Google Ads (formerly Adwords), Bing, Facebook, AdRoll, and other pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platforms revolutionized advertising when they first appeared. You can spend as much or as little as you’d like, and you can choose between paying for individual clicks (PPC) or paying for impressions (CPM).
With great privilege comes great responsibility, however. Google has made it incredibly easy for anyone to create an account, enter a credit card number, and start spending money on Google Ads. Google doesn’t care if you are signing cases or not.
That said, this page contains our thoughts on why PPC matters for law firms, how you can avoid common pitfalls, and how much money you should spend. Everything written here comes from direct experience.
To work with us on a campaign, send us a note or give us a call.
What is PPC and How is it Different For Law Firms?
Is There a Difference Between Paid Search and PPC Advertising?
The terms “paid search” and “PPC marketing” get used interchangeably, but there is a significant difference between the two.
PPC advertising refers to all forms of paid media that follow a pay-per-click model. A user sees an ad, he clicks on it, and the advertiser is billed for that click – that’s PPC in a nutshell.
Paid Search is simply a subset of PPC advertising. These are the paid advertisements that show at the top of Bing and Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) when you search for certain keywords. Advertisers bid on those keywords, and if they win the bid, their ad shows. They are billed when you click an ad.
How Does Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Work?
Firstly, advertisers create lists of keywords they would like to display an ad for. For instance, a law firm may decide to spend money on keywords like “slip and fall attorney near me.”
The advertiser then writes ads and designates the page that a user will be taken to (called a landing page).
Thirdly, the advertiser sets a bid. This is the amount of money you are willing to pay for that click. Let’s say you bid $100 on a search query like “2nd DUI Lawyer.” Google in particular takes the following into consideration when deciding which ads show:
- Is your bid competitive? (high enough)
- Is your ad relevant enough?
- Do you have enough room left in your daily budget?
- Is your “ad rank,” a proprietary metric that combines a number of quality factors, high enough?
Here’s a commonly asked question: do you always pay the bid price for a click on Google Ads?
No, you do not; you only pay slightly higher than the second place bid. So if the second-highest bid was $8 for the example above, you would be charged $8.01.
On the flip side, you can pay more than your actual bid, especially if you have the “enhanced CPC” feature enabled. Your campaigns won’t spend more than the daily average of your budget limits over the course of a month though.
Is Law Firm PPC Management Different From Other Niches?
Yes – and not just because it’s one of the most competitive industries to advertise in.
Firstly, we would be bidding on only searches that are at the bottom of the funnel. That would be something like, “car accident lawyer near me,” as opposed to a top-of-funnel search, like “what is the statute of limitations on a car accident lawsuit.” You can bid on top-of-funnel keywords, but you’ll only get good leads every once in a while.
Second, we generally throw concerns about cost per click (CPC) metrics out the window. We will monitor that of course, but if you want high value injury cases, you can’t be squeamish about paying hundreds of dollars per click. We measure ROI in the purest sense: how much revenue you pull from cases vs. how much money you spent on PPC. We will discuss this in more detail below.
Thirdly, you will need to test extensions and different ad formats more than other industries. You will need call extensions, location extensions, and more, since some people don’t even want to visit your website!
What are the Types of Google PPC Ads Available to Law Firms?
Search Ads (Search Ads)
Text ads are the most basic types of ads offered by Google. They consist of three elements: headlines, a display URL, and a short description. All are limited to a few dozen characters – making research and copywriting crucial to success.
We can also add a number of features called extensions to text ads: these extensions include links to your website, a phone number, links to specific deals, and more. Your ad will show on Google when the following happens:
- A Google user types in a query you bid on (“personal injury lawyer near me”)
- Your bids are high enough to compete
- Your ad rank is satisfactory for your ad to show
Call Ads For Lawyers
Consider these a sub-genre of search ads. Your phone number will be prominently displayed, they are intended for mobile devices, and if someone clicks on the number, they will be taken directly to their call app.
You can read more about call-only ads for lawyers on our blog.
Display ads are more flexible and elaborate than text ads. They can feature images, video, and other graphics. We make sure your display ads are optimized for any device, so that potential customers see an appealing, responsive presentation. Display ads can be an extremely cost-effective technique for expanding your audience.
Custom Intent Audiences, in particular, provide firepower to display campaigns on Google’s display network. We load relevant keywords (based on our research) and URLs in Google Ads, and Google can reach audiences of people who have recently been searching for those terms.
You can also target audiences on the display network by age, gender, whether they’ve recently had a child or not, and other segments, and we can even place your ads on specific websites of your choosing.
Remarketing Ads For Law Firms
Remarketing (or retargeting) is a common digital marketing strategy that targets people who have already visited your website. People often need reminders to pick up the phone and call, and a well-timed display ad can jog their memory.
There is a catch, though. Law firms deal with sensitive content by nature (injuries, poor financial status, criminal behavior), and as a result, it’s pretty rare that a law firm will successfully get a remarketing audience approved by Google.
Here’s the workaround: install the Facebook pixel on your website, and build an audience of website visitors in Facebook Business Manager. Then remarket to your website visitors with a Facebook, not Google, campaign.
