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SEO vs. PPC: Which Is Better for a Law Firm?

updated
July 4, 2022
22 min
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In the modern, digitized marketplace, it has become essential for law firms to develop a strong online presence via digital marketing. While there are many ways to drive more traffic to a law firm's website, search engine optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC Campaigns) are two of the most effective digital marketing tools.

SEO and PPC are the consensus picks when discussing the most powerful law firm digital marketing tools in existence. However, there is plenty of debate as to which option is better for law firms. Many law firms are fiercely devoted to their search engine optimization efforts, whereas others prefer to leverage paid search.

With that in mind, we have created this definitive guide to SEO vs. PPC. In this head-to-head comparison, we explore the benefits and potential drawbacks of each digital marketing strategy. We also examine whether your law firm should choose one methodology over the other or attempt to implement both SEO and PPC.

What Is SEO?

What Is SEO

As the name suggests, "search engine optimization" is all about increasing a website's visibility on top search engines like Google.

SEO is the practice of leveraging several different tactics to improve website rankings. Google — and other search engines — use these rankings to provide users with relevant results based on the keywords they entered into the search bar.

Websites that are optimized will rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). Ideally, the goal is to reach that highly coveted positioning on search engine results pages' first page.

The value of making page one cannot be overstated. Law firms that make the jump from the 11th ranked result (top of page 2) to the 10th ranked result (bottom of page 1) experience a 143% increase in traffic.

There is a common misconception that search engine optimization simply involves packing a law firm's website with relevant keywords.

While there was a time when including relevant keywords in the body of a blog or article was enough to climb the rankings, that time has long since passed. Now, Google's ranking algorithm examines a broad array of both on-page and off-page factors when ranking websites.

On-Page SEO

The lion's share of search engine optimization efforts will be performed directly on a law firm's website. One example of on-page optimization is to ensure that all H1 tags include relevant legal industry keywords that you want to rank for. Keywords should also be used in sub-heading throughout each webpage.

When inserting keywords into content, it is important that they are included naturally. Otherwise, Google's algorithm may rank the site lower due to concerns about its legitimacy, relevance, or quality.

It is vital that you conduct thorough keyword research before crafting content. Doing so will help you better understand what words and phrases prospective clients use when searching for legal services.

Off-Page SEO

Whereas on-page search engine optimization is all about pleasing Google's ranking algorithm and providing viewers with relevant content, off-page SEO is focused on drawing additional attention to your law firm's website. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways.

One effective and increasingly popular approach for engaging in off-page SEO is to post new content on social media platforms for lawyers. Another strategy — albeit a more difficult one to leverage — is to acquire high-quality backlinks. A backlink is a link from another website to your firm's content.

When ranking websites, Google's algorithm looks for authoritative backlinks from reputable pages. While high-quality backlinks can improve search results page ranking, broken or illegitimate links will damage a site's ranking. Google has also started cracking down on link schemes with increased fervor as of late.

SEO for Lawyers: Pros & Cons

SEO for Lawyers Pros & Cons

An SEO campaign is often considered to be the best strategy for connecting with potential clients. However, it is important to weigh both the pros and cons when deciding which digital marketing methodology is best for your law firm. With that in mind, we have highlighted several SEO pros and cons for lawyers below.

SEO Pros for Lawyers

Some of the benefits of SEO for lawyers include the following:

  • Improved search engine results page ranking: Law firm SEO efforts allow your business to use organic search results to obtain more clients.
  • Stretched marketing budgets: SEO is by no means free, but it can be more budget-friendly than PPC advertising.
  • Improved brand image: A good SEO strategy will help your firm establish itself as a respected source of information in the legal industry. You can also expand the scope of your digital marketing campaign and reach more potential clients.
  • Increased awareness: SEO law firm marketing will increase awareness of your brand and services. Even if some of your organic traffic does not need your services now, they may turn back to your brand in the future because they are familiar with it.
  • Strong Return on Investment: Generally, the return on investment (ROI) of SEO vs. PPC for lawyers is higher. Each dollar spent on SEO will yield a better return, although it may take longer to realize these benefits.
  • A strategic advantage: Search engine users are typically more trusting of organic results than the paid Google ads located at the top of a search engine results page. As a result, law firms that leverage SEO online marketing have the edge over their competitors. The aforementioned perks are only a few of the benefits that your law firm can experience by investing in an SEO strategy.

