PPC For Lawyers May Have Just Gotten A Whole Lot Tougher.
If you’ve been relying primarily on ads to carry your law firm’s marketing, you may want to reconsider.
Recent reports indicate Google’s desktop search results are changing, and it’s going to mean fewer ads for lots of queries.
As of last Friday, Google confirmed it’s eliminating ads on the right side of desktop search results. It’s a move that will affect search results regardless of the query or language. In his article, Matt McGee notes that there’s a single exception, and that’s for Product Listing Ads. Those will appear either above or to the right of search results.
McGee also writes that Google will be adding a fourth ad above the search results — however, that ad will only occur for what Google describes as “highly commercial queries.”
You may be asking what, exactly, that means. In general, Google defines a “highly commercial query” is one in which there’s an intent to purchase. A Google spokesperson told McGee that these might include queries like “hotels in New York City” or “car insurance.”
How Google is Changing Attorneys’ Pay Per Click Results
SearchEngineLand published a nice summary of what’s changing in regard to Google’s ads:
No text ads will be served on the right rail of the search results on desktop.
Google will serve four text ads instead of three in the mainline area above the organic listings for more “highly commercial queries” (More on that below).
Three text ads will show at the bottom of the SERPs.
The total number of text ads that can appear on a SERP will shrink from as many as 11 to a maximum of seven.
Product listing ad blocks and Knowledge Panels (sometimes with ads, as tests continue in these spaces) will show in the right rail on relevant queries.
Google Ads, PPC and Marketing Your Law Firm
What does Google’s advertising change mean for your law firm? If you’re not familiar with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, here’s a quick review: PPC ads are those which appear above, below and to the side of search results — precisely what Google is targeting in their latest move. You can generally spot a PPC ad based on the colored box that shows you that the listing is an advertisement. (For Google, that box happens to be yellow.)
Advertisers choose to target certain keywords and then set bids and assign ads to those varied keywords. As an example, let’s say you’re an attorney who practices in two areas: DUI and criminal defense. You’d likely want different ads to target each practice area.
After you’ve decided what your keywords are, your ads are placed for those terms and ranked according to their bids.
The Problem with Relying on PPC for Your Law Firm Marketing
Here’s where things get complicated: because ads are based on bids and competition, that can cost your law firm a lot of money. The larger the number of advertisers using that particular service, the higher the cost of bidding goes. If you’re a law firm that’s part of a smaller market, then it’s possible you could only have to bid a few dollars per click. However, there are larger markets in which bidders set the rate at 100 dollars plus per click.
A click isn’t equivalent to a converting a potential client but search engines don’t differentiate between the two. If a search engine users clicks your ad and doesn’t convert, your law firm still shells out the money for that click. What’s even more frustrating about that is click fraud — when your law firm’s competition (and sometimes the marketers who assist those competitors) click on your ads to make things more expensive for you. For as shameful and dishonest as that practice is, it can still happen to you.
And that’s not the only way click fraud happens, either. There are a number of ways in which your law firm may be paying for something that confers no benefit to your firm — and may actually be helping your competitors in some cases.
What Your Law Firm Should Know About Pay-Per-Click Ads
Aside from the issues that PPC faces with click fraud, here are some other points about PPC you’ll want to consider before you start spending money on ads or plan to use PPC as the sole method for your law firm’s marketing:
- According to Google, nearly 60 percent of all ad impressions don’t get seen by search engine users.
- Not only are your competitors (and their marketers) clicking on your ads, but those ads can make you a sitting duck for people who want to cold call your office and sell you marketing services. As we pointed out in a previous article about the dangers of PPC:
At LawLytics, we believe that it’s the fact that you are already spending money on disposable advertising. Cold-calling marketers know that you will continue advertising, and they know that you’ve got budget. It’s easier for them to convince you that you should switch to them from your current provider than it is for them to convince somebody with no advertising budget to have one. So if you are spending money on online ads, when a marketer calls you (or sends you a spam email) there’s a chance you have paid at least the cost of one click for the privilege of being solicited.
- Accidental clicks still cost you money: If the company who’s doing your marketing elects to click on your ad to ensure it’s working, that money is coming out of your pocket.
Content Marketing For Lawyers: A Better Solution For Law Firm Websites
Between what you now know about Google’s recent ad changes — coupled with the fact that getting hooked on PPC can be dangerous for the health and growth of your law firm — what can you do to avoid dependency on an unreliable marketing strategy while still making sure your law firm gets noticed on the web?
There’s no magic trick here, and yet, the answer to this question is simple: Write quality content for your law firm’s website and blog — and write often.
Content marketing is crucial to getting your law firm seen on the web. Writing material for your website and blog that answers the questions potential clients are asking to search engines is the best way to engage visitors on the web, attract potential new clients and improve your law firm’s search engine rankings.
If you’re feeling confused about why content marketing matters for law firms or worried that you don’t have time to write, no problem.
Here are three free webinars to help you learn more about content, plan your content strategy and get started writing significant and useful posts for your law firm’s website and blog: