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Do I Need Google Advertising for My Law Firm?

by Apr 17, 2024

Acquiring new leads consistently, affordably, and reliably is one of the biggest challenges facing lawyers today. Most potential clients turn to search engines such as Google to find legal services and conduct legal research, yet it can be difficult to know exactly how to get in front of your ideal client online. Enter: The promise of Google’s paid advertising services.

For many, it can be advantageous to pursue paid advertising tactics to get a leg up on the local competition and makes for effective pairing with their law firm website. However, for solo attorneys and small law firms, it’s crucial to their marketing strategy to ensure that every advertising dollar is used efficiently or else it should be reconsidered.

Read on for the risks and consequences of paid advertising, an analysis of Google Ads versus Local Services Ads (LSAs), and an argument for ad-free, content-based SEO legal marketing.

Risks and Considerations of Paid Advertising

Your firm’s online presence is an important part of your firm’s marketing strategy. As a solo attorney or small law firm, it can be tempting to follow the promise of quick fixes and fool-proof strategy – among them, the allure of paid advertising. In reality, while it’s true that Google can boost your website’s visibility on SERPs, it doesn’t come without a degree of risk. 

Below we discuss the top concerns with paid advertising for small law firms.

#1 Financial Strain

Paid advertising can be an enticing digital marketing solution for small law firms, but it’s important to consider the drawbacks before allocating your firm’s budget to advertising. First, paid advertising can place a financial strain on solos and small law firms. Advertising costs can add up quickly, especially in highly competitive legal niches where certain keywords are expensive. Small firms may find it challenging to consistently allocate a substantial portion of their budget to paid advertising, as it can strain their financial resources and limit their ability to invest in other critical aspects of their business, such as hiring experienced attorneys or improving client services.

#2 Results are Temporary

Another disadvantage is the temporary nature of the positive results you may experience with paid advertising. Unlike organic traffic generated through content-based SEO efforts, paid advertising traffic tends to disappear the moment you stop funding your campaigns. This means you’re constantly in a race to maintain your online presence, and any budget fluctuations or unforeseen events can disrupt your marketing efforts, leading to inconsistent results and potentially a loss of business.

#3 Competition for Keywords and Ad Space

The competition and rising costs in the paid advertising space can be overwhelming for attorneys. Popular keywords related to legal services are highly sought after, and the bidding wars can inflate the costs per click. As a result, firms with limited budgets may find themselves unable to compete effectively, leading to inefficient spending and less-than-desirable outcomes.

Financial strain, temporary results, and fierce competition are all factors that require thoughtful consideration when planning a paid advertising budget for your practice. Small firms should assess their budget, objectives, and competitive landscape to determine whether paid advertising is the right approach or if they should focus on alternative methods, such as content-based SEO and local optimization, to achieve their online visibility goals.

What Paid Advertising Options Does Google Offer? Google Ads versus Local Services Ads

There are some distinct differences between Google Ads and Local Services Ads. By understanding the differences, you can enhance your ability to use both or either type of ad more effectively. 

In a nutshell, the main differences between Google Ads and Local Services Ads are:

  • Google Ads follow a pay-per-click model while LSAs are pay-per-lead. In other words, a business is charged each time a lead clicks on a Google Ad while a business is only charged when a lead reaches out to them from an LSA. 
  • Google Ads may appear further down on search results depending on the advertising budget of the business. LSAs, however, with the exception of some outlying circumstances due to the interference of Google SGE (which we will explore more in-depth later on), tend to appear at the top of search results, above pay-per-click ads and organic search results. 
  • Google Ads require a degree of keyword research in order to be successful in most cases while LSAs are automatically generated by Google and therefore ready for immediate use. 
  • Businesses need to produce ad copy for their Google Ads while LSAs only display business information like hours, rating, services, etc.
  • Any business is free to create an ad with Google Ads. In contrast, LSAs are only available to limited industries and locations. 

In the following section, we take an in-depth look at Google Ads and Local Services Ads to understand their uses for solo attorneys and small law firms. 

Google Ads

What Are Google Ads?

Google Ads are paid search ads intended to help businesses attract leads and customers through prominent placement on relevant search results. Google ads appear at the top or toward the top of search results under the Sponsored section of a results page. 

Google Ads follow a pay-per-click (PPC) model. PPC means that your business pays when a Google user clicks on the ad. In addition, in order to create a marketing campaign through Google Ads, you must place a “bid” for the respective keyword(s) you want to use for your campaign. This bid is the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a click on your ad.

