Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Domain Names As Part of Your Online Marketing Strategy

A few years ago, I ran a company that had a rather large domain portfolio (about 700,000 or so). At the time, domain companies were hot...most were incredibly profitable and professional investors were throwing a lot of money at the space (Demand Media raised about $250MM, Name Media raised more than $50MM, as did Oversee). During that time, a lot of small businesses went out and registered more than one domain name because, well, it seemed like the thing to do. Which brings me to the point of my post: Is it a good idea to have multiple domain names? Should a law firm acquire domain names part of their Internet marketing strategy?

Here is what I've learned:
  • Owning a domain portfolio (defined as more than 50 domain names) as a traffic acquisition strategy (that is redirecting type in traffic to your main site) is generally unlikely to be worth it. I could rattle off a bunch of domain names that our company owns that sound great, but left undeveloped, generally don't contribute a noticeable amount of traffic. So , while owning a 50, 75, 100 domains is not going to put you in the poor house (heck, they only cost $8 a year), its almost always not worth the hassle of keeping track of what you own and what you don't. There is one caveat: I know plenty of people that speculated on a good generic domain name and sold it for a handsome profit. It does happen, but that's a different post.
  • Owning a handful of domain names that you intend to develop can be an excellent way of presenting multiple perspectives on your practice or your expertise. I can't think of a reason why you shouldn't blog about your expertise. And if you do, it makes a lot of sense to put it on its own domain so that it can have its own identity.
  • Besides blogging, owning a handful of domain names that you develop into different informational destinations, as a way to improve your organic search rankings is a pretty good SEO tactic. The caveat here is that you have to develop and maintain them. Although SEO theory suggests that a domain name that matches your target keywords is not necessary, typing in a handful of legal searches (like "divorce lawyer" or "immigration lawyer) would seem to suggest that it plays a meaningful factor.

Most people (including, and especially those in the domain name industry) underestimate the amount of investment that is required to develop a domain name into a site that Google recognizes as being authoritative about a set of keywords. But, if you are willing to put the time and money into it, it can be a valuable asset to help market your firm and your expertise.

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