What are Local Services Ads?
Google Local Services Ads (LSAs) are one of Google’s advertising models that takes a pay-per-lead approach vs the more traditional pay-per-click route.
Originally branded as Home Services Ads, Google rebranded to Local Services Ads in 2019 as it began making the platform available for more types of businesses, including law firms.
Local Service Ads give your firm a chance to appear before everything else, including the regular PPC Google Ads (formerly known as Adwords), local map pack, and the standard organic results whenever people are searching for an attorney in your area.
Are Local Service Ads Better than SEO?
The short answer is no, Local Services Ads are not better than SEO. The question itself assumes that you have to choose one over the other when the reality is that both are most effective when used together as part of a holistic legal marketing strategy.
LSAs & the Customer Search Journey
Local Service Ads are great at driving bottom-of-funnel leads to your business when they’re ready to make a decision but they don’t trigger for middle-of-funnel and top-of-funnel searches users perform on Google. To rank for those, you’ll often need to write content and publish it on your firm’s blog.
If you solely invest in LSAs and ignore SEO for your law firm, you’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table by ignoring the largest sections of the market: people who are problem aware but solution unaware.
For example, Local Services Ads won’t appear when people search for things like chest pain after car accident, hip pain from car accident, can I sue a business for a slip and fall, and other terms that aren’t directly related to hiring an attorney at that very moment.
You shouldn’t ignore this segment of the market because your competitors won’t. If you do, competitive law firms will snatch those lead opportunities up before they ever even get to the point where they’re searching on Google for a lawyer to help them with their legal issues.
Combining SEO & Local Services Ads for Maximum Results
If you leverage both SEO (by creating content hubs for your law firm) and Local Services Ads as part of your legal marketing strategy, you improve the odds that a searcher will land on your site by appearing twice in the search results.
Many people are still distrustful of ads and will scroll past them to the free results when searching on Google as well. If you’re not ranking there organically, you’ll miss out on that traffic and the leads that come from it.
This is more common for keywords that top-of-funnel content and middle-of-funnel content address, like chest pain after car accident where 74% of clicks are captured by the regular organic results (i.e the SEO results).
However, even bottom-of-funnel keywords can still drive a healthy percentage of organic clicks as well. Take the keyword personal injury lawyer los angeles. 32% of the clicks for this query still go to the organic results.
You can take things even further by combining Local Services Ads with SEO, Google Ads, and Local Search Ads (ads in the local map pack) to maximize the number of times your website can appear for a search query—increasing the odds your result gets clicked dramatically.
This is how you win more leads for your law firm consistently while maintaining a healthy average cost per lead/case.
Benefits of Local Services Ads for Lawyers: Are They Worth It?
There are several benefits of Local Services Ads that make them a worthwhile investment for law firms when combined with other marketing channels in a true omnichannel marketing strategy.
Only Pay for Real Leads
The primary benefit of Local Services Ads for lawyers is that they give you a way to connect with people in your area who are directly looking for your services and you only pay if a customer calls your firm or sends you a message directly through the ad options.
You can set your desired budget and only pay when a potential client contacts you directly through your ad. You can also dispute erroneous and irrelevant leads and get reimbursed for them.
Earn a Badge of Trust from Google: Google Screened
LSAs for lawyers and law firms also get the green Google Screened checkmark. Google Screened is specifically for professional services like lawyers and indicates to potential clients that your business has undergone a verified background check by Google and that Google vouches for your expertise.
Note: This is slightly different than what Google does for home services businesses like locksmiths, plumbers, roofers, etc. Google provides a Google Guaranteed badge for them which indicates that Google not only vouches for the service but also offers a money-back guarantee of up to $2000 (lifetime cap) if customers aren’t satisfied with the home service providers’ work. This money-back guarantee does not apply to businesses that are Google Screened.
Visually Rich Information About Your Firm
In addition to the green Google Screened checkmark, Local Services Ads for lawyers also give you an opportunity to display enriched (more detailed) data about your practice, including:
- A photograph (headshot)
- Review ratings, stars, and counts
- Number of years in business
- Hours of operation
- Service area
- Phone number
Practice Areas Eligible for Local Services Ads for Lawyers
Local Services Ads are eligible for several different types of legal firms:
- Business Law
- Contract Law
- Criminal Law
- Disability Law
- DUI (specific)
- Estate Law
- Family Law
- Immigration Law
- Intellectual Property Law
- Labor Law
- Personal Injury
- Real Estate
- Tax Law
- Traffic Law
The Difference Between Local Service Ads, Local Search Ads, and Google Ads
LSAs Appear First
As mentioned previously, Local Services Ads now appear first whenever someone searches for something on Google that will trigger them. This means they show up above all other result types including Google Ads, local map pack results, and the regular organic results.
