Pay-Per-Click Advertising — PPC for Lawyers
These are the non-negotiables of online marketing for lawyers. Unfortunately, they all assume one thing: that prospective clients are already looking for a firm like yours.
What if you could catch prospects at the very beginning of their search? What if you could get in early enough to ensure your number is the only one they dial?
Enter Pay Per Click (PPC).
In recent years, PPC has emerged as one of the most potent ways to reach high-value, laser-targeted traffic in real time.
Unfortunately, the secret’s out on PPC for lawyers. Firms across the country have descended on Google, bidding up keyword prices to some of the highest on the web.
When you add to that the dizzying array of advertising platforms out there (Google, Facebook, etc.), PPC seems like an impenetrable mystery for most lawyers.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Ever since we founded Gladiator Law Marketing in 2013, our agency has helped firms like yours solve the “mystery” and use PPC to attract highly converting traffic.
You don’t need to put your entire marketing budget on the line. At GLM, we draw from a deep well of proven expertise to maximize our clients’ return on investment.
In what follows, we’re going to share the essentials of PPC for lawyers. But if you want to save yourself the time and learn how we can help your firm, give us a call today.
The Nuts and Bolts of PPC for Lawyers
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s toolkit. While many forms of online marketing work on a long time horizon, PPC gives lawyers the opportunity to reach their ideal prospects immediately. Done right, PPC campaigns directly address the people who need your services most, presenting them a precise, targeted call to action. Done wrong, PPC campaigns can be ineffective, inefficient, and infuriating—especially when you’re paying $50+ a click (more on that below).
You run into PPC advertising every day—whether you realize it or not. Have you ever searched for something to buy online and noticed that every ad in your browser suddenly came to feature that product or others like it? That isn’t a coincidence. Services like Google and Facebook keep the lights on by monitoring your usage habits, bundling that data, and using it to attract advertisers. The more detailed the data, the better advertisers can tailor PPC campaigns to target the right people for their products.
The Basic Features of a PPC Campaign
Here are a few important terms and acronyms to know about:
Ad Position — There are several places where an ad can show up on a search engine results page (SERP). Ad position depends on your maximum bid and quality score.
Automatic Bidding — When setting up a PPC campaign, automatic bidding allows you to set a daily budget and let the platform’s AI automatically adjust your maximum bids on individual keywords.
Cost Per Click (CPC) – The average amount the advertiser pays for each click.
Click Through Rate (CTR) – The ratio of ad appearances to times visitors click through to your site.
Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) – The added cost of all the clicks it takes to net one client acquisition.
Conversion Rate (CVR) – The percentage of visitors who take action (sign-up for your email list, submit a contact form, etc.) after clicking your ad.
Manual Bidding – This allows you to set different bid amounts on individual keywords within an ad group.
Maximum CPC Bid – The highest amount you’re willing to pay for a click. This number, along with the quality score, will affect your ad position.
Quality Score (QS) – The score ensures advertisers create content that is relevant and valuable to searchers on Google. This forces advertisers to develop high-quality content and to only bid on relevant keywords.
In many ways, PPC is a digital version of analog display advertising. Whether your face is on a billboard, bus bench, or a banner ad, you’re paying someone for the privilege of putting you on their platform. And just as a highway billboard costs more than one over a county road, so will an ad on a competitive domain or high-volume search phrase.
The downfall of traditional display advertising, of course, is that thousands of people may see that ad and never call or click. Consequently, you’re left paying a hefty advertising bill with nothing to show for your time, money, and effort.
That’s where PPC comes in.
PPC allows you to custom tailor ad placement and pay only when someone clicks. On Google, for example, you can pay to have your site show up at the top of a search for ‘San Francisco family attorney.’ Whenever someone runs that search and clicks through to your site, you’ll be charged.
Facebook takes it a step further by allowing you to specify exactly who you want looking at your ads. Within minutes, you can get your ad in front of college-educated women living in Oakland between the ages of 35 and 40 who also happen to be fans of Dear Abby. And that’s only scratching the surface of how specific you can get with Facebook.
What does PPC advertising look like for a law firm?
PPC for law firms is efficient. On average, click-through-rates (CTR) of 2% or higher are considered good. The legal industry averages 4.45% on Google AdWords.
The cost-per-click (CPC) for lawyers ranges typically between $5 and $300 per click.
That is a huge difference. The factors that affect CPC are:
- Competition – AdWords is an auction-based system. So, the more people who bid on a given keyword, the higher that CPC will be. Example: The phrase “Car Accident Lawyer” may cost $50 in one city but $150 in another.
