Law Firm PPC: How Lawyers Can Avoid Burning Through Cash in Google Ads
Pay-per-click advertising (or PPC) can easily be one of the most costly expenditures in a law firms digital marketing mix. If you pay attention to your account, and implement some tactics that will save you cash, it is not hard for attorneys to generate a decent ROI from online paid advertising.
What is PPC?
Law firm PPC generally refers to any type of online advertising where lawyers are paying for impressions, clicks, conversions, or some other type of action. When people think of PPC, they almost always think of Google Ads however there are numerous PPC providers and models.
PPC advertising is an advertising model where advertisers pay publishers to display their ads. This could be as an image on a website, a search result, a social media post, or an email. The publisher is generally paid each time the ad is clicked however there are other actions that publishers often sell to advertisers like number of impressions, CPC or cost per conversion, or (in the case of social media) they may get paid for delivering engagement such as shares, comments, likes, or instant messages.
The most well-known PPC network for advertisers who want to reach new audiences is Google Ads, which allows advertisers to publish ads on Google search, YouTube, and Google partner websites and apps. Most will recognize Google Ads as they appear in search results.
You’ll also see similar ads appear in YouTube search results. These are also from Google Ads.
Aside from search and Youtube, Google Ads allows advertisers to create banner and video ads for websites and apps in their display network.
Facebook offers PPC advertising to augment an advertiser’s organic social media strategy. Users can configure ads to show as traditional display or in the newsfeed of Facebook audiences. Ad objectives on their network include growing your Facebook audience along with increasing website traffic, leads, and sales.
Facebook Ads are seen throughout their network in the news feed, videos, messenger and now on Instagram as well. In the following screenshot, you can see two ads – one in the news feed and one in the right sidebar.
You can learn more about how to set up a Facebook Ads strategy in our social media guide for lawyers. But for now, let’s learn more about how law firms use PPC.
Why do law firms advertise with PPC?
Law firms use PPC in conjunction with omnichannel marketing strategies to get immediate results. Organic content, search, and social media marketing campaigns have the power to drive traffic and potential clients to a law firm’s website, but these campaigns take time to achieve their full potential. PPC can fill in the gaps along the way.
For example, while a law firm is waiting to rank in organic search results for a highly competitive keyword phrase like auto accident lawyer, they could use PPC to get closer to the first page of search results. Or in cases like this one, (and also noting that there are many other trade-offs) PPC offers better placement organic search results.
For this keyword phrase, there are four Google Ads above the local 3-pack, people also ask, and organic search results. The law firm ranking first in organic search results for this keyword phrase is nearly at the bottom of the page.
According to Attorney at Work’s 4th Annual Social Media Marketing Survey, 22% of solo and small law firms found Google Ads to be effective for driving targeted traffic and potential clients to their website.
How much does a Google ad cost for a law firm?
Legal search terms are typically among the most expensive (second only to payday loan and mortgage terms). Using a keyword research tool (we prefer Ahrefs Keywords Explorer), we can see estimates for popular legal related terms.
Even though estimates (and actual costs) for law firm PPC can be very high, many factors can influence what attorneys actually pay. For instance, the geographic location a firm is bidding on, the targeting settings in their account, when and how frequently they show their ads, and how their keyword match types are configured all play a role in cost. The less targeted things are, the higher the cost tends to be.
Here are some tips for keeping costs as low as possible while still running an efficient campaign.
- Choose a specific city or radius to target, not the whole state or country
- Try scheduling your ads to only run during business hours to maximize conversions and keep costs lower
- Use exact, phrase, and broad match modifier keyword match types to prevent irrelevant clicks on your ads
- Review your search terms report frequently to see what people are actually using to see and then click on your ads. This is a good resource for negative keywords
- Upload a good negative keyword list that contains common terms like “free”, “pro-bono”, “low-cost” and other phrases you don’t want to be found for
How to Prepare for Your First PPC Campaign
If you haven’t done any PPC advertising before, here are some steps you can take to prepare for your first PPC campaign to ensure that it gets the best results possible.
