Online advertising for law firms: Are paid ads right for you?

Law firm advertising is deeply misunderstood

You’ve heard all the horror stories about paid and traditional advertising. Law firm advertising gets a bad rap. But in the right hands, you can experience a high ROI (return on investment), higher traffic to your law firm website, and better leads.

Before you start bidding on ads, it’s a good idea to assess your marketing goals and learn how online legal advertising works. That way, you can make smarter decisions, maximize your budget, and find a trustworthy marketing partner (like LaFleur).

When we’re done, you’ll understand the impressive benefits of Facebook advertising, Google Ads, and other paid campaigns for law firms. Even better, you will learn how to use the right digital marketing tactics to amplify your firm’s online reach.

However, please reach out if you have any questions about law firm advertising methods or how they connect to the bigger picture of digital marketing for law firms. We are here to help you better position your firm for success. Giving you answers and guidance is as important to us as it is for you.

What is paid advertising?

When marketers talk about “paid advertising,” we are referring to ads that platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube deliver to consumers. You and your marketing partner will typically have to bid for ad placements, with the highest bidders getting the most coveted spots.

Paid advertising differs from search engine optimization (SEO) and other inbound marketing strategies that focus on organically driving traffic to your law firm website or nurturing leads (but they are both part of a robust marketing strategy).

Many lawyers are skeptical of paid advertising—thanks to unscrupulous or short-sighted advertising companies. Admittedly, when paid advertising operates in a vacuum, it’s easy to burn through your budget without positive results. That’s why our digital marketing experts take a holistic, thoughtful approach. We craft paid strategies that align with your law firm’s goals, resonate with your targeted audience, and connect to your overarching marketing plan.

Before we dig into common forms of paid advertising, let’s take a moment to explore paid advertising’s purpose.

Conversion, brand awareness, traffic: The fundamental goals of paid advertising

Your paid advertising campaigns can serve many purposes:

  • Brand awareness: increasing public awareness of your law firm and its reputation
  • Conversion: encouraging your audience to take a specific action, such as scheduling a consultation, completing a form, or downloading a free ebook
  • Driving traffic: directing your audience to a specific page on your website to boost its visibility 

As you build your campaigns, you should have a specific goal behind each ad.

Suppose your firm just expanded into a new city. You might decide to launch a multi-pronged campaign to boost awareness of your legal services and generate leads. In this case, you could start with Google search and social media ads that help increase your name recognition. Then, you might layer in display ads that drive traffic to city-specific landing pages. Later on, you could launch YouTube retargeting ads that serve targeted content to people who interacted with your previous ads or visited your website that keep you at the forefront of their minds.

Identifying the right paid search options for your law firm

If you think that PPC (pay-per-click) ads are your only paid advertising option, we have good news for you! There are a wealth of paid advertising options to choose from, and law firms have plenty of choices that target people at every stage of their journey.

However, before you start bidding on ads, it’s a good idea to perform a complete audit. A digital marketing audit gives you a complete roadmap of your law firm marketing performance. That way, you can maximize your budget, pick the right keywords and ad groups, and build high-quality landing pages that highlight your legal services and convert clicks into clients.

Once you’ve audited your current efforts, you can pick the types of ads that match your law firm marketing strategy, goals, and budget.

RELATED: Smart planning leads to attainable paid search goals

Pay-per-click advertising

Search campaigns, often called PPC or pay-per-click ads, are displayed on search engine results pages (SERPS). They include Google Ads and Bing Ads. These ads typically show up near the top of a search results page or in a sidebar.

advertising for law firms

Using the search engine’s advertising platform, you or your marketing partner will build ads that target specific keywords that your ideal potential clients might search. (This could include terms like “personal injury law firm san diego,” or “family law attorneys charleston.”) Your cost per click will depend on the keywords you select and other factors, and a good campaign manager will make sure your bids remain competitive. However, you should be prepared for sticker shock—PPC ads for law firms can be expensive.

RELATED: How to determine PPC budget for your law firm (and why it matters)

Display campaigns

Display campaigns are the billboard-like ads you see on web pages, apps, video channels, and in your email (particularly on Gmail). These image-driven ads encourage readers to click on a link, sending them to a specific webpage or landing page. However, most paid ad campaigns are primarily meant to boost brand awareness.

advertising for law firms

Remarketing ads are a particularly powerful type of display advertising. Remarketing ads appear on various websites after a user has already visited your website or other web properties on which you’ve placed a remarketing tag.