Local Service Ads (LSAs) For Attorneys
LSAs for attorneys are the newest kind of advertisement under the Google umbrella (as of this blog’s publishing). Start off by visiting ads.google.com/localservices, then follow the steps to enroll. This is one of the few advertising mediums that doesn’t necessarily require hands-on management.
You will need to provide your Bar ID #, along with some other business information. You will also complete your profile by selecting headshots, adding other photos, specifying your practice areas, and listing the weekly budget you are willing to spend. Your account will undergo a verification period, after which your ads will be eligible to show.
Some tips for LSA ads for lawyers:
- Add as many photos as you can to your profile. If you don’t have any, get them taken
- You’ll need Google reviews to compete with other firms
- Set a weekly budget that is quite high – at least $4k per week at first. You won’t spend nearly that much, in fact you probably won’t spend more than $250 per week at most, but we’ve had the most success when we listed a high budget
- Answer your phone – if you don’t, Google may not show your ad as often
LSAs are still a bit of an unknown quantity, so if you have questions about them, send us a note.
How Much Should Law Firms Spend on PPC?
As a general rule, you’ll want to spend enough money at first to get a critical mass of data. Here’s a sample progression:
- Target: one new MVA case
- Plan on roughly a 30% close rate (example)
- To get that, you’ll need 3-4 calls (leads)
- To get 3-4 calls, you may need 8-10 clicks on your ad
If you get those clicks for $200 apiece and the sample model here holds, you would theoretically sign a case for $1,600 of ad budget. Please realize that if you were doing that consistently, your results would be considered amazing.
In the real world, you may need to spend $300-$500 or more per click. It may cost $700 per call, and $3,500 per car accident case in a competitive market. Depending on your practice area, that ROI may still be excellent.
What Should a Law Firm’s Monthly PPC Budget Be?
Long story short, if you want five car accident cases in a month, you’ll probably need to plan on $12K+ in Google Ads budget. This varies wildly depending on the market, so don’t treat this as a stable number. You could easily spend $100K+ per month on English search queries in NYC alone.
If you want to continue scaling your campaign, you will actually need to spend MORE per signed case. This is because the more market share you grab in PPC advertising, the more expensive it gets per click.
You could test the waters of PPC search advertising for as little as $3,000 per month if you want to try and get one or two cases. In less competitive practice areas, like family law, you could get more.
What’s a Normal Cost Per Click (CPC) For Law Firms?
You can get some clicks for targeted car accident terms for around $200 apiece, although this depends on volume. In NYC, where there’s lots of volume, you can get clicks for under $300. In South Carolina, where every law firm is bidding on a very small amount of searches, you could easily spend $700 on one click. This is just the nature of PPC.
As a rule of thumb, your CPC will be cheaper with traditional text ads running on both desktop and mobile. If you want to target only phone calls on mobile devices via Call Ads, your CPC could be twice as high (but your conversion rate may be good).
Setting Up a Google Ads Campaign For Lawyers
Get Your Lead Tracking In Place
You don’t want to spend a significant amount of money on PPC ads if you can’t measure the result.
First, use Google Tag Manager to install Google Analytics and set up conversion tracking. You will want to track phone number clicks, form submissions, and any other conversion action that matters.
Secondly, you will need to set up call tracking. There are two approaches to this:
- Use CallRail to set up dynamic number swapping on your website, so you can send traffic to any page and track the source
- Send visitors from PPC to a siloed-off section of your website with a unique phone number. If a call comes from that number, you can track the source.
- We recommend option #1
The final step is to import all of the conversion actions mentioned above into your Google Ads account. That way you can track leads directly to the keyword and ad that created it.
What Type of PPC Campaign Is Best For Attorneys?
Search campaigns usually produce the most demonstrable results, although we recommend mixing in about $1,000 of display ads targeting a Custom Intent Audience. The addition of display advertising can lead to more calls through your Google My Business listing via branded searches.
Within search campaigns, run the following concurrently:
- A desktop-only campaign, with text ads, and a modest CPC
- A mobile-only campaign with a mix of text ads and Call Ads
In the mobile campaign, set an advanced bid adjustment of at least +50% for call actions – you should be willing to pay significantly more for a direct phone call.
Always make sure your GMB location is hooked up to your search ads. You want your ad to show in the map pack as much as possible.
What Keyword Phrases Work In Attorney PPC Campaigns?
Most searches on mobile devices (and increasingly desktop) include the words “near me.” BUT, if you are going to bid on “car accident lawyer near me,” make sure your office is actually nearby. If you are outside of normal commuting range, you can still bid on this if you pitch something like virtual Zoom consultations in your advertisement.
If you are going to bid on generalized terms like “car accident lawyer,” “personal injury lawyer,” “motorcycle lawyer,” etc., cap your bids at $150 or less – there will be a good amount of junk.
You can also test longtail keywords, like “what is a good settlement for a car accident,” but keep the bids reasonable. You will have a very low conversion rate on these, but they could lead to a case in the long term.
Negative Keywords For Lawyers
Injury attorneys should always add the words “property,” “damage,” “fault,” and “pro bono” to the negative keyword list. 99% of people including those words in a query will be bad leads, but the click still costs a fortune.
