Written by Saphia Lanier on Oct 17 , 2022

Crank up your lead quality with expert tips in this ultimate guide to PPC campaigns for law firms.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Reasons why PPC advertising should be a go-to for law firms
  • The benefits of PPC ads for law firms
  • How to plan and execute a PPC campaign for law firms
  • Top mistakes law firms make when using PPC ads

Bus ads. Bench ads. Radio ads. TV ads. 

What do these all have in common? Aside from being fan favorites among law firms, these platforms require exquisite timing. 

Even if these ads are perfectly placed to reach your target audience, it doesn’t guarantee they’re ready for your law services — or that they have the awareness to collect your information before the ad disappears. 

It’s an inconvenient form of advertising, especially in a day and age when people are used to seeking services on their own.

This is what makes online advertising a gold mine. 

If you’re not using pay-per-click (PPC) ads to promote your law firm, you’re leaving money on the table for competitors to take. 

Let’s review why PPC is an important tool for law firms. 

What is PPC for law firms?

When a person needs an attorney, the first thing they do is head to Google to search for one. After search for a term like “personal injury lawyers,” they’ll see local ads (based on the user’s IP address):

Google ppc ads example 

These are pay-per-click ads, which means each time a user clicks on one, the advertiser (the law firm) pays a fee to the search engine. The rate varies, depending on the keywords you’re targeting. However, it can range anywhere from a few cents to a few hundred dollars. 

PPC advertising is a form of search engine marketing (SEM), not to be confused with search engine optimization (SEO). The former requires you to pay to appear in ad-based search results (SEM), and the other is “free” to appear in organic search engine results pages (SEO).

Common PPC terms to know

Thinking about adding PPC to your digital marketing plan? You’ll need to understand the following SEM terms:

  • Click-through rate (CTR): How many times users clicked on your ad. It’s calculated using this formula: CTR Number of clicks / Total number of impressions. (The average CTR in the legal industry is 2.93%.)
  • Cost per click (CPC): How much advertisers pay for each click. CPC is determined by multiplying the bid price by the CTR. For example, if you bid $1 for a keyword that has a 10% CTR, then you’ll pay $10 for every 1,000 clicks.
  • Cost per impression (CPI): How much advertisers pay per view. CPI is determined by multiplying the cost per click by the number of impressions (views). For example, if your cost per click is $5 and you get 100,000 impressions, you’ll pay $50 for every 1,000 views.
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors who convert into customers after clicking on your ad. For example, if 2,000 people click on your ad, but only 20 of them become customers, then your conversion rate would be 0.2%. (The average conversion rate for legal marketing is more than 4%.)
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): How much advertisers spend to acquire new clients. Cost per acquisition is measured as the total amount spent divided by the number of sales generated. For example, if a company spends $10K on ads to get five conversions, then the CPA is $2K per customer. 
  • Call to action (CTA): An instruction given to website visitors to perform a specific task. Examples include “call us now,” “get a free consultation,” or “contact us,” like this one:

PPC lawyer ad example The term you’ll discuss frequently is the cost per click. If you’re wondering what running PPC ads will cost, you’ll want to pay extra attention to CPC

If you find your ad spend is on the high side, here’s advice from Gabrielle Aldinger, SEM manager at HawkSEM:

“Your CPC might be much higher than you expect, depending on how competitive your keywords are. The best thing you can do for high CPC keywords is to monitor your conversion quality and conversion rate. If users search for high CPC keywords and click through to your ads, you’ll want them to convert. If the conversion rate is low or you have a limited budget for ads, think about targeting a wider variety of keywords with a lower CPC.”

In other words, it’s worth it to target the high-cost keywords if it generates a positive return on investment (e.g., high conversions).

What are the benefits of using PPC ads for law firms?

The first thing your prospects see when searching for legal services are the ads at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages). It holds position zero, beating the #1 spot SEO strategies aim for. So in a sense, it has a higher chance of getting a click than the landing page in position #1. 

Top of SERPsAnd if you’re using local service ads, you’ll have the bonus of being at the tip-top with the call functionality:

PPC LawyerBut being at the top is only one hurdle to overcome.

