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Local Service Ads for Lawyers: The Complete Guide

updated
July 5, 2022
20 min
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If you want to differentiate your practice from competing law firms and improve your ability to connect with prospective clients, you need to leverage Local Service Ads (LSAs). This relative newcomer to the online marketing field is the best tool to hit the scene since pay-per-click ads.

In this comprehensive guide, we help you understand Local Service Ads so that you can get noticed by potential clients. We cover everything from what Local Service Ads are to how your law firm can start using this powerful marketing tool.

What Are Local Services Ads?

What Are Local Services Ads

Google's Local Service Ads, alternatively referred to as "Local Services Ads," are a specific paid advertising model that you can use to market legal services to potential clients in your area.

While Local Service Ads are not an entirely new concept, this advertising model has only been available to law firms since 2019. As such, many firms have only recently begun to discover the value of this advertising methodology.

As you likely know, pay-per-click (PPC) ads typically appear at the very top of search engine results pages (SERPs) when users conduct a query that does not contain specific locations or location-based terms like "near me." Organic search results are located below the top three PPC ads.

If users conduct a location-specific query, such as "DUI lawyer in Atlanta," they will be bombarded by results featuring local law firms. The first SERP's layout and structure will also look much different. While PPC advertisements will still supersede organic results, two other types of listings will be present.

You will find a directory of relevant Google Business profiles (formerly Google My Business profiles) between the PPC results and the organic listings. You will also find that the coveted space at the very top of the results page contains Local Services Ads for lawyers.

That's right, Local Service Ads have dethroned PPC advertisements and assumed the number one spot when users conduct queries for local services. They are displayed above all other results, including PPC content. Local Service Ads are very similar to PPC content, with a few exceptions.

First, law firms must have a screened Google Business Profile business account to post ads about their local services. Secondly, the Local Service Ads platform serves as a paid directory listing for law firms. Perhaps most importantly, the Local Service Ads model bills law firms for leads, not clicks — but more on that in the next section.

What Are the Advantages of Local Services Ads for Lawyers?

What Are the Advantages of Local Services Ads for Lawyers

The Local Service Ads advertising model is by no means the only way to market your law firm. However, it does offer several advantages that can help you take your law firm's digital marketing strategy to new heights if you leverage this platform strategically.

Some of the most notable benefits of the Local Service Ads are outlined below.

Small Law Firms and Lawyers Can Compete with Bigger Firms

Local Service Ads give smaller law firms the ability to compete against larger entities more effectively. Even if your firm does not have a massive weekly budget, you can still use the platform to generate quality leads.

The Local Service Ads model will not bill you for an interaction unless a potential client actually contacts your law firm. This model allows you to maximize the return on your marketing investment without expanding your weekly budget.

You Only Pay for Real Leads

When using PPC marketing tactics, your law firm must pay every single time a user clicks on one of your advertisements. While each click generates traffic for your website, only a very small percentage of these site visitors are potential clients.

As a result, a large chunk of your ad budget is spent on irrelevant leads that have virtually zero potential to convert into paying clients.

Conversely, the Local Service Ads model bills you based on leads acquired, not clicks. This setup gives you better control over your marketing budget and helps you address wasteful spending trends.

It is important to note that each lead will cost you somewhere between $25 and $300. Your exact cost per lead will vary depending on several factors, including the practice areas you operate within and for which phrases you are bidding.

Since you are paying so much for each interaction, you must carefully monitor your Local Service Ads campaign to ensure that you are actually being charged for valid leads. You can dispute leads if you believe that you incurred any inappropriate charges. We will outline how to track your qualified leads and initiate the dispute process a bit later.

You Earn the Trust Badge: Google Screened

Before you can take advantage of the Local Service Ads platform, you will need to complete a comprehensive screening process. Google uses this process to verify the legitimacy of your law firm and protect consumers from unscrupulous businesses.

Once you successfully complete the Google Local Services Ads screening process, Google will display a green check mark next to or above your firm's listing. The phrase "GOOGLE SCREENED" will also be displayed above or beside your firm's Local Service Ads content.

This Google Local Service Ads emblem signifies to potential clients that your firm has been vetted by Google. The emblem will foster feelings of trust and make prospective clients more comfortable reaching out to your law firm.

You Get More Valuable Space Devoted to Your Law Firm

Search engine optimization and PPC marketing remain valuable components of your digital advertising strategy. However, neither of these methods will position your law firm website content at the top of search results pages when users conduct location-oriented queries.

Obtaining one of those prime positions at the top of a page is only possible when you use Local Service Ads. When users conduct locale-specific searches, information about your law firm will be one of the first things they see (assuming you won the bid).

