Home Legal Marketing 5 Reasons Why Your
AdWords Campaign is Suffering
5 Reasons Why Your AdWords Campaign is Suffering

5 Reasons Why Your
AdWords Campaign is Suffering


Google AdWords is a multifaceted advertising platform. A lot of variables have to come together for it to do a good job. Google works hard to provide information to users on best practices yet if any variable is poorly optimized, a campaign will not do as well as it could. Here are some common mistakes we see on attorney AdWords accounts that cause money and time to be wasted.

Not Having Negative Keywords

Searcher intent can be difficult to gauge even when you have the very phrase people are using. It is even tougher for a search algorithm and many times your ads may be showing for phrases that have nothing to do with your practice area.

Negative keywords[1] help tell Google what phrases you do not want your ads showing for. Other match types can also help but negative keywords play a special role. They help AdWords account performance in a variety of direct and indirect ways.

  • They stop your ads from being shown for irrelevant keyword phrases
  • They improve the overall quality score of your account
  • They improve your click through rates (i.e. when the ads shown to users are relevant, they are more likely to click – ads triggered by irrelevant keywords tend to rack up lots of impressions but few clicks)
  • They help improve conversions

A prime example for lawyers would be the word “free”. A lawyer practicing for profit DOES want their ad showing for terms like “legal services + city name” or “legal representation + state name”. That same lawyer DOES NOT want ads showing for terms like “free legal services + city name” or “free legal representation”. The same goes for terms like “pro bono”, “low cost” or “cheap”. Odds are that ads triggered as a result of those terms being used in a search on Google will yield clicks but not many high quality conversions.

Here is a resource of negative keyword “do’s and don’ts” for lawyers[2]. Also keep in mind that negative keywords (those used to stop an ad from triggering) can be just as important as regular keywords (those used to cause your ads to trigger). Lawyers can add negative keywords to an existing campaign by logging into their AdWords account, navigating to the adgroup where they want to add negative keywords and clicking on the +Keywords button. Those keywords that you want to be negative just need a hyphen (-) in front of them. 

Not Bidding For Top Ad Positions

There have been a lot of studies related to click through rates on first page vs second, third, and fourth page results of Google SERPs with various findings[3]. One thing that remains consistent is that the drop off in activity from the first page of results to subsequent pages is dramatic. So it goes without saying that having your ad show up on the second page or even the bottom of the first leaves you at a severe disadvantage

If you are seeing minimal activity on your campaign and Google is showing you the warning pictured above, you will want to try increasing your keyword bid in order to compete. Keep in mind that the message is only an estimate and it does not necessarily mean you should plow through your account following all of Google’s advice. However if your bids are way off from the suggestions, change your bids to meet or at least get close to the suggestion.

Another tip is to pay close attention to your keywords and ads once you make changes like these. You may find that having your ad show on the first page for a particular keyword phrase does nothing for getting you new clients. Excluding any other variables that could cause the campaign to perform poorly, you can then pause the keyword.

Bad Ad Copy

Advertising and marketing are more of an art than a science and that comes into play with your ad copy. This one can be hard to pinpoint as the culprit for an under-performing campaign but here are some common blunders we see with ad copy.

  • No call to action: It may sound cliché but people need to be told to act. Include a Call Now!, Contact Us Today!, Act Now!, or some other CTA in your ad
  • Ad copy, keywords and landing page are not consistent: The ad auction on AdWords and the process that users take from query to conversion are very simple and mostly about relevance. Searchers are looking for something, they use keywords to find the information they want, they click on the ad that has that information and as long as the landing page has that information too, they are likely to convert. Ensure you use the same keywords in your ad copy as you have configured in your account.
  • No value proposition: There are hundreds of other lawyers out there spending just as much money as you and who can get the job done. What makes you stand out? Ads that offer no discernible reason to click often fail. Throw your potential clients a bone! Mention a free consultation, talk about how you have helped others or something else that makes them think “oh…this one looks good”. It helps to look at what your competitors are doing and then do one better.

No Ad Extensions

Google gives advertisers lots of opportunities to make their ads stand out or to capture people in different ways. It costs nothing extra to put ad extensions on your ads but not doing it means you are missing out.

For example placing a phone number on your ad means people can call your firm either from desktop or mobile (click to call). This extension often increases conversions because not everyone wants to click through to a website or fill out a form. They may trust Google to provide them with information they need and call right from an SERP.

Social ad extensions can help you get more exposure on Google Plus and site links generate further interest in your website. For example people who may have not clicked on your ad because they did not find the headline or copy relevant might click on a site link extension because some other page on your site peaks their interest.

Reviews are a huge one. Adding review ad extensions to your ads increases the chances that people will click on them because they look more trustworthy than those ads without them.

Poor Use of Match Types

Match types can sneak up on inexperienced AdWords users. It can take some time to wrap your head around how Google’s advertising platform works and match types play a big role in how your campaign performs. We already mentioned negative keywords which are one kind of match type. There are also 4 others:

  • Broad match (the default match type)
  • Broad match modifier
  • Phrase match
  • Exact Match

By default, all keywords entered into an AdWords account are broad match. That means that Google will trigger your ads if there are misspellings, synonyms, related searches, or pretty much anything that could be considered relevant. For instance the phrase “divorce attorneys Illinois” applied to an account as broad match could cause ads to trigger when people use phrases like “what do divorce attorneys do”, “cousin sam had a divorce in Illinois”, “is a divorce expensive”, etc.

Lawyers should narrow their audience by using match types so their ads only show when someone is legitimately looking for an attorney to hire. For example the broad match modifier can be used (denoted by a + in front of each term in a phrase) to only trigger ads when that phrase is used or close variations. That same phrase (“divorce attorneys Illinois”) applied to an account as a broad match modifier keyword would cause ads to be triggered for “Illinois divorce attorneys”, “attorneys Illinois”, etc.

Match types can be frustrating to understand. Here is a pretty good guide[4] on how to begin using them. A good tip is to experiment with different match types and never leave your account with only the default broad match keywords.


[1] www.support.google.com/adwords

[2] www.attorneyrankings.org/negative-keywords-for-lawyers

[3] www.gravitateonline.com/2nd-place-1st-place-loser-seriously/

[4] www.hallaminternet.com/2012/a-guide-to-adwords-keyword-match-types/

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Chris Dreyer
Chris Dreyer
Chris Dreyer is the CEO and Founder of Rankings.io, an SEO agency for lawyers. Chris has been featured in numerous legal and search marketing publications such as Legal Ink Magazine, Law Marketing, Attorney At Work, Moz, and more. With over 12 years of experience in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Chris has helped hundreds of law firms get first page positions in search engines using innovative campaigns that are difficult for competitors to recreate. He is dedicated to helping lawyers get more leads and win more clients.


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