The PPC Addiction Problem Facing Law Firms Today
Have you ever noticed that some retailers are having a perpetual sale? Kohl’s and Macy’s come to mind, with the latter often having “one day” sales that span entire weekends. These sales presumably bring shoppers into stores that would otherwise stay away.
The problem is, discounts are addictive. For shoppers and sellers.
Once you’ve trained shoppers to wait for a sale, they’ll happily do it. And once you’ve seen discounts deliver results, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to lower prices when you see sales lagging. Stick with what works, right?
This mindset creates a trap that is extremely difficult to extract yourself from. It takes courage to stand by your price and endurance to wait for your audience to unlearn their behaviors. Even then, it sometimes doesn’t work. JC Penney delivered a live-action cautionary tale on this topic just a few years ago. (Apparently they’re still dealing with the fallout.)
Looking around at some of FindLaw’s competitors, you can see a similar addiction – not to discounts – but to Pay-per-click advertising. Here’s what happens:
- The competitor signs a law firm with a flashy new website. (This is fine. It happens.)
- They launch the website with a hard PPC push to overcome the declined organic search visibility created by scrapping the old site. (This is also fine. Using PPC as a stopgap while organic search develops is perfectly normal.)
- The new website never reaches the organic performance levels necessary to allow the law firm to draw back their PPC investment. (This is bad. The law firm is left with an underperforming website and an addiction to PPC that can’t be broken.)
Keep those advertising dollars flowing, and the high traffic levels will continue. But turn that faucet off, and the site visits dry up quickly. This is a problem that isn’t always easy to see coming when a marketing vendor is waving a shiny new website in front of your face.
Obviously, bringing a new look to an old piece of content is an extremely easy way to impress people and close the sale. Unfortunately, website performance isn’t just about looks. Plenty of websites get rebuilt with a brand-new design and little regard paid to the technical aspects of a website that actually effect search visibility.
See the big picture with PPC.
There’s also the issue of short-term versus long-term thinking. PPC can definitely deliver results on either schedule. But signing up for a constant campaign only makes sense under certain circumstances. If you’re looking to buttress the success of an already performing website, adding in PPC on a regular basis is a wonderful strategy.
As mentioned above, plenty of new websites lean on PPC to deliver traffic while their organic performance ramps up. This is a sound strategy, assuming the site actually does deliver organic traffic at some point. But if your website is nothing without that paid traffic, you’re creating a weakness and a constant expense you can’t control.
It’s a weakness because you’re tying the health of your website to a force you cannot control. Do you remember earlier in 2017 when Google removed the PPC ads that used to appear on the right side of a SERP? Those ads were here and then gone, virtually in an instant. How do you think that affected the businesses that were relying on those ads?
The simple fact is, Google owns their search results. They control the layout of the page, and they decide what content gets served for users to see. You can play by the rules and do your best to keep up, but the rules can change, and in ways that may not play out in your favor.
What if you had to cut costs?
The other risk of putting too many eggs in a PPC basket is that you’re creating an ongoing expense that you can’t afford to cut. Remember those retailers earlier? They’ve painted themselves into a corner with a constant cycle of discounts. Break the cycle and their foot traffic will dry up. Maybe not forever, but long enough for it to hurt.
Imagine that happening to your law firm. Suppose that 80 percent of your website’s traffic is driven by a PPC campaign focusing on “Edgerton, MN skateboard lawyer.” What would happen to your book of business if you turned that PPC campaign off? What if a new, hip attorney moves to town and sets up shop down the road. This guy also specializes in skateboarding injuries and starts running a competing PPC campaign. Demand increases, keyword prices go up and you’re left with no choice but to pay more for clients that should have been yours.
This may not be a catastrophe if your skateboard injury business is big enough to handle the increased acquisition cost. But it’s also a challenge that could have been avoided if you diversified your marketing enough to withstand the impact of something like this. When you have no organic traffic, the success of your law firm could come down to whether or not you can afford to pay.
So can you afford to pay for traffic?
That’s a big question, one that people don’t always honestly answer. But if you find yourself dazzled by a cosmetic update to your website, make sure you’re seeing beyond the paint job. You might get a fresh new look for your website. But you might also get a line item on your balance sheet that’s tough to erase.