Although our preferred keyword research tool is Ahrefs Keywords Explorer, you can conduct keyword research inside of your Google Ads campaign builder. If you’ve already created your Google Ads account, you can use the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool to see the search volume, competition, and estimated CPC costs for keywords related to your law firm’s services.
In the keyword planner you can use a seed keyword to find other ideas of phrases to go after, or you can get search volume and other metrics on a list of phrases you already have.
Here we’ve entered a list of phrases we need data on.
Click get started and your list of results should look something like this:
For each of your services, you will have to evaluate whether conversions (calls or forms submitted through your website) will result in cases that could yield a positive ROI for your PPC campaign.
In addition to keyword research, Google Ads offers a competitor research tool that allows you to see the law firms you will be competing within Google search results. For this, you will use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool.
Start by entering the keyword phrase you want to use for your ad campaign. Then enter the city or zip code for your target audience and select their device. You will ultimately want to preview both desktop and mobile to see the difference in ads for Google search users on both devices.
Use this tool to get ideas on how to write your Google Ad copy. Since your ad may be alongside ads just like these, yours will have to be written to ensure that potential clients want to click on your law firm’s ad over the competition.
Here are some other tools you c an use to get data on what competitors are bidding on, how much they’re spending on PPC, their campaign configurations, and ad copy.
Once you have a good idea of what your competition is using in their PPC efforts, you can move forward on making your own PPC campaign to compete with them.
Landing page optimization
Your landing page is the beginning of the experience that PPC visitors have on your site.
It’s no secret that keywords in the legal space can be extremely expensive so you want to make sure your landing page has its best foot forward.
One thing you don’t want to have to do right in the middle of creating your first PPC ad campaign is to create a custom landing page. If you want your campaign to succeed, you will need a landing page for each ad group (keyword group, such as a landing page for workplace injury accidents) that is optimized for one goal – to convert Google Ad clicks into leads.
Your landing page should be 100% relevant to the keyword phrase and audience you are targeting.
Many law firms make their PPC landing pages separate from their main website pages. Why? Because they create offers for clients who see ads that they don’t offer their regular website visitors. This practice is acceptable but just make sure these pages are excluded from search results using the proper meta tags.
Here are some tips for making a landing page that converts:
- A compelling headline that matches the ad text visitors clicked on to reach the page.
- Ad copy that further explains why potential clients should choose your law firm.
- Videos that support your ad copy, such as testimonials by clients who have worked with lawyers in that particular practice area.
- A clickable phone number so people can call your law firm (plus a 24/7 answering service).
- A live 24/7 chatbot to answer any questions people may have while on your landing page.
- A form people can fill out to contact your law firm for more information about your services.
- Conversion actions (i.e. form, phone number, chat) that are clear, obvious, and easy to use.
Here is an example of a landing page that checks all of these boxes:
As with any promotions, be sure to review rules regarding advertising from the ABA and your local bar associations to ensure that any advertising messaging, landing page copy, customer testimonials, and other text adhere to the rules in your area.
Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)
In addition to reaching new audiences, you can use Google Ads for Search to reach people who have previously visited your website. For example, let’s say that someone visits your website and reads about your estate planning service. If you use remarketing lists for search ads and they search for a real estate planning lawyer or attorney later on Google, your ad may appear in their search results.
The goal of remarketing is to stay top of mind with searchers who are in the research or planning phase of the hiring process. People are naturally going to look at many different options before deciding on an attorney. If you can stay in front of their face throughout that process, they’re more likely to come back to you when they’re ready to hire.
To target audiences that have visited your website, you must have Google Analytics set up on your website. Under your website’s property settings in the Google Analytics admin dashboard, you will have to configure your Google Ads Linking and Audience Definitions.
Under Google Ads Linking, you will link your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics account.
This will allow Google Ads to use your Google Analytics data to show people who have visited your website your remarketing ads.
Once you have linked your accounts, you can go to Audience Definitions to configure custom audiences for your remarketing ads. Google Ads will automatically create audiences, such as all of your website visitors. If you want to define audiences that visit specific pages on your website, you will have to do that under Audience Definitions.
To create a new audience, click on Audiences under Audience Definitions, then click the red New Audience button. From there, you can configure audiences that visit specific pages on your website.
For example, if you want to create remarketing ads for your estate planning service, you may want to create an audience that visits your estate planning page. If you have goals set up in Google Analytics to track lead or contact form submissions, you can add an extra filter to exclude people who visited the estate planning page and submitted your form.
After you build your audience, give it a descriptive name that you will be able to recognize inside the Google Ads campaign builder. That way, you can create remarketing ads to people who have visited this specific page on your website but didn’t contact your law firm.
Note that your remarketing lists must have a minimum of 1,000 active visitors within the last 30 days to be used in a Google Ads for Search campaign. If you are interested in remarketing to your website visitors, but your remarketing lists are under 1,000 active visitors each month, you can create remarketing ads for the Display Network if you have at least 100 active visitors per month.
Until your audiences have collected enough data to be used in your Google Ads for Search campaign, you can target new audiences using location and language. Once your audiences are ready, you will be able to choose them during campaign setup under audience targeting.
Now that you are prepared, let’s look at the steps for setting up a Google Ads campaign, from start to finish.
How to Set Up a Google Ads Campaign
Once you have signed into your Google Ads account, you can create a new Google Ads campaign by going to All Campaigns and clicking on the plus (+) sign or the New Campaign link.
Choose your campaign goal
The first step in creating your Google Ads campaign is choosing your campaign goal. You can hover over each goal to learn more about it. If you want your Google Ad to appear in search results, you will want to choose a goal that supports the Search campaign type.
Sales, Leads, and Website Traffic are all campaign goals that can be achieved using Google Ads for Search. If your law firm is also interested in receiving phone calls from Google search users, choose between Sales and Leads.
For most law firm PPC campaigns, “Sales” or “Leads” are appropriate goals to choose.
Select a campaign type
Next, select Search as your campaign type. This allows your law firm to appear in the ads in Google search results pages.
As mentioned earlier, we’ll choose Search since we can better understand a user’s intent based on search terms, something we wouldn’t have with Display or Video (unless you use remarketing lists).
Note: Even when the search campaign type is selected, by default your search ads will show on the display network. You can toggle this setting off in your campaign even after it has already started and it’s actually a good idea to do so. Having your search ads turned into images and run as display ads without configuring more settings can inflate impressions and cause poor campaign performance.
Select how you would like to achieve your campaign goal
Would you like Google search users to visit a specific page on your website or call your law firm? Check the boxes next to the ways you would like Google Ads to deliver results for your campaign.
Customize general settings
After you enter your website and phone number, you will customize general settings for your campaign. You can begin by reviewing your campaign’s settings so far and name your campaign.
Be sure to un-check the Display or other networks Google Ads suggests if you do not want to spend your advertising budget outside of Google Ads for Search.
Note: Google Ads for the Display Network can be a great way to remarket people who have visited your law firm’s website or to build awareness of your law firm using traditional graphic-based ads.
The reason you want to un-check the display network on the search campaign is not because the display network is bad, it’s because attorneys should develop a more solid campaign for the display network using graphics and a more intentional strategy.
Set your start and end times
Under your general settings, there is a show more settings link that will allow you to set the start and end time for your Google Ads campaign.
You don’t have to set start and end times for your campaign and in some cases it can help control spend.
Campaign URL options and dynamic ad settings
These sections can be important for tracking however many attorneys won’t need this level of detail in their campaigns. You can learn more about configuring custom parameters here.
Define your target audience demographics
Under targeting and audiences, you will tell Google Ads what search users you want to see your ad campaign. You can start by defining your audience by location.
There are three ways to target people by location.
