Pay Per Click (PPC) for Attorneys

One of the biggest mistakes that attorneys make when managing their internet marketing campaign is buying keywords while neglecting search engine optimization (SEO).

On of the most common types of pay per click ads for attorneys are Google AdWords which allows law firms to bid on specific legal keywords to appear in a search engine’s sponsored links, which appear above organic search results. The bids are based on how much the law firms are willing to spend for each click.

In addition to pay-per-click, law firms who want to advertise their services on-line also rely on consultants to design and launch ads on various “affiliate programs.”

As more customers are beginning to rely on internet search engines to find an attorney and as more law firms increase their internet marketing budgets, the average cost per click (CPC) of legal terms has risen dramatically over the last five years.

Sure, if you pay money to these pay per click sites then you can immediately see your website on the first page of the major search engines. Of course, your website is relegated to the column for “sponsored results.” Although you might show up for a trophy term like “Boston Personal Injury Attorney” you will receive few quality clicks.

Those PPC ads or “sponsored results” are increasingly not worth the expense over the long term. Contact Internet Lava to discuss search engine marketing (SEM) for attorneys focused on your most profitable niche areas instead of the overly expensive trophy terms relied on by other attorneys in your area.

The best way to leverage your law firm’s marketing budget is to target more particular niche areas of the law that provide the most profitable type of cases for your law firm. For law firm marketing, the benefits of a pay per click campaign including instantly testing out a new marketing strategy for a particular niche area in the law.

As a long term strategy, focusing on SEO and better content on the website provides a much better and longer-lasting return on investment.

What Worked a Few Years Ago No Longer Works Today

In the past, many attorneys saw a nice return on investment and converted clients by using pay per click. But for many law firms today, the cost per acquisition (CPA) no longer justifies the expense. If over the long term you are not making money or getting paid for your pay per click (PPC) efforts, then why not find a better way for your law firm?

For a fraction of the costs, these same attorneys that are addicted to pay per click could use much more effective techniques such as:

  • improving the content on their website;
  • updating the website’s content management system (CMS);
  • improving the navigation system;
  • using more images on each interior page of the website, and
  • using videos on the website.

Often those small changes alone make a huge difference in the website’s performance for its organic search engine rankings. Most importantly, attorneys can actually reduce their monthly pay per click budget by narrowing the focus to more particular niche areas that are most profitable for the law firm.

Often, reducing the budget in this way forces the attorney to find those niche areas. Many attorneys are surprised to see the immediate impact on the types of cases and the more substantial return on their pay per click investment.

PPC is No Longer Worth the Expense – How Much Are You Paying?

When those attorneys contact us for a free evaluation, their most common complaint is that PPC no longer provides any return on the investment. In fact, lots of attorneys complain they are losing money on buying keywords for a pay per click (PPC) campaign. Until they really start to track the traffic and clients they land because of those clicks on the sponsored links they may not even realize how much money they are losing.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the difference between PPC ads and organic results. Those individuals actually looking for the best website on a particular topic tend to go straight to the top of the organic listings ignoring the PPC listings entirely.

As the consumer becomes more educated, the chances of seeing any return on a pay per click investment steadily declines. So who actually clicks on the PPC listings?

PPC Fraud and Curiosity is Rampant and Often Impossible to Quantify

Pay per click fraud is rampant. When a new pay per click (PPC) campaign begins the traffic is typically much greater during the first week then after the attorney has maintained that position for several months. Why?

The competition is looking to see who has suddenly started bidding for those terms. Additionally, service providers also click on those links looking to solicit easy targets.

The same can be said when a house goes on the market. Your real estate agent puts up the “for sale” sign and puts a box of flyers in the yard next to the sign. The first week the flyers disappear quickly because your neighbors take all the flyers before any real potential buyers even know the house is on the market. The difference is that real estate flyers are cheap and pay-per-click is expensive.

Even if Your Ideal Clients Click on the Sponsored Link – They Won’t Stay Long on a Weak Site

At Internet Lava, LLC, we talk with attorneys spending thousands of dollars a month to prop up a website weak on content. Even if your ideal client clicked on your sponsored listing link when they arrive at the website they will not stay for long without informative content.

Without the best content, those ideal clients will never contact the law firm for a consultation. Isn’t that the point of the website to land new clients and create a return on the investment?

