October 11, 2017 | Sarah Danks
Lead Generation-focused PPC
Every online marketing company knows that when their clients win, they win. Since our wheelhouse is lead generation, we help professional services businesses attract quality leads — and the fastest way to do that is with pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.
A few of us here at ThinkSEM got our start working in the legal marketing sector, working on search engine optimization tactics for huge law firm websites.
There’s no one-size-fits-all online marketing plan; anyone who tells you differently is lying. That said, when we’re helping our clients attract qualified leads, we hone in on four areas of marketing:
- Web design
- Local search marketing
- PPC marketing
We can customize any of these tiers to best fit the client in question. The legal marketing industry is highly competitive, so a major portion of most law firms’ marketing dollars are reserved for PPC efforts.
Here, I’ll be discussing how legal pay-per-click marketing works, including a brief overview of what it is, how we set up new client accounts, customized landing pages geared towards lead generation, and ongoing management of the account.
Short PPC Introduction
Many businesses love paid search because it’s the online marketing medium with the quickest return. Unlike search engine optimization that needs plenty of time to “ramp up” in order to start getting results, PPC marketing can literally be turned on with the press of a button (once all the setup work is done, naturally).
Here at ThinkSEM, PPC marketing is a major aspect of our business. In the quickest way to describe it, pay-per-click is exactly what it sounds like: you pay when someone clicks your ad.
In order to get the clicks, though, you have to start somewhere. First, you set a monthly budget, research keywords, create ads, and then you create a specific landing page about the service(s) written about in your ads to send your visitors to. Pretty simple, right?
Of course, there’s much more behind-the-scenes that goes into the management of a PPC campaign…
…which is where we come in.
In our minds, how you initially set up the account is what sets you up for success — or failure.
Setup of a Good Pay-per-click Account
Every new PPC account needs to follow a few steps in order to be set up properly from the get-go:
- Client consultation
- Structure of the account
- Keyword research
- Ad creation / landing pages
- Tracking / monitoring
The legal industry is one of the highest-dollar pay-per-click industries, so when delving into a paid search campaign you have to organize the keywords well, write killer copy, and have a decent landing page right from the start.
We can’t stress proper account structure enough. A well-organized PPC account is an account that performs well. The entire point of having a paid search campaign is to bring in qualified traffic that converts — and all the setup work we do keeps that goal in mind.
Before we do anything on a new client account, we meet up to determine goals, monthly budget and other details of the campaign.
Knowing the objectives of a marketing endeavor is the be-all-end-all! Once we know the goals, we can strategize how best to achieve them.
One important aspect to know is what times to serve ads. I.e., for most of our law firm clients, it’s best to run ads during their business hours. On the other hand, many attorneys now employ 24-7 call service, so for those clients we can run ads all weekend and after-hours on week days.
In order to know that information, we have a thorough discussion with each firm to learn what their ideal audience looks like, when they can answer phones, etc.
Another key piece of information to know is the PPC budget. The monthly allowance we have at our disposal dictates the strategy we use…
…but talking about budget can be tricky. A lot of legal clients express concern about how expensive the legal industry is, and many of them fear that the cost-per-click on such high-dollar keywords won’t return sufficient leads. Oftentimes this is the only reason they haven’t already added PPC to their marketing endeavors.
While legal terms can be expensive, they’re not nearly as costly as lawyers make them out to be, especially given the ROI of one good legal client. Even on a small monthly spend, PPC can be extremely lucrative, just so long as correct expectations are set from the beginning.
Our strategy to stretch the use of the client’s dollar in this industry is two-pronged:
- Account Structure: Again, the way we lay out your PPC account has a lot to do with its success. We can offset cost by properly targeting your ideal audience.
- Bidding Strategy: The way you set keyword bids can sometimes make or break you. We set bits at an optimum rate to generate good traffic without over-spending by getting bad clicks.
We can’t stress enough how important account structure is to our clients’ success.
For our legal clients, we typically focus on Google AdWords and Bing Ads for pay-per-click. We’ve been managing law firm PPC accounts for over 10 years, so our experience has shown us those venues work the best. That doesn’t meant we can’t use Facebook or LinkedIn ads for our clients; those would be supplementary to what we’ve found works well for attorneys.
We need to know the geographic area(s) the client wants to focus on, and we take advantage of device targeting (i.e., desktop, tablet, phones).
When organizing the structure — the ad groups within each campaign — we do so based on the service areas outlined by the client in our consultation. Obviously you can’t have pay-per-click marketing without keywords — they’re the bread-and-butter of the search engine world, after all — — so it’s imperative to choose the right ones.
Think of keywords as the backbone of PPC. The more bones you have supporting your structure, the stronger it’ll be. Too often, though, our clients only believe that 20 – 50 phrases are relevant to their services, but in reality we can dig up hundreds of highly relevant keywords. For example, we might find 500 keywords just related to family law. That’s ONLY counting specific keywords; not “overview” or generic terms!
(Our keyword lists include all variations for the different match types.)
Once we unearth all these keyword gems, they need to be organized into tightly niched ad groups.