Google Ads: A Closer Look

Every solo attorney or small law firm has experienced the challenges of competing with a larger firm’s established SEO and healthy advertising budget. For many, Google Ads can help level the playing field and get your website to the top of search engine results pages. However, there are many factors to consider before determining if this advertising solution is the best for your law firm.

Below, we take a closer look into Google Ads as a potential advertising solution for your law firm.

Research is Required

For your Google Ads campaign to be effective, you will need to conduct market research to develop a better understanding of your potential clients and their search behavior. This will help you create ads that are more relevant and responsive to your target audience.

To get started, incorporate the below steps into your research method:

  1. Identify your target audience. For attorneys, your target audience is your ideal client. You may have already considered this when creating your law firm’s website, website content, or other marketing strategies. Specifically, you should define who your ideal client is, how old they are, where they live, the issues they may be facing, and more.
  2. Use keyword research tools. Within the Google Ads tool, Google provides a Keyword Planner to help its users conduct keyword research. According to Google, the Keyword planner tool helps you to “discover new keywords related to your business and see estimates of the searches they receive and the cost to target them” with the goal of creating successful Google Ads campaigns.
  3. Analyze your competition. If you are interested in purchasing Google Ads to advertise your small law firm, chances are you’re in a competitive market for your practice area(s). In this case, it’s extremely helpful to study your local competition and determine what keywords they are using, the kinds of ads they are running, and how they are positioning themselves in the market. From there, you can make more informed decisions on how to approach your own advertising method and style.
  4. Perform A/B tests. To compare different variations of your ads and their effectiveness on targeting potential clients, it’s recommended to perform A/B tests. For example, you could run two campaigns with two versions of the same marketing material to determine what messaging performs best to attract leads. This may be a variation in headers, calls-to-action, ad copy, or otherwise. 
  5. Analyze the results and adjust accordingly. One of the key elements of successful advertising is knowing how and when to make adjustments to your approach based on analytics. Use information such as generated traffic, keyword performance, and total conversions to help you adjust your campaigns and continually improve.
Faster Results

Google Ads tend to be a popular choice for businesses because they help bring immediate visibility to your website on SERPs. This is an attractive resource for solos and small law firms who are, for example, starting out, adding a new practice area, or are competing with a larger firm in the area. 

As you may know, organically-achieved SEO for your law firm’s website is the product of sustained best practices that build upon each other over time. SEO can be attributed to improving the performance of your website as well as optimizing your website’s content. This approach to website visibility tends to take time to reach its full potential as you are also competing with other firms pursuing the same strategy. 

While it will always be vital to your firm’s marketing strategy to pursue SEO best practices, Google Ads can offer a more immediate boost to your visibility efforts. Because you’re not competing with organic search results, Google Ads can help your website get in front of more potential clients on SERPs.

Flexible Formatting

Google Ads provides a range of ad formats to suit different business needs. Below we outline the two types of Google Ads that are relevant to law firm marketing.

  1. Google Search Ads: Google search ads appear on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) when users search for specific keywords. These ads will include a headline, a quick description, and direct links for the search user to explore.
  2. Google Display Ads: Also known as the Google Display Network, these ads are visual ads that appear anywhere throughout a web user’s journey. These are not limited to SERPs and can be websites, apps, and other digital platforms that have partnered with Google to host ads. Google display ads help you reach people not based on what they’re searching for but based on who they are and what they’re interested in. 
Client Targeting

Google Ads affords users two main targeting options that help you narrow the focus of your ideal audience, outlined here:

#1 Audience Targeting

Your audience is who you want your ads to reach – your potential clients. You can focus your ads on a particular audience by choosing specific age groups, interests, or geographic areas. You can also narrow down your audience by people who have already interacted with your ads or website as well as what they’re actively researching.

For attorneys, targeting by what a person is actively researching can help you get in front of potential clients who are trying to learn more about their legal issue. Typically, these clients haven’t yet decided whether they need an attorney and, if so, which attorney to hire. With targeting, you can now get in front of them while they are researching their legal issue and attorneys, thus, positioning yourself as a top candidate.

#2 Content Targeting

This targeting method gives you more control of where you want – or do not want – your ads to show. Content targeting is approached by combining three methods: Topic targeting, placement targeting, and content keyword targeting. These combined methods increase the opportunities for targeting your potential clients and help you broaden your pool of prospects.