While display ads should be more general in nature (redirecting to your homepage or practice area-specific landing page or webpage), remarketing ads often offer the reader tangible benefits, like a free downloadable guide, webinar, or infographic. When they click on the ad, they are sent to a dedicated landing page where they can exchange their contact information (like name, email, and possibly phone number) for valuable information.

And once you have their contact information, the reader becomes a lead that you can nurture through email drip campaigns and other tactics.

Facebook ads

A key benefit of law firm Facebook ads is that the targeting can be incredibly specific. You determine who sees your ads based on a variety of demographics (age, location, income, habits, employment, education level, and more). Inputting the right variables will put your firm’s brand in front of the best target audience.

The Meta Business Manager, according to the company, is a “one-stop shop where you can manage all of your marketing and advertising activity on Facebook.” A nice feature of this platform is that you do not need to have a personal Facebook account to use it. And if you are one of the billions of people who do have one, though, your Business Manager doesn’t need to be connected to it.

Programmatic ads

Programmatic ads can include many different forms of ads that are purchased through an automated ad-buying process; data and algorithms determine where and when ads are placed. While the most common type of programmatic ads is display advertising, other programmatic ads include digital radio, video, and native advertising (which looks like existing content on a webpage).

RELATED: Your practical guide to programmatic advertising for law firms.

Local Services ads (LSAs)

Local Services ads are ideal for companies and businesses that offer a service, so attorneys quickly jumped on this relatively new advertising option. LSAs are featured at the top of Google’s SERP, include a few key details, like your firm’s name, Google rating, hours, and a click-to-call option.

While a PPC ad take users to a landing page on your website, LSAs direct individuals to a Google landing page. Once on this page, the user either calls your firm directly or sends a message. Many law firms choose to run LSA campaigns because they only pay when they get a lead from an ad, rather than paying every time someone clicks but doesn’t convert. They also come with the added convenience of not having to build a landing page on your website.

A key element to the LSA program is that participating businesses need to be approved by Google. The search engine behemoth only gives their “Google Screened” label to companies that have been carefully vetted, which provides a feeling of security for their users. The good news for law firms is that Google knows states already conduct extensive background checks on lawyers, so they only verify all active law licenses.

RELATED: Local Services Ads for lawyers: The next big trend in paid ads?

It’s worth noting that just because LSAs deliver leads doesn’t mean you should ignore PPC advertising. In the same way that your home toolbox should contain both a hammer and a screwdriver to handle different jobs, your law firm marketing efforts “toolbox” will likely benefit from incorporating both kinds of online ads.

Connected TV and OTT

If display ads are the billboards of the internet, OTT and CTV (connected TV) are its network commercials. Seventy percent of households in the U.S. have at least one subscription-based streaming services, and OTT and CTV advertising lets you reach them where they are.

Unlike over-the-air TV ads, which can be costly and are not very customizable, OTT and CTV let you target specific audiences on streaming services like Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+, so you reach your ideal market. And, compared to traditional TV ads, they can be relatively cost effective.

Streaming audio ads

Spotify, Pandora, and other audio streaming services are part of our daily life. Using programmatic platforms, you can target your ideal audiences with radio ads in their cars, at the gym, and wherever else they listen to music.

Again, compared to traditional radio ads, many law firms find streaming audio ads to be more personal, targeted, more data driven, and cost-effective.

It’s been decades since the Supreme Court decided Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. However, law firms still need to be aware of advertising laws and ethical constraints. You and your marketing partners must follow your state’s Rules of Professional Conduct and comply with both state and federal laws. Otherwise, you might end up in hot water.

For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a warning letter to numerous mass tort firms and lead generators, advising them that their messaging was misleading and potentially dangerous. These law firms had framed their ads as “medical alerts,” warning consumers about dangerous drugs (and sometimes flashing the FDA’s logo).

Research suggested that these scare tactics lead to people discontinuing their medications—and some suffered negative consequences.

Our digital strategists do their best to stay up to date on the legal and ethical obligations that you might face. It’s our goal to create content that is compelling and compliant—and we worry about the details, so you don’t have to.