- People who are both in and searching for things in your location
- Only people in (or regularly in) your location
- People searching for your targeted locations
Attorneys are often licensed to practice law in a single state and generally do not draw people in from long distances. In this case it makes sense for them to target a narrow geographic region (such as a single major metropolitan area) and only show people ads who live in that area or who are regularly in that area.
For example an attorney practicing law in Detroit may only be licensed to practice in the state of Michigan and most likely would not want to target people searching for terms related to her practice area in Columbus, OH.
You can also use the radius feature to target people within a specific travel distance from your office.
The key benefits for attorneys tailoring their targeting in this way is that they can often mitigate the high cost of PPC that is often synonymous with the legal industry. Narrowing the geographic region they are targeting not only gets them the most relevant searchers, it eliminates competition that can drive up the cost of bidding on certain keyword phrases.
Target audiences that have visited your website
In the next section of campaign configuration, select the custom audience you created in Google Analytics under Browse > How they have interacted with your business > Website visitors.
Here you should see the custom audience you configured earlier in Google Analytics.
There, you can add one or more of your custom audiences.
When you’re finished, be sure to select whether you want to use your audiences for targeting and bidding or observation only.
Targeting and bidding will allow you to target your ads to only your remarketing lists, while observation will allow you to see how your ads perform with new audiences compared to audiences that are on your remarketing lists.
Set your budget and bidding options
Google Ads allows you to configure your budget and bidding options in a number of ways to ensure that you get the most out of your advertising campaign and spend. You will start by entering the average you want to spend each day. Then, you will choose what you want your bidding to focus upon.
For a Google Ads for Search campaign, if you are tracking conversions in Google Analytics, you may get the following bidding options.
- Conversions – Google Ads will optimize your daily budget to get the most conversions.
- Clicks – Google Ads will optimize your daily budget to get you the most traffic to your website. You can also check the box to set a maximum cost per click bid limit to control your spending. This is perfect if you know that some ad campaigns are going to have a higher ROI than others, so you want to have more control to focus more spend on more valuable campaigns.
- Impression Share – Google Ads will optimize your daily budget, allowing you to have your ad placed anywhere on the page, top of search results, or on the absolute top of search results.
Once you become more comfortable with bidding, you can also use the manual bidding options to access more bidding options. As with most advertising strategies, you will want to experiment with the bidding strategy that results in the highest return on investment.
Setup conversion tracking
Beneath the bidding options, you will see a more settings link. The first option under more settings is conversion tracking. For those who are not tracking conversions in Google Ads, you can click on the link to set up tracking to ensure that Google Ads knows when a conversion is made on your website by someone who clicks on your ad.
Google Ads will then guide you through the steps for tracking conversions on your website. For example, if you want to track lead submissions, you will be able to use a code snippet on the confirmation or thank you page on your website that visitors receive once they submit your form.
Configure ad run times and rotation
Beneath conversion tracking, you can configure the run times and rotation options for your ad. These are optional settings but can help boost the performance of your ads.
Incorporate ad extensions
Ad extensions can make your ad stand out in Google search results by allowing you to add additional USPs to your ad copy. Inside the Google Ads dashboard, Google notes that you could, “Get up to 15% higher clickthrough rate by showing additional information on your ads” using extensions.
When you create ad extensions for your ad campaign, they will appear on every ad you create within that ad campaign. For example, if you create ad extensions for an ad campaign that has two ad groups, and each ad group has a total of three ads each, all six ads will show the same ad extensions.
- Call extension – This extension adds your business phone number to your ad. Desktop users will see it to the right of your URL, as shown in all of the ad examples above. Mobile users will see it as a tappable call link.
- Location extension – This extension adds a clickable address link to your ad, as shown in the first ad example above. This link on a desktop or mobile will take Google search users to a map so they can get directions to your office location. This extension will also add your business hours if you have configured your business details in Google My Business.
- Callout extension – This extension lets you add additional text after your ad description text. Not all lines of callout text are guaranteed to appear on all devices, but you can add several lines, each of which is up to 25 characters each. You can see callout extensions being used in the first ad. Callout extensions can be configured to only appear during certain hours using the advanced options.