They will see information like the name of your law firm, your "GOOGLE SCREENED" checkmark, your Google Review rating, your hours, and the number of years you have been in business.

What Types of Lawyers Qualify for Google Local Services Ads?

When Google Local Service Ads was first launched, it was only made available to law firms in a handful of practice areas. However, Google has significantly expanded the Local Service Ads program and has now made it available to law firms in a broad range of practice areas, including:

If your law firm operates in any of the aforementioned practice areas, then you can incorporate Google Local Services Ads into your overall digital marketing strategy.

How Do Google Local Service Ads for Lawyers Work?

Service ads for lawyers are actually quite simple in terms of how they work. First, a user must conduct a query that contains location-specific phrasing. Examples of location-specific phrasing include either a particular city or words like "near me."

Once they conduct their query, the results page will be rendered on their screen. The words "GOOGLE SCREENED" will be displayed at the very top of the page.

Directly under that will be three local service ads for lawyers. Each ad will display the name of the law firm, its rating, the number of reviews it has received, its business hours, and the number of years that it has been in practice.

If the user clicks on your Local Service Ad content, they will be navigated to your Google Screened profile. This profile will include all of the aforementioned data and additional information about your services. Users can also view your practice locations and read specific reviews about your practice.

Users who contact your law firm will be classified as qualified leads. Google will then bill you for each of these leads and deduct that amount from your weekly budget. Once you have reached your weekly budget, your Local Service Ad content will no longer be displayed.

How to Get Started with Google Local Service Ads for Your Law Firm

Now that we have outlined the benefits of Local Service Ads for lawyers, you are probably ready to launch your own campaign. If you want to get started with Google Local Services Ads, all you need to do is follow these five simple steps:

Step 1: Check Whether You Are Eligible for LSA

Step 1 Check Whether You Are Eligible for LSA

Naturally, the first step involves verifying your eligibility for Google's Local Service Ads program. If you operate in any of the practice areas outlined above, then you are good to go.

To confirm eligibility, open your web browser on your computer or mobile device. From there, navigate to the Local Services Ads sign-up page. Next, click on the blue "Get Started" box or call Google directly.

The setup process is a breeze, so just about anyone can use the self-enrollment method. However, you can call Google's team if you have concerns about your eligibility or need personalized assistance.

If you decide to click on the button and handle setup yourself, a new menu titled "Eligibility" will populate. You will be asked for the nation, state, and zip code in which your law firm operates, and you will also have to select a service category from the dropdown menu. Select "Law."

Next, you will be asked to select your specific practice areas, such as "family law." The options available in this menu are reflected in the bulleted list in the "What Types of Lawyers Qualify" section above. You can also elect to have your ads displayed in "general lawyer queries."

Step 2: Set Up Your Profile

Step 2 Set Up Your Profile

After clicking on the "Get Started" button and confirming eligibility, you will be prompted to provide some details about your law firm. Google will ask for information such as:

  • The name of your law firm
  • Your business address
  • Your website address
  • The first and last name of the law firm's founder
  • When your law firm was founded
  • Your business phone number
  • The total number of attorneys employed by your firm
  • Whether clients can meet with staff on-site

After providing business details, you will have the opportunity to designate which areas you want to serve. Google will display an interactive map so that you can add service areas adjacent to the zip code of your law firm. You can select as many zip codes as needed.

In the next window, you will be asked to select your service types. Make sure that the options you select align with the practice areas you selected on the "Eligibility" menu. Some common examples of service types included in this section are "auto accidents," "workers' compensation," and "dog bites."

The final window in the profile setup section is the "Business hours" menu. You will be prompted to specify on which days and during which times your business is open.

Step 3: Go Through Verification to Get a "Google Screened" Badge

Google screened badge

Getting Google Screened is the final step necessary to set up your Local Service Ad profile. In order to obtain a Google Screened status, you will need to provide several more pieces of information about you and your law firm. All of the requested items will be listed on the left side of the screening page.

The first item on your list will be a "Headshot for Your Ad." To add this item, simply click on the "Get Started" button. After you have uploaded your headshot, this item will be checked off your list.

Next, you will need to upload a copy of your bar license so that Google can verify that you are a legitimate service provider. You will also have to provide bar license information and other data for every other lawyer who works at your law firm.

As part of the verification process, Google will confirm that you have an average business review score of three or higher. The Google Service Ads platform verifies this by linking to your Google Business Profile account.

You will also have to authorize Google to arrange a background check of all practicing attorneys on your staff and the law firm's founder. These background checks are conducted by a third-party.

Step 4: Set Your Bid Amount and Budget

After you have completed the initial setup process, you will need to set a budget and bid amount. Your "bid" is the amount you are willing to pay for each lead, and your budget reflects the maximum amount that you are willing to spend during the month. Once your budget has been reached, Google will no longer display your ads during that month.