- Quality Score – As mentioned above, Google cares about the quality of your content. The score they assign your page will affect how much above or below the average you pay for any given click.
With so much variability, how can a firm estimate how much it’ll cost them to sign one new case. In other words, how can they forecast their cost per acquisition (CPA)?
To do so, they’ll need to know a few things:
- Website Conversion Rate (how many visits convert into one inquiry)
- Firm Conversion Rate (how many inquires convert into one client)
The magic formula for CPA: CPC / Conversion Rate / Firm Conversation Rate
For the sake of illustration, let’s say a firm pays $125 per click, their site converts at a rate of 4%, and their development staff converts 10% of web inquiries into clients.
Plug those numbers into the formula: $125 / .04 / .10 = $31,250 CPA
With these numbers, a firm can expect to pay $31,250 for each new case signed off of PPC leads. When compared to the average earnings for a specific case type, they’ll have a good sense of whether $31,250 is too much to pay.
Why are these numbers so high? They’re driven to that level by a small circle of firms who can afford to lose money on case after case because they know that one of those cases will eventually make them $1,000,000—whether it’s the first or the tenth. With deep enough pockets, a large firm can afford to burn through hundreds of thousands of dollars on PPC as they await that one case that makes it all worth it. Small firms, on the other hand, won’t have enough chips to stay at the table for more than just a few hands.
For that reason, PPC works great for higher volume types of cases: worker’s compensation, social security disability, etc. The disparity between large and small cases is much narrower in those areas, leading to a more consistent return on investment (ROI) from client to client. This allows PPC to remain a viable marketing instrument for firms who can’t withstand the ROI volatility of high-profile, high-value cases.
Whatever the target specialty, PPC works. Lawyers all over the country pay serious dollars for PPC because it’s been proven to bring in high-quality traffic that converts.
However, there is a catch. You can’t just drop your ad dollars into the PPC machine and expect it to work like magic. PPC requires a conversion-optimized website and a precise strategy for reaching the right people with the right message at the right time.
What does that look like?
Let’s say Betsie—a 32-year-old woman in Dayton, Ohio—gets injured in a crash. That night, she logs onto Google to learn whether she could personal injury claim. She begins with something general: ‘hurt in a car accident.’ Eventually, Betsie gets more specific and starts looking for ‘personal injury lawyers in Dayton.’
Earlier in the day, Branford & Sons Law, LLC launched a new PPC campaign. In AdWords, they set their geography to Dayton and age range between 25 and 55. The keywords they bid on were ‘hurt in car wreck’ and ‘Dayton personal injury attorneys.’
It’s no surprise that the first result Betsie sees in Google is Branford & Sons. She clicks through and lands on a page that reads as though it was written just for her. Before she even gets to the bottom, she’s ready to click through and request a consultation.
In this scenario, the firm combined demographics and search-targeting to zero in on the exact person who’d benefit most from their services.
How Should a Firm Budget for PPC?
Here’s how you can answer that question:
- Determine the average value of the case-type that this particular keyword is likely to bring in. This is difficult to determine, and it requires precise tracking. But its crucial to developing a budget that’ll allow you to make the most of PPC.
- Decide on the minimum return you’d like to see. The standard referral fee for an attorney is about one third. So, we recommend using that as your minimum.
- Measure how well your website converts visitors into inquiries (Website Conversion Rate).
- Measure how well your firm converts inquiries into signed cases (Firm Conversion Rate).
- Feed steps 1-4 into the following formula: [Average Case Value] / [Required Return] * [Website Conversion Rate] * [Firm Conversion Rate]
The best thing a firm can do is to treat AdWords like they would any other auction. Whether you’re buying a ’57 Corvette or a spot on page 1, you need to know how much you’re willing to spend before you show up and throw your paddle in the air.
The concept is simple. Know your maximum CPC bid. Pull up your target keyword. Look at the current CPC for that keyword. If it’s below your max, bid. If it isn’t, don’t.
So, then, the important question to ask is this: what should our firm’s max CPC be?
Once again, let’s make this concrete with a few numbers:
- Average Case Value: $30,000
- Required Return: One Third ($10,000)
- Website Conversion Rate: 4%
- Firm Conversion Rate: 10%
Plug it into the formula: $30,000 / 3 * .04 * .10 = $40 max CPC.
To meet your minimum return, you can afford to max out your bid for each click at $40.
