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The competition, the cost, the wasted clicks — pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can have attorneys spending a lot of time, money and energy on marketing that may not generate revenue for their law firm.

Now, attorneys have to grapple with another advertising problem…or, perhaps, a lack-of-advertising problem.

Companies that rely on advertising to finance their business are becoming increasingly threatened by ad-blocking software. The number of individuals who use ad-block software in 2015 was estimated at 200 million (45 million of those users within the United States). But ad-block software isn’t only popular with computer users — one in five smartphone users (roughly 420 million) worldwide use ad-block software on their smartphones. According to a report from PageFair, that’s a 90 percent increase from last year.

Dependence on PPC advertising comes with a lot of problems — it can give your firm a false sense of security, unintentionally attract your competitors, and cost your firm a lot of money in wasted clicks without producing meaningful results. But with the rising popularity of ad-block software on numerous devices, your ads may not get seen at all. It’s one more reason why PPC dependence is a poor use of your marketing dollars.

Your potential clients are savvy consumers who avoid ads. Whether it’s visually ignoring billboards, turning down the radio dial when an advertisement comes on, or using a DVR to skip through television commercials, consumers have learned to tune out marketing messages in an increasingly noisy world. Even the way consumers scan search results has changed as our relationship with the internet has evolved and more information has become available to us.

Google recently removed ads from the right side of search results — could it be because people are ignoring them? Maybe. In fact, a Google infographic indicates that nearly 60 percent of ad impressions don’t get seen by consumers. Now factor in ad-block software and your ads may not be seen at all.

Ads may get you clicks. They may not bring you new clients.

Why are consumers so blind to ads, whether they choose not to see them or use ad-block software to eliminate them from their visual field? The answer may lie in how your potential clients use search engines. Your potential clients may be ad-blind because they’re looking for something besides ads: information. As a result, ads either end up in the periphery as search engine users scan SERPs and webpages for information, or search engine users download ad-block software to eliminate unnecessary noise.

A study conducted by eBay entitled, “Consumer Heterogeneity and Paid Search Effectiveness: A Large Scale Field Experiment,” found that putting your dollars into PPC marketing — particularly related to non-brand keywords — may not be effective. “The non-brand keyword experiments show that [search engine marketing] had a very small and statistically insignificant effect on sales,” the authors wrote.

That study was based on a hypothesis about how consumers use search engines. The authors hypothesized that most searchers are looking for information about something rather than using a search engine because they’re prepared to make a purchase decision. That includes your potential clients. A lot of PPC bidding is centered on coveted terms for attorneys like “DUI Attorney Georgia,” and other keywords that attorneys may believe their potential clients are searching for.

However, your potential clients, for the most part, are unlikely to type in simple keyword terms to a search engine. They’re much more likely to ask specific questions of Google, trying to learn what they should do next about the problem they’re facing. They may not even know that they need to seek an attorney yet.

It’s why bidding on those highly sought after terms isn’t always a good strategy: not only is their fierce competition for those terms, which then raises their cost, but your potential clients may not ask a question of Google that uses similar terminology. Plus, search results can change from user to user — when you search for a term you’ve successfully bid on, you may see it in your search results. Your potential clients may see completely different results for the same query. And now, on top of all of that, attorneys have to face the fact that their potential clients are using software that will prevent them from seeing ads altogether.

Your law firm’s ads may be blocked on mobile phones, too.

A growing number of individuals in the United States use primarily — or are dependent on — a mobile device in order to access the internet. Your next potential client is likely to visit your law firm website from a mobile device. (A very good reason to ensure your website is, at the very least, mobile-friendly, but optimally, that it’s responsive.)

Ad-block software has started to become a staple of desktop and laptop computers, but looking to data from emerging markets like India and Indonesia may tell us what will happen next. Roughly two-thirds of smartphone users in those countries use ad-block software on their mobile devices. The need for ad-block software in these parts of the world seems to be driven by the high costs of mobile data. Ad-blockers help users conserve their data and give websites shorter load times on mobile devices. And, of course, ad-blockers help those users get the information they seek by eliminating ads.

Based on the fact that 20 percent of mobile phone users are using ad-block software — a number likely to increase in the next few years, particularly in the Western world — your law firm may be spending your marketing budget on ads that your potential clients never see.

Are you making the most out of your law firm’s marketing budget?

At LawLytics, we believe PPC can be a bridge for attorneys while they build their law firm’s web presence into an appreciating asset (full of the information your potential clients are looking for), but the rise in the use of ad-block software should signal to attorneys that dependence on PPC isn’t a sustainable, long-term plan.

PPC for law firms was tough enough before ad-block software came along, but now, you may really be investing your money in marketing that doesn’t produce results. The good news is that there are sustainable ways to build and grow your practice while maximizing your web presence and minimizing both the energy you have to put in and the money that you spend.

Do you have questions about your law firm’s marketing or wonder how you can build your law firm into an appreciating asset? Let’s talk. Contact us to schedule a consultation.