Google will provide you with several suggested budgets based on the information that you provide. Each budget will account for factors such as the number of leads you want to acquire and the expected average cost per lead in your area.

When you click on each of Google's suggested weekly budgets, the platform will estimate how many leads your Local Service Ads campaign will generate per week. The larger your budget, the broader the range provided in the estimate.

If you are not satisfied with any of Google's suggested budgets, you can customize your bid and budget amounts. You will need to devote at least a few hundred dollars to your Local Service Ads campaign. However, many law firms spend several thousand dollars per month on this highly effective marketing tactic.

Step 5: Manage Your Leads from Local Service Ads

The Google Local Service Ads platform will use all of the information you provided to create your business listing. This setup means that you will not have to create any customized marketing content for your Local Services Ads campaign.

However, you will need to actively manage the leads you generate via the Local Service Ads platform. To effectively manage your Local Services Ads campaign, you will need to understand what it takes to make the cut for the top three.

When determining which firms to display in the three Local Services Ads spots, Google considers factors such as:

  • Your business hours
  • Your office's proximity to the user
  • The search terms used
  • Your Google Business Profile rating
  • Bid amounts

Google will also consider other reputation-related factors when determining whether to display your listing to potential customers. For instance, if your business has been the subject of repeated complaints, has reached its budgetary limits, or lacks an adequate volume of Google Reviews, the platform may not display your ad.

Therefore, you must protect and nurture your firm's reputation. This work can be accomplished by proactively seeking out positive reviews, promptly addressing serious or repeated complaints, and monitoring your Google LSA budget. You will also need to be on the lookout for unqualified leads to ensure that you are being billed appropriately.

How to Dispute Irrelevant leads

Google classifies phone calls that last more than 30 seconds, missed calls that you later return, and text messages about your services as qualified leads. You will receive detailed reports from Google that outline charges you have incurred.

While Google's system is accurate and efficient, it is by no means flawless. On occasion, you might be charged incorrectly. When this occurs, you can use Google's lead dispute process to contest the charge.

In order to initiate a dispute, simply click on the menu in the upper right corner of your lead page. Next, select "Dispute" from the list of options. Finally, select a dispute option from the dropdown menu and submit your request.

If Google approves your dispute, it will credit your account to correct the error. If it denies the claim, Google will send you an email explaining the decision.

You can dispute leads for several reasons. For example, if a person calls your law firm in pursuit of services that you do not provide and the call lasts for more than 30 seconds, then you may be accidentally billed by Google.

The Difference Between Local Service Ads, Local Search Ads, and Google Ads

Google Local Service Ads differ from Google Adwords and Local search ads in several ways, including the following;

LSAs Appear First

Business listing in the LSA section will appear above all other results. Since the items at the top of SERPs garner a large percentage of traffic, this attribute makes Local Services Ads a valuable marketing tool for legal firms like yours.

LSAs help local businesses be more competitive because their listings will appear before PPC content. As a result, local businesses have an opportunity to connect with potential customers before major national or international enterprises.

LSAs Use a Pay-Per-Lead Model

Most Google ad services use a pay-per-click model. While this model has its benefits, it also has a few disadvantages. The biggest drawback to the PPC model used by Google Adwords is that you are charged for any interaction (clicks) with your ad, even if the person initiating the interaction did so by accident or has no intention of hiring your firm.

Conversely, the LSA platform's pay-per-lead model only bills your account when a user has a meaningful interaction with your content. This model reduces waste and increases the quality of leads that your firm receives.

Budget Doesn't Influence Ranking

The biggest difference between LSA and other Google advertising services is that your budget has no bearing on your ranking when using Local Service Ads. Whether your firm has a monthly budget of $1,000 or $10,000, you will have an equal opportunity to compete for users' attention.

However, the lower your budget, the fewer times your ads can be displayed to qualifying leads before you reach your monthly spending threshold.

Proximity Matters More with LSAs than Google Ads

When determining which LSA listings to display in response to a person's search, Google places a huge emphasis on proximity. Google's algorithm does not place as much value on proximity when displaying other types of advertising content.

As a result, LSAs are one of the best marketing channels for connecting with potential customers in your local area.

LSAs Require a Screening Process

Lastly, businesses must undergo a rigorous screening process in order to use the Local Services Ads platform. This screening process levels the playing field between small law firms and major organizations. It also protects customers by ensuring that they are connected with a licensed lawyer.

FAQs: Local Services Ads for Law Firms

  • Are Local Service Ads Better than SEO for Lawyers?