Next, you’ve got to create an ad that’ll entice users to click. That brings us to our next benefit: PPC marketing allows hyper-focused targeting. 

With PPC ads, you can control who sees your ad using demographics targeting and super-specific long-tail keywords (e.g., “Houston divorce attorney for men” instead of “divorce attorney”). 

You can find audience data in your ad platform’s dashboard. Or implement other tools that gather more granular audience details. 

For example, ConversionIQ, HawkSEM’s own proprietary software, reveals who’s clicking your ads (and converting), so you can personalize your marketing campaign and messaging for better results. 

Here’s an overview of the other benefits of PPC for law firms:

  • Provides quantifiable results: It’s easy to identify an ad or campaign that’s high-performing or tanking, allowing you to prove your ad dollars are generating ROI. 
  • Attracts high-intent searchers: When someone types in a query to find a law firm, chances are they’re looking to hire an attorney soon. 
  • Builds brand awareness: Your ads appear each time someone searches for your keywords, increasing the visibility of your law firm (a big deal if your content marketing isn’t working yet). 
  • Offers immediate results: It’s possible to get new leads the minute you publish your ad to an advertising platform (e.g., Google, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). 
  • Simplifies budget control: Choose how much you want to spend per day, week, or month — you’re always in control of your ad spend

Then if you apply ad extensions, you can change the look of your ads. For example, the sitelink extension takes up more real estate, making the ad easier to spot. In this example, you can see more text beneath the ad, as well as links to additional site pages:

 And here’s another example, but with links directly beneath the ad copy:

Link extensions example

 These are helpful for directing leads to other important pages that guide their purchasing decision. For example, including testimonials and case results to show (not tell) how you can help them. 

Top PPC mistakes law firms make (and what to do instead)

Pay-per-click advertising isn’t new — in fact, a report by CallRail shows 78% of law firms already use paid search to drive growth. But  82% say the ROI isn’t worth it. No surprise, given that only 13% generate leads from their campaigns(!)

However, the issue isn’t the medium — it’s the campaigns.

As advertising experts, we wouldn’t feel comfortable representing ourselves in the courtroom. So lawyers shouldn’t expect themselves to become digital marketing experts either. 

That same CallRail report shows 83% of law firms that outsource PPC management say it improved campaign performance. 

Nearly half of law firms are already planning to increase their budget for paid ads. If you’re doing the same (without the help of a legal PPC agency), make sure you avoid the following mistakes:

#1 Not having dedicated (or relevant) landing pages

Every ad you create should have a dedicated landing page that speaks to a specific target audience. If you have a generic home page or service page, you’ll risk losing visitors who feel they’re in the wrong place. 

“The more the landing page reflects the keyword and ad, the higher the chances they’ll convert,” says Aldinger. “Tailor landing pages to your target audience, as legal cases regarding different issues may be sensitive topics for individuals.”

For example, if you’re targeting a keyword like “personal injury attorney for teen workers,” then your landing page should discuss the problems relevant to teen employees and how you can help. Then optimize the landing page for that specific keyword instead of neutral keywords like “personal injury lawyer.”

Whenever we build a law firm’s PPC campaigns, we create an optimized landing page to go with it. For example, we increased the bids on high-converting divorce and child custody keywords on one of our legal client’s campaigns, and launched a custom landing page (on May 11th).

The result: their conversion rate average soared to 13.46%. 

Custody conversion  

We used a mix of heatmapping and A/B testing to identify what elements on the landing page worked best (such as placing the CTA “above the fold” on the page).

#2 Bidding on the wrong keywords

Keyword selection is one of the most critical parts of your ad campaign. Get it wrong, and you could waste money targeting the wrong people. Or worse, not having your Google search ads appear at all because the competition is too fierce. 

An example of this is choosing broad search terms

“The legal space has really high CPCs, so it’s a great tactic to look for long-tail, practice-specific, and location-specific keywords to get the most qualified clicks,” says Rachel Corak, Lead Strategist at HawkSEM. 

For example, targeting “divorce attorney” is too broad. Instead, you should include your city and practice, like “Houston child custody lawyer for men.”

