Getting the Most from Your Online Legal Advertising

Getting the Most from Your Online Legal Advertising

There are numerous online marketing options currently available to lawyers, but not all of them work for lead generation. For a maximum return on investment, a few of the marketing platforms are very good, some are adequate and others are duds. Marketing professionals may take issue with some of what I write here, but these are my recommendations for what they’re worth.

With more choices coming online each month, as well as endless new offerings and enhancements coming from the bigger players, how is a lawyer to prioritize the spending of a limited marketing investment?

Every lawyer’s law practice is different. Your practice areas and ideal client types are going to vary considerably from other attorneys in your community. That said, if you’re targeting consumers and small businesses, my 25 years of legal marketing data, including the delivery of over 1 billion Google ads, make certain generalizations possible.

So platform-by-platform, in order of effectiveness, I’ll summarize the pros and cons of most of what is available to lawyers in hopes that I can steer you towards what works and steer you away from what may be a less than optimal use of your investment. This article covers only paid advertising in this article and reserve for another time a comparable comparison of other sometimes-effective marketing opportunities like e-newsletters and guest-blogging.

Google Advertising

When done well, Google advertising delivers, plain and simple. You bid on phrases like “Walnut Creek divorce lawyer” and Google shows your ad on that search. When someone clicks on it, you owe Google a little and you have a legal consumer on the divorce page on your website. The new “call-only” ads allow you to run ads only on smartphones and you owe Google only when someone actually calls you.

The downside is that the learning curve on this kind of advertising is staggering and it is recommended that you outsource the account management to a competent professional.

On the bang-for-your-buck scale, Google wins.

Bing/Yahoo Advertising

Comparable to Google advertising and cheaper, you can bid on phrases and pay per click. Yahoo delivers Bing ads too.

The cons are that the clicks are cheaper but the inquiries are fewer resulting in more expensive leads than through Google. The learning curve is also steep and search volume is low. Google owns most of the smartphone search market, as the default search engine on Androids and iPhones, so call-only ads in Bing won’t deliver much.

I normally recommend against Bing/Yahoo advertising unless you’re already spending as much as you can in Google, which for many practice areas is a significant investment.

In sum, Bing/Yahoo will work for lead generation but not as well as Google.

LinkedIn Advertising

LinkedIn advertising is a unique opportunity for lawyers who represent businesses and other professionals. They offer several marketing opportunities that can be effective. Since this piece is about targeting individual consumers, LinkedIn is beyond the scope of this article. It’s worth exploring for business-to-business law firms.

Yelp Advertising

Like Google and Bing, you can bid on a pay-per-click basis for top listings when people in Yelp are searching for reviews about lawyers. It is believed by some that people who are reading reviews are at an advanced stage of the buying process so they are a valuable group to target.

Through Yelp’s “self-serve” ads, you don’t have to buy an expensive “enhanced listing” nor do you have to lock yourself into a 12-month commitment. An advantage of Yelp advertising over Google and Bing advertising is that it is easy to set up and it can be a set-it-and-forget-it tool.

The downsides are as follows: You target broad categories like “lawyers” rather than specific searches like “Walnut Creek divorce lawyers;” you cannot set your own bids and based on what I’ve seen, your cost per click will be higher than it is at Google and Bing; and the ads take consumers to your Yelp profile, not to your website.

There’s a circumstantial component, too: You should not run ads in Yelp if you have a low star rating.

I often recommend against Yelp advertising unless you’re already spending a lot in Google and Bing and/or you want to show off a large number of five-star reviews. It’s cheaper and more effective to invest that money in Google.

YouTube Advertising

Not many people realize that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and has hundreds of thousands of law-related searches each month. Advertising on YouTube is managed through your Google advertising account and is astonishingly cheap at about $0.08 per view. As a preliminary matter, you need a high-quality video ideally less than 30 seconds in length.

I’ve served up thousands of video views for different law firms and it’s unclear to me whether there is a measurable return on investment. As with other types of Google advertising, this is probably something you don’t want to run in-house.

For a budget of maybe $2.50 per day, I recommend it tentatively for lawyers who have a good video just because it is really cheap exposure.

Facebook Advertising

For legal lead generation, Facebook advertising is ineffective. It works for promoting a specific post or getting a lot of “likes” for your fan page, but people are not in Facebook looking for legal help. You cannot target Facebook users by keywords like in Google and Bing. Your options are vague, unhelpful demographics like age, location and interests.

Facebook brings several important benefits to your online ecosystem and your law firm should be active in Facebook, but I recommend against Facebook advertising except to get more “likes” for your fan page.

Twitter Advertising

Like Facebook advertising, I have found Twitter advertising ineffective for lead generation. In Twitter’s favor, its advertising is keyword targeted so you can show your ads when someone is tweeting about lawyers. This makes it better than Facebook advertising.

The advertising can be useful in raising awareness of your Twitter account or specific Twitter posts and can help get “followers” but Twitter users are not there to hire lawyers.

I usually recommend against Twitter advertising for lead generation, unless you’re already spending a lot in Google, Bing and Yelp.

Paid Directories

There’s often a disconnect between what major national legal directories charge for a listing and the traffic you get in return. These listings have a calculable value and on the occasions I’ve had to pour through data for my clients, I have found the listings to usually be worth about a third of what is charged. There are exceptions where the value of the listing is equal to or greater than the cost and it’s a case-by-case calculation.

We shouldn’t discount the intrinsic value, aside from the direct traffic, to a link from some directories. Google wants your website to have trusted websites linking to it. For example, for Google, one link from the Contra Costa County Bar Association’s directory is much more valuable than hundreds of links from many of the lower-quality paid directories.

Keeping in mind that there are exceptions, I have found listings on the major national legal directories to be grossly overpriced.

Banner Advertising on Local Websites

Banner advertising on local websites like radio station websites or online newspapers are often delivered by Google. In the event that a local website is trying to sell you a banner on their website independent of Google, then it is a matter of traffic and cost.

This is a case-by-case situation. Sometimes it’s a value, other times it’s cheaper to run your banners directly through your Google advertising.

It is hoped that this article will help focus your current marketing investment. The Internet is crowded with marketing options and separating the fruitful from the wasteful is not easy. My data and years of experience marketing attorneys supports what I’ve written here, but it’s always worth noting that other marketing professionals may have different opinions. As you formulate or refine your marketing plan, please do some research, invest wisely and make 2016 a productive new year.