Local Service Ads for Lawyers: The Next Big Trend in Paid Ads?

What if your law firm ranked at the very top of a search engine results page — even above pay-per-click ads and the Google My Business three-pack? You’d probably experience a significant increase in the number and quality of your leads. With Google’s Local Service Ads (LSAs), this is now possible.

Google tested legal LSAs for almost a year in San Diego and Houston, but they’re now available nationwide. While there’s a lot of buzz going on about local search ads for lawyers, some marketing agencies are over-hyping these ads as a cure-all for faltering marketing strategies. Before you spend your marketing budget on LSAs, you should understand the basics of this developing form of advertising. Below, we’ll explain the essentials.

What are Local Service Ads?

If you’ve researched home service contractors (like plumbers and electricians) in the last few years, you may have noticed a box of “Google Guaranteed” service providers at the very top of the search engine results page. You may have even clicked on an ad and scheduled an appointment on the contractor’s landing page. Hopefully, it was an effortless process that connected you with the right company. Google’s local search ads for lawyers provide a similar experience for legal consumers.

Here are some of the core elements of a legal LSA:

  • Google places these ads above organic results, pay-per-click advertising, and Google My Business listings
  • The ads direct visitors to a Google landing page, not your website. Once consumers land on the page, they can either call your law firm via a tracking phone number or send you a message.
  • LSAs are pay-per-lead advertising. You only pay when someone converts into a lead by calling your tracking number or sending you a message. Clicks don’t result in a charge.

Because local service ads are relatively new in most communities, they offer early adopters a powerful advantage over competitors.

Lawyers within 17 practice areas can now purchase local service ads that target specific communities and zip codes. These practice areas are:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Business law
  • Contract law
  • Criminal defense
  • Disability law
  • DUI
  • Estate planning
  • Family law
  • Immigration law
  • Intellectual property
  • Labor law
  • Litigation
  • Malpractice
  • Personal injury law
  • Real estate
  • Tax law
  • Traffic law

There is some nuance in these practice groups. For example, DUI law includes subsections for DUI accident and injury claims, which could also fall under a personal injury practice. And “disability law” covers a broad array of different specialties: ERISA, Social Security disability claims, workers’ compensation, and veteran’s benefits.

If you’re not sure which practices your law firm should highlight, consult a marketing professional who can help you identify the right opportunities and maximize your marketing budget.

Getting “Google Screened”

If you look at local service ads for lawyers, you’ll notice a green checkmark in every ad, showing that the firm is “Google Screened.” This program is the professional’s version of the “Google Guarantee,” which gives consumers added confidence when shopping for a service provider. However, unlike the Google Guarantee, the Google Screened program does not offer a money-back guarantee for dissatisfied customers or clients.

Before your law firm’s local service ads can go live, you’ll need to undergo vetting by Google. This process involves several steps:

  • Basic background checks on the business and owner
  • Confirm that you’re licensed to practice law
  • Provide proof of legal malpractice insurance

You must also have at least one Google My Business review and an average rating of at least three stars.

RELATED: How to get more online reviews for your law firm

What will my Local Service Ads look like?

When legal consumers review information on a search engine results page, you want to attract their attention. Google local services ads offer one significant advantage: your headshot. Legal consumers will see your picture, Google Screened badge, how many years your firm has operated, and other information on the results page. While there’s no guarantee your headshot will always appear on your LSA, a headshot does increase the potential for clicks, so you should always provide a high-quality photograph with each LSA you launch.

How does Google rank law firms in Local Service Ads?

Google uses a predetermined set of factors to decide how frequently legal consumers see your LSAs. To get the most out of your LSA campaigns, you’ll need to demonstrate the following:

  • The context of the person’s search, including the specific terms they searched, the time of day, and other metrics
  • Your Google My Business review score
  • How quickly you respond to LSA inquiries
  • Your office’s proximity to the individual
  • Your business hours
  • Whether Google has received any serious or repeated complaints about your law firm

If you’re not ready to provide lightning-quick responses to your local service ads and encourage your law firm brand ambassadors to share their reviews on Google My Business, you may not be ready to invest in LSAs.

RELATED: Here’s Why Your Local Small Business Needs a Website

Do Local Service Ads replace PPC advertising or other digital marketing tactics?

A lot of lawyers would rather pay per lead than per click. It seems like a more effective model, and you don’t have to worry about Google Ad’s confusing bidding system. (LSAs charge a flat fee per lead.) However, we believe local service ads should complement, rather than eliminate, other marketing tactics such as PPC.

We believe Google’s local service ads are a potentially powerful tool that can spread brand awareness and encourage conversions. Still, these ads are not an instant cure-all for all your digital marketing woes. Today’s legal consumers are much more sophisticated than their predecessors and are more likely to research your firm carefully before converting via landing page.

So, even if you have a place in your community’s LSA three-pack or two-pack, savvy legal consumers are going to read your reviews, visit your website, and check out your social media profiles. You’ll still need a well-designed site, compelling and accurate content, and an exceptional user experience. If a legal consumer sees your law firm in their organic search results and social media platforms as well as via paid advertising, they’re more likely to click a link and reach out.

RELATED: LSA and PPC ads for lawyers: what’s the difference and how to choose the best ad strategy for your firm

LaFleur: paid advertising that gets results

At LaFleur, we help law firms reach their ideal clients through compelling, data-driven advertising and marketing campaigns. We take a data-driven approach that helps you target the right geographic areas and speaks directly to the needs of your most desirable clients.

If you’re ready for a fresh approach to legal paid advertising, contact us today. We’ll help you understand your current return on investment and suggest ways we can improve it. To chat with an expert from the LaFleur team and learn more about local service ads, call us (888) 222-1512 or use our online contact form.


Chip Lafleur

Chip is an entrepreneur, organizational leader, and marketing expert who combines experience in web development, marketing tactics, strategy, and team leadership with a strong ability to harness talent and hone complex concepts into concrete deliverables.