LSAs Use a Pay-Per-Lead Model
Unlike Google Ads, Local Services Ads will only charge you for each lead they generate (either via calling you or sending your firm a message) instead of every time someone clicks on the ad.
This enables you to conserve your ad budget for prospective clients who are further along in the customer’s journey and more qualified (i.e. more likely) to become a client.
Budget Doesn’t Influence Ranking
Firms with huge advertising budgets can dominate smaller firms with Google Ads. With a large enough budget, big firms can push the smaller firms out of the Google Ads that appear near the top of the search results to the ones that appear at the bottom of the page—or even to the second page!
The same isn’t true for Local Services Ads. LSAs operate using a flat-fee pay-per-lead model, so there’s no way to improve your ranking by pouring more money into them. Placement is primarily based on the firm’s location and reputation.
Proximity Matters More with LSAs than Google Ads
If your law firm is close to the searcher (or near the centroid of the location they’re searching about), it gets a boost in relevance and will get placed higher in the LSA rankings.
This is great for small law firms in big cities competing against huge firms. However, this provides a reason that Google Ads and organic SEO can still be important since they are not necessarily restricted based on proximity.
Your law firm can target a larger geographic area (or a rural area) with Google Ads in ways that it might not be able to with Local Services Ads.
Additionally, your firm can rank for queries with SEO that prospective clients search for before they ever even begin searching for an attorney. This is an extremely powerful marketing tactic that can help your firm catch leads before they search for things that a competitor’s Google Ads or Local Services Ads will trigger on.
LSAs Require a Screening Process
Your firm will need to undergo a screening process in order to be eligible for Local Services Ads. The same isn’t true with Google Ads or SEO. This screening process includes license checks and background checks, however, Google does not perform a separate background check on Google Screened lawyers since each state requires attorneys to undergo background checks in order to be licensed to practice law.
There are pros and cons to this.
On the one hand, once the screening process is complete, you’ll get the opportunity to show up in more places on Google when people are searching for the services you provide and also get the green Google Screened checkmark of trust.
On the other hand, it does take time and if you want leads immediately, Google Ads will often be the fastest route (albeit more expensive per lead).
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Thinking that you have to pick one over the other is a false dichotomy as doing both is often a good idea.
FAQ: Local Services Ads for Legal Services
How Much Do Local Services Ads Cost for Lawyers?
There’s no cost to sign up for Local Services Ads and the cost per lead will vary (as with most things). The primary things that influence how much your LSAs will cost you per lead are:
- The size of your total addressable market. This basically boils down to what type of law do you practice (e.g. personal injury leads will cost more than DUI leads).
- The physical location of your firm relative to highly populated areas.
We’ve seen personal injury leads in the range of $150-$225 per lead in one market where family law leads go for $71-$107 per lead.
What Triggers Local Service Ads for Lawyers?
Whenever someone searches for a legal service provided by a firm running Local Services Ads for their area.
Google’s search algorithm is intelligent enough to know what types of searches indicate a person is looking for an attorney to provide them with services. This means the searches aren’t limited to things like personal injury lawyer or family lawyer near me but that queries like car accident lawyer, divorce attorney, etc. will trigger them as well.
What Influences the Rankings in LSAs?
Google provides the following details about the factors they use to rank businesses in the Local Services Ads results:
- Your verification status and whether you obtained a Google badge of trust (Screened — U.S. only — or Guaranteed) or not
- The context of the person’s search. When calculating rankings we look at the search terms the person has entered, the time of the search, and other user signals and attributes.
- Your review score and the number of reviews you receive.
- Your responsiveness to customer inquiries and requests.
- Your proximity to potential customers’ locations.
- Your business hours.
- Whether or not we’ve received serious or repeated complaints about your business.
The best thing your firm can do is get as many positive reviews as possible while also responding to customers as quickly as possible. Google wants to give its users what they want when they want it. If a potential lead calls your firm and no one answers, don’t be surprised if your rankings begin to drop.
Note, your hours of operation will affect this as well. If you have the ability to manage intake 24/7, set your available hours accordingly to maximize your opportunity for exposure.
Can You Pause Local Services Ads?
Yes, you can pause your Local Services Ads. Doing so will remove the Google Screened verification badge from your listing but it will still appear (though lower than the paid listings). You won’t be charged for leads that come in via the listing while your budget is paused, however.
Can You Pick What Keywords Trigger Local Services Ads?
No. At least not in the same way you can with Google Ads. With Local Services Ads, you select the categories of services you want your ads to show up for and Google will use its advanced natural language processing abilities to determine whether or not the searcher’s query is relevant enough to trigger a set of Local Services Ads.
Can You Control What Appears in Your Law Firm’s Local Services Ads?
Yes, but not in the same way you can with Google Ads. Google determines what information to display based on what you’ve supplied them with for the verification process. This includes headshots, years in business, attorneys at the firm, reviews, and location.