Here’s a handy reference chart to help you get a quick sense of what these numbers look like at scale:
|Attorney Fees||Total Fees||Marketing Spent||ROI||R:C|
Here’s where most lawyers go wrong in calculating their PPC budget:
- Rather than considering the true average of all cases in that type (including million-dollar outliers), they focus only on what the most common case is worth. When the numbers they end up with land on the grim side of reality, lawyers choose not to enter the market on negatively skewed information.
- They don’t realize how many cases they are going to need in order to realize the average. They go in assuming they’ll need 10 but run out of money somewhere around #15. Then, they exit the market and blame it on PPC rather than their lack of financial wherewithal.
- They fail to do the necessary calculations on the front end, dip their toe in the PPC waters, and end up concluding that it’s a worthless endeavor in their market. In some cases, they’re actually right: there are several over-inflated markets in the U.S. where no one is making any money off PPC.
To avoid these mistakes, lawyers need to check and re-check their numbers on the front end. Additionally, they should calculate the volatility of the cases they wish to pursue. This is simple risk vs. reward: the higher the volatility, the higher the case value.To calculate that volatility, here are three steps to follow:
- Determine the lowest possible case value.
- Determine the highest possible case value.
- Divide the highest by the lowest to determine your volatility score.
The value of the volatility score is that it gives lawyers a handy metric for evaluating PPC feasibility. Cases with a high score will be riskier and will require a higher number of cases in order to realize average case value. Cases with a lower score will yield less of a return but will carry far less risk of draining a firm’s PPC budget prematurely.
The Art and Science of PPC Advertising for Lawyers
There is a virtually endless list of places for you to do PPC. According to PPC Protect, here are the 10 best PPC networks to work with right now:
With a combined share of over 60% of the digital ad market, Google and Facebook may be the best bet for lawyers. Ultimately, your choice should depend on several factors:
Audience & Market Share — The platform you choose is going to depend on the type of people you’d like to reach. The most important question is this: where are your potential clients most likely to see your ad?
Pricing & Terms – Each platform features its own schema for pricing. Some will charge a share of your total advertising spend. Others will offer a flat fee. Many require a minimum threshold, as well as a suite of onboarding fees.
Transparency & Support – It’s crucial that you choose an advertising network that exhibits transparency, as well as a clear willingness to help you navigate any potential issues. If you can’t trust a network, then move on.
Targeting Options – Granularity is vital in PPC advertising for lawyers. You need a platform that adequately captures users’ interests, behaviors, geography, and demographics so that you can target your campaign precisely.
Analytics –Services like Google and Facebook offer advertisers a comprehensive suite of tools for analyzing campaign performance and adjusting accordingly. If a platform fails to provide that kind of analytic depth, move on.
Types of PPC Campaigns
Not all PPC campaigns are created equal. Depending on your industry and specific goals, there are many different ways to pay for advertising online:
Display Advertising – Technically, this isn’t PPC. Instead, it’s the digital version of buying space in the Yellow Pages. In a display campaign, you pay for banner placement on websites that appeal to your market. CTR on these campaigns is low, yet marginally useful for brand awareness development.
Search – This is one of the most common modes of PPC advertising. In this type of campaign, you log into AdWords or Bing and set up a campaign to serve your ad to users who search for specific keywords. On the user’s end, these end ads show up in a variety of places on the search results place (see ad position above).
Social – Display ads on steroids. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow you to more precisely target users based on their specific interests. For example, you might create a campaign that targets women in Chicagoland between the ages of 30 and 40 who also happen to like the show “Divorce Court.”
Retargeting (Remarketing) – This type of campaign can be deployed on search engines and social platforms alike. It draws on browser cookies to see what users have previously searched for and then place relevant ads.
The Shape of an Ideal Campaign
Again, no two PPC campaigns are entirely identical. Nevertheless, here are the basic contours of an effective PPC campaign for lawyers:
- Nail Your Geography – Unless you’re a national firm, there’s no sense in drawing in visitors from outside your region.
- Speak to Intent – Not all searches are created equal. Sometimes, clients are ready to hire someone today. In that case, they’ll often search for something like “St. Louis personal divorce lawyer.” Much more often, their needs will be less immediate: “who to talk to about estate planning,” or “how to deal with my insurance company.” Tailor your ads and content to reach both types of searcher. For the former, focus on landing pages tuned for quick conversion. For the latter, develop informational blog content linked to a free eBook and an email opt-in.
- Compel Action – Reach back to your college writing days or, better, hire a professional copywriter. PPC ads are small, so every word counts. Write copy that compels viewers to click through to your site.
