PPC should always work for attorneys. By PPC I’m referring to search engine ads on Google and Bing, and after managing hundreds of campaigns for attorneys across the country, I’m telling you, no attorney should be failing to make PPC work.
This week we signed up another personal injury law firm that is going to run a state-wide campaign, and their goal is to get 5 new car accident cases each month. We talked about budget and strategy and I explained to them how we are very likely to make this work and get them the results they want. Their budget is realistic, and we’ve got a great game plan to get them those 5 new accident cases each month.
What struck me during the call was how the attorney spoke about his past PPC experiences. He said they had some success with other agencies, but they also had had a lot of bad experiences with other agencies. I hear this often from attorneys, and it always makes me wonder what the heck other campaign managers are doing out there.
While Google Ads for attorneys is competitive and takes a refined, educated skillset to make work, it also happens to be very straightforward and one of the best performing industries on search ads in my experience. There are a couple of reasons why it works so well. First, the keywords and searches people do to find an attorney are very straightforward. There are some low-volume magical keywords out there that produce great traffic and aren’t that competitive, but for the most part the traffic on attorney PPC campaigns comes from searches for the legal area the search user wants an attorney in, like divorce or immigration, and then some variation of the words lawyer or attorney. It’s very straightforward.
The other reason PPC for attorneys works so well is because generally when people need an attorney, they don’t have an option other than going to Google and searching for one. When someone needs a DUI lawyer they aren’t going to ask around the office for recommendations. And beyond the private nature of legal services, most people’s network of family and friends don’t know any lawyers and don’t have recommendations. A lot of people and everyone they are close to will go decades or their entire lives without needing a lawyer and word of mouth recommendations for lawyers seem to be a lot less of a thing than in industries like house cleaning, plumbing, or lawn care. I know this is different with certain kinds of legal work, like white collar criminal defense or high-stakes corporate litigation where networking and referrals are more common, but with many areas of the law like immigration, family law, criminal defense, and personal injury, it seems like the general public, for the most part, uses search to find an attorney to hire.
So if the keywords are so straightforward, and if legal services lend themselves naturally to search, then why do so many attorneys and the marketers they hire struggle with their PPC campaigns? I think it comes down to three things.
The biggest problem I hear about is that the marketer, the person running the PPC campaign, doesn’t understand the nuances of the attorney’s business or area of the law. For example, I often hear from personal injury attorneys who spend lots of money only to get bad leads from their PPC campaign, like car accident cases that are about property damage or that were from too long ago. Since legal can be a competitive, expensive PPC field, it is very important that the marketer makes the most of the attorney’s budget, and if the marketer doesn’t understand the attorney’s business or the area of the law they’re advertising for, then the campaign is doomed to failure.
The second area where attorneys and their marketers struggle is the search terms. Search terms are what people actually typed in Google or Bing when they saw your ad and clicked on it. The quality of your search terms will dictate the quality of your campaign. If you’re an immigration lawyer in Dallas and you show up on searches like immigration attorneys in dallas tx then things will probably work out great. But if you show up on searches like was alexander hamilton an immigrant then you’re not getting clicks from people actually looking for an immigration attorney to hire and you’re just wasting your budget. A more nuanced example would be the difference between the search dog bite lawyer and the search dog bite defense lawyer. Both searches show the user is looking for an attorney related to a dog bite incident, and that’s a good sign, but the latter search shows that the search user is the party whose dog bit someone else and is not the injury victim, so if you’re a personal injury attorney, that second search is a waste of budget and “defense” should probably be added as a negative keyword. Search terms are one of the most important factors in search engine advertising, and they’re just something you have to get right if you want to win on PPC.
And the final area marketers go wrong with attorney PPC campaigns is not bidding profitably. The only thing that matters with PPC campaigns is whether or not they help you acquire new clients profitably. To understand if you’re running your campaign profitably you have to have conversion tracking in place. And once you get the tracking in place you need to make sure you’re managing your bids in a profitable way. Sure, we can show up on quality search terms like car accident lawyer near me but if we’re bidding too high and the client acquisition cost is higher than your average value per client, then we’re losing money. You have to manage your bids properly and get a profitable acquisition cost to make PPC work.
How do you achieve PPC success for your law firm? Understand the area of law that’s being advertised for, get perfect search terms, and get your cost per click to a profitable level. If those things are being done, then you can hit a home run with your PPC campaign and generate tons of clients and cases from Google Ads, Bing, and Facebook. PPC works great for attorneys, you just have to make sure you’re getting the basics right.