SEO Cons for Lawyers

While SEO offers obvious benefits, it does have some downsides:

  • SEO is an ongoing process: So you have crafted a comprehensive search engine marketing campaign, and your law firm's website now has a page one ranking. This achievement means that your work is done, and you can now reap the benefits of endless organic traffic, right?

Unfortunately, no. The least appealing aspect of search engine marketing is that it is a never-ending process. All of your competitors are constantly working to climb Google search rankings and surpass your law firm's website in the organic listings.

Therefore, you will always need to monitor your standing on search results pages, add new content, and refine your digital law firm marketing strategy.

  • Algorithms change: Another consideration when engaging in search engine marketing is that the rules can and will change. Periodically, all search engines will update their ranking algorithms. Many of these updates are minor and will have little impact on your law firm and its marketing strategy.

However, some changes are substantial and can cause you to plummet down the Google search results rankings virtually overnight. Therefore, it is essential to update your marketing strategy so that it reflects the most recent algorithmic ranking protocols.

  • Patience is key: When creating an SEO-centric marketing plan, it is important to realize that search engine optimization does not produce overnight results. While a great SEO strategy will help you generate leads, it may take weeks or even months to reap the fruits of your labor. That is why patience is key when managing an SEO campaign.

The aforementioned drawbacks should not discourage you from leveraging search engine marketing. Instead, they should be used to guide your law firm as it develops an SEO strategy so that it can maximize the efficacy of its digital marketing efforts.

What Is PPC?

What Is PPC

Pay-per-click advertising is a specific type of paid online marketing. The easiest way to explain PPC campaigns is to compare them to traditional paid advertisements.

In the early days of online advertising, a digital marketer would pay for Google ads (or other search engine ads) based on exposures. An exposure occurred anytime a person viewed an ad, whether they interacted with it in any meaningful way or not.

Exposure-based payment models can be best compared to posting an ad on a billboard. While lots of traffic might drive by that billboard, very few potential clients actually pay attention to the content.

Over time, digital marketing experts realized how inefficient this paid advertising strategy was. Ultimately, this realization led to the development of PPC ads. Instead of paying for views or exposures, a digital marketer only has to pay Google when potential clients actually click on an ad.

PPC advertising uses a bid-based system. Let's say that five local law firms in the same city launch PPC campaigns involving the key phrase "personal injury law." Each law firm can select a bid amount when setting up its personal injury law PPC campaign.

The Google algorithm will choose the three law firms that placed the highest bids and display their ads at the top of a search engine results page. Every time a potential client searches the phrase "personal injury law," Google's algorithm will repeat this evaluation process and select the three highest bidders.

Even if a law firm's PPC ad is chosen as one of the top three, they will not pay Google unless a user clicks on their link.

While other forms of paid online marketing are available, the PPC campaign has become the gold standard because a PPC strategy gives law firms total control over their marketing budget.

When setting up a PPC campaign, a law firm has the freedom to choose what keywords it wants to bid for and how much it is willing to pay if a user interacts with its ad. Additionally, law firms can set a daily and total PPC campaign budget.

For instance, let's say that your daily PPC marketing budget is $50, and you elect to bid $5 for a relevant keyword. Once ten people have clicked on your PPC ad in a day, the Google Adwords platform will stop considering your content when determining which three advertisements to display that day.

There is a common misconception that PPC marketing can only be used on search engines. However, platforms like Facebook and Instagram also offer a pay-per-click advertising format.

PPC for Lawyers: Pros & Cons

PPC for Lawyers Pros & Cons

There are several pros and cons to consider when developing a PPC strategy. If your law firm wants to get the maximum return on investment from its paid search investments, then it is vital that you are aware of the potential drawbacks and advantages of PPC for lawyers.