Another important factor in online marketing when considering keywords is geo-targeting. Geography is very important for law firm marketing — for example, people looking for a divorce or mediation aren’t likely to hire a lawyer from out of state.
As with anything, the key to success is knowing the audience the client is targeting (and why).
Choosing “Intent” Keywords
After we discuss business goals, practice areas, and geographic focus with the client, we choose keywords people are searching for when they need those legal services. Our entire objective with all this is to attract qualified leads to the website so they can contact our client. To do this best we focus on keywords with intent to hire.
For law firms, this would be terms such as “divorce attorney near me,” “hire a criminal lawyer,” “how to file a patent,” etc., versus starting out with broad, overview keywords like “Minnesota law firm.”
When we focus our efforts on keywords that show intent, we save time by not having to separate out all the “under-performing” keywords after the campaign’s been running for a while.
From all our years of experience, we know how to choose the “money” keywords right from the start. Many PPC marketers add in every keyword they can think of right away, to cast a wide net, but we don’t believe in that method. Why not?
Because, when we focus on intent keywords right away we don’t waste time weeding through every single keyword to see how it’s performing after we’ve gotten some traffic. As every attorney knows, time is money, so we cut out the time spent trying every keyword to see what’ll work. Again, we’ve been doing this a while so it’s second nature.
Again, we focus on the keywords that show people are ready to hire a lawyer; this way we can skirt around the visitors merely looking for information and price hunting.
But, it’s not enough to find all the high-quality keywords; they need to be organized into tightly niched ad groups in order to be most effective.
Writing Ads + Designing Landing Pages
Before you can delve in and start writing ads to fit the keywords you’ve so nicely organized, you’ll need to choose where they’ll be displaying. I.e., in the Google network you can choose either:
- Sponsored Search (text ads that show up in the Google SERPs), or the
- Display Network (these are most often “banner” ads that show up on websites that have opted into the Google Display Network)
You can always make an argument to each side of a strategy — any type of advertising can work, you just have to put in the effort — but in our experience with legal clientele, standard sponsored search advertising, versus display, works really well.
Also, historically for our clients, remarketing efforts have been so-so at best.
When writing text ads, we blend the keywords in with several other informational factors: our conversation with the client (do they offer free legal consultations; geographic net, etc.), search intent (again, we want visitors who’re ready to hire a lawyer), and experience (knowing what the ideal potential client is searching for in this area of law).
At this stage, we identify ad extensions that are relevant to what we are trying to accomplish within the account.
To ensure the highest possible conversion rates for any PPC account, we never like to send paid traffic to the law firm website. We always advise using custom landing pages.
On average, our legal clients’ conversion rates are 12-20%. That’s because we focus on what works: most often it’s sponsored search ads that lead to custom, responsive landing pages.
How do we know we can produce these types of results? By monitoring everything, of course.
Since conversions are first and foremost in importance for our clients, we set up Goals in Google Analytics. Many clients want to track more than just leads; obviously those are the most important but there can be others that support the main goal (i.e., views to the map, video plays, etc.) We can import those into AdWords, which is a nice feature.
This leads us to the next step: when tracking PPC campaigns you need to ensure you connect Analytics to AdWords. We make sure those two platforms are “communicating” with each other to best monitor campaign objectives.
To track phone calls to the law firms, we use tracking phone numbers set up with CallRail. This handy call-tracking platform allows us to Track phone numbers that can be used in call extensions or on the landing pages themselves.
We also use UTM identifiers on all destination URLs. Browsers don’t “see” them, but they pass along vital information to us for behind-the-scenes data.
With UTMs you can analyze identifying characteristics to know exactly where a lead came from on the web. If you don’t use a UTM identifier in Bing Ads, Google Analytics won’t recognize that traffic as paid search; it’ll lump it into direct traffic.
We use UTM identifiers to identify:
- correct traffic source (Google, Bing, email blast, etc.)
- medium (CPC, social media, etc.)
- campaign name
We stick to pretty basic identifiers, but you can add as much or as little information as you want in your UTMs.
The data passed along in UTMs allows us to see how and where visitors are converting…
…and with that information we can start testing various elements to optimize for better conversions.
While we always use various ads per ad group, the majority of our testing occurs on our custom landing pages.
Increase Conversions with Custom Landing Pages
We’ve discussed our feelings before on why our clients get better results with custom landing pages…
…but here it is again, in a shorter version.
Custom landing pages designed specifically for PPC marketing have a far better conversion rate than website pages. Read: you get more bang for your buck this way. Custom landing pages eliminate distraction and lower the attention deficit of visitors — when there are far fewer things competing for their attention, those visitors are more likely to convert.
In addition, PPC landing pages are awesome testing environments. If you want to test variations of headlines, imagery, etc., on a website page, you have to worry about how those changes will affect SEO, local search, etc.
Many of our clients don’t think they have the budget for us to build landing pages for them, but using non-specific landing pages can actually hurt your campaign by sending highly qualified traffic to a page that falls short of their expectations.