- Sitelink extension – This extension adds additional links to your law firm’s website to your ad that may also be relevant to the Google search user’s query. You can see sitelink extensions being used in the first two ads above.
- Promotion extension – This extension adds a deal to your ad. If you research your competitors prior to creating your ad, you can use this extension to create a better deal so that people who see your ad next to the competition will be more likely to choose your law firm. You can see this extension in action in the last line of the second ad above.
- Message extension – This extension allows you to let potential clients text your business at a specific number or have their text message forwarded to you via email.
As you create each ad extension, you can use the preview link to see how they will appear next to your ad.
Be sure to create ad extensions that help Google searchers connect with your law firm, not distract searchers from your main ad campaign message.
Also, be sure that any USPs mentioned in your ad extensions also appear on the landing page Google search users are taken to when they click on the ad.
Otherwise, they may leave the page without calling or contacting your law firm.
Create ad groups for specific keyword groups
Next, you will create ad groups that contain the keywords you are targeting in your Google Ads for Search campaign. Each ad group can have one or more ad variations. This is an important part of your Google Ads for Search campaign as your ad groups will play an important part in your Google Ads Quality Score.
The Quality Score is a 1 – 10 score given to each of your ads. Your score is based on three elements: ad relevance, expected click-through rate (CTR), and landing page. In other words, the Quality Score measures how relevant your ad and landing page experience is to the keywords you have targeted to ensure that Google search users are getting what they are after when they click on your ad in search results.
Start by naming your first ad group. Since your ad group will be linked to a specific ad that takes your target ad audience to a specific landing page, your ad group should contain similarly themed keywords. You can start by getting keyword ideas from the search box on the ad groups page.
When you see the keywords you want to target, add them to your ad group by clicking on the plus sign.
Note: It is important to keep your adgroups and keywords extremely categorized. For instance if you are targeting car accidents and truck accidents, these two topics should be separated into different adgroups.
Next, look at the match type options beneath the keywords you have added. They are as follows.
- Broad match (the worst match type to use) – When you enter your keyword phrase without quotes or brackets, it is considered a broad match type. This means that Google will serve your ad to people who search for things that loosely related to your keyword phrase.
- “Phrase match” – When you enter your keyword phrase with quotes, it is considered a phrase match type. This means that Google will serve your ad to people who search for your keyword phrase, but it may be with other keywords.
- [Exact match] – When you enter your keyword phrase inside brackets, it is considered an exact match type. This means Google will serve your ad only to people who search only for your exact keyword phrase without any other keywords or search terms.
You can also exclude keywords to further narrow the targeting of your ad audience using negative keywords.
Negative keywords can be added using a minus sign and can be added using the same match types as above: broad match (-keyword phrase), phrase match (-“keyword phrase”), or exact match (-[keyword phrase]).
Some Google Ads experts will suggest that you start by creating an ad group for a single keyword phrase or theme, such as estate planning lawyer or estate planning attorney, using all match types. Since legal keywords have such a high CPC on the Google Ads network, you may want to start with an Exact match and/or Phrase match type only at first. If you don’t get enough traffic and have the budget to spare, then try expanding your campaign to include a broad match.
Once you have added all of your related keywords, you can create another ad group for another set of similarly-themed keyword phrases or continue to create ads for your first ad group.
Google Ads suggests that each ad group has at least three quality ad variations to include in your rotation. This allows Google Ads to choose the best performing ad to serve to your target audience.
Google Ads for Search allows you to add text in the headline and description of your ad copy, which is laid out as follows. If you created ad extensions earlier, these would appear in your ad preview as well.
- Headline 1 – 10 characters
- Headline 2 – 10 characters
- Headline 3 – 10 characters (not always shown)
- URL display path 1 – 15 characters
- URL display path 2 – 15 characters
- Description 1 – 90 characters
- Description 2 – 90 characters
As shown in the example above, each headline section is separated with a pipe ( | ) symbol. The first description line will automatically have a period added to the end. Therefore, you may have to try your desired ad copy a few times to get it to look how you want it.
