Top Level Domains and New Opportunities for Online Branding

Vol. 32 No. 1


Statton Hammock is vice president of Business & Legal Affairs for Rightside, where he provides guidance on business, legal, and policy matters related to its registry operations. Prior to joining Rightside, Statton spent five years with Network Solutions as Sr. Director of Law and Policy, where he provided legal and strategic business advice related to the protection of intellectual property rights, Internet governance, data security and privacy, and compliance with ICANN policies related to the provisioning, sale, and use of domain names.

Last year the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) made hundreds of new top level domains available to consumers. A top level domain (TLD) is the part of a web address (also called a “domain name”) to the right of the dot. Historically, there were 22 generic TLDs available, the most common being .COM. However, today users can get a domain name that is more specific and relevant to their personal interests or business. New TLDs available since last year consist of everything from city names (.NYC) to slang terms (.NINJA), sports (.GOLF) and professions, including .LAWYER and .ATTORNEY. This article will discuss the opportunities these new TLDs present to lawyers and clients in the practice area of entertainment and sports law.


A domain name that marks a website’s online location is a valuable piece of Internet real estate. For this reason, the addition of .LAWYER and .ATTORNEY presents new opportunities for individuals and firms to brand themselves and enhance their online presence.

For the individual, acquiring can serve as the anchor for an enduring online presence throughout a fluid career that often involves working for different employers and clients. Many lawyers already maintain an individual profile at LinkedIn® and/or Avvo®, but these platforms limit the content and the look and feel of your online presence. Additionally, addresses on these platforms highlight the brand of the platform over the individual (for example, www.linkedin/in/yourname). However, having your own web address and email address ending in .LAWYER or .ATTORNEY allows you to customize a name space that tells users what services you offer in ways that a LinkedIn address or a Gmail email address doesn’t.

Simple, specific domain names are easy to speak, easy to print on business cards and advertising, and easy for clients and prospects to remember. And, since multiple domain names can point to a single “location” on the web, owning a .LAWYER web address doesn’t necessitate building and maintaining a separate website or profile. Your .ATTORNEY domain name can redirect visitors to a pre-existing LinkedIn, Avvo or Facebook® page, a firm website or other personal page.


The utility of a simple, upfront domain name with a .ATTORNEY or .LAWYER TLD only increases as the world of web addresses with old TLDs like .COM or .NET gets more and more cramped. Many of us have had to make do with compromised domain names with these old TLDs — that is, settling for a less appealing alternative to the domain name we’d hoped to register, because our first choice was already claimed by someone else. For example, L.A. law firm Kendall Brill & Kleider might have wanted But in fact, they got there late, and that domain name belongs to an anonymous entity hoping to snag people searching for car information (“Kbk” meant as an abbreviation, one surmises, of “Kelly book,” as in the Kelly Blue Books that publish used car valuations). The address is also taken by someone else: Kanter Bernstein & Kardon, a personal injury firm in Philadelphia. To find Kendall Brill & Kleider, you have to go to

This is a common consequence of operating in a crowded name space, where differentiating oneself requires strategic and sometimes gymnastic word combinations and strings. Having more options than the old .COM and .NET standbys enables new businesses to get the name they want and old businesses to rebrand to something more relevant, something better.


Branding, however, entails a lot more than merely broadcasting one’s proper name. For success in search results, it’s also critical to associate an online presence with a specific practice area. Firms, agents, managers and legal advisors, therefore, can use new TLDs to claim vital virtual real estate that makes direct reference to their areas of focus. Here is an example.

Good search engine marketing (SEM), as you probably know, includes purchasing keywords and phrases (e.g., “Nashville copyright lawyer”) so that, when someone searches for that term or phrase, your firm appears among the sponsored results at the top of the page. Purchasing a domain name that also utilizes those same terms (e.g., will only reinforce a firm’s position as a prominent player in the given practice area. Owning both the keyword and the domain name means users searching for “Nashville copyright lawyer” will see right at the top — and the relevance of that result is pretty hard to dispute.

A second example further clarifies how domains can play into search queries. Search engine algorithms are notoriously byzantine, and the degree to which they weigh domain names, in balance with other factors, is clear only to the mathematicians writing the code. It is evident, though, that domain names are a factor.

When I type “entertainment licensing attorney” into my search window, these are the top six organic results:


As you can see, the highest-ranking search result includes two of my search terms in the domain name itself. In fact, only two of the top six web addresses do not include any of my search terms.

Domain names alone don’t guarantee high ranking, but early data does suggest that new TLDs “are holding their own against, and in some cases outperforming, comparable addresses registered in legacy domains like .COM.”1 Assuming that the owners of adequately satisfy other parameters for search ability and ranking, one imagines it would compare favorably to other high-ranking results. That is, compared to firm names the user doesn’t recognize and pages deep inside a site’s architecture (like the results in the list above), presents itself as a comfortingly simple answer to the search query. As mentioned before, the relevance of the link, given what was searched for, would be self-evident. And the cleanliness and straightforwardness of the domain name would be compelling as well.


The strategies and benefits above also apply to clients, as the catalogue of new TLDs touches on professions and industries far and wide. Some relevant examples for the entertainment and sport markets include:

  • Film and television: .ACTOR, .MOVIE, .FILM, .STUDIO

For your clients, owning or is the first step in branding in this new era of online domains.

However, because a single client’s online presence can include videos, news feeds, social streams, charitable ambassadorships and many more virtual “channels,” there are potentially many TLDs that are relevant to a client’s promotion and career. As client advisors and co-strategists, it’s important for you to be familiar with options, and their possible applications, like the following:

  • Cross-industry channels: .NEWS, .SOCIAL, .VIDEO, .ROCKS, .GIVES
  • Commerce-oriented channels: .MARKET, .FORSALE, .SHOP, .AUCTION

Any of the above can be paired with a client’s name —,, — to brand a channel and its content in a clear and proprietary way. Less obvious than TLDs like .ACTOR and .BAND, they are no less useful. It certainly pays for a client to own, but if what a fan is searching for is a certain video featuring your client, then is arguably more relevant — both from an SEM standpoint as well as from the standpoint of the fan hoping to find the video.

Major League Baseball has recognized this opportunity already. Responding to the volume of searches conducted by fans seeking out team and player memorabilia, the MLB acquired .AUCTION domains for every team in the league:,,, etc. We may see more and more proactive acquisitions like this as awareness and usage of these new TLDs grows.

The MLB’s acquisition of .AUCTION domains brings up one final aspect that is definitely worth discussing. Not only does registering domain names with new TLDs help clients extend their presence to the people curious about them, it also keeps other people from doing so in your clients’ name. Even a little time searching for client names online shows you how useful this can be.

The good news is that, along with rolling out these new TLDs, registry operators (the companies that exclusively operate each new TLD) also made sure to provide new tools for brand protection and dispute proceedings. In other words, you and your clients can take action to defend and manage how their names appear in website addresses.


1. Paul Stahura, Early Data Suggests New gTLDs Perform Well in Search Environment,, (Dec. 10, 2014).


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