7 Proven PPC Best Practices for Winning More Legal Clients

The year 2020 has so far been the truest realization of the old Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times.” Recently-coined words include “doomscrolling,” where you’re so morbidly fascinated by the daisy chain of disaster headlines that you keep scrolling down your phone feed, entranced like a charmed cobra.

What can lighten this mood? The anticipation of more work than ever for the legal industry. The insurance industry is just one among many that are doing some early headhunting for in-house litigators. No matter what field of law you’re in, you’re likely anticipating some kind of windfall from the pile-up of COVID-19, nationwide protest violence, or the recent crop of seasonal disasters.

The one thing you’ll need to help snag some of these anticipated clients is some proactive digital marketing. That’s where we’re coming in. Perhaps you’ve already dipped a toe into pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on the Google Ads network. We’re assuming you’re familiar with the benefits of digital marketing strategies for law firms as opposed to the old-school world of Yellow Pages and billboards.

In a nutshell, PPC advertising is attractive to the legal industry for several reasons:

  • It’s easy to track campaign performance: unlike a sign on a bus stop bench, you know which impression led to which lead
  • You can get immediate results: as soon as your campaign is live, you could land a new client
  • Budgets are flexible: costs scale from the sole proprietor start-up to enterprise legal service firms
  • Easy to target your ads: narrow your scope to one demographic during one time of year or broaden it to blitz the whole state
  • Campaigns are flexible: you can start, stop, or change advertising campaigns on a dime

You also get lots of data to analyze, which some would call a feature. Feedback behavior from a PPC campaign is very telling. You can guess a surprising amount of user motive behind metrics like click-through rates (CTR), activity peak times, time on site, bounce rate, etc. We’ll dive into some of that below.

Our focus here is to help your law firm get the most bang for your PPC buck. But first, let’s talk about some PPC basics:


Legal PPC Ad Keyword Strategy

First-time advertisers may feel a bit daunted when they first plunge into Google ads and discover the world of keyword bidding and targeting. There’s a science to this stuff, so you can save yourself a bit of money and effort by doing your research ahead of time. Your PPC plan outline should look like this:

Step #1 Identify what your client will be searching for

The legal field being the specialization that it is, not all your prospective clients will know for sure that they need a lawyer in the first place. They might be trying to solve a problem on their own terms. Our task here is to divine “search intent,” narrowing our ad down to hit just those users who are either ready to hire counsel or can be drawn into such a decision.

What keywords to target depends on your field of practice, but they will always be related to the kinds of cases you normally handle and especially the “FAQ” (frequently asked questions) that new clients are asking when they first arrive for a consultation. For instance, a tax law firm might look into searches for keywords like:

  • IRS garnishment
  • tax lien on house
  • offer in compromise
  • back taxes owed payment plan

Not everybody knows that they can hire a lawyer to fight the IRS for them. Legal matters and tax matters are both intimidating subjects for the average citizen.

You also want to check out “high intent” keywords, which are search terms that flag a prospective client ready to obtain counsel this minute. For law firms, those may look something like “how much,” “legal fees,” “cost of retainer,” and especially “near me,” the sure sign of a client ready to head for your door as soon as they locate it. We’ll talk more about location targeting in a later step.

Step #2 Review keyword statistics and performance

You do pay by the click in PPC advertising, so you want every click to count. Determine how badly you want each of these search terms and the prospective revenue they’ll generate. Just because something is a common search in your field doesn’t mean you necessarily want to target that particular keyword. This looks like a good place to trot out the CTR (click-through rate) formula:

Use this later in testing your ad copy against results. We’re keeping in mind that even the most prestigious law firm doesn’t necessarily have the capacity to handle a million new clients at once. You might want to go for a more select keyword set with a lower, but more worthwhile, CTR%. Target the clients that bring you the highest value.

You should also be advised that some keywords cost more than others. Legal terms are some of the most expensive, at least for the words “lawyer,” “attorney,” and cash cows like “structured settlement” and “mesothelioma.” So you might choose to skip the more expensive keywords while targeting around the edges for the kinds of dilemmas likely to lead clients to seek your assistance.

There’s a number of keyword planning tools to help you formulate your PPC campaign.

