Whether you’re starting a new law firm or thinking about revisiting your existing marketing efforts, there are two items you should make a priority: your domain name and your website hosting provider. These two items are vitally important to your online success and lawyers often overlook them.
When it comes to your website, there are three main components: your domain, your website, and your website hosting provider. Think of your domain as your address: it tells people how to navigate to your website. Your website itself is the house that exists at that address. And your website hosting provider is the land under the house. It’s essentially where all of your website information and coding lives. While many lawyers focus solely on the website itself, both the domain and the website hosting provider are equally, if not more, important.
A domain name is your website’s address, and is used to find your website online. For instance, our website’s domain name is staceyeburke.com. If you type that into the URL bar of an Internet browser window, you will arrive at our company’s website. Your domain name is one of your most important digital assets. It’s how people find your website, it’s usually associated with your email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org), and it’s more than likely listed on all of your online and off line marketing materials. Making sure you own and control your domain is crucial.
Domain names are purchased through service providers, such as GoDaddy, Namecheap, Network Solutions, or even Google. These companies will host your domain name, meaning you purchase it from them and access it directly via their website. If you’re not sure where your domain is hosted, you can search here: https://who.is. Under the section “Registrar Info,” the site will list the location where your domain is hosted.
We commonly encounter law firms who do not actually own or control their own domain names. This usually happens because a third party vendor (such as an IT provider or marketing agency) purchased it for the firm. If this is the case, the firm will need to set up its own account (which is free to do) and have the current domain owner transfer your law firm’s website domain to your account. That way you alone control the domain. The third party vendor may or may not agree to this, and may even want to “sell” it to you in order to release the domain. Do whatever you can to gain control and ownership of your domain… particularly if you have used it for several years.
Another relatively common domain name issue is failing to renew. You can choose to purchase a domain for one, two, five, even ten years, but eventually you will have to renew your original purchase. Make sure you know when your domain expires to ensure you continue renewing it; or, you can set important domains up to auto-renew (just keep in mind credit card expiration dates). Otherwise, your website and email will stop working.
There are a variety of elements to consider when choosing a website hosting provider, but load time is one of the absolute most important. Since July 2018, Google has used page load time as a ranking factor in mobile search results – which means the faster your website loads, the more likely Google will rank it highly in organic search results. Additionally, you’re more likely to lose potential clients if your website loads too slowly; 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.
Other factors to consider when selecting a website hosting provider:
- Security – Is the website protected by firewalls and against malware intrusions? Is there a rolling 30-day backup of your website in the event of a virus or malware attack?
- Technical support – What support options are available?
- SSL Certificate – Will your web host issue and support an SSL Certificate to ensure your website is secure?
There are multitudes of hosting options available, and many of them are incredibly cheap. Just keep in mind this is one service where you get what you pay for… and it’s in a law firm’s best interest to invest a little more in a quality hosting provider than looking for a bargain rate.
Not Sure Where to Go Next?
If your law firm is looking to make a change, or you’re thinking about going out on your own, make sure you are set up for (digital) success. While elements like domain names and website hosting providers may seem trivial, they can have serious consequences for your law firm’s digital identity if not set up and maintained properly. Find out how we can help your law firm gain control today.