Even worse, these websites fall further and further behind because the attorneys fail to spend money where it really matters – in creating a better website with better content. The attorneys that we work with are slowing but surely building bigger and better websites over time.

As they begin to take market share other attorneys start to realize their mistake. By then, the competition starts to think it’s impossible to catch up.

An Analogy – Building a Home Similar to Building a Website

An attorney that focuses on his organic listings can be compared to a man who builds his house.

  • The man oversees the construction. With a solid foundation, the walls and roof are soon finished.
  • The man is able to move into the house he has constructed. Slowly he begins to furnish the house.
  • He may continue to make improvements to his house over the years to come. Each year the man may tackle a remodeling or home improvement project – first the landscaping, then the basement, and then the kitchen.
  • The man may even decide to tackle a more ambitious project such as building an addition onto the house.
  • He will buy new furniture and fixtures to improve the usability of the home. He certainly has to continue with basic maintenance each year such as cleaning the gutters and changing the air filters. As the appliances get old he will update to newer more efficient models.
  • But after the house is built, the man continues to enjoy the benefits of that hard work year after year.

An attorney that focuses on his pay per click ads can be compared to a man who rents a room at a hotel on a weekly basis with no long term plan for moving out.

  • The man enjoys the fact that his initial investment is a fraction of what a man has to pay to build a house.
  • The man enjoys the fact that it is much easier to put a roof over his head by renting a room rather than building a house.
  • The man enjoys the fact that has not committed any major long term resources and can walk away anytime he wants.
  • The downside remains that the man has to continue paying the weekly rate for each week he lives in the hotel room. The hotel will continue to raise the weekly rate anytime it wants.
  • Even more problematic, because the man has been paying for the hotel room for so long without a long term plan he can never save the money to build a house. The man has to work harder and harder to pay for the weekly rate which steadily increases. Because he is working so hard to pay the rent each week he has even less time to plan a better strategy. The minute he stops paying the weekly rate, he is out on the street without any future return on the initial investment.

Unlike Other Business Owners – Attorneys are Willing to Overbid for Key Terms

It is no secret that attorneys are willing to overbid for all key terms related to their legal practice. The vast majority of the most expensive key terms are purchased for attorneys and law firms, particularly for practice areas such as personal injury, medical malpractice, criminal defense, and DUI defense.

Many of these key terms go for more than $50 a click. Attorneys often start the pay-per-click campaign without a specific goal, budget, or way to measure the return on investment.

Paid Campaign Management (also known as pay per click or PPC advertising) for law firms is simply built around being the highest bidder for certain key terms. PPC consultants get paid a lot of money to select the keywords and negative keywords in the PPC ad to improve “click-thru” and “conversion” rates.

Regardless of the pay per click model used – the bottom line is that paying per click is not the best way to spend your law firm’s marketing budget.

Consider the Facts: Pay Per Click Versus Organic Rankings

“Organic search engine rankings” is defined as the website’s performance on the search engines when a potential client clicks through to a page on your website. Those clicks do not cost one penny per click. On the other hand, you have to bid for pay-per-click ads based on certain keywords that you select. With pay per click advertising, you essentially buy an ad on the search engine and pay each time a viewer clicks on that ad.

Dominating the organic listings means driving your ideal clients to a specific interior page on your website that deals directly with particular niche topics based on the viewer’s search terms. For most of these searches, the viewer will never see the homepage of your website. When those clients arrive on one of those interior pages the client finds the best content that answers their questions.

On the other hand, most pay per click ads simply takes the viewer to the homepage of the website or a quickly constructed landing page. Since your homepage or the landing page is weak on content, it does nothing to answer the viewer’s specific questions.

The viewer will quickly click off your website and perform a more narrow search.

Most of Your Ideal Clients Don’t Use Those Trophy Searches Terms

For every search using a trophy term, many more of your clients are using longer searches for phrases like “Boston personal injury for a construction accident” or “Dallas criminal defense attorney for theft from an employer.”

Your ideal clients might not include any of those terms when they begin their search for an attorney. Instead, your ideal client might look for terms such as “contingency fees for a lawsuit after construction injury” or “Texas laws on grand theft by an employee.”