Unlike Google Ads, you don’t get to write fancy copy in headlines or hype up an eloquent business description like you can in your Google My Business listing.
Can I Dispute Irrelevant Leads from Local Services Ads?
Yes. Google allows users of its LSA platform to dispute leads they don’t think are relevant.
Google will review the matter and if approved, credit your account the cost of the lead. It’s important that you monitor the lead quality coming in and don’t let someone drop the ball on disputing irrelevant inquiries and wasting your ad budget.
In order for a lead to be irrelevant and warrant a credit to your account, one or more of the following must be true:
Examples of Valid Leads that You Won’t Get Reimbursed For
- Lead was received outside of your business hours.
- Customer asked for advice to complete a project related to a service you offer.
- Customer cancelled a booking.
- Customer was researching potential projects or prices related to a service you offer.
- Customer didn’t respond to your return call or message.
- You listed a general service type on your profile, but you don’t do a specific sub-type of service. For example, your profile lists you as doing water heater repairs but you don’t service tankless water heaters.
- You generally service an area or provide a service, but are temporarily unable/unwilling to provide these services (and they are still listed on your profile).
- If you are in a law vertical, have turned on general lawyer leads, and the lead is for any type of law service, it will not be credited under the dispute type “service not offered”.
How to Set Up Local Service Ads for Your Law Firm
Setting up Local Services Ads for your law firm is a fairly straightforward process.
Step 1: Go to the Self-Signup Portal for Google Local Services Ads
Step 2: Enter Eligibility Information
Set your country, state, zip code, and select law as the job category.
Step 3: Select the Practice Areas You Want to Trigger LSA For
Click the checkboxes for each area you want to use Local Services Ads to generate leads for. For example, if your firm provides family law, personal injury law, and criminal law services, you can select all three. If you only want to pay for personal injury leads, then check Personal injury law only, then click the Check Eligibility button.
Step 4: Click Get Started
If your area is eligible for Local Services Ads, you’ll be greeted by a screen that informs you of the benefits. Click the Get Started button to continue setting things up.
Step 5: Enter Your Business Details
Fill in the required data for your business details which will include:
- Business name
- Business registration name (optional)
- Parent business (optional)
- Business phone number
- Website address (optional)
- Owner’s first name
- Owner’s last name
- Total number of lawyers
- Year the firm was founded
- Languages spoken by people at the firm that will interface with clients
- Your street address, city, state, and zip code
- Whether or not your business address is a location that customers can visit
Step 6: Setup Your Service Area
On the next screen, you’ll establish the service area you want your Local Services Ads to trigger in. By default, it will list the area you listed for your business location. You can add additional areas by searching for a location, clicking the arrow underneath the city/town, and checking the boxes next to the zip codes.
You can also deselect certain zip codes by unchecking the boxes next to the zip codes.
Once you’ve set your service area, click the Next button.
Step 7: Set Up Your Service Types
Next, you’ll set your service types. Select all of the boxes for case types you want ads to trigger for. You can click the “Select all” button if you want to speed things up. Alternatively, you can select specific types you want if you’d rather not pay for leads related to service types you don’t focus on (e.g. medical malpractice, dog bites, etc.).
Once you’ve selected your service types, check the box next to “I agree” that indicates that you confirm that you, your business, and its workers carry relevant licenses required to perform work offered and booked through Local Services Ads.
Step 8: Set Your Business Hours
Add the days and times that you’re open. If you don’t think you’ll be able to answer client calls or messages during a certain time (e.g. the weekend), then don’t select it so you don’t get charged for leads you can’t intake.
Step 9: Preview Your Ad
You’ll get to see a preview of your ad.
You’ll be able to provide Google with more information during the next steps.
Step 10: Add a Headshot
Click on add details next to Headshot for Your Ad to choose a photo to upload. Click the Choose file button to find a file on your computer or cloud storage drive to upload.
- You can crop your photo to get it centered the way you want it.
- Note, photos must show only one person, show your head and shoulders, and must not include text.
Once you’ve uploaded your photo it will go through a review process by Google to ensure it meets their photo guidelines.
Step 11: Add Lawyer License
Add your business license details include:
- The license registration type (which should be set to Active bar member with the State bar of [State] with “Active” status.
- Your first name
- Your last name
- License number
- Expiration date
Click “Save” when finished to start the verification process. Note that verification can take up to 2 days but can sometimes go faster for attorneys.
Step 12: Get Customer Reviews
Local Services Ads automatically pull in reviews from your Google My Business. You will need at least one review to go live with LSAs, however. If you don’t already have reviews on your firm’s GMB profile, you can share the link with current/past clients by clicking the “Select review link” button and selecting one of the radio button options.
We suggest selecting an option that’s simple and does not include numbers (if available). Once you select an option, send that link out to your client network get some reviews.
