SEO vs PPC for lawyers and law firms

  • avdigital | Feb 19, 2020

Law practices in the United States are getting highly competitive nowadays, and while many firms thrive on reputation, using rigorous marketing strategies is also important in order to reach a larger or more specific audience. Even the biggest and most reputable law firms need to advertise or remain visible to their target audience in order to continue to thrive. In 2018, it was reported that law firms in the US spent about $19,000 on marketing out of every $1 million in revenue.

Having said that, law firms are not exactly marketing their services by giving out brochures to everyone walking to the subway, specifically if the practice is restricted to a certain niche. For example, how can a 18-wheeler personal injury lawyer find potential clients by putting up a sign near a local mall – a place where most of the people visiting may never need his/her services? These people may not even notice the sign because they are not looking for a lawyer at that given moment.

So, how do lawyers find potential clients that may require their services in a very dense population? Through digital marketing, of course.

It is recommended by many digital experts that 50% of the marketing budget be spent on digital media. Beginning with a strong, aesthetically appealing website, a law practice has to then employ digital marketing strategies to attract customers to their website. Some of these website visitors will eventually convert and start using their services.

However, there are two popular digital marketing strategies for law firms to use in order to attract business- SEO and PPC. Some law practices may have trouble deciding which one would be most optimal for their business.

Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making yourself visible on search engines such as Google and allowing clients to find you when they search for specific keywords. If we take the example of the 18-wheeler personal injury lawyer again, he/she may want to appear first in Google rankings with keywords such as “personal injury lawsuits“, “18-wheeler personal injury law firms” or ” which lawyers handle 18-wheeler personal injury cases“.

However, numerous personal injury lawyers/firms may be aiming to appear first in Google searches as that increases organic reach (the ability to attract audiences through natural methods rather than paid methods). In order to compete, a law firm must use SEO.

Pros of SEO

The benefits of SEO for law firms begin with building authenticity and trust amongst clients. If a law practice ranks on the first page of Google for keywords related to its niche, there is a 75% higher chance of conversions and a much higher chance of substantial website traffic. This is because potential customers see them first in search engine rankings and that gives them a solid reputation and steady business in the market.

According to research, approximately 96% of people use search engines to find a lawyer and  72% only speak to one attorney before hiring. This means that if your law firm is ranked amongst top three on Google, there is a definite possibility of increasing business tenfold or more. Organic search results are reportedly clicked on eight times more than ads.

This is “free marketing” as the law firm isn’t directly paying for the traffic that comes to its website. Moreover, most of the SEO process does not cost a substantial amount of money, except for fees related to content generation, employing the skills of an SEO expert, and sometimes paid link building.

Additionally, SEO enables you to attract more targeted traffic rather than irrelevant traffic because you are aiming to direct traffic from particular keywords that these clients have searched for. It also means that these clients are searching for these services right now and are likely to convert quicker.

You can rank for your particular law niche and your geographical area. For example, prospective clients may search for “personal injury law firms in New York” and hence, if your practice is in New York or your target audience is,  you would want to rank for that particular area as well in order to give your business more segmented traffic and the likelihood of more conversions.

 SEO offers a much higher return on investment than other digital marketing strategies because you are only injecting a limited amount of time and money into the process, while the return from the number of visitors that your website will attract is potentially unlimited. The results are long-term and not just for the time being.

However, there are drawbacks, as nothing comes without its fair share of negatives.

Cons of SEO

First of all, SEO takes a lot of time and it can be months before your law practice appears on the first page of Google. Hence, for instance, if you are an 18-wheeler personal injury lawyer who wants to attract cases immediately, using only SEO may not be the best strategy.

SEO is also very competitive and may be even more competitive in your own particular law niche and in a particular geographical area. For example, if there are plenty of personal injury lawyers in New York and everyone is ranking for the same keywords, it may become more difficult. That only means that it may take a little longer to achieve your desired results.

Contrarily, you may want to opt for a quicker pro-active approach to getting more business as a lawyer, by using pay-per-click campaigns (PPC).

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Pay-per-click campaigns are ads that appear at the top of search engine pages against certain keywords. Search engines such as Google charge a fee per click on your respective ad and that way traffic is immediately directed to your website. Does this mean that pay-per-click is instantly effective?

Here is what PPC campaigns can do for a law practice.

Pros of PPC

First of all, as mentioned above, pay-per-click is immediate and while there may be competition amongst keywords you want to place an ad against, you can easily and instantly conquer the competition by placing a higher bid on the respective keyword. Hence, it is all about your marketing budget.

This is an ideal way to gain some traffic on an immediate basis. Therefore, if you are an 18-wheeler personal injury lawyer and want to place an ad against the keywords “personal injury lawyers in New Jersey” you would just have to bid against these keywords and place an ad. Your marketing budget would be absorbed based on how many people click on your ad.

You can specifically target ads towards a certain audience by changing settings on the ad. You can set limits for age, interests, gender, geographical location, etc. This means PPC is an effective way to reach a wider audience in a shorter period of time.

Again, with all pros, come the cons.

Cons of PPC

Pay-per-click alone is a short-term strategy as you will only be visible on search engines while you keep paying for the advertisement. Once you stop paying, your ad will no longer be visible and you won’t be able to attract traffic to your website. SEO, on the other hand, is long-term.

As mentioned above, research suggests that customers are more likely to look at and trust organic results rather than ads. Hence, SEO may be more effective in gaining converting clients. However, this does not mean that pay-per-click does not get relevant traffic. It does, but perhaps not as much as SEO has proven to for a longer period of time.

PPC is also competitive and this means that every law niche will be competing with other firms in the same practice for ad space. If you are competing with a top gun with a large marketing budget, this means that your PPC budget may quickly get absorbed and with little benefit.

Overall, both strategies are important if you want excellent marketing results. Combining both results in a lower cost per acquisition. For example, with SEO you can attract organic visitors to your website and with PPC you can retarget those that did not convert, in order to increase your conversion rate and strengthen the way you capture and pitch to leads.

If you are looking for short-term gain and are promoting your practice for a certain period of time, event, etc, then perhaps you can use PPC individually. However, if you only want to use one strategy, SEO is effective for longer and offers a higher return on investment. Reiterating what is mentioned above, a combination of both can provide optimal results and maximize revenue.

Accordingly, digital marketing experts can help lawyers identify keywords in their niche and begin forming a robust digital marketing strategy- an essential to remain competitive in today’s highly demanding legal sector.  If you haven’t consulted with a digital marketing expert yet, why wait?