#3 Not integrating your ad campaigns with a CRM

A customer relationship management (CRM) platform organizes all of your leads so you know where they come from, who they are, and what stage they’re in the customer journey. It follows each potential client from lead to conversion. 

It’s an excellent way to gather lead and customer insights to guide your advertising and marketing strategies. And it’s why we built ConversionIQ to guide client campaigns. Not only does it monitor leads coming in — it also identifies keywords driving qualified leads that convert.

#4 Poor location targeting

Unless you’re offering virtual legal services, your PPC ads should include location-based keywords. This narrows your target audience, increasing the odds of a click and a conversion. Leaving out city or neighborhood keywords means your ad will appear in front of people too far away to use your service. 

Geo-targeting also improves your odds of appearing in the Google 3-Pack, which shows a map and the top three businesses in the area:

Google 3-Pack ad To appear here, you must enable the location extension.

#5 Targeting competitor keywords

It’s tempting to use competitor keywords (e.g., their law firm’s name) in your ads to boost your visibility and clicks. But you may want to think twice. 

“Getting a high keyword quality score is difficult without using the competitor’s name in your ads or on your landing pages. Instead, try a search campaign targeting a Custom Audience of users that searches for your competitors’ keywords and visits other law firms’ websites,” says Aldinger.

This workaround allows you to snag your competitor’s audience without unintentionally promoting them in your ad and landing pages.  

#6 Neglecting PPC campaigns

Running PPC campaigns isn’t a one-and-done deal. It requires constant attention and pruning to ensure you’re getting the best results. What worked this month may not work next month, so constant reiteration of your keywords, ad copy, images, and CTAs is key. 

Use tools to analyze your campaigns to determine which ads are underperforming (e.g., getting clicks and no conversions or impressions), then run experiments to see what increases the clicks and conversions. 

What are the best platforms for lawyer PPC ads?

Google. Bing. LinkedIn. Facebook. There are many platforms lawyers can use to advertise their firms. But which is ideal to reach target customers?

“If you represent individuals, Google or Bing can be a great place to start. Many people look to search engines for more information when they’re in difficult legal situations” says Aldinger.”But if your law firm’s typical audience is a business, or you want to target job titles or industries, LinkedIn would be your best bet.”

This approach allows you to target users more accurately and meet them where they are. LinkedIn might have a higher CPA, but you’re reaching a more specific group of users, and the clicks and conversions you get are typically higher quality.

How to build a winning PPC campaign for your law firm

A successful PPC campaign requires careful planning and execution. So let’s start with the planning — here’s what to do before building a PPC campaign:

  • Conduct audience research: Use tools and surveys to learn how clients find your firm, what keywords they used, and what legal services they need.
  • Perform competitor research: Find out who your competition is, what keywords they’re ranking for, and what types of services they offer.
  • Do keyword research: Find relevant keywords based on your specific services, location, and target audience (e.g., DUI attorney in Las Vegas).
  • Create a landing page: Make a landing page for each audience/service you target in your ads. 

To make your landing page perform better, use these optimization tips from our Lead Strategist:

  • Include reviews on the landing page that support your expertise in the practice area you’re promoting.
  • Use a clean landing page design that makes complex issues like court proceedings easy to interpret.
  • Use colors that invoke a feeling of calm (e.g., learn the psychology of colors). Court proceedings are stressful, and this visual element can help increase conversion rates.
  • Add design elements that invoke trust and show credibility, like board certifications and case results.

Use the insights you gather from your research to develop ads and campaigns that are relevant and highly targeted for a specific group of people (e.g., young mothers going through a divorce). 

Setting up your PPC campaign

Now, it’s time to create a PPC campaign. You’ll have similar sections to cover no matter the platform you choose. Here’s an overview of the process:

  • Choose campaign goals: Determine why you’re running a PPC campaign. Is it to drive traffic to your website? To generate leads? Or download a free guide?
  • Create a campaign: Create a new campaign for specific keywords and audiences. Each ad group represents one type of service or client segment. For example, if you have two different types of legal services (e.g., DUI and divorce), you’d create separate campaigns for each.
  • Define demographics: Choose audience segments based on location, age, gender, household income, and parental status. 
  • Select days and times: Decide when your audience is most active on the ad platform and choose those days (requires experimentation, but customer research should reveal their working/home hours). 
  • Set your PPC budget:  Set a daily budget for each campaign. This will determine how much you spend per click (CPC) and cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
  • Create your ads: Write the headline, ad copy, and CTA, then include an image (if applicable) to make it stand out. 
  • Monitor performance: Track the results of your ad campaigns using the analytics from the platform and other tools. 
  • Experiment and reiterate: Look at your metrics, such as clicks, phone calls, and conversions, to see what’s working and what needs improvement. Run A/B tests by changing one element (headline, copy, CTA) at a time to see what improves results. 

