Are Your Pay-Per-Click Ads Boosting Your Vendor’s Business – But Not Yours?

Does your PPC vendor have a conflict of interest?

For law firms looking to reach online legal consumers, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising offers a potentially powerful strategy. You’ve no doubt seen PPC ads in your own online search activity. They appear above and below the nonpaid organic search results on search engines. A PPC ad is tied to keywords and topics that prospective customers are most likely to search for. The advertiser pays for the PPC ad whenever someone clicks on it.

With their ability to target a specific audience, PPC ads represent a strategy your firm might find worth exploring. It’s also a strategy with potential pitfalls.

Here’s one key caveat: To get your ad positioned, you’ll want to work with a marketing company that can handle online advertising, particularly PPC. That’s where things can get tricky. If you don’t pay close attention to how your ads are being handled, you could find yourself paying a vendor that is more interested in its own returns than on those of your firm.

Here’s Why

One of the main things to know about PPC advertising is that it operates on a bidding strategy. Your ad is competing for a finite amount of desirable spaces to bid on for any given search term (or set of terms). If the position you want is in high demand, that drives up the price of your ad whenever it is clicked.

To help manage the placement process, you might hire an agency that claims to specialize in PPC advertising. PPC management companies typically charge either a flat monthly fee or a percentage of your ad spend. The more their customers spend, of course, the more they make. That money helps them better market their services and bid up the best positions on search engine results.

And that’s where the conflict can arise. A PPC management company is seeking to optimize your law firm’s bid–and also those of possible competitors of your firm. What’s more, the vendor profits as more bidders drive up bids for certain geographies and keywords.

In other words, your agency could have a conflict of interest.

What can you do?

Above all, be smart about who you hire to manage your advertising. You should assume your PPC vendor will maximize your specific ads (that’s what you’re paying them for after all) but don’t ignore the fine print when shopping for a vendor.

You’ll want to get a clear understanding of the company’s PPC services such as their overall strategy, PPC qualifications, and how they specifically intend to match their service to your firm’s needs. Working with a professional should yield professional-level results. Be scrupulous when shopping for PPC services and make sure that the interests of your law firm are being served.

If you’ve signed a contract and your ads have been running for a while, you should be able to determine whether those ads are actually attracting business. If you’re not seeing a bump in calls from potential clients, it’s time to find out whether the company is doing its job. Does the PPC vendor place your ads so that they reach the geographical area you serve? Do your ads come up when consumers search specifically for your specialty? Do you have traffic attribution set up so you know when a lead came directly from PPC?

A good PPC management partner will take the time to understand your unique business and make sure that your ads appear in the search results of legal consumers you actually want to reach, and provide analytics which show what return you’ve received on your investment in Paid Search Advertising.

You and the PPC management company should also work together to make your ads’ search terms as specific as possible. Then back up those specifics on your website landing page. Avoid using only broad terms like “attorney” or “bankruptcy.” Instead, sharpen your keywords with references to your location and the types of client you represent. The next step is to make sure your site’s landing page copy matches up with the keywords that you use in each ad.

The key here is that you want to make sure that the consumer who clicks on your ad is actually interested in your specific service. Otherwise, people clicking on your ad might later decide that your firm can’t address their specific legal need. That’s a problem because, with PPC, you’ll pay for every click, even those that don’t deliver even a hint of ROI. (All the more reason to choose your vendor carefully.)

In sum, while PPC ads can be effective, they shouldn’t be the only type of marketing you do. The hard-earned traffic that a powerful SEO strategy can bring to your website is still vitally important to most law firms. Particularly given the fact that organic SEO is a bit less volatile than PPC-focused lead generation. Meaning, SEO efforts can pay dividends long after the initial optimization is done whereas a PPC campaign must be budgeted for at all times.* Once you stop running those ads, they are no longer bringing you business.

That noted, PPC ads can be a helpful supplement to your online marketing. If your firm tends to have slow periods, a well-thought-out pay-per-click campaign could help you fill in those valleys as well as put your name at or near the top of consumers’ search results.

But should you decide to pursue a pay-per-click campaign, make sure the vendor your firm works with is actually working for you.

*Obviously, SEO isn’t a one-off investment either.

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