Step #3 Finalize your keyword list

Google Ads allow you to do more than just target raw keywords. You can target by broad or narrow focus, by exact phrase, and even by negative keywords for the terms you want to exclude.

Keyword Matching Options: Select keywords that will help you reach your ideal client

  • Broad Match: Covers all forms of the word including stems, plurals, synonyms, and misspellings.
  • Broad Match Modifier: Sticks to the specific keywords only, not synonyms or partial matches.
  • Phrase Match: Even more fine-tuned, triggering only for the exact phrase, not just those words in any order.
  • Exact Match: Eliminates leading or trailing words, so you want only that specific word and its synonyms to trigger.

Say you work in copyright law, but you’re not interested in fielding every YouTube movie reviewer who’s irate because Google pulled their video for copyright infringement. Yes, this happens a lot lately. But not every basement vlogger has the funds to pursue a full claim. You can set the keyword planner to exclude the term “YouTube” with the negative keyword modifier.

Don’t forget to include branded keywords as well! People who are searching for your firm by name or an affiliated brand will sometimes search for the name itself, such as when they’re acting off a referral or when they heard your ad on the radio but can’t remember the phone number.

That’s it for the prerequisites. Break time: Did you know Warren Zevon, the rock star famous for “Werewolves of London,” died of mesothelioma at age 56? Did you know he also did a song called “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”? Zevon had a wonderfully dark sense of humor, his whole output is worth checking out.

Break’s over. Now for the main show:


Legal Industry PPC Best Practices:

#1 Create Client Personas

Know your audience! You should be able to draw back on past client business to create a profile to start with and craft this into your ideal business customer. Take into account historical data and current trends—for instance, medical malpractice specialties might want to brace for an incoming wave of COVID-19-related cases. You should also reach out to past clients and ask them probing questions. Ask them how they found your law firm and what factors they considered when selecting a lawyer. Collate all this into the profile as well. This is known as a “client persona.”

Every business uses client personas and targets their ads to this profile or at least the general demographic around it.

#2 Use Strong CTAs

A CTA is a “call to action.” In other words, your sales pitch. You’ve seen accident compensation law firm commercials on TV and the radio, ending with the CTA: “Call our number now to get the settlement you deserve!” Note the emotional trigger-word there: “deserve.” It’s crafted to make the client think “Have I not been getting what I’m entitled to? Have I gotten the short end of the stick?”

Crafting the perfect ad copy is such a refined art, making the most of a succinct pitch in a small space, that you might want to hire an ad copywriter just for this part. Lacking that, browse other law firms’ ads to absorb some inspiration. Don’t forget, never leave the client on stage without a script. Direct them to call now for a free consultation or set up an appointment, whatever the CTA is.

#3 Make It Easy For Them To Choose You

There’s a common blind spot to most any profession, where the things that are evident to us are something the general public doesn’t know. We here in thelegal marketing business take pains to spell out our acronyms and jargon terms. Because we’ve been talking about SEO (search engine optimization) for so long that we can’t believe there are people who don’t know what that means, but we have to allow for that anyway.

You have to see things from the clients’ point of view. What are the potential barriers or concerns they may have doing business with you? What if it turns out they don’t have a case? What if they have to testify in court? What if their court case drags out for years? They have all these concerns buzzing around while they’re contemplating hiring you. Depending on your field, you might be receiving an emotionally distraught spouse, an injury victim hazy off pain medication or the recipient of a DUI who just got bailed out of jail.

Now make it as easy for them as possible. Set up a landing page on your site to receive clicks from the ad. Make it consistent with the ad—reassure them they’ve come to the right place. Whatever your action step is, make it simple to find and complete. Have the form present for them to fill in, making it as short a step as possible.

The famed efficiency expert Frank Gilbreth coined the term “therbligs,” from his surname spelled backward. Therbligs are elemental units of motion. Count each movement, tap, or menu navigation as a therblig, and have as few of them as possible.

#4 Optimize Your Landing Pages

That stunner advertisement doesn’t do you much good without someplace for it to send the lead! Landing pages can be hand-crafted or generated from prefab software such as Unbounce. Here’s one great example of a landing page with our notes:

  • a: Value Proposition: An offer the customer can act on now
  • b: Consistent offer the same as the copy of the ad the user clicked on
  • c: CTA: One button, act now!
  • d: Service and pricing guide: Upselling from the original offer of the ad

Some landing pages also have a “social proof” section somewhere before the end. This is a testimonial, review, or good word from a former satisfied client, with a warm photo and a quote “Bulldog Attorneys got me a $2.4 million dollar settlement!”