Step 13: Set Your Bid Amount and Budget
Determine which bidding mode you want to use to get leads. Your options are:
- Maximize Leads
- Set Max Per Lead
Google will recommend that you choose “Maximize Leads.” This enables Google to make the most money from you. Now, we’re not saying Google is biased but they’re not a nonprofit company.
We suggest you select the option to Set Max Per Lead when starting out so you can more easily control what you’re willing to pay for the lead as you get familiar with the platform and quality of leads that come through.
If you select “Set Max Per Lead” you’ll then be able to determine the maximum amount you’re willing to pay per lead by either selecting a predetermined option provided by Google or your own custom amount.
Remember, placement is not determined based on the amount that you bid per lead. Feel free to set a custom amount that you’re comfortable with.
We also recommend setting the custom amount for Law to the minimum amount to make sure you don’t pay too much for any leads that might not be as relevant. You can figure out the minimum amount by clicking “Custom amount “and setting it to 0. Google will then let you know what the minimum bid amount is in red text below the field.
Follow the same process for other service types you offer (e.g. Personal injury law in the example screenshot).
Click the Next button when finished.
Step 14: Set Your Weekly Budget
You can set the maximum amount you want to spend on leads each week. Google will make recommendations to you, but once again, you can select the option to “Set your own budge” and enter $0 to see what the minimum amount required is.
We like to start with this amount first when setting up LSAs in a new market. It gives us a chance to gauge the quality of the leads which can vary from city to city.
Once you set your weekly amount, Google will indicate how many estimated leads you can get each week and entice you to spend a bit more in your bidding mode.
Step 15: Enter Your Billing Information
Enter your billing information now. Note that Google will charge you automatically at the 1st of each month unless your balance reaches your payment threshold, in which case you will be charged immediately. You can learn more about how Google payment thresholds work here.
Step 16: Add More Lawyers (Optional)
If your firm has more than one attorney, you can add their information by clicking on the Add details of the Lawyers section.
This will enable you to add other lawyers to your listing, enabling them to appear whenever people go to learn more about your firm by clicking on your ad (see below for an example).
You can add a variety of details about each person including:
- First and last name
- Their email address
- Their license status, number, and expiration date
- A headshot photo
- Whether or not you want to feature them on your listing (e.g. see the image above).
- Additional info such as job title, college attended, degree, and year graduated.
Step 17: Respond to Leads as They Come In
That’s it. Once you have all of your details added and Google has verified everything is accurate, your Local Services Ads will be eligible to trigger and drive you leads.
Managing Your Leads from Local Service Ads
Once your ads begin to appear, you’ll be able to manage your leads from your Local Services Ads Leads dashboard. You can also manage your leads by downloading the Local Services Ads app for iOS or Android.
You can review pertinent information including:
- How many new leads you have.
- How many active leads there are as well as updates on them.
- How many leads have booked a service with you (e.g. a consultation).
- How many leads are complete.
- How many leads have gone inactive (didn’t complete a conversion event).
- Customer name.
- The type of representation (service) they’re requesting.
- Where they’re located.
- When they are looking to meet/consult.
- How they contacted you (e.g. message or phone).
- When the last activity occurred with the lead.
You can follow up with leads through the LSA platform itself by either replying to their message as an email or text message, calling them based on the number they provided when requesting your services, or decline the request (e.g. for cases you don’t want to entertain).
Note that just because you decline the lead does not mean you won’t have to pay for it. If the lead is irrelevant, you’ll need to dispute it.
Managing Your Budget with Local Service Ads
You can make adjustments to your budget and bid amount by clicking the menu icon in the upper left, selecting Profile & budget.
Growing Your Law Firm the Most Efficient Way Possible
When you first start out, it’s best to focus on one offer, for one target audience, on one channel. If you’re a more established firm, your strategy should evolve to incorporate an omnichannel approach that leverages all available channels to drive qualified leads through your intake.
LSAs are great for every firm but best for small firms trying to compete with entrenched titans. For the titans, one single approach is the fastest way to erode your overall market presence and succumb to the Morgan & Morgan’s of the world.
You’ll want to be in as many places as possible while also maintaining a healthy return on investment across all channels. This isn’t to say that you should cut channels that underperform compared to others, however.
That’s a mistake that many inexperienced businesses make in the quest to cut costs and save money. Smart businesses know that while some channels may not provide as good of a return on investment as well as others, they ultimately still play an important role in the overall strategy that takes someone from being a cold lead who’s never heard of your firm to a profitable settlement.
Harmonize your channels together and leverage an effective CRM and analytics platform to properly attribute each channel for the role it plays in the customer journey. As long as your overall cost to acquire a customer stays reasonable (we aim for a minimum of 3:1 meaning we make 3x as much as we pay to get a customer), then you’ll be set up for consistent success and growth.