There are two main ways to generate leads for a law firm online: PPC ads and SEO.
Many law firms shoot straight for PPC ads because it has the potential to generate a nearly immediate ROI.
Meanwhile, SEO & content marketing is a slow-play courtship for long-term results.
So, which is better for law firms? Which will bring in more leads on a smaller budget and require less effort?
Short answer: It depends on how well you use them. And the truth is, you can use them together.
Here’s what we’ll break down:
- What are the Pros and Cons of PPC and SEO?
- Advantages of SEO and Content Marketing
- Why do you need to know good SEO tactics for your PPC ads?
- Disadvantages of SEO and Content Marketing
- Law Firm PPC Advantages
- Legal PPC Disadvantages
- How to Advertise a Law Firm with PPC & SEO
- When to Use PPC Ads
- When to Use SEO and Content Marketing
- Law Firm PPC vs. SEO — Key Takeaways
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of SEO Compared to PPC?
SEO is a buzzword now. Everyone’s heard of it, even outside of marketing, and everyone wants a piece of it. Mainly because they assume it’s free.
But not everyone understands SEO, how it works, or how to apply it to a content strategy. For that reason, they don’t reap all the benefits of content marketing and make PPC ads the center of their marketing plan instead.
But PPC can be just as complicated, messy, and resource-draining.
Abandoning one for the other is like throwing out all your spoons because knives are so much better. Ever try to eat ice cream with a knife?
Advantages of SEO and Content Marketing
SEO is all about getting organic traffic through search engines.
Using the best keywords in your legal field is just one way of optimizing content for search engines.
Search engines use keywords to classify your content into topics. They use those labels to call up relevant information for every search query. Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, tells us Google’s search algorithm uses more than 200 factors to rank websites.
That’s just the basics, but it doesn’t fully explain SEO.
SEO tactics are used within content marketing.
You use SEO within an extensive range of content:
- Blog posts
- Youtube videos
- Website content
- Landing pages
You even need SEO for PPC ads.
Why are SEO tactics important for PPC ads?
Here are six reasons why SEO is also important for law firm PPC.
SEO helps you attract more organic search traffic
Google uses keywords to classify your content and connect users to content relevant to their search. By adding keywords to your articles and website content, you’re making that content much easier to find.
SEO is “free” and not free.
You can optimize any type of content free of charge. It’s just a matter of knowing how to do it. If you don’t know, you’ll need to hire or consult with someone who does.
Now, you can use keywords that are obvious to your industry and used in everyday conversations with your clients. That’s easy enough to figure out.
Or, you can use a keyword tool such as Ahrefs or Ubersuggest.
The Google search bar also makes an excellent keyword-finding tool. Type a topic into the search bar, and note what pops up in the predictive text.
Brings in relevant traffic & leads
Using keywords helps users and search engines identify what each page of your website is about. Search engines label a page based on those keywords.
By putting in the RIGHT words, you attract an audience searching for topics you write about or the kind of services you provide.
It builds trust
It’s easy to tell the difference between an ad and an organic article. Unless an ad is highly relevant, people tend to shy away from them and skip to the organic content.
If you have highly relevant and valuable copy, you’ll attract your target audience (of course, that’s if you’ve optimized the content).
That content stays on your website forever or until you remove it. During that time, it continues to attract an audience to your website. It also builds domain authority and even helps to expand your organic reach.
Long Term Results
The content you produce on your website (articles, case studies, etc.) is often there for a long time. Google doesn’t forget that information. If it’s still relevant to a user’s search, it’ll show up in search results.
That’s a win for any business because, even though content creation takes time, it has potential to bring in leads year after year.
Disadvantages of SEO and Content Marketing
Those advantages are enticing, but it’s not a clear picture. .
There are elements of SEO you can jump into without much knowledge. The basics of SEO are simple enough to grasp:
- Don’t stuff your pages with keywords because Google will penalize your site with a lower ranking.
- Add a unique, page-appropriate keyword to the page title and meta description of every page.
- Put a keyword in the first paragraph of every article.
- Insert keywords in headlines.
- Add keywords to every image’s alt tags.
- Use keywords as the anchor text for any link on your site.
Thorough SEO is not an entry-level task. Even SEO experts can’t keep up with the nearly 800 algorithm updates each year.
