Steve Matthews of Stem Legal published a column on Slaw.ca back in 2010 on Domain Name Issues for Law Firms. While I agree with Steve’s outline of the issues, I wanted to emphasize a particular point that relates to the strategy between practice or geographic keyword-rich domain names (e.g. familylawyerwestpalmbeach.com) and brand name domain (e.g. watsongoepel.com). As Steve writes about keyword-rich domains:
The advantage of these types of domains is that they naturally rank quite well for the search phrases they include, without a lot of work on the webmaster’s behalf. Because of this, endless variations of geographic/practice-based domains are snatched up pretty quickly.
We regularly see clients who attempt to go both routes at the same time. If you can’t decide on your domain strategy, why not hedge your bets? If one domain is good, more must be better. Right?
Unfortunately, this strategy does not work. While Google does not reveal the details of its organic ranking algorithm, our experience is that your firm will not receive increased search engine visibility if your domain lacks its own substance and offers a mere redirect. In other words, redirecting a collection of generic keyword-rich domain names to your firm’s primary website is not an effective SEO strategy. Instead, the firm will need a website and content for every single domain if it is to help your visibility for search engine purposes (buying multiple top-level domains for your firm’s primary domain name remains a good idea: .com, .ca, etc).
This has not stopped a fairly consistent number of speculators from contacting law firms and offering to redirect high value keyword domain names to the firm’s website for an inflated price. Gone are the “land grab” days when you could register a few hundred domain names and hope that they would funnel traffic back to your main site. Domain squatting seems relatively quaint in 2012. With the consistent expansion of general top level domains (gTLDs), scarcity of domains has become less of an issue.
As Steve mentions in his column, registering keyword-rich domains do offer future opportunities if your firm subsequently expands its web presence. For example, you could build a blog on a geographic keyword domain or develop a microsite for one of your boutique practice areas (e.g. pedestrianaccidents.ca). The key is develop relevant content under these separate domains. My sense is that domains are cheap, content is expensive.
Even if the price is right, you may want to think twice before you go about buying or registering a collection of generic keyword domains. If you’re still debating which domain to choose, I’ll close this post with what Matt Cutts from Google has to say on the matter: