Search engine advertising isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s been around ever since search engines started getting onto people’s radar in the mid-1990s. Starting off as “preferred placement” it met with mixed responses as people initially quaffed at the idea that their search results would be peppered with ads.
A lot of things change in 20 years, and now search engine marketing has grown up to be a billion dollar industry. And there’s good reason for that. As search engines have improved and become more popular, and as technology has moved further into more and more aspects of our lives, search engines have become increasingly a way to not just find out information, but to also make purchases.
Why Search Engine Marketing Matters
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) matters because of the very nature of search. In our new mobile, always connected climate, we always have access to all the information on the web. So when someone’s walking around the North Center neighborhood in Chicago and wants to know where the best place to grab a beer and a slice of pizza, they pull out their phone and look it up. We’ve all done it hundreds of times and probably will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.
So at this crucial moment when someone is actively looking to fill a need and spend money, SEM allows you to make your most convincing argument for why your service or product is the one they should use. SEM lets you actively target people looking for your services or products in real time, in a measurable way. The result is a more efficient use of your advertising dollars because you’re only focusing on the right audience for you, not a larger swath of people who might not have any need of your services at the time, which is what happens with traditional advertising formats like print and T.V. ads, or billboard advertising.
SEM is also a great way to send traffic directly to your website. According to Search Engine Watch, organic search results garner about 70% of all clicks, but this can be increased by as much as 66% when coupled with a Pay Per Click (or PPC) campaign.
AdWords: Google’s SEM Behemoth
As you no doubt realize, Google is the largest search engine in the world, and with almost 70% market share, no one else is even close. Google capitalizes on this dominance with their PPC platform, AdWords.
Here’s how it works: Every time a search is performed on Google (more than 40,000 per second!) an auction is automatically initiated and ads eligible for whatever keywords a particular searcher used, get entered into that auction. Each advertiser sets a maximum amount they want to pay for a click on their ad, and their placement in the ad space on the search engine results page is initially based on that amount. However, your maximum bid isn’t necessarily what you’ll end up paying, and isn’t a guarantee of top placement.
Making sure that users of their search engine have a positive experience is Google’s number one priority, so the amount someone is willing to pay isn’t the only aspect that gets taken into consideration when Google is assigning placement. They also take into account the “Quality Score” of the ad. This is based on: 1. The click through rate (CTR) of the ad based on its past performance (a higher CTR is seen by Google as a vote for the quality of the ad), 2. How relevant to the searcher’s query the ad is and, 3. The page that the ad leads to when clicked on or the “Landing Page”. Does the page have original content that is relevant to the search and provides a good user experience?
An advertiser’s max bid gets multiplied by their quality score to determine their ad rank. This means that just because someone has the highest max bid, they won’t automatically get the first position if they have a low “Quality Score”. They might even get last place if their score is low enough. It also means that advertisers only have to pay enough to outbid their closest competition, and ensures that the process is more democratic than one where the first position automatically goes to the advertiser willing to pay the most.
How to Put AdWords to Work for Your Law Firm
Now, it’s important to note that not all PPC campaigns are created equal. And since you’re paying for each click your ad gets, you can end up wasting a lot of money on improperly targeted ads that don’t give you a return on your investment. The competition for ads promoting attorneys can be fierce, and costs can run as high as $230 per click, so making sure the ads actually drive people to contact your firm is key to getting the most out of your advertising dollars.
For law firms that understand the potential of paid advertising, the trick is to construct smart PPC campaigns that draw prospective clients in with compelling ad copy, link the ads to the right landing page, and then to test those ads for effectiveness.
Here’s how to make PPC advertising work for your law firm:
- Make sure you’re sending people to the correct page: If you’re a personal injury attorney running an ad targeting people who’ve recently been in a car accident, sending them to your website’s homepage isn’t the correct thing to do. They’re going to get frustrated because they expected to land on a page dealing directly with their current problem (car accident injuries) but instead were directed to a page with more general information than they needed. Now they’ll either have to search for the web page on your site dealing with their specific issue, or they’ll just hit the back button to go back to the search engine results page and find someone else, thereby wasting the money you just paid for that click.
- Target the right clients: Make sure the ad copy you use speaks directly to the needs of the person searching for you. If you’re targeting searchers looking for a “sexual harassment attorney”, put “sexual harassment attorney” in your copy. It’s been shown again and again that showing people the exact keywords they’re using, in the ad that actually gets shown to them, increases the chance they’ll click on the ad. Even better, if you practice in the New York area, putting “New York sexual harassment attorney” in your copy will mean you’re targeting someone who’s not only looking for the exact services you provide, but also someone who is actually in your practice area, increasing the chance that your ad is targeting someone likely to be looking for services, and not just “window shopping”.
- Use negative keywords to eliminate unwanted traffic: What if someone is looking for the “craziest car accident” in history? That person probably isn’t looking for an attorney, but you’ll still pay for their visit to your site if they click your ad. By using negative keywords you can ensure that your ad doesn’t show up when it’s not appropriate, and that you won’t be paying for clicks that aren’t coming from a potential client.
- Split test your PPC ads: Split testing, or A/B testing, is an effective way to see what is working and what isn’t. Start by creating two ads with different copy, landing pages, etc. and see which one performs best. Then, try and determine what makes that ad more effective and put that knowledge into creating a new ad that you’ll use to try and beat the previous winner. Repeat the process again to try and create an even more effective ad. Rinse, repeat…
- Make sure your website isn’t losing you clients: Regardless of how well written your ads are, and how effective they are at driving people to your website, if your site isn’t professional, modern looking and doesn’t provide a good user experience, odds are they won’t contact you for help. Having a quality website communicates to potential clients that you’re a professional and have the resources needed to help them. Remember, websites now function as modern store fronts. Just like you probably wouldn’t buy something from a disorganized, shabby looking store, clients aren’t likely to contact you if your site isn’t up to par.
Contact Law Father Today
A PPC ad campaign isn’t successful in isolation. It’s part of a comprehensive marketing strategy that requires a quality website, SEO, social media and inbound marketing campaigns to reach maximum effectiveness. Unless you have the in-house talent, your best bet is to work with an experienced media services firm that has substantial experience in marketing attorneys.
The marketing experts at Law Father have the knowledge and experience needed to help put your law firm on the fast track to growth. Contact us today by calling 800-325-7715 or by filling out our online contact form.