SEO is Competitive
Finding the right keywords can be a challenge. Keywords can either be very specific or very general. Most firms target top industry keywords like “lawyer” because users search those terms the most.
Marketers often prize high-volume keywords because it means more people are using those words in a search. The idea is more volume = more traffic.
But that’s not always true.
When search volume is high, so is the difficulty of ranking for that keyword in most cases.
Take a look at the volume and difficulty (KD) for the word “lawyer”:
There are 100,000 searches involving the term “lawyer” each month, but there are also a ton of pages that use the same keyword, making it difficult to compete.
Now, look at the term “personal injury lawyer“:
There are still 23,000 searches with the term “personal injury lawyer,” but there are fewer pages with that phrase in the title, making it far easier to rank.
As you niche down more and more, the volume and competition will shrink.
SEO Can Be Expensive
It’s entirely free to add keywords to your content if you’re handling it yourself.
But it can still eat up loads of time to do all this yourself. And if you don’t get SEO or have the time to learn it, you’re better off investing in an SEO specialist.
If you want to produce a lot of content and have the budget, a full-service SEO agency might be your best option.
You may even consider hiring an in-house marketer or team. In the United States, the average salary for a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist is $46,413.
Then there are tools to consider.
Hire a savvy digital marketer. Or a bastion of SEO forest sprites. Scrawl your firm’s content alone in the night bathed in a halo of yellow light from one of those classy green desk lamps if you want. You’ll still need SEO tools.
SEO tools can be expensive.
Signing up for a year of Ahrefs, for example, is like owning an SEO nail gun. But it’ll set you back about $1,200.
There are free tools, but most of them are unsophisticated and lacking in the most valuable features.
It takes time to have any real impact on your business.
SEO, even when done right, is a long game. You won’t pull in leads instantly from a single blog post.
Building up an audience from organic search is about building a relationship of trust.
As your audience grows and you continually prove that you offer valuable insights, people start to see you as an authority on the subject.
Especially if your pages get backlinks from other sites or your articles appear in high-profile publications.
It’s harder to track ROI
Setting a marketing budget often starts with evaluating which tactics bring in the most leads.
Where do you want to invest your time, energy, and money?
Tracking ROI from SEO can be hard because even if you have goal tracking set up in Google Analytics, some leads will still slip through the cracks.
For example: Someone might find your website and not contact you for 6 months.
It’s a long game, and as mentioned, content marketing doesn’t generally convert readers into leads all on their own.
There are ways around this, though.
Marketers have learned to justify content’s value by measuring:
- Newsletter sign ups
- Lead magnet downloads
- Returning traffic
- Site traffic
- Email open rates
There are other ways to measure leads brought in from SEO, but it requires a bit of setup and knowledge of Google Analytics tools.
Advantages of Using PPC Ads to Market Your Law Firm
You might have read through all the disadvantages of SEO and content marketing and thought, “PPC is definitely the way to go.”
SEO is challenging, and it takes a long time to generate leads. PPC ads, on the other hand, generate leads right away.
People searching for law firms are often ready to hire or are at least in the vetting process
PPC ads allow you to capitalize on that. Ads are often easy to set up, have built-in targeting features, and give you exposure to your audience right away.
Immediate visibility on the first page of a Google Search
One of the biggest reasons to run PPC ads is because it puts your ad on the front page of a Google search for your terms.
(Of course, the competition for those keywords can be high and costly.)
For those with a new website, you likely haven’t built up enough domain authority to reach your audience organically yet.
It takes a lot of time and effort to build an audience and carve a spot for yourself in the search engines.
PPC ads cut through all that and get you right where you need to be to earn leads immediately.
Marketers tout blogging as a great source of leads for a business. And it is. But they measure that success with traffic.
Unfortunately, traffic =/= leads.
You may build a large audience, but your audience means nothing if your content doesn’t target the right people.
PPC cuts through that issue with targeting features that make it easy to get in front of your audience demographics or appear in searches for precise terms.
There is no waiting and hoping that your pages will rank for those terms. With PPC ads, you do automatically.
Data & testing
No matter what kind of ad content you produce, never be completely satisfied with it. You should continually find ways to improve blog posts, landing pages, and PPC ad copy.
PPC ads make optimizing easy.
In your ads platform, you’re able to see exactly which ads and keywords work, with details like:
- Click-through rate
- Interactions or views
It makes A/B testing a breeze. All you have to do is set up multiple ads, see which perform better, drop the ones that don’t perform and try again with the new data.
