Savvy law firms are always on the lookout for new ways to stand out and bring in more business. In the digital world, managing PPC (pay-per-click) advertisements on search engines like Google has been one of the most effective tactics. But as new paid search advertising tools are developed, law firms have to understand the positives and potential drawbacks before investing time and resources in them.
The latest example is Google’s Local Services ads (LSAs), which can offer top spots at reduced rates for service providers like lawyers. You’re probably thinking, “What’s the catch?” It turns out that while this new advertising option can be useful for some law firms, it’s not right for every firm. Before you rush off to become an early adopter, make sure you know what you’re getting into, and if your firm can truly benefit from LSAs.
What are Google’s Local Services Ads?
Local Services Ads are a type of paid search advertising that help service providers like attorneys reach prospective customers (or in this case, clients) using a specific search phrase and their current location. These phrases include a specific area of law, and a city or region.
When setting up LSAs, firms can select their area of operation on a map, which defines where you typically serve clients and how many people may see your ad in their search. To get more details about this process, check out our previous blog about LSAs.
Like traditional pay-per-click ads, LSAs target relevant customers, highlight a firm’s credentials, and enjoy high visibility placement on Google’s search results page when they appear. Depending on the search terms used, Local Services ads are occasionally shown as a series of tiles above other paid ads that include:
- A headshot picture
- A star rating
- How many years the firm has been operating
- Business hours
- Phone number or call button
Unlike other options, LSAs are pay-per-lead ads, which means that you only pay for the number of people who use the ad to call you and stay on the line for more than two minutes.
What law firms should know before they invest in Local Services ads
The trouble some law firms encounter when using Google Local Services ads in their marketing strategies can be distilled down to one very important word: control. There are far fewer ways for firms to adjust their ad targeting, and the results can be inconsistent. Here are some examples of how LSAs limit your control:
- LSAs allow firms to define their borders, but they don’t include many other options to reach a specific audience.
- Lawyers can choose their service type from a list of legal matters and practice areas, but Google has yet to explain exactly how these choices may affect your ad placement.
- The search results page only shows three or four lawyers or firms in the Local Services placement, and how these are selected is unclear. All others are put on a separate page.
- Your LSA might not show up at all because at least three firms must sign up in a particular market (geographic area + job type) for LSAs to show in the main search engine results page.
- Clicking on an LSA does not send potential clients to your website. Rather, they are directed to your Local Services ad profile (where they can then find a link to your website).
- The call button included on the tile does not use a law firm’s own number, but a separate tracking number generated by Google, which allows them to tally and record those calls.
This last point is obviously concerning for attorney/client privilege, but it is required for LSA usage. Call recording can help law firms dispute leads though, so with close monitoring, users may be able to use them to avoid unwanted charges. Early testers suggested quickly verifying key information to determine whether the lead is viable, then calling them back on a more private line to protect both parties’ privacy.
Who are Google LSAs for?
Local Services ads are most useful to lawyers or law firms that operate in smaller markets, with relatively few competitors. If you work in a smaller city and practice a specialized type of law, LSAs can help you jump to the top of the search results. But generally speaking, this type of advertising should never be your only choice. With only a few factors under your control, it can be difficult to capture leads consistently. Therefore, legal advertisers who are interested in LSAs should be prepared for an unpredictable experience and pursue multiple advertising methods to manage the volatility. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. LSAs should be used sparingly to enhance your regular PPC campaigns.
A more reliable option
For many small and solo law firms, investing in Local Services ads may not make sense right now as they are a relatively new product and Google is still working through some issues. To quickly boost online visibility, many firms can benefit from working with a digital marketing company that specializes in helping attorneys and law firms. FindLaw was involved in Google’s early beta testing of LSAs for law firms and can leverage a much larger data set to help drive performance for individual firms. Learn more about how FindLaw can help you gain traction locally.
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