Monday, June 29, 2020

Can Changing to a .Attorney TLD Boost Rankings?


In 2014 ICANN approved the use of professional domain names like .attorney, .law and others.  It opened a door for professionals of all kinds to brand themselves as trustworthy sources for their services.  Many saw it as a way to get better rankings but is it really worth the effort to reserve a .attorney domain name of your own?  Will it really boost rankings?


The Highly Competitive Legal Industry

Marketing and advertising competition in the legal industry is extremely competitive.  Cost per click amounts can run into the hundreds of dollars per click for competitive practice areas.  It makes sense that attorneys should acquire a domain name that sets them apart from their competition.  More than two thirds of the most expensive keywords on Google are related to the legal industry.    

Data Gives Us Hints
One study featured on Search Engine Land tracked the activity of a .attorney TLD applied to a Jacksonville lawyer’s website.  The study took place over a few month period in 2015 and analyzed not only the change in TLD but other marketing activities like blogging and links being built to the site.  The study concluded that the new .attorney domain name ranked in the second overall position on Google for location-based terms like Jacksonville Attorney. 

Even though the study showed some correlation there was no causation.  In other words it cannot really be said that switching to that domain name caused the attorney’s website to rank better in search.  The study also pointed out that the firm (during the same time period) had also started posting blogs 7 times per month and had additional referring domains acquired during the same time period (although not a lot). 

What Does Google Have to Say?

A blogpost published by Google in 2015 directly conflicts with the study’s findings above.  In it, Google’s John Mueller does a Q and A about newly released gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains) and their impact on search behavior.  He clearly states in the third question that:

No. Those (.BRAND) TLDs will be treated the same as a other gTLDs. They will require the same geotargeting settings and configuration, and they won’t have more weight or influence in the way we crawl, index, or rank URLs.”

This is nothing new for Google.  Matt Cutts Google’s former head of web spam had been saying for years that all TLDs are created equal.  He mentions in a GoogleWebmaster video that .coms, and .orgs and all other TLDs are treated the same in terms of ranking which debunks the myth that many SEOs lived by for some time.  That having keywords in the domain name (known as an EMD or exact match domain) would improve ranking for that keyword phrase. 

Links, Content and Rank Brain

Regardless of whose data or statements are right, one thing is clear.  The information related to TLDs and ranking is just too muddled to be of any use.  There is no clear answer on whether having the .attorney domain name is good for search rankings or not (marketing is another question entirely). 
According to Google, attorneys should be spending their time on developing unique in-depth content and acquiring high quality links to their websites.  

There are tons of studies on the internet that draw much more conclusive correlations among links and great content to good rankings in search.

Rank Brain (Google’s machine learning technology) is another part of the equation.  Although specifics about the inner workings of the technology are a closely guarded secret, it is evident that Google wants its algorithm to continually learn and understand user intent to deliver a better search experience.

Does getting the .attorney TLD help rankings?

No.

Google doesn’t give a crap about what TLD you’re using.  A domain name is a pure marketing play.  Google focuses on the content served on that domain and how other sites on the web interact with it more than anything else.             


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