By having more informative content on your website, you will capture and dominate those longer searches (called long-tail searches). For most law firms, the costs of those PPC campaigns is no longer worth the money spent. A much better strategy is to create a better website with better content.

The Very Limited Role of PPC in an Internet Marketing Campaign – The Benefits of Pay Per Click

Although we certainly see a role for PPC in an internet marketing campaign for law firms when the website is first launched or for new niche areas, the overall goal for any internet marketing campaign is creating enough unique and informative content to dominate the organic listings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

PPC can also be effective for very particular niche areas which suddenly become popular. By effectively using a pay per click campaign the law firm can instantly test out a particular niche practice. But the PPC campaign is only a short term solution that should be extremely targeted.

We help attorneys use their pay per click budget to target new areas that provide a much better return on investment. At the same time, we focus the bulk of their internet marketing budget where it matters most – improving the existing content and adding new content to gain the top position on the search engines organically.

How We Help Our Clients Avoid Pay Per Click Fraud and Curiosity

At Internet Lava, we help attorneys avoid pay per click fraud and curiosity in two ways.

  • First, we make sure that our clients target particular niche areas while avoiding the overly expensive trophy terms. By being creative and targeting your ideal clients, you AVOID doing the same things that everyone else is doing. While those attorneys are clicking on each other’s ads you can fly under the radar with keywords they never even considered. Likewise, you bypass the salespeople and service providers looking for easy targets (attorneys willing to pay for a misguided pay per click campaign).
  • Secondly, we actually fight with the Pay Per Click Company (like Google Adwords, Yahoo! Sponsored Search or MSN AdCenter) for a refund for each instance of fraud that we can find. For instance, all of our clients have Google Analytics which can determine how many clicks on the law firm’s pay per click ads are from the same IP address. For any duplicate click through from the same IP address, the attorneys that we work with are often entitled to a refund. However, you only get a refund if you know how to find the fraud and how to request a refund.

Most attorneys using a pay per click management company have never seen one penny in refunds for pay per click fraud. How is that possible? The Search Engine Marketing (SEM) company hired by the attorney just doesn’t provide that service for their client.

At Internet Lava, we know that those refunds can sometimes amount to 30% of the budget allowing our clients to gain a much better return on investment.

Our Solutions for Attorneys Who Are Unwilling to Overpay for PPC Keywords

It is no secret that attorneys are willing to overbid for certain keywords. These attorneys do so while sacrificing their long terms goals of improving their “organic” rankings on the search engines.

At Internet Lava we have a better way – we help you create a better website with better content that provides a better return on investment for certain niche areas immediately and for certain trophy terms over time.

Call us for a free consultation so we can evaluate your current website, analyze your competition, and suggest improvements so that you can dominate the search engines to convert your ideal clients into paying customers.


The Best Pay-Per-Click Alternatives By Practice Area

Pay Per Click – Personal Injury Attorneys – Find out more how personal injury attorneys can benefit from decreasing their pay per click budget, focusing on their most profitable niche areas, and increasing the informative content on their website for a much better return on investment that grows each month.

Pay Per Click – Medical Malpractice – The crown jewel of the personal injury field, medical malpractice websites convey to your ideal client your dedication to their legal problem. See your conversion rates spike after you begin relying less on pay per click and more on better content.

Pay Per Click – Family Law – Your ideal clients begin their search for a family law attorney by looking for answers to basic questions under the laws of their particular state such as child support, alimony. the impact of an extra-marital affair, the division of retirement accounts, and the problems for small business owners during a divorce. Answer those questions for your ideal clients and they will reward you by calling your staff to schedule a consultation.

Pay Per Click – DUI / DWI Lawyers – For attorneys that focus on DUI / DWI the cost of pay per click advertising is becoming ridiculously expensive. Even worse, your ideal clients will bypass the pay per click listings and head directly for the top of the organic search listings to answer their questions about a breath test, refusal, property damage, and driver’s license suspension issues for their particular state and county. Spend less on pay per click and see your conversion rate increase dramatically within a short period of time.

Pay Per Click – Criminal Defense Attorneys – Every state has hundreds of common criminal offenses. By providing content on those crimes, potential punishments, and potential defenses, your ideal clients will find your website when they begin their search for a criminal defense lawyer.


This article was last updated on Friday, August 14, 2020.

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