- Make Sure They Land Right – The click is only half the battle. If you’ve paid good money for a prospect, you better know what to do with them once they get to your site. That said, you’ll need to craft intentional landing pages that speak directly to the intent of the searcher (#2) above and drive them to take action.
- Phone Number – Utilize Call Extensions to let searchers call directly off your mobile ads. This simple move can significantly increase your conversion rates.
The Online and Offline Value of PPC Advertising
Here’s another example to illustrate this point. Let’s say your firm has decided to reach out to people who’ve been exposed to asbestos in their homes. Up to this point, you’ve mainly focused on auto accidents. In fact, people know you as collision experts.
You need to get the word out about your new focus, so you start a new PPC campaign. Based on historical data, you assume the majority of these claims will come from the south side of town, so you adjust your geographic targeting respectively. What you find, however, is that the majority of clicks come from the north side.
When you follow up with those inquiries, you learn that there are 3 or 4 major complexes in the area with high rates of asbestos exposure. Not only can you now reach out to those residents and offer them representation, but you can warn them of a potentially serious risk to their health—all because of the analytic precision of PPC.
One of the most pressing questions on lawyers’ minds is whether a PPC campaign will really be any more effective than some other form of online advertising.
The answer to that question: it depends.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tried and true element of online marketing. Even so, SEO feeds into a long-term strategy. If you plan to take the next couple years to develop a web presence, then PPC may not be right for you—at least, not right now.
Unlike SEO, PPC aims for quick results. Crank up the volume on your PPC campaign, and you’ll see immediate results. Turn it back down, and your traffic will decrease respectively.
We know from experience that these immediate benefits are real. Moreover, research confirms a direct correlation between PPC ad spend and traffic. The main advantage of PPC, then, is its ability to “fill your funnel” in real time.
Google’s research also shows that 89% of traffic generated by search ads does not get replaced by organic search engine results page (SERP) traffic. In other words: visitors gained from PPC ads would not have found the advertiser’s site otherwise.
But PPC is about more than driving traffic to your site. Done strategically, PPC functions as a marketing barometer. Do you want to know if your message is reaching its target audience? Are you curious whether your website is converting as well as it could? What particular legal needs might there be in your market that have gone entirely unnoticed by your firm? PPC campaigns allow you to answer those questions with objective data.
Can’t we just handle our PPC ourselves?
Platforms like Google, Bing, and Facebook make it relatively simple to set up a PPC campaign. Just log in, choose your parameters, set your bidding prices, and you’re up and running. To boot, their analytics tools offer plenty of ways to monitor progress.
But don’t be fooled. User-friendliness does not equal expertise. PPC is a sensitive, dynamic procedure. It involves careful analysis, constant adjustment, and data-driven optimization. Sure, you can set up the campaign, but to manage it well requires a full-time commitment—especially if you’ve not done it before.
This is where the value of an agency comes in. Agencies who specialize in PPC generally come with dedicated staff members who know the ins and outs of the platforms and can work them efficiently. More importantly, high performing agencies come with a wealth of historical data and professional experience they can deploy to benefit each client. There’s value in scale here. What you may take a year to learn, an agency can figure out in a week.
How Gladiator Law Marketing Uses PPC for Lawyers
At GLM, we custom tailor our services to meet the precise needs of our clients. That said, there are two primary ways in which we offer PPC services for lawyers:Stand-Alone Offering –Perhaps you’ve opened a new firm and/or launched a new website. Maybe you want to emphasize a new area of practice. Or, you may be in the midst of a slump. Whatever your need, PPC can be an excellent tool for generating awareness and driving new traffic to your site.Part of a Larger Strategy – PPC can be a fantastic ad hoc method of generating traffic, but it truly works best in tandem with beautiful web design, careful SEO, and a comprehensive social media marketing strategy. We can work with clients to cover the entire range of online marketing activities to increase exposure and maximize return on investment.
Our job is to tell you the truth about your marketing campaign and to offer you what we believe is the best approach possible. To that end, we dig into your market, analyze all the data, and carefully measure your desired outcomes. With the information we gather, we’ll craft a strategic approach to minimizing expenditure and maximizing exposure.
At the end of the day, no one knows your practice better than you do. When you work with GLM, you’ll always have the final say. Empowering clients is our number 1 goal, and with our commitment to transparency, you’ll never have to guess whether or not we have your best interests at hear.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your law firm grow with PPC, give us a call at 1 (888) 683-3212.