The Most Expensive PPC Mistakes Law Firms Make – Part 1

In the 15 years since Google launched their proprietary pay-per-click (PPC) management platform, Google AdWords, it has become a favorite pastime of many a digital marketing company to compile lists of the “most expensive” keywords on Google. A simple Google search yields dozens of them. When taken at face value, these lists commonly prompt business owners to ask questions like:

“How expensive is paid search advertising?”

“Is PPC too expensive for me?”

“Why would I use something so expensive?”

Law firms frequently bear the brunt of the impact of these lists, as keywords like “lawyer,” “law firm,” and “personal injury attorney” tend to be some of the most egregious offenders. The tragic outcome of these lists is that sometimes attorneys decide PPC is just too unfamiliar, too volatile, too “expensive” for them to even test out. That’s a huge mistake to make, but thankfully one that won’t cost them anything, at least not through AdWords.

The “expense” highlighted by these lists is typically a single metric known as cost-per-click or CPC. In very simple terms, the CPC is how much Google charges you – an advertiser using AdWords – when someone clicks on your ad after searching for a keyword your law firm was targeting. CPC for any given keyword can vary by geographic area, by how many people are searching for it, by the number of advertisers targeting it and so on. CPC for a single keyword can also change drastically from year to year, season to season, month to month, even minute by minute. This variability is the very reason digital marketing companies find it so tantalizing to make lists of the costs-per-click associated with keywords. When every minute offers a new opportunity for a company to grab the spotlight with their own unique perspective of what keywords drive the “most expensive” paid clicks on Google, what company would pass that up?

For starters, FindLaw would. Our perspective is simple: lists that present clicks as “expensive” gloss over the fact that a properly-managed PPC campaign will produce a positive return on investment, effectively gaining your law firm more in profits than you invested in the first place.

But it’s important for law firms to avoid a few common mistakes as PPC newcomers if they’re going to capture that positive ROI.

Mistake # 1: Giving up on your law firm’s PPC campaign before it has really gotten started.

At the core of PPC management is the concept of acting and reacting. Much of AdWords’ automated decision-making is based on historical data. When you’re just getting a PPC campaign started, AdWords doesn’t have much data to go on so they make some assumptions about your ad’s potential performance when you first enter the ad auction. Just like a real auction, AdWords takes in bids from advertisers to appear in search results when a consumer searches for a particular keyword or phrase. The auctions happen instantaneously any time a search is executed in Google, and the winning advertisers’ ads are shown to the person searching. AdWords rewards advertisers who have high-performing ads (they typically capture clicks at a higher rate than other ads in search results) with a lower cost-per-click for the same or better ad position than advertisers whose ads haven’t performed as well historically. AdWords doesn’t know your account well yet so they will assume your ads will perform moderately well. Those assumptions impact your cost-per-click for every keyword you target when you first start. When you’re looking at lists of “expensive” costs-per-click, keep in mind that an influx of new advertisers can drive those average costs way up!

Once your law firm’s account accumulates some historical performance data, you will be able to make adjustments to improve your performance. Maybe you’ll decide to bid on different keywords or maybe you’ll edit your ads. In turn, if your performance improves, Google may reward you with a lower cost-per-click for the same or better position in paid search results. If, however, you quit before you or Google have enough information to trade assumptions for data-driven decisions, you probably won’t even scratch the surface of how truly profitable PPC could be for your firm.

Mistake #2: Targeting “expensive” legal keywords that aren’t even good keywords.

Some keywords will always have a ton of advertisers bidding on them, they’ll always cost more than the other keywords getting you ad clicks, and they will always drive a higher percentage of unwanted cases to your firm. You can usually find good examples of these keywords at the very top of “most expensive” lists, such as “attorney” and “lawyer” on this older list from WordStream or “top personal injury attorneys” on this recent list from WebpageFX. While it can be a huge ego boost to see yourself in the top paid spot for one of these coveted keywords, and while appearing for such broad terms may contribute to overall brand awareness for your firm, it is almost a guarantee that you will pay 1) more per click and 2) for more clicks that do not result in the kind of case you want (or can even take).

It can be especially hard not to bid on these keywords when you see your competitors doing it. Remember that time when someone older and wiser asked you “If your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?” If you’re interested in managing your PPC budget wisely, don’t jump off this cliff. You’ll see a much higher ROI targeting keywords more closely related to the types of cases you actually want.

Does any of this sound familiar? Tune in next week and I’ll reveal two more mistakes, including the absolutely most expensive mistake in PPC a law firm can make.

And if you really want the scoop on how to use PPC to benefit your law firm, view our on-demand webcast now – 4 Pay-per-click Advertising Strategies for Law Firms.

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