A Marketing Rollercoaster: How Google Paid Search Can Take You to the Promised Land or to the Poor House
Watching the Competition Crash and Burn
It happened again just last month. Our CMO, Brent Harkins, let me know that the cost of our pay-per-click search campaigns (PPC) with Google had just spiked in a major way in one of our local markets.
“What gives?” I asked. “Do Larry and Sergey need a few extra dollars in their pockets this month?”
“You already know what it is,” Brent answered. “Someone just jumped into the PPC game in a big way and they’re blowing up the bids.
There was nothing for us to do at that point except sit back and watch the show, which we knew would likely play out in the next month or so. As expected, this competing law firm gleefully outbid us on all major keywords and we were happy to let them do it. They had never been in the top three search spots before and we knew, unless they had an extremely talented PPC team with an incredible conversion strategy, they would be in for a rude awakening when the bill came due at the end of the month.
In the meantime, Brent pulled a Google Ads auction insights report then went incognito and conducted a few broad match searches to see what the competition was up to. After a few search queries, it was clear where all this was going. One search query Brent ran, for example, was “low-cost divorce,” (modified to show in our market). Sure enough, our competitor had not identified “low cost” as a negative phrase to exclude their ads for those search terms, so they were showing for a combination of a very expensive keyword “divorce,” that was also triggering useless clicks for “low cost” that would show their ads to a bunch of people who could never afford their services.
Not surprisingly, after a month of dominating the very top spots in search, our competitor simply disappeared from search results altogether. The bank had been broken and that was the end of their brief foray into Google Adwords.
How Google Adwords Gets So Expensive So Quickly
Many lawyers think that Google Adwords is just about out bidding the competition for high performing keywords. But that’s only partially true. If you could simply outbid the competition, then the firm with the biggest budget would always win, and that’s absolutely not what happens in this space.
Google uses complicated algorithms and analytical tools to determine where it should show your ad and how much you will have to pay for that. This means that everyone who is playing this game is NOT spending the same amount on their bids. A firm, for example, with highly relevant copy in their ads, with a great landing page for customers and a fantastic user experience, will have to spend far less than a competing firm who is bidding on the same keywords. And the difference in the cost of being in the top search results for these two firms can be enormous. In addition, not all search terms that seem valuable really are, and Google also uses different search parameters depending on how specific you would like your search results to be.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you determine that the keyword “child support,” is something you would like to bid on. That seems pretty reasonable on its face, right? Well, the problem with this kind of search term, is that, again, depending on how the search campaign is structured, it is likely that this search term is going to drive an enormous amount of useless traffic from your ads. Take a look at this search query, which would trigger the child support keywords in a bad way: “Child support enforcement in (insert your city or state)” It is likely that this person is searching for their state’s child support enforcement agency and just as likely that this will be a low-income case where the client is not interested in hiring a private law firm. Depending on how you structure this campaign, it is likely your ad would always be triggered, and yes, this person WILL click on your ad because it will be showing up in the top three search results. It only takes a handful of these types of campaigns to drive your ad spend through the roof and leave you with exactly zero clients.
Convert or Die – There’s More to Life Than Keyword Bidding
At our marketing company, Cardinal Concepts, Brent and I oversee the Google Adwords campaigns for law firms all across the country. But beyond that, we also have our very own skin in the game. You see, Brent and I still manage three divorce and family law firms under the US Legal Groups mantle, and in doing that we manage an Adwords spend of over $700,000 per year, which comes directly out of our pockets. So, you can believe that we have gone absolutely bananas in structuring our accounts to avoid the nightmare scenarios I just described. But there is far more to this than just structuring your campaigns and bids correctly. Once you get people to click on your ads you MUST convert those clicks into actual paying clients. That means you should have dedicated landing pages for all of your campaigns, with some kind of lead capture device that will allow you to begin interacting with these potential clients from the moment they click on your ad. You must then have an excellent sales process. This begins with your front desk team, flows back to the people setting your consultations, and ends with your attorneys conducting their initial consultations and then signing the client up for services. Each one of these pieces must fit together for you to achieve a positive return on your marketing spend in Adwords.
In the End, Google Adwords Is Still the Quickest Path to Clients
Are there more affordable ways to obtain clients than Google Adwords? Of course there are and it’s easy to identify those marketing mediums. Facebook, for example, can provide lower cost leads and lower client acquisition costs. A well-executed referral marketing plan will blow Google Adwords out of the water every time. But those two mediums come with a high non-monetary cost: they take a lot of time, energy and creativity. So yes, they can work, but it takes a lot to execute on those effectively. At the end of the day, though, love it or hate it, Google Adwords is still the fastest way to quickly obtain new clients and scale your law practice.
Launch and Earn™ PPC Advertising for Attorneys
Cardinal Concepts has a proven Google Ads account and campaign structure that you can plug into your own law firm and begin attracting fee paying clients day one. If you’re interested in leveraging the marketing plan of a $10,000,000 divorce and family law firm, contact us today.