Many of our clients use advertising as part of, or even as the main thrust of their online marketing strategy. The instant results, information and flexibility of advertising systems like Google Adwords, can often generate huge returns for law firms with the right goals. Further, the fact that advertising requires very little input and time from the law firm is also a huge plus.
There are four primary types of online advertising. We help a law firms create campaigns and manage all of it for a reasonable monthly fee. Here's a crash course in what you need to know.
This is the most popular form of search advertising. These are the ads that appear above and down the right-hand side of organic search results. They consume up to 54% of the choices on a search result page. Perhaps more importantly, they consume 75% of the visible screen space when search results first appear (100% of mobile screen). They are called pay-per-click (PPC) ads because Google charges the advertiser when a user clicks on it. In general, the more an advertiser is willing to pay for a click, the higher their ad will appear relative to the competition. However, creativity and good quality website content can lead to higher placement and lower per-click costs.
This form of advertising has a ton of useful benefits. The ads target the exact phrases and topics a law firm wants. We can control budget and price per click on a very granular level. We can target defined geographic areas. We can even do A/B testing to determine what ad copy is more effective. We can track visitors from the ads through the website to the point that they contact the firm. We know exactly where money is going. The market determines cost. There are no long-term commitments.
The reporting provided with this type of advertising is invaluable. We can see how many times an ad was shown, what position it ranks for each search term, how many times it was clicked, how many clicks resulted in contacts to a law office and so on. With this data, a campaign can be fine-tuned over time to channel more budget into the terms and geographic areas that are performing best.
PPC advertising works very well on its own, or hand-in-hand with SEO Copywriting. By running a PPC campaign, we can test thousands of keywords very quickly without having to write any content. We can use that data to direct content writing for improved organic performance. For instance, we may think that the most popular search for a law firm's services will be "Ann Arbor Bankruptcy Attorney" but the data from the advertising campaign may prove that "Washtenaw County Bankruptcy Attorney" is a more popular search. We can use that discovery to adjust the phrasing and content on our client's website to improve their organic rankings.
Display ads are like the newspaper ad or highway billboard of the Internet. There are things called "display advertising networks." These networks are operated by companies, like Google, to display advertisements and create revenue for website owners. Blogs, local news websites, national news websites, article repositories, research websites, attorney directories, and more all monetize their own website traffic by signing up with display advertising networks.
With display ads, website owners designate space on their webpages for advertisements to display. Then, they tell the display network to fill that space with ads. The network uses its advertising system to place ads for its customers (your law firm) on the websites that meet your criteria. We can define your criteria by both geography and website topic.
For instance, we can tell the network to display our client's ads to any Internet user within 15 miles of their office that is reading articles about divorce. The network takes it from there. Just as with the search ads, the client pays-per-click with the display ads. Revenue generated is shared between the network and the website owner. Most of the time we use the Google Display Ad Network because it is large and has no minimum spending requirements.
Display ads are a great way to create awareness of a law firm for a topic or geographic area. These ads cost less than PPC, because they are less focused and more technical savvy is required to set them up. They are less focused than PPC, because if someone is just reading about divorce on another website, it's not known whether they are actually looking for an attorney or just reading the article for some other reason, like celebrity break-up gossip.
If you have ever shopped online, say for a hotel, and then keep seeing ads for that hotel on other websites, you are seeing re-targeting in action. Re-targeting ads are display network ads that are only shown to people who have already visited the advertiser's website. Based on a visitor's behavior on an advertiser's website they are added to the re-targeting audience pool. When the visitor visits other websites around the internet that are part of the display advertising network the advertiser's ads will be will be shown to them.
We can use re-targeting ads to target all website visitors or we can filter based on their behavior. For instance, we can target people who read at least 3 pages on a law firm's website, or target people who came in via a PPC or display ad. These ads are a great way to reel people back who may have been interested in a firm's services but got distracted or wanted to do more research before making contact. They are also great for practice areas where people take a longer time to make a decision, like estate planning, bankruptcy and immigration.
One thing we have to be conscientious about is privacy. For instance, if a wife uses the shared family computer to look for a divorce attorney, it could create a testy situation if re-targeting ads for divorce law firms keep showing up on the web when the husband uses the same computer later that week.
Sometimes there are worthwhile opportunities to advertise on other popular websites. Highly trafficked websites that share a similar target client might be a good place to do business. Directory sites like AVVO, FindLaw and Lawyers.com might already rank highly for searches in a law firm's local market. With advertising like this, a law firm typically enters into an agreement directly with the website owner to have advertising appear.
Costs and agreement terms vary wildly with this type of advertising, but like all other forms presented in this email, it is very easy to track and report on performance. Typically, all sites that offer advertising space will have options to reach a target audience based on geography and practice area.
There are some notable downsides to private website ads. They usually want to enforce longer-term agreements. We're also banking on the hope that they keep their high rankings and traffic. They may oversell their spots or show too many of your competitors. We have definitely observed positive outcomes from private website ads, but usually there are other measures to take first before considering these ads.