Your web site is located by an IP (Internet Protocol) address such as 126.96.36.199 and is accessible on the Internet by typing http://188.8.131.52. Instead of typing a series of numbers which are difficult to remember, you can register an easier to remember domain name which becomes associated with your IP address. Visitors typing an easy to remember domain name will be pointed to your IP address. Similar to a 1-800 vanity phone number, some domain names pertain to the subject of the web site, while others may simply be the name or an abbreviation of your firm.
Lawyer-Advertising-Blog.com is the primary domain name for my blog, which is instantly obvious that it is a blog concerning lawyer advertising. When you type that domain name into the address bar of your browser, the domain name servers on the Internet know that you’re looking for http://184.108.40.206 and take you there. You can have multiple domain names pointing to the same web site. For instance, I also registered LawyerAdvertisingBlog.com (without hyphens) which is used for branding because people never type hyphens. Because some people may remember the name incorrectly, I also registered many other domain names such as AttorneyAdvertisingBlog.com, LawFirmAdvertisingBlog.com and others, all of which will bring the visitor to Lawyer-Advertising-Blog.com.
Tips to help you pick a domain name:
1) Choosing: Choosing a domain name is a lot like choosing a name for your company or law firm. Ideally the name should be consistent with your branding. Determine whether you are branding the name of your company, product or service. Your domain name should be good for branding – short, easy to remember, and has a “ring” to it or creates an image in the mind of the consumer.
2) Trademark: Before registering your domain name, be sure to check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make sure that the name has not been trademarked. You can check at www.uspto.gov, click on Search under Trademarks. Assuming that your choice has not been trademarked and you have now registered a non-generic domain name, you may want to protect your name by filing a Trademark or Service mark application.
3) Ownership: When you register a domain name, make sure that you are the registrant of your domain name. Some web site design firms will register your domain name with their name as the registrant. This will give them ownership of your name keeping you hostage. You can easily register your domain name yourself for $8.95 per year at 8.95Domains.com or GoDaddy.com.
4) Hyphens: There have been misunderstandings about whether to use hyphens in a domain name. First of all, the domain name you give out to the public must not have hyphens. The domain name without hyphens is the domain name that everyone will type in the address bar of their Internet browser.
The reason that some people say that you should have a domain name with hyphens is to force the search engines to see keywords in your domain name so that your web site does better in search engine results. The bigger search engines can now see individual words without hyphens, however, smaller search engines may not and even the bigger ones may see a word differently than you want.
Thus, the importance of using a hyphenated domain name has diminished. If you wish to use a hyphenated domain name as I did with Lawyer-Advertising-Blog.com, you should also register the unhyphenated domain name which you will forward to the hyphenated domain name. Use the unhyphenated domain name in print and advertising.
5) Extensions: Domain names are available with various extensions, such as .com, .net, .org and many other extensions. If it’s really important to you, you can register domain names in several extensions, however, for most firms only the .com extension is important. If you feel that you need to use .org, you should also register your name in the .com extension.
The .com extension is similar to 1-800 for telephone numbers. Most people automatically dial 1-800 even when they see 1-888. Likewise, most people will type
.com even when they see .net or .org. Additionally, many people including myself simply type in the domain name without http://www. or .com and press “Control, Enter”. Pressing “Control, Enter” will type http://www. and .com for you, automatically taking you to a web site with .com.
6) Top Level Domain vs. Sub-Level Domains: A sub level domain is a second level domain under a first level domain name and can look like yourfirm.freehosting.com. You must have your own domain name. Do not under any circumstances use a free hosting service, since free hosting services will only give you a sub level domain. No one will ever remember it and it’s sort of like handwriting your own letterhead.
7) Ethics for Law Firm Domain Names: A website name should be used as an address, not a trade name which is prohibited. Advertise your web site name as an address, a means for people to find your web site, not a trade name. Like a vanity telephone number, some web site domain names can violate legal ethics. Make sure that your web site name avoids use of certain words which could create a potentially incorrect expectation in the mind of the consumer or violate one of the other ethics rules.
Your domain name should not imply that you are better than another lawyer or that you can accomplish something that may not actually occur. Use of words such as “BEST”, “TOP”, “FOREMOST, “LEADING”, “WIN” and similar words in a web site domain name could create a misleading expectation in the mind of the consumer and will violate ethics rules in most states.
For instance, LeadingLawyer.com or BestLawyer.com will likely violate lawyer ethics rules by implying that you are a leading lawyer or the best lawyer. The question is by what standards are you leading or the best and in what? WinningLawyer.com or WinningCase.com may be better for a casino, because it will imply that the person who becomes a client of the firm will win money when, that may not happen and even if it does, it’s an award for just compensation, not gambling.
Laura Hodes in her article for the ABA Journal entitled Vanity Phone Numbers Make Your Firm Less Forgettable, at http://www.hurt911.org/hurt-911-articles/ABAJournal.htm, quoted Will Hornsby, an expert on lawyer advertising and staff counsel in the ABA Division for Legal Services, who said that while there is nothing unethical about vanity numbers, “1-800-I-WIN-CASES would be unethical because it is making an unsubstantiated claim, creating unjustified expectations that can be true but still be misleading.” The same can be said about domain names.
8) Advertising Your Domain Name: Be sure to include your domain name on your business cards, letterhead, and all advertising. When advertising in off-line media, always advertise your domain name with www. and without http://, such as www.LawyerAdvertisingBlog.com. Note that when publishing your domain name on the Internet, you may sometimes want to use http:// to ensure that you create a link back to your web site. When advertising in off-line media, always advertise a domain name without hyphens.