decides to expand to other areas of law where there may be some crossover work from existing clients. An example of this could be criminal law and family law. We have clients that get a lot of family law referrals from criminal law clients.
Considerations: Make sure your domain has the right focus for your practice areas. Dallas-Business-Lawyer.net will not do well in front of users looking for a Dallas accident lawyer, even if that firm says injury cases are an area of expertise on their website. If they never click to go to the site, they will never know that.
6. Helping visitors who may type a domain name with typos and misspellings.
Let’s be honest. Many firm names have the names of one or more attorneys in them and many attorneys have hard to spell last names or long last names! If you want something that is easier for a user to type correctly into the address bar of their browser, make it shorter and/or don’t have any hard-to-spell words in it. Vanity domain’s are great for this, which we discussed in Number 1.
Considerations: Get feedback from others about the domain for your firm. Strangers will give you the most unbiased feedback. Think about common misspelling errors and EXPECT them to occur. For example, my last name is Schooley. A common misspelling is Schooly.
If you really want to keep your domain name as is but know there is a high chance of users misspelling the domain, you can always buy the misspelled version of your domain and have it redirect to the correct domain.
7. Preventing competitors and typo squatters from using a similar domain name.
This is a black hat technique to does actually occur from time to time. Whoever owns utube.com gets a good amount of traffic from people looking for youtube.com, although it’s probably much less these days compared to when youtube first came out.
A domain squatter is someone who registers a domain but never intends to put a website on it. Their goal is for you to contact them about purchasing the domain from them at a higher price than they paid for it.
Considerations: If you have a .net, .us, etc., try to get the .com. If it isn’t available, get it on a watchlist so you know when it becomes available. You can also try contacting the owner of the .com and work out a deal.
Some firms use dashes in the domain to make it easier to read. For example, Sample-Test-Firm.com. Make sure you get SampleTestFirm.com too and redirect it to the correct domain.
Adwords is a great resource for finding keyword variations people use when searching your firm name in Google.
8. Buy a better domain with age and authority.
Brand new websites have the hardest time competing in Google search results. They don’t have any age and they don’t have much authority in the eyes of Google. There are services out there like Flippa.com where you can actually shop for websites that have age and authority because of past efforts on them from others that are, for whatever reason, looking to sell.
Considerations: I do not recommend this tactic. You would really need an expert to look at the domain and do independent analysis to make sure you aren’t buying something that has been dinged by Google.
The only instance I would recommend this is if you personally knew the person you were buying it from, maybe an ex-partner or for keyword rich/vanity domain names you want to own.
If the original owner was an old firm that got dissolved and no longer exists, the only value in buying it would be to redirect the domain to another site, as long as the focus practice areas and focus geographic markets are similar. It will pass on the SEO value to whichever site it is being redirected to, which is why you want the focus to be similar. Don’t dilute your current site’s focused authority by passing on SEO value from a site that was in another state focusing on entirely different areas of law.
9. Change domain name extensions.
According to Google, domain name extension are all treated as equals in the search algorithm; even the new ones like .attorney or .lawyer. But the fact remains, if someone is typing in a domain name into the address bar of their browser, there is a high chance that they are going to assume you have a .com if they are going off memory alone. I know I have made this mistake many times.
Considerations: These days it is harder and harder to find a .com for the domain name you want. Try using dashes in between words and/or adding an “s” to the end of words like lawyer(s). If you do find a .com you want, make sure you keep the old domain and redirect it to the new one.