PPC Pros

By utilizing PPC advertising, your law firm can:

  • Maintain control over your marketing budget: PPC campaign management platforms allow your law firm to maintain complete control over its marketing budget. You can set daily, weekly, and monthly budgets based on the amount of funds that you have available. You can also bid on less-competitive keywords if you want to get more out of your available budget.
  • Achieve fast results: Both SEO and PPC can generate traffic and help you connect with potential clients. However, only the latter can produce near-immediate results. This speed makes pay-per-click advertising particularly appealing to lawyers who have recently launched a new business, as they must build their online presence from the ground up.
  • Stabilize website traffic: Even after you have mastered the art of organic SEO, your law firm will still experience ebbs and flows in website traffic. Conversely, PPC ads can generate stable amounts of web traffic. That is why PPC ads are often used to bolster organic SEO efforts.
  • Position your content at the top of SERPs: As you are likely well aware, PPC ads are displayed at the top of a search results page. Since they are prioritized over organic search results, your PPC ads will be one of the first things potential clients see when conducting a query.

PPC is particularly effective for local marketing purposes, regardless of practice area. Law firms in all practice areas can benefit from using PPC marketing to connect with potential clients.

PPC Cons

In terms of paid marketing, there is no question that PPC is the best strategy available. However, there are drawbacks of pay-per-click advertising:

  • PPC costs can easily rack up: PPC cost is the most notable potential drawback of using paid search marketing tactics. In order to consistently win bids for the most sought-after legal industry keywords, you may have to dig deep into your marketing budget.

Fortunately, you can circumvent this challenge by focusing on your local market. In order to leverage local marketing, you will need to set geographic parameters when creating your PPC ad campaign. This setup ensures that your law firm is only competing with other local businesses when bidding for keywords.

Additionally, you can target long-tail keywords, which are phrases that are a bit longer than your average keyword. You can find out which phrases prospective clients are actively searching for by using tools like Google Analytics.

  • Some users have a disdain for ads: Many modern consumers are distrusting of ads, even if those ads are related to their search queries. In fact, 93% of consumers prefer to do business with companies recommended by family or friends.

As a result of this disdain, some users will scroll past paid ads and select the first blog post or landing page in the organic search results section. This trend of growing distrust towards ads illustrates the importance of driving organic traffic.

  • Paid advertising can be overused: Budget alone should not be the only factor that your law firm considers when deciding whether to launch a PPC campaign. Even if you have the budget to fund a seemingly endless stream of PPC marketing campaigns, doing so may not be such a great idea.

Over time, users may grow weary of seeing your law firm pop up in the ad section of search results, even if their inquiry is related to your practice area. You can reduce the chances that clients will become annoyed at your ads by mixing up which keywords you are bidding for.

Also, you should ensure that you are consistently adding new content to your lawyer website. This approach allows you to link each PPC campaign to a new blog or service page, even if you are bidding for the same keyword.

To recap, PPC marketing is a great tool that your law firm can use to get noticed on search engines and social media platforms. But your law firm needs to strategically implement PPC ads into its overall marketing strategy in order to avoid engaging in wasteful spending.

SEO vs. PPC: What Is Better for a Law Firm?

SEO and PPC are both integral components of an effective marketing strategy. In certain stages of a law firm's lifecycle, PPC will be the better option. In other instances, law firms should focus on organic SEO to generate traffic, build their brand images, and acquire new clients.

When SEO Is a Better Option

SEO services for attorneys are the better option for your law firm when your goals include the following:

  • Building authority: An expertly-crafted SEO strategy will help your law firm establish its website as an authoritative resource. An authoritative website is one that contains a wealth of informative content relevant to your practice area. This content can come in many forms but will mostly consist of legal blogs that address common questions or concerns.

Building your website's authority will bolster your on-site and off-site SEO efforts. For instance, other websites will be more prone to link back to your content if your site is considered to be reputable and authoritative. Additionally, everyday users may share your content with others when speaking to friends or family about legal issues.

  • Increasing your website's value: The primary role of your law firm's website is to serve as a resource for potential clients and advertise your services. However, increasing the amount of organic search traffic that your site generates can make your website more valuable in other ways.

If your website ranks high on search engines, you could monetize it and generate an auxiliary revenue stream for your law firm. When you monetize your website, you are authorizing Google (or other entities) to display PPC ads on your site. The more organic search traffic your site generates, the higher its earning potential.

  • Generating consistent organic traffic: Ranking highly among organic listings will help you generate consistent amounts of web traffic day in and day out. While you may experience temporary dips in organic search traffic following a major update to a search engine's algorithm, this decrease is only temporary if you update your SEO strategy.

If you are patient and consistent, you can make your website a staple on the first page of organic listings.