We can dramatically improve conversion rates by using our landing pages, and also using A/B and/or multivariate testing to be able to measure headlines/content/imagery, etc. against each other to determine the best possible combination.
With any of our law firm clients there are two separate conversion events:
- Online form
- Phone call
Online Contact Form
It’s already an online search, so for those visitors that don’t want to pick up the phone and call, we provide a short and sweet contact form.
We set these up to be easy-to-use and simple. No need to ask for blood samples at this stage. Our forms also spit back a nice confirmation page to the visitor, and they’re of course 100% trackable.
For those visitors who’d rather talk to a person than fill out a form, we always offer phone numbers. On landing pages, we use registered call tracking numbers in order to accurately link all phone activity directly back to PPC efforts.
Don’t worry about these different phone numbers messing with your consistent NAP — since PPC landing pages don’t get indexed, there’s no need to worry about Google “seeing” a different phone number on a landing page and confusing it with your “real” phone number.
Basically, our tracking-specific phone numbers won’t run interference with your local search marketing strategy.
Successful PPC Management
Even though we’re in “charge” of our clients’ PPC accounts, we want them to have a voice and be involved in the strategy and ongoing management — it’s a partnership, after all. We want them to be familiar with the account, ask questions when they have them, etc. We believe in transparency.
Every client receives access to their own PPC dashboard, where they can see all their data. Every bit of paid search information gets funneled into one dashboard, which makes everything easy to see and understand:
Pay-per-click marketing — like any type of marketing — isn’t a “set it and forget it” endeavor. Google wants you to think you can rely on AdWords to run your campaign for you, but we know better. We cannot stress the importance of ongoing management enough.
Once data starts coming in, we assess how everything’s working, tweak things to make improvements, etc. We work on refining the process — our goal is to get the highest conversion rate for our clients.
We’ll figure out which hours of the day/week tend to be more productive than others. Once we know the “sweet spot,” we’ll cater our strategy to that, so we’re getting in front of the highest-converting visitors at the time they’re likely to convert.
Even though we choose high-intent keywords, there will always be certain keywords that bring in better traffic than others; over time we can identify the keywords that aren’t performing as well and add them to our negative keywords list. Continually working on making the account more productive by eliminating marketing waste will save dollars to spend on higher-performing keywords.
This is also where we can perform A/B testing on ad copy and landing page content. “Always be testing” is a common saying in our line of work. Over time we hone our clients’ campaigns to be the best they can be by continually testing to find the best-performing keywords, ad copy and landing page elements that provide the most quality conversions.
Oftentimes, managing a PPC account can give us insights into search engine optimization (SEO) strategies for the client’s website. Since Google Analytics has put a damper on organic traffic queries (read: “not provided”), we can’t easily attribute organic conversions to keywords. But we can use our PPC data to see which keywords convert best.
Pay-Per-Click is Ever Evolving
Just as with any other type of online marketing, the PPC world is always changing — and we need to keep up with the dynamic landscape.
For example, when ad extensions first rolled out, we tried them to see if they could work for us; we’ve found them to be quite helpful. And, as soon as Google allowed us to target ads by tablets and mobile, we jumped on that, too!
Something new we’re working on for our legal clients is call-only ads for mobile. PPC in general is a high-dollar industry, and conversion rate can be made or broken by the landing page…
…but if there was a way to convert mobile visitors before even getting them to the landing page, wow. Well, click-to-call mobile ads tend to have a high percentage conversion rate. Introducing call-only ads into our clients’ accounts can drive up conversions while lowering cost.
These aren’t rocket science changes, but keeping up with the PPC landscape — such as advanced device targeting, new expanded text ads and ever-evolving Google Display Network targeting opportunities — ensures our clients are getting the best chance at high-quality conversions.
These days, we still offer SEO services for legal websites, but we tend to focus on PPC since it has such a strong impact on marketing efforts. The key to our success as a PPC company is managing our skill set to the fullest. We do this by partnering with our clients — without their input, we wouldn’t be able to deliver the results we do.
We truly believe pay-per-click marketing is the best digital marketing venue for generating consistent, quality leads. Why? With PPC, we’re able to track everything down to the penny in terms of our clients’ investment.
We work hard to help law firms — and all of our other professional services clients, too — achieve high-quality leads by focusing on a few key elements in our pay-per-click strategy:
- construct a solid account from the get-go
- develop landing pages designed for conversion
- manage all the data, insights, and analytics to continually improve
- keep abreast of advancements in the industry
So many people still think pay-per-click marketing is beyond their reach, whether from up-front setup costs, to ongoing management fees, to the actual cost per click…
…but it’s the online marketing platform over which we have the most control. The ability to micro-manage down to each keyword gives us the ability to really ensure our clients’ marketing dollars are used to maximum effect.
Plus, PPC is “instant” marketing — once we’ve done keyword research, organized the account, built the landing page, etc. — when it’s ready, we push a button and you can begin receiving traffic. It’s also marketing channel that allows us to make adjustments quickly, which results in positive returns for our clients — and that’s important for the bottom line.