Why PPC & Legal Directories
Can Be A Conflict Of Interest For
Legal Marketing Companies
When it comes to our own practices, we lawyers tend to be vigilant about avoiding cases with conflicts of interest.
When it comes to marketing our law firms, some lawyers may accidentally overlook a conflict of interest with their law firm’s marketing company.
PPC Providers and Conflicts Of Interest
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and legal directories are two areas in which a conflict often arises.
Pay-per-click advertising is a bidding marketplace, and there are only so many spaces to bid on for any given search term. The more competition there is for popular terms, the higher the cost of those terms rise. As for legal marketing companies that manage your PPC, the following are typical:
They typically charge either a flat monthly fee based on the amount spent or a true percentage of the ad spend.
The more their customers spend, the more they make.
Spending more allows them to get titles from the search engines that are useful in marketing.
If the law firm marketing company you’ve hired to manage your PPC marketing also manages your competitor, there can be a conflict of interest. If your competitor bids on the same terms as you do, the cost of those terms may increase. Meanwhile, your PPC management company may profit when multiple bidders they manage drive up the price of successful bids. What results is a cycle of outbidding your competitors while the cost increases and your legal marketing company profits from managing both of you, but your cost of client acquisition goes up, and your profits go down.
PPC isn’t the only conflict of interest that legal marketing companies can have. Legal directories may create a conflict of interest, too. If you’re considering a legal directory company that also sells website design, hosting and promotion services, you may want to reconsider.
Legal Directories and Conflicts Of Interest
When you run a legal directory, especially when it’s your company’s primary business, your growth depends on getting the best possible ranking and traffic for your directory.
As an example, I built and ran a successful niche legal directory for DUI defense lawyers. I later sold it and started LawLytics. When I ran the directory, it was ranked highly for key local and national DUI/DWI-related searches.
Because of my directory’s success, and the high level of customer service I offered our members, attorneys would ask me if I could help them build and promote their own law firm websites. I said no because I had an economic interest in the success of the directory, which would, of necessity, compete with their own websites for searches they wanted to rank for. It would have been a conflict of interest if I agreed to promote an attorney’s site that competed with any of those keywords. And that would not have been right.
I avoided the conflict of interest rather than choosing to take the business and income from attorneys who wanted website help. So does your website provider run and profit from a directory that they own and control? If so, which site do they care about ranking more? Yours or theirs? Chances are the answer is theirs, and they may have even slipped links into your website that drive traffic back to their directory, where your visitors (who were captive audience on your website) are now exposed to all of your competitors (who are also the directory’s customers).
The other problem that arises with legal directory companies who also sell website design, hosting and promotion services is where their focus lies. If a company runs a successful directory, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily successful at website design or content marketing. It doesn’t mean that they understand the needs of small law firms and what attorneys need to have a successful web presence and a successful business. That would be like saying that just because somebody is a lawyer that they are good at multiple areas of law, or your heart surgeon should be just fine to operate on your brain.
If you’re an attorney paying a web directory — and getting results from it — consider the position you may be putting yourself in. I wouldn’t necessarily be thrilled about paying a company to have more control over whether my law firm thrives on the web. I’d rather control my law firm’s presence myself.