How to send more internet business down your firm’s chimney

It’s the busiest time of year for a certain seasonal firm whose principal partner has developed one of the most powerful brands in history.

At which of these two domain names do you imagine more of his billions of clients are looking for his website?

ClausAndAssociatesLLP.com
Christmas.com

Here’s a hint: it’s not the first one. But if he’s smart, he owns both of them.

If your firm hasn’t explored purchasing secondary domain names, it may be leaving easy marketing ROI on the table. How many domains do you need, though, and how should you make your selections? Here are some issues to consider before you go URL shopping at the domain registrar’s website.

Do you want to stick to playing website domain name offense…

Unless they’re a referral or a past client, most potential clients won’t know the name of your firm when they start looking for legal assistance. They’re thinking about their problem or situation, and that’s likely to be the basis of their search when they conduct an Internet search.

If you handle personal injury — and if your website has implemented strategic SEO — someone searching for “personal injury lawyer” should find your site pretty quickly. But they should find it a lot faster if you’re using a domain name that’s directly related to their search.

You’ll find that a lot of the best “catch all” domain names for legal practice areas are already taken. This is not a serious obstacle. “AccidentLawyer.com,” for example, goes to a firm in Albany, NY. They’re may get a lot of traffic, but most people searching for personal injury counsel are also seeking a lawyer in a particular geographic location – not just upstate New York.

One way to optimize a domain name for search is to include a geographical component. Suppose you run a family law firm in Topeka, Kansas. “Divorce.com” is long gone, and so is “TopekaDivorceLawyer.com,” but “DivorceInTopeka.com” is still available (for now).

A caveat that lawyers face is that some states’ rules of professional conduct do not allow the use of trade names or monikers. A practice-specific URL can fall within this rule – so check your state’s ethics rules before investing (and if you have a multi-jurisdictional practice, check all states within which you practice and market).

…or should you also play URL purchasing defense?

“Defense” in this context refers to a strategy of cornering the market on domain names that are potentially relevant to your practice, even if you don’t necessarily plan to direct them to a website. The primary goal is to deny your competitors’ access to them. I’m not a fan of domain name squatting by the way.

As you might imagine, this can get expensive. If taken to its extreme, buying and holding all the possible domain name permutations can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. There are companies that do just that, sometimes even buying potentially common misspellings of their primary domain name.

I don’t recommend domain name squatting – there are more legitimate ways to be successful. Come up with a list of the 5 to 20 best available domain names that might work for your law firm and register them. Depending on the size and maturity of your local market, you may find that someone has beaten you to the punch. If that’s the case, stick to “offense” and let someone else carry the expense of “defense.” Some registrars will allow you to set up alerts that notify you if your competitor later slips up and neglects to renew a domain you had your eye on. (Should that ever happen, act immediately!)

You’ve purchased various law firm domain names. Now what?

The easiest thing to do with your new domain is to simply redirect it to your existing website (which has retained its original domain name). This is a sound enough practice, but you can enhance your ROI on your new domain by creating a custom landing page for people who used it. A custom landing page makes it easier for you to track the effectiveness of any marketing campaigns that you’ve tied to your new domains.

More importantly, a targeted domain name can also jump start your relationship with a would-be client. You already know what they were looking for when they found your new domain. Why not give it to them upon their arrival at your website? This is the goal of a custom landing page (and reviewing website analytics).

Rather than letting your general purpose homepage greet your potential client, a custom landing page immediately tells them that they’ve reached a qualified law firm to assist with their specific legal problem.

Websites have become the primary front door to most businesses – law firms are no exception. The name of your domain and how you market it should be a big part of your brand and marketing strategies. Don’t overlook the power of a simple domain name change. Going from the generic XYZLawFirm.com to DivorceInTopeka.com (hint, hint), can effectively maximize your firm’s online equity and help increase your firm’s bottom line.