One of the big questions in SEO today is how new TLDs (top-level domains), like .LIVE, .NEWS or .ATTORNEY, are affecting search engine rankings. While some believe that .COM domains are the only safe option, Google has insisted that generic top-level domains aren’t at any disadvantage in their search rankings’ algorithm. Rather than accept either of these statements at face value, we wanted to know, what does the data say?
That’s why we commissioned Globe Runner, a Dallas-based SEO firm, to investigate the effect of moving from a .COM to a new TLD. The subject of this study was Jacksonville.ATTORNEY, a domain registered by Eric Block, a personal injury attorney in Jacksonville, FL. Eric’s migration from EricBlockLaw.com in March of 2015 was a great opportunity to observe domain metrics before and after the switch. What Globe Runner discovered is that moving to a new TLD very likely contributed to Eric’s site appearing at the top of many search results.
This result is big news for SEO, particularly in the highly competitive and expensive world of online marketing for the legal industry. For lawyers, the cost of promoting their web presence is rising rapidly, with 78 of Google’s 100 most expensive keywords related to legal services. Searches for lawyers can be highly segmented by specialty and geographic location, yet many firms still spend hundreds of dollars per click in paid SEM campaigns.
Here’s just an example of the costs Eric might have encountered for paid search results in Jacksonville (data by SEMrush):
In the past, Eric had tried PPC campaigns yielding middling returns. Rather than running headlong into fierce bidding wars with his competitors, he decided to get creative. Eric and his marketing team switched to a new domain, listed the domain with legal referral services and relaunched the site with a new design and content strategy.
Within months, Jacksonville.ATTORNEY was sitting at or near the top of organic search results for some highly competitive keywords, ranking as high as the first overall match for terms like “Jacksonville attorney” and “Jacksonville attorneys.” This was a welcome change from EricBlockLaw.com, which often ranked several pages down, if they ranked at all.
Since the switch, Globe Runner estimated that the site generates the organic equivalent of $6,400 per month in 333 Google keyword phrases. Many of these searches don’t even include “Jacksonville” as a term, as Google’s results can already account for the location of the user performing the search.
Obviously, being on the first page of results also contributed to a big jump in traffic to Eric’s site, too. Throughout the history of EricBlockLaw.com, very little traffic was coming in through organic Google searches:
Meanwhile, Jacksonville.ATTORNEY started gaining traction immediately, seeing hundreds of more referrals within the first few months. Traffic peaked in August of 2015 before rising even higher going into 2016:
Far from being penalized in the search rankings, this .ATTORNEY domain is thriving without thousands of dollars being poured into SEM.
The legal industry sees some of the highest CPC rates, but Eric’s experience can be duplicated for other products and services, too. The takeaway for any company looking to market themselves online is that SEM isn’t the only route to take, and in many cases, doesn’t represent the best bang for your buck, either. Many will find that putting the domain name (and new TLDs) at the center of their strategy will drive traffic and search engine rankings without breaking the bank every month on costly PPC campaigns.
Globe Runner’s full report on Jacksonville.ATTORNEY makes the best case yet for the positive relationship between domains and SEO. To see the data and results for yourself, download the case study now.