When PPC Is a Better Option

To reiterate, SEO and PPC are exceptional marketing methodologies that can be incredibly valuable to your brand-building efforts when used appropriately. Whereas SEO is better suited for achieving long-term goals, PPC services for lawyers are the clear choice when you need to:

  • Promote Time-Sensitive Offers: A PPC ad campaign gives you the opportunity to get the word out about a limited-time offer. For example, let's say that you have recently started offering "free case reviews" and want to see if this new offer helps you acquire more leads.

You could advertise this service using a PPC marketing campaign. If the service is effective at generating more prospects, then you could begin advertising it across all web pages and future content.

  • Target Specific Prospects: When setting up a PPC ad campaign, you have the ability to restrict your content to specific groups or audience segments. Google targets users in your specified demographic based on various data, including their age, geographic location, income, and gender.

Targeting specific prospects can help you break into new markets, connect with underserved demographics, and build your brand image.

  • Obtain Immediate Results: PPC marketing can generate immediate traffic while you wait for your SEO campaign to produce results. This feature makes PPC a great tool for new law firms or those that are undertaking major rebranding efforts.

You can also use PPC marketing to boost web traffic during seasonal lulls. For example, if the winter months are historically some of your least profitable, consider upping your paid search marketing budget during these lean times. Doing so could help you acquire more clients and boost revenue.

How Is ROI Different for PPC vs. SEO?

When deciding which marketing approach is best for your firm, it is important to understand the ROI differences between SEO and PPC.

The value proposition of PPC is that it delivers a rapid return on investment. As soon as you set up your campaign and it goes live, you will begin generating traffic. However, it is important that not all of this traffic will be converted into clients. If a large percentage of clicks are not turning into meaningful leads, your ROI will be diminished.

Another consideration is SERP stability. With PPC, you can ensure that your web pages consistently appear at the top of SERPs, provided you are winning bids for the keywords that you are competing for.

Conversely, SEO will yield less stable SERP positioning. You will likely notice that your site's ranking fluctuates week to week or month to month. Typically, these fluctuations will be gradual unless the search engine implements an algorithm that heavily penalizes your website.

In terms of ROI, SEO marketing generally provides a higher return. The downside is that it may take you much longer to experience this return. For the first several weeks or months, your SEO investments may generate a minimal amount of web traffic, if any.

In light of this fact, many firms elect to use both SEO and PPC. This more balanced approach allows them to generate essential traffic while they work to climb search engine rankings.

SEO vs. PPC Keyword Research Differences

SEO vs. PPC Keyword Research Differences

Both SEO and PPC campaigns involve conducting keyword research. This research reveals what verbiage potential clients are using when querying legal terms. After you have identified these words and phrases, you can begin targeting them with your marketing efforts.

That said, SEO and PPC keyword research practices are slightly different from one another.

SEO Keyword Research

When conducting keyword research for SEO purposes, your goal should be to find phrases relevant to your area of practice and popular among prospective clients. However, it is important that you do not choose overly broad phrases, as this will make it incredibly difficult for you to climb SERP rankings.

For instance, it will be virtually impossible to rank for the phrase "lawyers," especially if your website is relatively new. You can narrow the scope of your efforts by choosing keywords that include:

  • Your city
  • Your field of practice
  • General location-based phrases

Instead of attempting to rank for the word "lawyers," you could target phrases like "Personal injury lawyers in Atlanta" or "Personal injury attorneys near me." These are just simple examples. You could apply this same concept to any city or field of practice.

If you find that local keywords are quite competitive and you are struggling to rank highly for them, consider leveraging "long-tail keywords." A long-tail keyword is a phrase that includes more words than you would typically target with SEO.

The exact length of long-tail keywords will vary based on your area of practice and other factors. However, long-tail keywords typically contain at least five to seven words.

Long-tail keywords garner less search traffic than shorter phrases, as most people conducting queries are looking for prompt answers to their questions. That said, traffic generated using long-tail keywords usually has a higher conversion rate. Users querying long-tail phrases have a strong "purchase intent" and know exactly what they are looking for.

You can convert the keyphrase "Personal injury lawyers in Atlanta" into a long-tail keyword by simply adding one additional word. For example, you could target the phrase "Experienced personal injury lawyers in Atlanta." While it will be a bit more challenging to incorporate that extra word into your content in a natural way, doing so can generate some high-quality traffic.