When content targeting types are combined in your ad groups, your ads have a higher likelihood of appearing on content that matches any of the topics, placements, or Display or Video keywords you are targeting. For example, you can target “medical malpractice” as a topic and “personal injury” as a Display or Video keyword to show your ads on content that matches either.

Performance Tracking

Google Ads comes equipped with comprehensive performance reports. With data such as view count, clicks, and conversions, you can identify which ads are performing best and allocate your budget more efficiently. You can also identify problem areas in your campaign’s effectiveness and make informed decisions for improvements. 

To get the most out of your Google Ads reporting, there are nine metrics to focus on:

  1. Click-Through Rate (CTR): The proportion of impressions to clicks that your ads received with a higher CTE indicating the efficacy and relevancy of your advertising.
  2. Cost Per Click (CPC): How much you pay when a user clicks on your advertisement.
  3. Conversion Rate: The number of visitors who took action after viewing your website via your ad.
  4. Impressions: The number of times your ads were displayed to users on Google, indicating the visibility and reach of your ad campaigns.
  5. Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): How much it costs to acquire one conversion from your campaigns.
  6. Quality Score: Measures the quality and relevance of your ads, keywords, and landing pages and used by Google to see how well your ads align with the search queries of users and their overall user experience, taking into consideration various factors, including the CTR, ad relevance, landing page experience, and historical performance.
  7. Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS): Evaluates the revenue generated compared to the amount of money spent on advertising, helping you see the profitability of your marketing investments.
  8. Search Impression Share: How many impressions your ads receive compared to the total number of impressions your ads could have received in a specific target market or location. 
  9. Cost: How much you spent on your campaigns during a specific period of time.
Cost and Budgeting

Google Ads’ pricing model is multi-tiered and diverse, allowing for anyone from a solo attorney to a large corporate law office to benefit from its services. Factors such as industry, customer lifecycle, current trends, and how you personally manage your account can all contribute to your overall cost of using the service. However, Google Ads also functions as an auction where businesses must outbid each other in order to be awarded favorable ad placement and frequency for relevant searches. 

Let’s explore the way Google determines your cost per click.

Step 1: Google awards a quality score. When a search user, your potential client, makes a search query, Google checks to see whether any advertisers are bidding on keywords relevant to that query. If there is, an auction is triggered and Google enters all relevant ads into the auction. A quality score is awarded based on the ad and landing page’s relevance to the keyword, expected CTR (based on your ad’s historic performance), and landing page user experience. 

Step 2: Your ad is ranked. After awarding a Quality Score, Google then calculates each ad’s Ad Rank. This determines whether and where your ad will be placed in the paid search results section on SERPs. Ad Rank is the sum of your Quality Score multiplied by your maximum bid (Note: your maximum bid is the most you’re willing to pay per click on your ad). Ads with the highest Ad Rank scores are the ones that are shown to the search user. 

Step 3: The cost per click is calculated. If your ad gets shown, you only pay if someone clicks on it. But, you don’t necessarily pay your maximum bid. Google instead determines the cost by dividing the Ad Rank score of the ad below yours by your Quality Score, plus one cent. Due to this unique cost formula, your firm can pay less per click than your competition while still being in the higher position due to a superior Quality Score. As a result, a smaller advertising budget can still be competitive with the big spenders on Google.

Google Local Services Ads

What Are Google Local Services Ads (LSA)?

Google Local Services Ads are a form of paid search ads that are intended to help local service businesses attract leads directly through phone calls and message requests on Google. These ads only appear for local businesses that are relevant to the person who is making the search. The ads can display a range of information about the business, including the business name, reviews, ratings, city, phone number, business hours, and more.

Local Services Ads are designed specifically to target a local customer base and build reputations for local businesses. When a potential client searches for a particular service that you provide, for example, personal injury, your ad may appear at the top of the search results. Google considers several factors, like operating hours, proximity, reviews and review score, and responsiveness to determine the visibility of your ad. 

One defining characteristic of Google’s Local Services Ads is that a business only pays per lead with LSA. Meaning, you will only need to pay Google if a potential client calls or messages you directly through the ad. Finally, there is no direct keyword bidding for LSAs, which eliminates the need for keyword research and A/B testing. 

Local Services Ads: A Closer Look

In order to find success with search engine optimization for your law practice, it’s helpful to understand all of your available options and resources. Small businesses in particular have both unique challenges as well as opportunities to stand out online and drive business to their firm. For some, Local Services Ads can be an excellent complement to your law firm’s website.

