The world of paid advertising can often feel like a black hole. You should understand where your marketing dollars go, how they’re being used, and if you’re getting a good return on investment when you invest in Local Services ads (LSA) or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.
If you run a law firm and are confused about how to invest your advertising dollars between the evergreen PPC and the new kid on the block LSA, this article is for you.
While both these options get results, choosing either or both as part of your paid advertising strategy will depend on many factors; keep reading for a full review.
Paid advertising: an overview
Pay-per-click advertising is one of the most popular forms of online advertising. Firms that run PPC ads pay for every time someone clicks on an ad. The person who clicks on your ad is then directed to a landing page on your website specifically associated with the ad.
Google Ads offers a self-managed account through which you can create and run your own PPC campaigns. This has been in the industry for over two decades and is a profitable form of advertising if understood and managed well.
PPC ads are labeled ‘Ad’ on a Google search page. They can appear above and below the search results.
A lot goes into building successful PPC campaigns, including:
- Organizing a campaign structure
- Determining the right budget
- Setting up clearly defined ad groups
- Choosing the right keywords
- Building engaging and relevant ad copy
- Creating optimized landing pages
- Setting up ad extensions
- Managing quality scores and ad rank
- And more, depending on your campaign.
Local Services ads were rolled out in 2018 and were only available for home-related services. In 2020, Google allowed legal ads to be a part of this product. LSAs appear in the top section of a Google search page, right below your search bar.
This being the prime real estate on Google’s search engine results page, these three spots are highly coveted.
To build and run successful LSA campaigns, law firms must get “Google Screened.” This involves several steps, including:
- Background checks on your law firm and owner
- Confirmation that you’re licensed to practice law
- Proof of legal malpractice insurance
- At least one Google My Business review
- An average rating of at least three stars
A third-party service called Pinkerton handles the background checks for LSAs. This process can take two to three weeks and your ads will go live only when the process is complete.
Notably, LSAs don’t require you to create a landing page for these ads. Google creates one for you, making it easy to get an LSA campaign up and running.
The differences between LSA and PPC
While both LSAs and PPC are great advertising tools, you should understand how they differ from each other so you can make the right choice for your firm.
LSAs offer access to top real estate
If you are seasoned with running paid campaigns for law firms, then you have probably noticed that the number of PPC ads showing above fold has gone down from four to one. Why the change? That top spot is now occupied by Local Services ads.
LSAs are best if you want to reach consumers who are ready to make the call and connect with a law firm without much shopping around. The ad itself is a shortened version of the law firm’s profile. A customer can either click on one of those listings to read more about the practice areas and reviews, or can just hover over it and click to call.
With LSAs entering the scene, and fewer PPC ads showing above the fold, there is now increased competition for that one prime spot below the LSAs. If you’re running PPC ads, you will have to be very creative with your ad and bids to secure that spot.
LSAs have a bid ceiling and lower cost per lead
With PPC ads, you can choose to manually bid and set your own limits or choose automated bids so the system can bid on your behalf. However, Google ads does not mandate a bid ceiling. In the legal industry (and specifically in practice areas like personal injury) this has led to competitors bidding higher and higher for certain high-traffic keywords.
While Local Services ads also gives you an option to manually bid or choose automatic bidding, it also has a bid ceiling. This allows you to control how much you pay for each call and helps control the cost per lead.
PPC ads offer more autonomy and control
With PPC ads, you have more freedom to design your own ads, choose your own keywords, set negative keywords, and play around with the different elements of the campaign.
Local Services ads are more automated. There is a system-generated format in which all ad listings show. You can choose your practice areas and pick subcategories, but there is not much control on the exact searches that your listing might show on.
However, unlike PPC ads, LSAs do allow you to dispute the calls if you get a call from someone who is not calling about the subcategories you’ve chosen and get a refund.
You only pay for leads with LSAs
PPC ads are like their name suggests: you pay every time someone clicks on your ad—even if they aren’t interested in your services.
For LSAs, you only pay when someone calls your firm by clicking on the phone number. This lead may or may not end up being a client, but what you see as cost per lead is now significantly decreased. Here’s what we are seeing with our own clients using both PPC and LSA ads.
LSAs rely on reviews and proximity
Successful paid campaigns rely on different elements. Factors determining ad rank in PPC include:
- Your bid amount
- Your auction time
- Ad quality (including expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience)
- The Ad Rank thresholds
- The competitiveness of an auction
- The context of the person’s search (location, device, time of search, search terms, the other ads and search results that show on the page, and more)
- And the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats.
On the other hand, LSA’s ranking is based on your proximity to potential customers, your reviews, your responsiveness, your business hours, and your bid. So, if your firm has a significant number of positive reviews from people in your community, you’ll likely be able to run a successful LSA campaign.
Create a comprehensive strategy with LSA and PPC ads
While LSA and PPC ads might seem like opposing options, these two tactics can complement each other. If you’re ready to implement a paid advertising campaign, consider these factors:
Understand how many leads you want
Having clarity in terms of how many leads you expect out of this effort and what you are willing to pay per lead will help determine if you should choose one tactic over the other, or go for a combination of both.
For example, a small law firm advertising in a small location with capacity to sign five cases a month would likely benefit from an LSA campaign. Larger firms in a competitive market with the capacity to sign 30 clients per month would benefit from a combination of both.
Commit to campaign consistency
Even if you set the top bid and have every other box checked, your ad listing may not be eligible to show up in the top spot. LSAs rotate regularly, so all law firms who meet the criteria get their day in the sun. If you’re wondering where your ad is, just be patient. Do not go by the success of a short time period and abandon your LSA campaign.
While PPC campaigns are more complex, they are more predictable and controllable. They provide more autonomy with managing the campaigns and this in return gives you consistency.
You can count on PPC ads to show even when Google inevitably bumps off your LSA so other firms have their turn. Sometimes, the key is to run both types of campaigns to give you consistent coverage.
LSAs and PPC ads reach potential clients at different points in the user journey
LSAs reach an audience who are ready to click and make contact with your firm. However, PPC ads attract those who like to spend some time learning about the law firm before picking up the phone.
If you are targeting a smaller town with less competition, a PPC campaign with broad targeting might be best for you. If your firm is in a densely populated area with high competition, you could invest in both LSA and PPC to reach both audiences.
If you’re ready to invest in a paid advertising campaign, consult with experts who take the time to crunch your specific data and make your law firm a personalized plan.
Contact LaFleur for help with your paid campaign needs
At LaFleur, our experienced paid advertising and content marketing specialists stay up to date on all the marketing trends and strategy so you can focus on your clients and cases.
If you’re ready to implement an effective, affordable, and wide-reaching paid campaigns for your law firm, contact us today by completing this brief online form or calling us directly at (888) 222-1512.
We look forward to speaking with you!
What Is PPC? Learn the Basics of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing. Wordstream. Retrieved from https://www.wordstream.com/ppc
Ad Rank. Google https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/1752122?hl=en
Leann,P. (2021, March 12). Local Service Ads (LSAs) vs PPC: What’s Right for Your Law Firm? Retrieved from https://jurisdigital.com/lsa-vs-ppc-law-firm/
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.