PPC strategies for lawyers (that actually work)

Managing PPC campaigns is a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort when using the right strategies. Unfortunately, the Call Rail report shows 39% of lawyers say paid search is underperforming for their firms. 

If you’re in this boat (or want to avoid it), then here are several strategies to adopt. 

#1 Include keywords in your headline and ad copy

Having targeted keywords throughout your ad helps Google understand who you’re targeting. But don’t overdo it — adding the terms to your headline and once in the ad copy is enough. 

This ad targets keywords similar to “family law attorneys,” which improves the ad strength and keyword quality score.

Family law ad example

Google takes this into consideration when deciding whose ads will appear in search (yours or a competitor’s). As a result, having the keywords in the ad copy is crucial. The first text a user reads from the ad is similar to or exactly what they’re searching for, which will improve CTR.

We used high-quality keywords with high conversion rates in the ads we managed for a client’s law firm. And you’ll never guess what happened next — they reduced their ad spend in August from $210/day to $40/day because they were getting too many quality leads.

Custody proof

This just goes to show the power of optimizing ads with the right keywords. 

#2 Show more details about your law firm using the location extension

When you add the location extension to your Google ad campaign, it shows more information about your law firm. For example, you can include your address, phone number, office hours, and additional helpful links. 

Location extension

It also increases the odds of getting clicks, since prospects can see whether you’re near them and available to take their call right now.

#3 Include a CTA in the ad copy 

What is it you want prospective customers to do? Call to schedule a consultation? Visit your office? Or fill out a lead form? Whatever the call to action is, include it in the body of the ad, so people know what to do next. 

You can also add other details to make your law firm stand apart. 

“Add information like the number of cases worked or years of experience to set a foundation of trust that you can help them,” Aldinger advises. 

#4 Optimize your website

Your landing page is optimized for the target audience. But don’t forget about the rest of your website. Odds are, visitors will browse through the rest of your site to get a feel of your legal status. This is where you can showcase your legal prowess. 

“Include how many cases your firm worked on or individuals you’ve helped,” says Aldinger. “Reviews are also great to showcase your firm’s experience relating to those specific case types. Legal cases can get expensive quickly, so the user needs to know you’re going to fight for their best interest.”

Then to weed out those who are only there for answers, place FAQs at the top of the page (instead of the bottom). We’ve seen success doing this because it provides general legal information to those at the top of the funnel. 

#5 Be available for client calls within 24 hours (or less)

The sooner you can connect with a lead, the higher the odds of closing a deal. CallRail’s report mentioned above shows that 46% of law firms state phone as the preferred outreach method for legal prospects. 

On average, it takes law firms five hours to respond to prospective clients. Roughly 99% of firms are okay with their response times.

However, due to the time-sensitive nature of the legal industry, slow response times lead to 46 lost prospects per year, equating to $200,000 in lost revenue. 

So if you can get on the phone within the first few hours, the less likely you’ll lose a lead to a competitor. 

The takeaway

Running a law firm takes a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately, so does managing a profitable PPC campaign. Paid search is an investment that keeps on giving, but only with the right tools and strategies.

Implement both, and you can reduce time spent managing your PPC, while still maintaining a positive ROI.

Bookmark this guide and follow it to enhance your PPC efforts and maintain a competitive edge.

Saphia Lanier

Saphia Lanier

Saphia Lanier is a content writer and strategist with 16+ years' experience working with B2B SaaS companies and marketing agencies. She uses an engaging journalistic style to craft thought leadership and educational content about digital marketing, technology, and entrepreneurship.

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