Are .legal or .law domain names worthwhile?
There are always new things on the internet: memes, startups, cloud services and more.
People are also trying to come up with new ways to present domain names. One way of doing this is to create new Top Level Domains (TLDs). When the internet started examples included .com, .net, .edu. Then country codes were added, like .nz, .au, .fr, .de etc
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of TLDs that are related to more specific areas of interest and industries. As many new domain extensions enter the market, we look at two new ones – .law and .legal. extensions.
The question is: Are they worth registering?
To start answering that question, we need to remember the reasons why we have domain names and how they are used generally by your target market.
Domain name extensions were created to classify the internet into easily distinguishable areas. Where .com domains were meant to be for commercial enterprises, .edu were kept for educational organisations only. In New Zealand we have some closely guarded extensions. For example .govt.nz can only be used for Governmental uses; similarly .iwi.nz for Māori interests.
You would think, using the same logic, that .law and .legal would be a good idea. The big difference here is that neither .law nor .legal end with the extra .nz extension.
In many New Zealanders’ eyes, any domain name without .nz on the end means an international website (as most international companies use .com). So, for initial brand recognition, it may be better to rely on a .nz extension for your domain name.
One of the purported benefits of .law domains is they are reserved for the legal community, including registered lawyers, law firms, and law schools. There are downsides however and these include;
- there is a vetting process to follow to prove you meet the criteria;
- you pay a larger amount (perhaps 3 or more times) per year for your domain than standard .nz domains.
It is however important to note that while .law is vetted prior to registration, .legal is not. This could mean that other parties could register your name with a .legal extension.
This could cause confusion in the marketplace and lead to lost leads and prospects.
If you think of the registration price as brand insurance, you could avoid potential issues by registering the names and pointing them to your primary domain name.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Most of our readers will be aware of SEO – in real terms how your website is ranking in Google searching. Its certainly a possibility that having a .law or .legal TLD could improve search results where the focus of the searcher is on finding lawyers or a law practice specialising in a particular area. To cite a legal phrase – we think “the jury is still out on that”. There is an article published in 2016 which suggests Google do not factor in any SEO benefit for law firms using either TLD. ( See https://www.legalinsites.com/2016/06/16/google-confirms-lawyer-law-tld-addresses-dont-help-seo/).
For NZ based practices targeting the domestic market, we think a .nz or .co.nz TLD is more relevant to a local search for ranking results.
The other, more practical, consideration is simply that someone looking for a local lawyer may be put off clicking on a link to a .law or .legal result as they may perceive this as being an international organisation.
Registering these new extensions should only be for brand protection reasons, or if your focus is international.