Is Paid Search Right for Your Firm?

Paid Search for Law Firm

Full disclosure: the question asked in the title of this piece is rhetorical. Regardless of your firm’s size, marketing budget, or practice area(s), pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is a no-brainer if you want to keep pace with or outperform the competition. Whether it’s just a small branded campaign or a dense, coordinated matrix of targeted strategies, your firm should be leveraging paid search. If you’re not, you’ll want to act quickly — but carefully — to capitalize on paid search opportunities before the market becomes completely oversaturated.

Many of you might have heard that legal keywords are consistently among the most expensive to bid on successfully in Google AdWords, and this is definitely the case. In fact, according to Search Engine Land, of the 100 most expensive Google AdWords keywords (as of May, 2016), 78 were related to the legal sector, including 9 of the top 10 overall. So it might seem reckless to get involved in such an expensive and risky game, right?

Well, yes and no: Haphazardly entering a dozen or so keywords into a nondescript ad group redirecting to an irrelevant landing page on your existing site without performing a complete audit beforehand will not result in success. It will, however, result in wasted spend and a misinformed aversion to paid search, which is a perception we encounter with new clients time and time again.

Successful paid search initiatives depend on how your campaigns are structured and maintained relative to your firm’s budget and goals. You don’t have to bid on $200 keywords to be successful with paid search, but you do have to carefully research the medium, your firm’s capabilities within this medium, and how your competitors are approaching this digital space. You then have to proceed with caution, implementing best practices and taking calculated risks.

Let’s take a look at some common strategies that we recommend depending on a firm’s size, scope, budget, and marketing goals.

Protection from Conquestors

The practice of conquesting ― a marketing strategy employed by rival firms to bid on keywords specifically related to your firm’s brand ― is what makes the titular question rhetorical. If you and your firm are not protecting your web properties from the competition, you’re vulnerable and exposed to brand manipulation. Thankfully, protecting yourself from conquestors is relatively easy.

By creating a campaign in which you bid on terms exclusively related to your firm, you can protect your brand online and discourage this form of B2B bullying. Even if a firm has already begun conquesting prior to your firm creating a branded campaign, once you do so, the competitor(s) will likely realize their game is up and that the costs incurred to capitalize off your firm’s name aren’t worth the benefits. This is because the rival firm’s campaigns will lack relevancy due to inconsistent keyword correlation between the search terms they are using (i.e., terms related to your brand) and their web properties, forcing them to pay more in order to achieve an optimal ad ranking.

Lastly, be sure to register a trademark and copyright for your firm’s name and other valuable branding elements, such as your slogan and logo. Once you have these legal protections in place, rival firms are legally prohibited from incorporating elements of your firm and branding into their marketing strategies. This is an inexpensive process, but it can be lengthy, so be sure to register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office immediately if you haven’t already.

Search Campaigns

For those firms looking for more than just brand protection from conquestors, we recommend developing a conservative search campaign that gradually compounds into a more aggressive approach once you determine which keywords are the most cost-effective. Again, legal-specific keywords are among the most expensive in the PPC landscape, so you should use digital tools to conduct thorough research before launching a search campaign.

Among those that we find the most helpful are SpyFu, SEM Rush, and the Google Keyword Planner, which can be utilized within the AdWords platform. These tools allow the user to project overall costs, clicks, impressions, and cost per click (CPC), among dozens of other vital metrics.

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

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

  • Broad Match appears whenever a user searches any keyword you’re bidding on in any order. This match type can generate a lot of irrelevant traffic, so use it sparingly and keep a watchful eye on all of 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 in order for your firm to appear on the search engine results page (SERP).
  • Exact Match is the optimal match type for firms that are 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 a query including those exact terms in your predetermined sequence. We recommend using exact match for all key phrases when initially launching your campaign — and then expanding match types as you determine which terms are having the most (and least) success.
  • Phrase Match is like broad match modified, in that is allows for more specific targeting than broad match and less than exact match. Phrase match key phrases will 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 should highlight the essence of your firm to capture a wide yet targeted audience.

Display and Remarketing

Compared to search campaigns (branded or more aggressive), display campaigns are relatively inexpensive, which again stresses the rhetorical nature of the question posed in the title of this piece. Whereas legal search term CPC can extend well into the hundreds of dollars, display placements (the websites on which your display ads are placed) rarely exceed $4-5 dollars. And while search campaigns are more likely to reap trackable conversions, display ads significantly increase brand awareness through innumerable impressions and hundreds of clicks to your firm’s website or other web properties. And this substantial uptick in clicks, calls, and form-fills are destined to bring results with an effective traffic management strategy in place.

A vital extension of display advertising is remarketing. 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. Best practices dictate that you should create banner ads for your remarketing campaign that maintain brand guidelines but are distinct from the messaging of your display ads.

Whereas display ads should be more general in nature (redirecting to your homepage) or divided by practice area (redirecting to corresponding webpages), remarketing ads should focus on providing tangible benefits to the potential client and redirect to dedicated landing pages where the client can then capitalize on the offer. In most instances, this includes offering a free downloadable whitepaper or infographic expressly related to their legal issues (“Steps to Take Following a Car Accident,” for example) in exchange for minimal contact information (email address, first name, and possibly an optional phone number).

The digital assets you’ll need to create and launch a successful remarketing campaign (banner ads, whitepaper or infographic, dedicated landing page(s), etc.) 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 firm’s perceived value as a thought leader in your respective practice areas.

Contact LaFleur Legal Marketing for a Free PPC Consultation

At LaFleur Legal Marketing, our paid search marketing strategists are certified in Google AdWords and have a wealth of experience specifically in the legal sector. Our experience has taught us to take a cautious approach to PPC (especially in the highly competitive legal vertical), and our first priority is to do no harm — we abhor wasted spend and structure all of our clients’ campaigns to optimize ROI.

If you’re interested in learning more about our past success, please click here to read our most recent case study. If you like what you see, we would love to set up a free consultation during which we can discuss your firm’s needs and how we can help.

Please call us today at (888) 222-1512 or complete this form to speak directly with one of our marketing representatives about paid search or any other form of digital marketing, including content development, search engine optimization, social media marketing, automation, and many other tactics we employ on behalf of our valued clients.

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References

Da Cunha, M. (2016, November 20). Law firm marketing: 9 tips for winning more clients with PPC. Wordstream. Retrieved from http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2015/06/29/law-firm-marketing

Lake, C. (2016, May 31). The most expensive 100 Google AdWords keywords in the US. SearchEngineLand. Retrieved from https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/05/31/the-most-expensive-100-google-adwords-keywords-in-the-us/

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy is an experienced and skillful content strategist who earned his MA in English literature in 2012. Since then, he has worked with several national brands implementing marketing strategies and delivering compelling content.