Below, we take a closer look into Local Services Ads as a potential advertising solution for your law firm.

Ready to Use Model

Google automatically generates its ads for Local Services Ads. This eliminates the need for creating ad copy, conducting keyword research, and researching the local competition. Instead, following a screening and verification process, your LSA is ready to run on Google. Typically, a LSA will display your firm’s name, reviews, ratings, city, phone number, and opening hours. 

Getting started with LSAs is a quick, easy process that can be more accessible for the busy solo or small law firm. Below are the five steps to creating a Local Service Ad for your business: 

  1. Check your eligibility. LSAs are limited to specific sectors for lawyers in the United States. Your first step is to use Google’s eligibility checker to confirm you’re eligible for advertising.
  2. Create a business profile. You will need to share your firm’s name, location, and the specific services you offer in order for Google to generate your ad.
  3. Set a budget. LSAs are based on a per-lead-model. Develop a budget based on the number of new leads you wish to receive each week. Depending on how competitive your area of practice is in your area and relevant keywords, your cost per lead could become quite pricey. For a rough estimate, check out Google’s cost tool
  4. Get verified. Earn your Google Screened badge by submitting proof of your licenses and insurance coverage. This lets customers know that your background and expertise have been verified by Google.
  5. Start advertising! Turn on your ads to reach potential clients in your area who are looking for your legal services. Once a potential client discovers your firm on search, they can reach you directly through the ad.
Harness Higher Conversion Power

Local Services Ads are shown to potential clients in the area that you serve at the exact moment they need your services. This is because LSAs only appear for a potential client when they are searching for the relevant professional services in their area that you offer compared to ads that can appear throughout their customer journey. As a result, your LSA has a higher chance of reaching a lead at their highest conversion potential. 

In addition, LSAs tout an advantage to Google Ads in their placement in search results. Typically, LSAs appear at the top of Google’s search results above pay-per-click ads and organic search results. This can give your firm a significant advantage over your competitors at a more accessible price point.

Google Screened Ads

With LSAs, local businesses can pursue an additional “stamp of approval” from Google called Google Screened that helps you build trust with your leads on search. Googled Screened Ads are reserved for professional service firms, such as law practices. If a business has been Google Screened, a green checkmark will appear on their Local Services Ad, indicating that they have been verified by Google. To receive this verification, you will need to undergo an extensive background and license check. 

Cost and Budgeting

The cost of Local Services Ads can vary widely depending on your location, industry, and competitors. However, Google provides a convenient cost tool to help you calculate your firm’s expected cost for LSAs. In contrast to Google Ads’ model of setting your budget to your highest possible bid, Local Services Ads allow you to set a budget based on the number of leads you want per week. Once you reach your monthly budget limit, your ad stops running unless you choose to increase your budget. This way, you can be sure that you’re staying within budget while also enjoying the freedom of flexibility. 

Ditch the Ads: Why Google Advertising Isn’t the Best Use of Your Marketing Dollar

While it’s helpful to know all of your options when it comes to marketing your law firm online, a content-based SEO strategy is the most proven, reliable, and effective way to reach your business goals. Implementing a content-based SEO strategy is a smart move for law firms looking to enhance their online presence, reach a wider audience, and ultimately drive more business. At its core, a content-based SEO strategy involves creating and optimizing high-quality, informative content on your law firm’s website to improve your visibility in search engine results.

Writing content that gets your website in front of more potential clients on search doesn’t have to be difficult, time consuming, or expensive. With the LawLytics Content Engine, you can choose from an ever-growing library of high-quality and optimized practice area content for your law firm website. The content is easy to customize with the assistance of smart prompts and pro tips, and you can create pages of new content in just minutes. So whether you’re ready to ditch the ads, quickly adapt to marketing changes, or add a new practice area, LawLytics has the smart tech you need. 

LawLytics is the #1 Digital Marketing Asset for Your Practice

Regardless of your firm’s current, anticipated, or lack of paid advertising budget, your law firm’s website is always the best marketing tool for your law practice. With a high-quality, modern, and optimized law firm website, it’s possible to achieve an effective online presence with consistent visibility on Google’s SERPs without the need for paid advertising. And, if you still choose to pursue paid advertising, your website makes the perfect complement to your efforts with a landing spot for your potential clients to learn more about your firm and their legal issue. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how LawLytics can help you attract more potential clients through search, schedule a no-obligation demo with a product expert. 

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