A great landing page is composed, conservative, and reassuring. It’s clear and direct, easy to navigate, and leads the client right into your lap. Avoid cheap, tacky landing pages with garish colors like this nightmare:

Things that this landing page does wrong:

  • Too busy!
  • Too many colors, mismatched clipart graphics.
  • Too confusing: where do you go next?
  • There’s no way this page matches a short Google ad we clicked on to get here!
  • Too much hard selling.
  • Can’t sleep; scary disembodied head will eat me!

We realize that the legal profession doesn’t lend itself to many visual metaphors that make for versatile imagery. Even the best example of a landing page we can find still uses the overused graphic of a judge’s mallet. It’s either that or the ol’ lady liberty scales! No matter, give the people what they expect, keeping just enough branding to distinguish yourself from the competition.

We find that with law firm websites, design apparently isn’t emphasized much. You’ll find perfectly successful and established firms with a website that’s just unformatted text, one photo, a plain text-in-a-box logo, and a design that hasn’t changed since Microsoft FrontPage Express circa 1998. Clients do seem to expect a sensible, mature, and frugal design when they seek out a lawyer. But we do also want to be sure to stay compliant with modern web standards and to have enough branding that the client doesn’t forget you.

#5 Geotarget to Reach Local Audiences

Finally, we deal with those “near me” searches. Since legal clients aren’t going to travel very far, the trade of law counts as a “local business.” Local market targeting is a completely different ballgame from global marketing. Since there aren’t likely to be more law firms in a given area than what the market will bear anyway, you have less competition for local keywords.

Apply mostly everything in our article on local SEO for law firms here as well. If you don’t have a Google My Business optimized listing, get one as soon as possible. It’s free, it’s hooked into Google Maps, and will get you a location-based featured snippet on a search engine results page (SERP), right where the ads are—for free!

For PPC ads, you can set up “geofencing,” which will target your ad only at users within a specific area. This will also save you money from not having to pay for useless clicks from all around the world. If your firm has multiple locations, you can set up individual campaigns for each area or just set up a broad perimeter and point clients to the closest office.

#6 Use Ad Extensions Liberally

Ad extensions are these small attachments you can apply to an ad to give it extra features. These are offered on a pick-and-choose menu through Google. We have a whole detailed guide to Google ad extensions. Here’s a few of particular interest to law firms:

  • Location: Includes your street address in the ad
  • Sitelinks: These are mini-sections within the ad with direct links to different departments, useful in multi-partner / multi-field practices
  • Call button: Puts a link that auto-dials your phone number right in the ad. This is handy for searches conducted on mobile devices.
  • Reviews: Put your best testimonial upfront

The call extension is crucial to professional, local practices. That puts you a mere thumb away from a lead right there. And speaking of phones…

#7 Optimize for Mobile

We’re now at the point where some 50+% of web traffic is on mobile. Indeed, that percentage would have climbed higher by now but the prevailing theory has it that COVID-19 makes people work at home and remote-learn more, hence more laptop traffic.

Google has moved to boosting mobile-friendly sites above the alternative. Google’s PR is quick to point out that it doesn’t penalize websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, heaven forbid. They just don’t get the “boost,” which is a roundabout way of saying “if your site isn’t mobile-friendly we penalize it by not giving it a boost.”

Both your PPC campaign and your landing page, as well as your website, need to think “mobile-first.” Google itself supplies tools to help you check your site for mobile optimization:

You will mostly be concerned with the landing page your PPC campaign links to. But in any case, your whole website and all public-facing digital marketing should be mobile-friendly. All modern Internet technology builds with mobile in mind now right out of the box, so there’s no excuse.


Final Thoughts

We have learned a lot today about PPC optimization for law firms. We’ve tried to explain not just the “how” but “why” of PPC ad practices to plan a keyword strategy, craft ad copy with a call to action, use Google’s features, and set up a landing page that reels in the leads once they click through. With all this knowledge and a little luck, we hope your practice blazes ahead of the competition!




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