Be sure to switch between desktop and mobile as you edit your ad copy to ensure that everything looks the way you want. If something important is getting cut off by the ellipses (…), look for a way to add it to a callout or an ad extension.
You can go back to your ad extensions by saving your ad, navigating to the ad extensions dashboard within your current campaign, and adding a new extension or editing a pre-existing one.
Once you’re finished, click back to the ads tab and finish creating your ads, or continue to switch back and forth until your ad copy and ad extensions are in harmony.
Not sure what to include in your Google Ad copy, be sure to use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool as mentioned earlier in the post. Look up the main keyword phrase in your ad group and review the ads at the top of search results pages for desktop and mobile users.
This should give you an idea of what type of ad copy your competitors are serving to your potential customers now. Use these as inspiration for your own ad copy and ensure that the copy you end up with syncs with the landing page you send Google search users to when they click on your ad.
Monitor performance of ad campaigns
Once you are finished creating all of your ads for all of your ad groups, you can submit them to Google Ads for approval. Once approved (usually within one business day), Google will start to run your ads based on the time you have scheduled them to run.
Be sure to monitor your campaigns in the Google Ads campaign dashboard. Two things, in particular, you will want to check are your quality score and your ad spending. If your ads have a below average rating, you can use Google Ads guide to diagnosing keyword quality and other metrics.
If you chose to manually bid on your ad campaign, be sure to review your ads down to the ad groups and ad variations to adjust focus spending on the ads that perform best. This may mean more clicks at first, and eventually more conversions.
Top PPC Tools for Competitor Research
While Google Ads offers its own keyword and competitive research tools, there are also some great third-party tools to choose from for law firms that want to do more in-depth PPC research. The following are some of the most popular tools for advertisers.
SEMrush is an all-in-one marketing tool with in-depth adverting research features. You can get an idea about how much your competitors are spending on ads currently and seasonally (if applicable). You can explore the keywords they are bidding on and the bidding costs. You can also monitor your competitors’ ad copy and landing pages as well as localize your ad campaign research.
In addition to PPC, SEMrush also has organic SEO, analytics, and content marketing tools you can use to manage your digital law firm marketing campaign. Pricing for SEMrush Pro starts at $99 per month
Spyfu is another all-in-one SEO tool that offers powerful research features for advertisers. They include competitor spend analysis, keyword research, ad templates, and ad history. Their pricing starts at $39 per month.
Alternatives to Google Ads for PPC
If you’re comfortable with Google Ads, or you’re looking for lower CPC costs, here are some alternative platforms that you can try to reach new audiences with pay per click advertising campaigns.
- Microsoft Ads – While Bing may not be the #1 search engine, millions of searchers are still using Bing, Yahoo sites (powered by Bing), and other sites in the Microsoft network. You can use Microsoft Ads to create PPC ads to reach new audiences on their search engines. But since they aren’t #1, they have less competition and their CPC costs are lower.
- Facebook Ads – Facebook Ads is another way to reach new audiences in your area. You can create PPC ads in the news feed, direct message, and videos of both Facebook and Instagram using the Facebook Ads platform. Learn more in our social media for lawyers post.
- LinkedIn Ads – Similar to Facebook Ads, LinkedIn allows you to create PPC ads that reach new audiences in your area in the news feed on LinkedIn.
- Native Content Ads – Platforms like Outbrain and Taboola allow you to create PPC ads that appear within the content on top media outlets like CNN and Business Insider. These campaigns are most effective for law firms looking for large scale brand awareness.
- BuySellAds – Unlike Google Ads for Display, where your ad could appear on any website in the Google Display Network, networks like BuySellAds allow you to buy display ads (image or banner ads) from specific publisher sites. You may find some local news sites and blogs to place ads on that reach your community and target audience.
Be sure to research each platform to see if the CPC costs and publishers align with your law firm’s budget, services, and target audience. If so, you may want to experiment to see if you achieve a higher ROI on a different platform.