Does a Domain Make a Difference with Search Engines?

Have you ever wondered what those three letters at the end of a web address mean? The “.com” or “.net” or “.biz” or “.org?” If you already know what these are, feel free to skip the next paragraph or two. If you don’t, read on.

These three letters are the domain names. It does the double duty of telling you where the website is registered as well as often telling you what sort of website it is. You can think of them as the internet version of television networks. “.com” and “.net” would be your standard networks like NBC or CBS. “.edu” would be the equivalent of the college television station. And “.gov” would be the equivalent of C-Span.

“.com” and “.net” are the big, wide open domains that handle private commercial enterprises. That means news sites, car dealerships, supermarket chains, online retailers, video sites or anything that you can think of. Anyone is welcome to set up a site, which is both good news and bad news. “.edu” is a domain that can only be held by educational facilities. Public schools, private schools, colleges, universities, vocational schools or even online accreditation providers fall under the “.edu” domain. “.org” is, generally speaking, reserved for non-profit organizations like NPR and PBS, and also for charities like The United Way or The March of Dimes, although there aren’t any stringent rules regarding this.  But it might be considered bad taste to set up a site called “Michiganinjurylawyers.org” unless you happen to be running a non-profit anti-tort reform group in Michigan. “.gov” is the sole property of the United States Government. The Senate, the House of Representatives, the Department of Defense, and any of the hundreds of departments and sub-departments that fall under the jurisdiction of the government use the .gov domain, but that’s it. It is doubtful that you will ever see a website with the address of “bobsusedcars.gov.”

So which domain is best for your law practice? Do you use .com or .net? More importantly, which domain do search engines like Google and Yahoo prefer? Do they prefer a particular domain at all? Which one will attract the most search engine interest, the most visits, the most inquiries, and, most importantly, new clients?

Believe it or not, search engines place .com, .net and .org on equal footing. So this is another situation where you have to run the technology through the prism of the habits of the people using it. Right now, .com is the gold standard. You would be surprised how many people don’t even bother with the search engines and just type a description of what they want with a “.com” after it. For instance, “plumbers.com,” “carmechanics.com”, or whatever the individual surfer happens to be looking for. And mostly, Google and Yahoo do the exact same thing. If someone types in “Idaho Car Accident Lawyer” into Google, the first and most obvious thing that is going to show up would be“idahocaraccidentlawyer.com.”  Next would probably be “idahocaraccidentlawyer.net” It’s after the obvious first two choices where efficient search engine optimization starts to make a difference.

So the first thing you should try to do when establishing a website is to go for your state, or immediate area. Try “siouxfallscaraccidentlawyer.com.” If that one is taken, try the same name with the .net domain.

If both domains are taken (which is very likely if you happen to be in a densely populated urban area,) then you should move on to different ways of phrasing the same premise. You should definitely avoid the “dash” option, which involves placing dashes and underscores in order to change up a domain name that is already taken. Doing “Mississippi-Car-Accident-Lawyers.com” doesn’t really help with search engines, plus there is the practical dilemma of it being hard to remember and clumsy to type.

Don’t fret if you can’t obtain the domain name that you want. Actually being able to get the exact domain name is a tricky business. If the one you want isn’t already taken by a competitor or directory service, it’s probably owned by an enterprising soul who bought up website names early on so he could sell it at a profit. (Imagine the lucky guy who snatched up “pepsi.com” back in the day!) Believe it or not, many of the name hoarders are perfectly reasonable about selling the name.

Putting the name of your firm as the domain name is perfectly acceptable as well, but bear in mind it isn’t the lucky and obvious shortcut that the obvious domain name would be. It just means that you have to be smart about keywords, title bars, news updates and links. Which is where we come in.  

With smart content management and frequent updates, it isn’t difficult to get to the top of Google, even if you don't have the most obvious site name in the world. When you sign up for our CMP service, you will have your website updated regularly with news, keyphrase heavy essays, and blog updates. And with DSS, you are free to update your site as often as you want. Our software makes it simple. You don’t need to take a class in website design to post newsletters, updates, or biographies of new associates.

If you are interested in raising the web profile of your injury law firm, contact Foster Web Marketing today.

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