<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=817262628318194&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

The Dangers of Paid Law Firm Advertising

5 mins


People, in general, don’t like to spend money without any gain. And yet, lawyers across the country are hemorrhaging cash just trying to tick a “marketing box” by investing in a paid advertising campaign. 

Often, lawyers who decide to start advertising just sink thousands of dollars into law firm advertising initiatives they have no way of measuring. I have audited and consulted on too many firms’ marketing strategies and have found that they use only one channel - AdWords paid search advertising with Google.

More than once, I’ve seen firms spending more than $3,500 every month on AdWords with zero analytics installed. This means that they're flying blind. They might know whether people are clicking… But are they becoming clients? Isn't that what really matters?

These poorly configured campaigns also drive traffic to web pages without a well-designed, measurable means for the prospect to contact the firm. For the record: sending people to your website's home page is a mistake. Sending them to a practice area page without a specific mechanism for them to contact you (not the passive contact information on the site header!) is a mistake.

Using a paid search channel without the proper support structure is actually worse than doing nothing at all, because at least doing nothing is free.

The bottom line is simple: paid search advertising is a tool, NOT a solution.

Why Advertise on Search Engines at all? Let’s Check out Google AdWords:

Ranking for paid search through AdWords is different from gaining organic search engine traffic. If somebody goes to Google, searches “car accident lawyer,” or "wills lawyer" and finds your firm’s website in blue near the top of the page, that is an “organic” result. It’s free for you. You can achieve a better organic search ranking position by having strong information on your website that’s relevant to the keyword terms people enter. Sounds like a good deal, right?

The issue is that it is a good deal, and countless competitors are trying to rank in the same way. The competition is fierce, especially for law firms in the same field of practice, so it’s usually difficult to ensure your website will rise to the top. There are no guarantees.

On the other hand, paid advertisements for search results will always show up at the very top of the page and are identified as an ad. There’s still a competitive aspect: only the businesses who make a high enough bid (the price you’re willing to pay if someone clicks on your ad) will show in the top spot, or on the first page. You also need to make sure your ad is relevant to the searched term, similar to organic search. Geo-targeting based on the user’s region also comes into play.

The way search engines decide which websites to display for certain searches is extremely complicated, and becoming a high ranking site for organic search traffic takes a dedicated long-term marketing strategy. The key to maximizing the return on a paid search investment is a combination of creating a high-quality ad and setting a “minimum effective bid.” Your minimum effective bid is the lowest possible cost that will still allow your ad to show up in search results.

Knowing that you need to meet those criteria, you can see how launching a campaign without the right analysis could be incredibly costly. AdWords is a good way to get visibility at the top of the search engine, but there needs to be a strong strategy in place. Otherwise, you’re like a car salesman handing a hundred dollar bill to every person who visits the dealership.

Look out for these warning signs that your paid campaign isn’t enough!

You don’t know the health of your marketing initiative

Can you write down the metrics that show the health of your law firm advertising initiatives? Do you know what those metrics mean? What are your goals for those metrics and how are you driving towards them?

Your outsourced agency is not transparent about both the good and bad results of your campaigns

Does your outsourced agency only report vague good news about your advertisements? Do they send you monthly reports, but no analysis of why they did what they did?

Are your reports all about "impressions" and "clicks" … or can they directly attribute which new clients came from your ads?

Even if you are using a local ad agency for your AdWords, they may be helping dozens of industries and not know the ethical intricacies that come hand-in-hand with legal marketing. Having an imprecise marketing strategy can build up your marketing efforts in the wrong direction.

You use CPC to judge how successful your campaign is

Cost per click is how much you spend on each click, but if a thousand people click on your ad and none of them turn into new clients, is that really the number you should be focused on?

Do you want to tick a “marketing box”, or do you want to create a marketing strategy that really works?

AdWords - and any type of paid advertising - can be fantastic tools for growing your firm, but like all tools, they are most useful in skilled hands. There's a reason we don't ask a six-year-old to get the firewood, and hand them a chainsaw.

AdWords, in particular, need constant testing, and if you are spending money on AdWords without constant monitoring, you are almost certainly wasting your money.

Also keep in mind that paid search advertising by itself is just a fraction of a holistic marketing strategy. AdWords drives visitors to your site… but then what? You need content for visitors to read, you need call-to-action buttons for visitors to click, and you need a well-designed website that allows search engines to prefer presenting your site to visitors. All of these pieces, and dozens more, form a complete marketing strategy that is custom to your firm.

Channels should be looked at as avenues for potential leads. By spreading efforts across multiple channels, these leads will diversify your firm’s exposure. Why is that important? Well, think of who your ideal clients are. Those potential clients will often use more than one channel to research a big decision. They may search for your firm on a search engine, come across an article you wrote, and then use your website to email you.

Luckily, you don’t have to handle all that by yourself.


Practice Alchemy can not only act as a trusted marketing consultant for your law firm advertising, but we can also create the content, manage the ads, and monitor the metrics that actually create clients for your firm. Let us know what goals we need to hit to check your marketing box (with the confidence that you’ve got the right strategy). Schedule a marketing assessment with Practice Alchemy today.

Looking for a complete breakdown of law firm marketing and how firms are using marketing? Check out our compiled guide to law firm marketing.

Schedule Practice Assessment

Raj Jha