PPC or SEO: Picking the Right Strategy for Your Law Firm

Jacob Baadsgaard on January 2017

This entry was submitted by one of our guest authors. The author’s opinions are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Rankings.io.


Search engine optimization (SEO)…or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising? If you’re trying to market your law firm, this is a common and critically important question.

Both strategies are viable ways to secure more cases, but the right SEO vs PPC approach for your firm will vary depending on your goals and business needs.

Of course, the best approach usually incorporates both SEO and PPC, but for this article, I’m going to assume that you can’t afford to do both and need to decide between the two.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at four questions you can ask yourself to decide whether PPC or SEO is the right move for your law firm.

1. What is my goal?

Before you invest in any marketing strategy, you need to know what you want in return for your money. Do you want to show up in searches? Clicks? Leads? New cases?

Unfortunately, many law firms don’t have a great answer to that question. They simply assume that if they start doing SEO or PPC, their firm will grow! But when you’re talking about organic SEO vs PPC, it rarely works out that way.

As a result, when I try to nail down exactly what a firm wants from their marketing, I often get one of the four following answers. Let’s examine each more closely.

A. I want to be the #1 search result!

I know, I know, this is the legal industry. Losing isn’t an option (or at least, one we’re willing to discuss). The problem is, whether it’s PPC or SEO, getting to the top of the search results page doesn’t always mean more business for your company.

You can be the #1 search result, but if you aren’t the #1 search result for the right search terms, it won’t mean much.

B. I want to be #1 for “law firm” and “attorney”!

While this also seems like a great idea, with all the competition out there, it may not be feasible (SEO) or affordable (PPC) to rank #1 for broader searches like “law firm,” “attorney,” or even something more specific, like “personal injury attorney in San Francisco.”

If the search terms you want to target don’t deliver the kind of profitable return that your law firm needs, investing a lot of time and money into ranking #1 may not be the best idea.

C. I want to build awareness

Generally speaking, search strategies like PPC and SEO aren’t great ways to build awareness for your firm. The whole point of building awareness is to be the first firm people think of when they need legal help.

If your name only shows up when they’re already searching for a lawyer, you’ve already missed your opportunity to build awareness.

Yes, building awareness is a great way to grow your law firm. But, instead of trying to build awareness using PPC or SEO, you’re probably better off using social media advertising.

D. I need a bigger caseload

Now, this is a goal that really makes sense for PPC and SEO. If you’re going to invest money in lawyer advertising, that advertising needs to make money for your firm.

And how does your firm make money? By closing cases.

If you really want to know whether SEO or PPC will be better for your business, you need to determine how each of these strategies will help you reach your caseload and financial goals.

2. What is a new case worth?

So, if the ultimate goal of your PPC or SEO efforts is to produce a profitable return on investment, you need to know how much you can spend on each new case.

For example, if your firm makes an average of $20,000 per case and pays an average of $50 per click for PPC advertising, PPC would probably a lot of sense for your business. After all, if only 5% of your clicks become leads and you only turn 20% of your leads into paying clients, you’ll end up making $20,000 for every $5,000 you spend on PPC.

That’s not a bad return on investment.

However, if you only make $5,000 per case, you’re barely covering advertising costs—let alone salary, benefits, building fees and everything else it costs to close the client’s case. In this situation, PPC probably isn’t the best route to go.

How the numbers add up will vary from law firm-to-law firm, but if you can’t make the numbers add up on paper, they won’t add up in real life, either.

In general, if a new case is worth a lot to your firm, you can afford to spend more to acquire a new case, so PPC can be a good way to go. On the other hand, if you mainly deal with less profitable types of cases, SEO may be a better bet in the long run.

3. How much am I willing to spend?

Some law firms spend millions of dollars each year on advertising. Some can only afford to spend a few thousand each year. At Disruptive, we’ve worked with law firms all across this spectrum.

That being said, much of the PPC vs. SEO debate boils down to how much money you’re willing to spend on advertising. A good SEO company will usually charge around [INSERT APPROXIMATE OF YOUR PRICES HERE]. For good PPC results, however, you should expect to spend at least $10,000+ month.

Of course, if you’re making $20,000+ for every $5,000 you spend on PPC, it makes sense to spend tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dollars on PPC, right?

In the end, it all comes down to what your firm wants and can afford. If your budget is smaller, SEO may be a good way to get into online marketing. For firms with bigger budgets, PPC can be a great way to boost lead flow and caseloads.

4. When do I need results?

Ultimately, the biggest difference between SEO and PPC is time. Good PPC is like an advertising spigot: you turn on the money and the leads flow in. Good SEO, however, is like mountain stream: it starts small, but give it enough time and it can become a veritable river of leads.

So, if you need more cases NOW—like many firms do—SEO may not be the best choice. But, if you can wait a few weeks or months for SEO to hit its stride, SEO can be a much cheaper option in the long run.

If you can afford it, I generally recommend a hybrid strategy. Early on, bite the bullet and invest in both PPC and SEO. At first, PPC will provide the bulk of your caseload. Then, as your SEO efforts start to pay off, you can decrease your PPC budget and let your cheaper SEO leads make up the difference.


Honestly, the best answer to the PPC vs. SEO debate is “Do both”. PPC is great for producing new cases on-demand. SEO is cheaper, but takes longer to produce volume. By balancing the two, you can ensure that your firm gets the cases it needs at the best price possible over time.

However, if you have to choose between the two, the right answer for your firm will depend on your goals, the value of a new case, what you can afford to spend, and how soon you need results.

PPC or SEO? Need help deciding? Are there other factors you would add to this discussion? Let me know in the comments!


About Jacob

Jacob is a passionate entrepreneur on a mission to help law firms achieve online marketing success. As the Founder & CEO of Disruptive Advertising, Jacob has created an award-winning, world-class organization that has helped over 2,000 businesses grow using pay-per-click advertising and website optimization.



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