RELATED: Market your law firm without breaking the attorney advertising rules

Paid advertising complements your law firm’s other marketing efforts

A holistic legal marketing strategy has multiple, complementary elements. We use our CLEAR Framework™ to summarize them all:

  • Create: You need to understand your law firm’s positioning, fundamental narratives, and brand.
  • Launch: Your website and its content should meet or exceed website and search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.
  • Expand: Your content should precisely target your ideal potential clients, answer their questions, and encourage conversion.
  • Amplify: Your firm should broaden its reach through its paid advertising, social media, and earned media efforts.
  • Refine: You should continually learn from your marketing campaigns and make data-driven improvements as needed.

Suppose you decide to launch a new law firm. You might have a cadre of clients who are ready to follow you, but that’s not enough. You need a marketing plan that helps you grow beyond your existing client base.

While some marketing agencies would immediately rush to build you a website or launch expensive PPC campaigns, the LaFleur team would take a moment to assess your goals and mission in our Create phase. After all, if your ads and website say the same things as your competitors’, why would someone click on them?

Similarly, during our Expand phase, we create would content that complements your paid media efforts—creating downloadable resources, blogs, and landing pages that will entice your paid audiences to click and engage with your ads. Combining content marketing and paid media can also lower your customer acquisition cost (CAC) while creating scalable demand.

And right after you launch your new firm’s website, it’s likely that brand awareness will be low. It often takes six to 12 months for organic content marketing to really take off. Since you can’t afford to wait—paid advertising like Local Services ads, PPC, and programmatic advertising can introduce legal consumers to your brand and drive traffic in the meantime.

Your marketing efforts should be symbiotic, not haphazard one-off efforts. Our strategic, data-driven approach helps ensure that you get the most out of your budget.

Your marketing efforts should be symbiotic, not haphazard one-off efforts. Our strategic, data-driven approach helps ensure that you get the most out of your budget.

The benefits of paid advertising for lawyers

Whether we’re talking about a small, branded campaign or a dense, coordinated matrix of targeted strategies, your law firm should be leveraging paid search. A few of the reasons for this include:

  • The return on investment (ROI) can be outstanding. While not all campaigns hit the mark, we’ve seen well-executed ones produce impressive results for clients. A contributing factor is how pay-per-click (PPC) advertising works.As the name implies, you only pay when a user clicks on one of your ads is taken to your website. From there, a well-crafted landing page can lead to greater conversions and potentially generate more business for your firm.
  • Online ads are presented to the right audience. This essential element of effective law firm marketing puts your brand right in front of an audience who is actively seeking legal services, which is another factor in the strong ROI performance for online ads. These individuals are more likely to be closer to becoming a paying customer or client, so the money paid for their clicks is often a fruitful investment.
  • Paid advertising increases your firm’s reach. Instead of waiting for people to come to you, your firm is now going out to meet them where they are online. This proactive approach is an effective legal marketing strategy, one that can yield results quickly.
  • Social media ads improve brand recognition. When you advertise on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and even TikTok, it creates greater brand exposure. People often turn to known brands when they need services, including legal representation, so this is quite important for your law firm.
  • Your competitors use online advertising. Regardless of your firm’s size, marketing budget, or practice areas, PPC advertising is a must if you want to keep pace with or outperform the competition. Otherwise, potential clients are becoming more familiar with them, and not you.

Paid advertising compliments law firm SEO efforts, but it does not replace or enhance it

To clear up a common misconception (and sometimes mistruth), online ads do not help your SEO rankings, according to Google. On that front, you need to utilize content marketing and user experience (UX) design. For this reason, it’s always a smart idea to take a holistic approach to your law firm marketing strategy.

Something worth keeping in mind when talking about online advertising is that this is an investment, which means there is cost entailed. It’s especially important for law firms to be aware of this because legal-specific keywords tend to be more expensive than those for other fields. The cost, however, is well worth it when your ads increase awareness of your brand and encourage potential clients to act. And in just a moment we’ll explore how you can get the most from your investment in paid search.

Getting the most from your investment in law firm marketing

If you are looking to get the most value from law firm advertising, we recommend developing a phased approach. You might start with a relatively conservative Google Ads or paid social media campaign that gradually evolves into a more aggressive multi-platform campaign once you determine which keywords and channels are the most effective.

Search ads and keywords

Legal-specific keywords are among the most expensive in the PPC or Google Ads landscape, so you should use digital tools to conduct thorough research before launching a search campaign.

Some we find the most helpful are SpyFu, SEMRush, and the Google Ads Keyword Tool, which can be used within the Google Ads platform. These tools allow you to project overall costs, clicks, impressions, and CPC, along with dozens of other vital metrics.