Criminal attorneys need to keep their eyes on pop culture, strangely enough. For instance, there was a period of time where we had to exclude “Bill Cosby” from the campaign because there was so much search volume for “Bill Cosby’s defense lawyer.” If someone in our target region Googled that, there was a chance our ad could show.
Should a Law Firm Hire an Agency For PPC Advertising?
Yes, you really should hire an agency under most circumstances. You have four options:
- Run the campaign completely on your own
- Run the campaign with the guidance of a free Google Ads representative
- Bring a paid media specialist in-house at your firm
- Hire an agency
Should Lawyers Run Their Own Google Ads Campaign?
Running a campaign on your own is a bad idea, at least if you have no meaningful experience with Google Ads. There are pitfalls everywhere.
For instance, there are hidden location settings that you have to edit, even if you have correctly selected your city as the target region. If you don’t do this, your ads will show in other states and regions. Google has already changed keyword match types recently, and if you aren’t monitoring your keywords daily, you could be getting all kinds of irrelevant clicks.
Furthermore, you probably don’t have time to write and test numerous text and call-only ads, adjust bids daily, monitor device performance, and so much more.
The other main issue is the sheer amount of time involved in running a well-run Google Ads campaign. Google Ads campaigns are like those Tamagotchi pets that were popular years ago. They both are digital and both require constant attention. The difference is unlike a Tamagotchi, a Google Ads account that is not getting constant attention will bleed you of all of your money. Even setting up a campaign is a time intensive process. To correctly setup and manage a Google Ads account, a firm has to:
- Perform audience research
- Perform keyword research
- Create ads
- Tag everything in analytics
- Create landing pages.
It often takes us 2-3 weeks just for setup. However there is a misconception that once the account is set up your company is good to go. You cannot set it and forget it! Not even for a day. This is because of the high cost-per-click in the legal space. Every single day you need to be in that account learning what works and what doesn’t for your particular audience. We utilize that data to perform daily and weekly management tasks such as:
- Updating bids
- Landing page reviews
- Split testing
- Adding negative keywords
- Day parting
- Checking the search terms report for new keywords
- Watching trends and more…
But What if You Have a Google Account Representative?
We have worked with dozens of Google Reps (both people sitting at home and in international call centers working as sub-contractors for Google). These people will call you, give you tips on how to run your campaign, and help you implement things when possible.
Do not rely on these representatives. They aren’t actively trying to destroy your campaign, but let’s just say that their incentives are not aligned with your own. They are almost exclusively trying to get accounts to adopt smart bidding and other AI-driven features in Google Ads.
Google is not there to help you, Google is there to help Google. People often forget that just because Google has great public relations and seems so benevolent, that they are also a business. Like any other business Google’s main purpose is to make a profit, and 96% of their profit comes from AdWords (venture beat). If you follow this logic you can see why Google would do anything to protect its precious AdWords revenue.
We have seen accounts where the Google account rep put all of the keywords in a new campaign in broad match. We have asked about this policy – they say they put all the keywords in broad match because they don’t want a new advertiser to miss any impressions. While it is true that you do not miss impressions with broad match – you also blow through your budget on keywords that do not match well to your real-world objectives. No newcomer is going to know why broad match is bad, and even if they do understand that broad match is not great, they mistakenly trust that Google set them up to succeed. This means that the new account matches for and pays for keywords that don’t really make sense for the business.
The worst campaigns that we have seen/inherited are when a law firm actually listened to the Google Representatives, and they have no idea how to actually generate signed cases for your firm vs. generating leads.
Law Firms Hiring a PPC Specialist In-House
You would need to be spending about $600,000 per year on PPC advertising to make this worth it, cost-wise. Agencies typically charge a mark-up of your ad spend as their fee.
If you are a large corporate firm, you may benefit from having an in-house specialist, but if you are hiring that way, we recommend that you hire someone with agency experience working with a number of other firms.
But what about quality? A reputable law firm PPC agency will have data pouring in from a number of regions and campaigns at any given time. This data informs the strategy of your campaign. An in-house specialist will not have access to this data, and as a result, will probably be “behind the curve” before long.
An agency can also quickly pivot the design, copy, targeting, and landing page experience for your campaign.
What it’s Like For Lawyers Working With a PPC Agency
If you engage Majux or another PPC agency, the agency will generally:
- Build your landing pages
- Create the text and display ads
- Install web tracking for reporting purposes
- Create your Google Ads campaign from scratch, informed by nationwide data
- Set up A/B tests
- Actively monitor and “optimize the campaign” for performance
- Make budget recommendations
- Send reports to explain performance and additional opportunities
If your agency is not engaged or responsive, that’s a bad sign. Additionally, you need an agency that will be honest with you when things aren’t going well – sometimes PPC cost-per-acquisition is just not tenable because of intake issues or the specific geographic or practice area that you are in. Your money may be better spent on law firm SEO strategy, content marketing for attorneys, or something else.
For a conversation about how you can generate cases with Google Ads or other PPC marketing, please get in touch.