When you’re designing a new site for your firm, the burn-it-all-down energy is at an all-time high. It’s only natural! But the reality is a bit more complicated—and if you’re not careful, you could burn down everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Our team gets a lot of questions about domain name upgrades. While we understand the temptation to dump your current domain name and upgrade, unfortunately, all that glitters is not gold. New domain names can be sparkly and attractive but they’re notoriously unfriendly to search engines.
Generally speaking, it’s kind of a pain to change a domain name and it comes with some serious disadvantages—however, it may be a good idea for some firms. Don’t go down this path unless you determine it’s the correct choice for your firm. Here’s how to decide.
Let’s explore three situations in which you should consider changing your firm domain name, as well as three reasons lawyers may not want to change their domain name.
YES if the name of the firm has changed
If the actual name of your law firm has undergone a transformation, so too should your digital identity! This means changing your domain name and social media handles to match the new name.
Reminder: Your domain name is the branded part of your URL (for instance, it’s the OneFirstLegal part of https://onefirstlegal.com).
Your branding must be aligned with your domain name to ensure that clients can find you online.
If the text on your landing page is different from the domain name, people may become confused. If you’re referring to your practice by another name out in the world, it may be time to align the domain and look for an affordable redesign.
YES if the practice area focus has changed (and it’s in the name)
Your domain name communicates your strengths at a glimpse. It’s the key to immediately explaining your value to potential clients.
Let’s say a firm’s current domain name includes the practice area, like McCafferty Divorce Lawyers.
But now, you have changed or expanded your practice areas to include adoption and prenuptial services. Anyone who visits your site may think you only offer divorce services. If your firm’s practice area has changed or expanded, your domain name should change too.
In our example, the firm could go from McCafferty Divorce Lawyers to McCafferty Family Law to include additional practice areas.
YES if it’s just too confusing
This one’s a bit tricky, because you may not be receiving direct feedback that your domain name is confusing. People may just be struggling to type it in correctly and never arriving at your site.
Here are some common challenges with confusing domain names:
- Too long (ex: Tripathi Personal Injury Lawyers New Jersey)
- Hyphens and numbers (ex: Sandberg-Family-Law)
- Homophones (ex: Principle Custody Lawyers, vs. Principal Custody Lawyers)
- Complex spelling (ex: Zephyr Attorneys at Law)
- Multiple ways to spell (ex. Gray Business Lawyers, vs. Grey Business Lawyers)
- Unrelated words (ex: Blue Front Door for a family law firm)
- Jargon (ex: Usufruct Lawyers Los Angeles)
Consider simplifying your domain name if it fits into one of the above categories.
Disadvantage: You will lose credibility with search engines
Even if it’s entirely appropriate to change your domain name, you should expect a few unavoidable consequences.
Brand new domain names don’t tend to rank well with Google.
A new domain name means you will lose credibility with the search engines. In simple terms, this means you may notice a drop in ranking, visibility and traffic.
Search engines rely on consistent signals to assess whether a website is high-quality. Your site accumulates authority over time, and a domain name change can disrupt the trust you’ve built with the algorithm.
There’s also a chance you could experience broken links, although correct redirects can help avoid this.
Redesigning your law firm website is important, especially as your business changes and grows. But you don’t have to do it every year.
Disadvantage: You may confuse people who know your URL and email addresses
Some people may have memorized your contact details. They might enter your website into the browser manually, for example. They may have bookmarked your website for future use.
If you change your domain name or email address, your firm might become unfindable to these people.
One way to mitigate this is by using a strategic redirect. Don’t give up your existing domain name. Simply point it to your new one so no one gets left behind. A developer can help you with this.
Even if you’re currently ranking first for your name, you may still reap long-term benefits from a rename that more accurately reflects your services or geographic location.
Disadvantage: Switching domain names is a lot of admin work
Moving to a new digital home is a lot like moving homes in the real world. It’s a lot of fiddly work!
You will have to update every single place that your domain name appears online. This means bar association directories, social media pages, your Google Business Profile and more.
It’s a lot of administrative work. For disorganized or understaffed firms, the transition to a new domain name can cause more problems than it solves.
You can absolutely tackle this transition, just be aware that you’re signing up for a tedious process. It’s wise to work with a qualified web developer who also knows SEO to support a successful transition.
Designing a new site is a major undertaking. You may be able to save yourself some stress by sticking with the same domain name. If you’re considering a new site or a domain name switch, consult with our legal marketing team before you decide. Book a free 15 minute call this week and move toward your goals with renewed confidence.