You can also use keywords to get a sense of how your competitors are structuring their campaigns and which keywords they are bidding on most frequently. Additionally, researching potential search campaigns with these tools helps you establish a baseline PPC budget, as well the opportunity to discover “long-tail keywords” ― longer and more specific phrases that are extensions of more general keywords.

To keep costs down and optimize your return on investment, you should pay close attention to keyword match types when structuring your campaigns. These types include:

  • Broad match appears whenever a user searches for any keyword you’re bidding on in any order. This can generate a lot of irrelevant traffic, so use it sparingly and keep a watchful eye on all your broad match keywords.
  • Broad match modified allows more control over your user audience by including terms within the larger key phrase that must be included in a search query for your firm to appear on the search engine results page (SERP).
  • Exact match is optimal for firms looking to mitigate wasted spend. Implementing this match type with your keywords ensures that your firm will only appear on the SERP when a potential client searches for a query including those exact terms in your predetermined sequence. We recommend using exact matches for all key phrases when initially launching your campaign — and then expanding match types as you determine which terms have the most (and least) success.
  • Phrase match is like broad match modified, in that it allows for more specific targeting than broad match and less than exact match. Phrase matches only appear when the search query is entered in the exact sequence of your choosing, although other terms can be included before or after the phrase. It’s a flexible match type that highlights the essence of the search to capture a wide yet targeted audience.

The digital assets you’ll need to create and launch a successful remarketing campaign (like banner ads, whitepaper or infographic, dedicated landing pages) can be a bit pricey depending on the production value of these elements. When properly built and executed, however, you should expect to see a significant return on your investment while also building consumer confidence and trust by enhancing your law firm’s perceived value as a thought leader in your respective practice areas.

Negative keywords: What they are and how your law firm should use them

So far, we’ve talked about using keywords you want in your paid search campaigns. However, it’s important to avoid certain keywords as well.

A big reason for not including keywords in your law firm’s online ads strategy is so you don’t waste your money. See, if someone is presented with your ad while doing an irrelevant search and clicks on it, you pay. And that cuts into your ROI.

To prevent this from happening, you need to be careful when compiling your keywords. If recommended phrases include competitor names or irrelevant terms you don’t want to use, you can place them to a “Negative Keywords” group in Google Ads.

RELATED: How negative keywords can help advertisers better target their ads

LaFleur: Data-driven law firm marketing made CLEAR

We know the world of paid online advertising is complicated. You need to be strategic in your planning so you can implement and manage digital marketing campaigns that work for your law firm.

Start by understanding your goals and budget. From there, determine what your law firm already has and what you need to create, and then dive in to find keywords and see what the competitors are doing. And be sure to track your results and make the appropriate adjustments after you’ve launched your digital marketing campaign.

Of course, you’re also always free to contact us. We build and manage effective paid search campaigns for legal firms across the country and have experts who can help you. Whether you are simply seeking answers and guidance or have an interest in exploring a marketing partnership, we’re here for you.

If you’d like a no-cost, no-obligation legal marketing consultation, call us at (888) 222-1512 or fill out this brief form and we will be in touch shortly.

References

Condron, S. (2021, December 17). Long Tail Keywords: A 2022 Guide to Finding, Identifying, and Using Them for Better SEO. SpyFU.com. Retrieved from https://www.spyfu.com/blog/identify-long-tail-keywords/

Meta. (2022) Facebook Business Manager: Manage everything in one place with Business Manager. Facebook.com. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/business/tools/business-manager

Varagouli, E. (2021, August 9). The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Business Manager. Semrush.com. Retrieved from: https://www.semrush.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-facebook-business-manager/

Bishop, A. (2021, September 8). A Guide to Online Advertising: Paid Search, Paid Social, & More. Semrush.com. Retrieved from: https://www.semrush.com/blog/online-advertising/

Google. (2022). About Local Services Ads. Support.google.com. Retrieved from: https://support.google.com/localservices/answer/6233859?hl=en&ref_topic=6250184

Google. (2022). Google Ads: SEO vs. PPC? Ads.google.com. Retrieved from: https://ads.google.com/home/resources/seo-vs-ppc/

Forbes. (2019, March 29). How many streaming video services does the average person subscribe to? Retrieved from https://vindicia.com/company/in-the-news/how-many-streaming-video-services-does-average-person-subscribe/

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