    Local Service Ads are a valuable resource for lawyers in virtually every area of practice. However, LSAs should not be viewed as being "better" than search engine optimization for lawyers.

    Instead, you should view both SEO and LSAs as integral components of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. LSAs allow you to generate high-quality leads in short order. This attribute makes them an excellent tool for growing your business and expanding your reach in the crowded legal profession.

    These LSAs can also be used to generate additional leads if you have experienced a recent dip in inquiries from clients.

    On the other hand, SEO best practices can help you build your law firm's reputation over time. You can establish your firm, and its website, as a source of authority and expertise. This positioning will allow you to generate a higher volume of organic traffic and reduce the amount of money that you need to invest in paid marketing opportunities.

    To recap, SEO and LSAs should be used in conjunction with one another. This harmonized, holistic approach will yield the best results and allow you to accomplish your long-term business goals.

    If you neglect SEO, then you will likely find that your paid advertising efforts are cutting into your profitability. Conversely, if you do not invest enough resources into LSA and other paid search endeavors, then you might not be able to generate enough leads to grow your firm.

  • How Much Do Google Local Services Ads for Lawyers Cost?

    Signing up for the Google Local Services Ads platform is completely free. However, you will be charged every time your ads generate a lead. The amount that you are charged will be based on your bid amount.

    Winning bid values will vary based on geographic location and practice area. For example, if you are a divorce attorney in a highly competitive area like Los Angeles, you may pay $300 per lead or more.

    On the other hand, attorneys working in less competitive regions or practice areas might pay less than $50 per lead. If other attorneys in your area start bidding more on their LSAs, then your cost per lead will rise.

  • Will My Local Service Ad Show Up More If I Set a Higher Budget?

    Yes and no. Google will not penalize your service ads if you have a budget that is lower than your competitors, as long as your per lead bid amount is sufficient. In that regard, setting a higher budget will not have any impact on how frequently your ad is displayed.

    However, let's say that your budget is $500 per week/$2,000 per month, and the average cost of a lead in your area is $250. Google's platform will not exceed your monthly budget, but your weekly spend can vary.

    Therefore, if you generate eight leads in the first week of the month, your entire budget will be exhausted. In this scenario, your LSAs would not be displayed for the rest of the month unless you set a higher budget.

  • Can You Choose What Keywords Trigger Local Services Ads?

    No, you cannot choose which keywords will display your Local Service Ads listing. Google will automatically determine when to display your listing based on the search terms entered by the user. If your listed practice areas are relevant to the user's inquiry and your content was one of the top three options based on Google's criteria, then your ad will be displayed.

    If you want to minimize the risk of having your ads displayed inappropriately, make sure that the service types you select when setting up your profile align with the actual services you offer. If someone calls you about services that you do not offer and you are billed by Google, make sure to dispute the charges.

  • How to Become Top-3 Showed Results in LSA for Law Firms

    If you want to be included among the top-3 LSA results on a regular basis, make sure that you:

    • Choose appropriate service area types when setting up your profile
    • Monitor your Google Business Profile score
    • List the correct phone number on your profile
    • List the correct address for your business (proximity matters)
    • Periodically review your LSA bid amount
    • Review your monthly budget to see if you have exceeded it
    • Maintain a good reputation and address complaints promptly
    • Encourage previous clients to leave you reviews
    • Consider upping your budget if you can afford to

    Once you obtain a top-3 spot in your area, staying there is not nearly as challenging as maintaining a high SEO ranking. However, other firms in your area will constantly be vying for the attention of potential customers as well. Occasionally, they may drive up your cost per lead by increasing their bid amounts.

    If you are sitting in the number one spot and only one firm increases their bid, you should still be among the top 3. But you will need to routinely check your positioning because the actions of that single competitor might have ignited a lead bidding war.

    Also, if your firm relocates, creates a new website, switches phone numbers, or makes any other changes, make sure to promptly update this information on your LSA profile. Something as simple as a wrong number can cause you to miss out on quality leads and cost you your top-3 spot.

Ready to Grow Your Law Firm with Local Services Ads?

Want to make Local Services Ads part of your digital marketing strategy? Does your entire online outreach strategy need an overhaul, but you're not sure where to begin? Want to work with a professional law firm digital marketing company that specializes in serving attorneys?

If any of this sounds familiar, then we invite you to connect with Grow Law Firm. We offer a comprehensive suite of digital marketing solutions for attorneys, including law firm web design services, SEO services for lawyers, and LSA campaign management. Contact us today to begin.

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    Sasha Berson is a legal marketing expert

    Sasha serves as Managing Partner for Grow Law Firm, a Chicago-based digital marketing agency focused solely on specialized growth strategies for attorneys and their practices.

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