PPC Keyword Research

When conducting PPC keyword research, your primary goal is to identify which phrases are being used by your target audience. However, you should also consider what average winning bids are for each key phrase. This information will help you determine whether a given phrase aligns with your marketing budget or if you should target a less-competitive phrase.

Choosing a favorably-priced keyword lays the foundation for a successful campaign. However, there are a few additional steps that you will need to take in order to avoid wasting your marketing budget.

One of the best ways to make your PPC strategy more successful is to adjust the "match type" settings when creating your campaign. There are four different match types on Google Adwords, which include the following:

  1. Broad match
  2. Modified broad match
  3. Phrase match type
  4. Exact match type

If you select the broad match type, Google will display your ad (assuming you were a top 3 bidder) to anyone that uses any of your chosen keywords in their search.

For example, let's say that you bid for the phrase "Personal injury attorneys." Hypothetically, your ad could be displayed when a user searches the word "personal" or "injury," even if they did not include either of the other keywords.

The modified broad match type gives you slightly more control. You can "lock" keywords in place, which means that those chosen words have to be included in a user's search.

When you select phrase match type, Google will target any users that search your chosen keyphrase, as long as they typed it in the correct order. The search can still include additional words in front of or behind your keyphrase.

As the name implies, the "exact match type" setting requires that the phrase only includes your keywords. If any words are included before or after your keyphrase, then Google will not display your ad.

Most of the time, you should pick one of the middle options. The broad match setting will generate too many irrelevant results. On the other hand, the exact match type setting can be far too restrictive to produce enough volume.

The modified broad match or phrase match settings offer a perfect balance between specificity and generalization so that you can generate a healthy amount of quality traffic.

Local SEO & PPC for Lawyers

Local SEO & PPC for Lawyers

Like most law firms, your practice probably operates exclusively in a single state. If so, then why would you waste time, energy, and money advertising to out-of-market clients who reside in other states? The answer is that you shouldn't be. Instead, you should leverage local advertising tactics.

Local advertising and search tools allow you to target potential clients in specific geographical locations. This setup serves several purposes.

First, it ensures that you are only connecting with people who could actually take advantage of your services. Second, it reduces the number of firms that you are competing against when attempting to rank for keywords or win PPC bids.

Local SEO for Lawyers

There are several ways to generate more organic, local traffic. One of the most effective involves claiming your business on Google. This claim requires you to create a free Google Business Profile, formerly known as a Google My Business account.

When you create your account, you can ensure that your phone number, address, business hours, and other information are accurately reflected on the Google search engine and Google Maps.

There are several other ways to improve local SEO for lawyers. However, these tactics can be a bit more complex to leverage. That is why you should consider partnering with a digital marketing firm that provides local SEO services for attorneys.

Local PPC for Lawyers

When it comes to local PPC, Google is once again the most valuable resource at your disposal. Recently, Google began allowing local businesses to launch paid ads on their maps application.

Traditionally, Google Maps users are shown results based on their proximity to the business. However, the PPC feature displays bid-winning ads above the organic results. This feature can help you connect with local customers.

If you want to maximize the ROI on your local PPC efforts, you should also take advantage of professional PPC services for attorneys.

Why Not Use SEO and PPC?

By now, you have probably drawn the conclusion that both SEO and PPC can be valuable components of your digital marketing strategy. If so, then you are exactly right.

To recap, PPC can yield rapid results and help you generate short-term traffic. It can also be used to build your brand image and get your firm noticed in the crowded digital marketplace.

On the other hand, SEO marketing will allow you to work towards long-term growth goals. You can generate high-quality organic traffic, obtain a strong return on investment, and fuel continued growth.

Expand Your Presence Online with Professional Marketing Services

When attempting to generate more qualified traffic to your website, both SEO and PPC can be invaluable tools. However, learning to leverage both of these digital marketing methodologies will require some trial and error.

Fortunately, you can virtually eliminate this learning curve and maximize the efficacy of your efforts by partnering with a high-performance digital marketing company like Grow Law Firm. Contact us today to learn more about our search engine optimization and pay-per-click marketing services.

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Top techniques for busy lawyers to bring in more clients in 2022
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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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