Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising has been a hot marketing topic for well over a decade and a half, especially amongst law firms. However, PPC is also a significant investment—and it is anything but a one-size-fits-all strategy to attracting more clients and generating new streams of revenue. And when it comes to law firms, this couldn’t be truer. So, when the question “should law firms invest in PPC advertising?” is posed, our team’s short answer is: It depends.

Ultimately, before diving into the heady world of PPC, every law firm needs to analyze their own business and answer some specific questions, including:

  • Is PPC part of the firm’s overall marketing strategy or the only marketing tactic on the table?
  • How much is the firm willing to spend monthly?
  • Who in the firm will be responsible for screening and vetting leads?
  • Is the firm willing to spend the time to analyze the data, or will this be left up to a marketing agency?
  • How is success viewed and measured?

And finally, one of the most important in our eyes is:

  • What type of law firm are you?

Frankly speaking, that last question is poignant. Our opinion at YGL Enterprises is that while PPC can work for a plaintiff’s firm in appealing directly to consumers, it is less likely to be effective for a firm that deals in a B2B capacity without the help of other marketing strategies.

The Realities of PPC

The truth is that PPC for law firms is an incredibly complex topic—and it is expensive, to boot. As a marketing approach, PPC presents the possibility of yielding an extraordinarily high ROI—but that’s not a guarantee. Effective PPC advertising requires careful strategy, evaluation, and an understanding of legal industry nuances, along with the ability to align this knowledge with the mechanics of paid search.

And that’s not easy. Here’s why.

PPC advertising is based on a bidding system. So, no matter if you are a personal injury attorney who seeks to appeal directly to consumers or a business attorney whose ideal client is another business, the legal market is crowded online—and it is beyond competitive.  As a point of reference, we encourage you to check out Wordstream’s blog detailing the top 20 most expensive keywords.

Note that the words “lawyer” and “attorney” rank between $42 to $47 per click. That’s not chump change! And there isn’t a guarantee that a click on your PPC ad converts into a paying customer ready to walk through your office’s doors. That “clicker” could spend a matter of seconds on your website before bouncing off, and it’s you who gets stuck with that bill.

Now, let’s factor in location and practice area. This example, on how much a Google Ads campaign could cost, will take your breath away!

Bad news if you are a maritime attorney located in Houston, Texas.

Additionally, we haven’t even factored in the cost of agency PPC management. This expense can run anywhere from 15% to 40% of your firm’s PPC campaign’s total cost, meaning the total monthly fee will be significant.

Plus, you must also consider transparency, or the lack thereof, in the PPC process. After all, an agency can represent more than one law firm specializing in a specific type of law within any given market.  How effective is a PPC advertising campaign if you and your closest competitor have hired the same marketing agency for the same purpose? Ultimately, if you are considering partnering with a marketing agency, it is imperative that you ask the agency about their past work with law firms like yours and their active client list. Also, inquire on the front-end about whether they offer market exclusivity—meaning that if you sign a contract, you will be the only maritime attorney in Houston, for instance, that they are representing.

Additionally, it is essential to understand that no agency should “guarantee” results, as it’s impossible to promise a specific outcome with PPC ads. Results will vary and depend on many factors. A reputable PPC agency will instead focus on analyzing the data and making intelligent decisions on how to make your firm’s current campaigns better while strategically planning for the future. The agency should focus on key performance indicators (KPIs) related to:

  • Clicks
  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Cost per thousand impressions (CPM)
  • Quality score
  • Conversion rate (CVR)
  • Cost per conversion/acquisition (CPA)
  • Average position

Plus, the agency should be willing, able, and eager to share and explain all of this to you so that you understand what is working and what isn’t—and how that translates to ROI.

The lesson here is simple: If you are a law firm investing in PPC, you should understand how this tactic contributes to your overall marketing strategy and how it impacts your business.

How Does Google Determine Ad Visibility?

First, let’s explore a critical fact: Determining factors regarding ad visibility change frequently as Google updates its algorithms. However, four competitive metrics stay relatively static as your campaign competes against other accounts in the ad auction. They are:

  1. Search impression share: This represents the number of impressions received divided by the estimated number of impressions you are eligible to receive. So, if your score is 57%, that means your ad shows on the search engine results page 57 out of 100 times.
  2. Search top impression share: This indicates the percentage of time your ad shows in a top position, above organic results. This metric is calculated by looking at the number of times your ad shows in a top position vs. the number of times it was eligible to receive an impression in a top position.
  3. Search absolute top impression share: This is the percentage of ad impressions that are shown in the very first paid position. It is calculated by taking the absolute top impressions number and dividing it by the times your ad was eligible to receive an absolute top position impression.
  4. Click share: A relatively new metric, this is the number of clicks your ad received on the search network divided by the estimated maximum number of clicks that were possible.

Considering Lead Quality

A final point of consideration is the actual quality of the leads you receive from PPC, which can vary widely. For example, while B2C law firms operating in the areas of family law, auto accidents, worker’s compensation, personal injury, or products liability—to name a few—can receive considerable benefit from a PPC campaign, the same cannot be said about B2B law firms.

Rather, B2B law firms will be hard-pressed to generate quality leads. Firstly, the audience size for a B2B law firm is much smaller than that of their B2C counterpart. After all, a B2B firm is targeting other businesses, not the general population. As such, keyword search volumes are considerably lower in B2B than in the B2C space.

Secondly, in a B2B setting, the web surfer could be one of many people from the different departments at a company—including an administrator, the CEO, an accountant, etc. So, with that in mind, the PPC campaign will have to be designed with varied audience targets, which can be tricky.

Finally, B2B buyers tend to comparison shop, especially when long-term contracts, ongoing relationships, and significant dollars are involved. On the other hand, B2C transactions have a shorter sales cycle and are driven by emotion or immediate need.

Our take? PPC for a B2B law firm is risky. But there is a caveat.

PPC for B2B Law Firms Must Be Part of a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy

PPC on its own isn’t going to cut it for a B2B firm. However, suppose your firm is interested in engaging in PPC advertising. In that case, it must be part of a comprehensive marketing strategy—it cannot be standalone if you want to get results and show a return on your investment.

It is here that YGL Enterprises can help. We regularly partner with B2B law firms in developing and deploying inclusive and thorough marketing strategies that effectively address both short-term and long-view targets. We would love the opportunity to speak with your firm about how PPC advertising can complement a well-thought-out and all-encompassing approach to your marketing. Contact us today and schedule a consultation.

Yvonne Levine, Charlotte NC-based Marketing Consultant Provider of strategic marketing solutions and brand management.Yvonne Levine, president of YGL Enterprises, Inc., is a strategic marketing consultant who collaborates with professional services and small and mid-sized businesses to develop and execute successful marketing strategies, branding initiatives, content creation, and digital marketing plans. By helping businesses devise a targeted strategy first, this approach creates a strong foundation for tactical decisions, which drives brand awareness and positive results. Follow Yvonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.