It can be challenging to scale up content production for SEO. It can take several hours to create a single article.
PPC ads, on the other hand, are easy to scale. Simply add more money.
You can approach this in a few ways:
- Target more keywords
- Create more ad groups (more ads)
- Increase the daily budget limit for existing ads
No worrying about algorithm updates
Google tweaks their search algorithms every day. These changes are usually tiny but can dogpile your content’s conversion power over time before you see it.
If your PPC ad doesn’t comply with Google’s update, you’ll know right away because it won’t be approved.
Disadvantages of Using PPC Ads
PPC ads are a powerful tool, and they can boost your lead generation immediately.
But there are some clear disadvantages to using PPC ads that you want to know about before jumping in and blowing your budget.
You still need SEO
To create PPC ads that reach your target audience, you have to use keywords and phrases that your audience uses to find services like yours.
If that’s not enough, you have to choose keywords with a low bidding range.
If you’re using AdWords Keyword Planner, you might immediately jump at the keywords with a low bidding rate of $3 and neglect to look at the highest bidding rate for the keyword. It could be $100, and it’ll eat through your budget in a matter of days, if not hours or minutes.
It’s easy to make mistakes
PPC takes less time to master than content marketing, but take it seriously enough to learn well. You might blow your entire monthly budget without seeing any conversions and have no idea where you went wrong.
One of the biggest mistakes is sending your PPC leads to your website rather than a landing page. Where you send your traffic to AFTER they’ve clicked on the ad is one of the most significant factors in conversion rates.
A few other common mistakes include:
- Using keywords that are too general. The more specific your keywords, the better. Consider the intent of the searcher. What kind of information or solution are they looking for? While doing a keyword search, focus on “long-tail keywords” (phrases).
- Not using targeting features. Or not using them correctly.
- Not setting keyword match types. Keyword match types designate how your keywords will appear in an ad. They can either appear as an exact phrase match, variations of the phrase, or a vague match to your keywords.
- Not selecting the right ad network for your audience. Google isn’t the only ad network. There are dozens and a few different types as well. Ensure the network you run your ad on is optimal for your audience and lead generation goals.
- Using the wrong pricing structure. There’s cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-mille (CPM), and cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Each has its benefits, but choosing the wrong one can strip your budget fast.
There are many ways to make a mistake with your ads, and even the smallest one will burn up your funds and rob you of leads. Besides that, you also have to bid for top keywords.
Keywords like “lawyer” and “attorney” are top industry keywords, meaning every law firm out there running PPC ads is bidding for those words as well. You may end up having to bid several hundred dollars per click to earn the top ad placement for specific competitive keywords.
Lower click-through rate and higher bounce rate
PPC ads focus on bottom-of-the-funnel keywords and queries.
Law firm clients are generally at the bottom of the funnel, meaning they’re ready to purchase. PPC ads focus on those potential clients.
To do so, you must use keywords that align with that goal.
Select long-tail keyword phrases such as: “hire a personal injury lawyer” rather than just “lawyer.”
Consider that the average conversion rate for long-tail keywords is 36% (Neil Patel).
Those keywords are specific and diverse enough that if you write a long post, it will rank for many similar keyphrases.
Another compelling reason to use long-tail keywords is to eliminate searchers.
You want to eliminate searchers because you’re after people who need to hire you.
Not lookie-loos who’re are just curious about what a lawyer does, how much they earn, etc. So it does mean you’ll have lower traffic, and not all who click on your ad will convert.
Low impact on brand awareness
The goal of organic content is almost always brand awareness and community building. PPC ads are designed to bring in waves of leads.
You should always think about how people perceive your law firm’s brand. If you don’t know how people feel about you, how can you know how to talk to them and earn their good favor?
Which scenario is better for your personal injury law firm?
Helen has known your name for years. Six years ago, when she saw your blog post about how to choose the right lawyer for your case, she shared it with her friend Marjorie who got stuck in a mall escalator. They both learned so much from the article they were delighted to sign up for your newsletter.
When Helen falls down a freshly-mopped marble staircase unaccompanied by a wet floor sign, she’s on the phone with your receptionist before the ambulance pulls up to the curb.
When some jerk on a cell phone mows down Joe in an intersection, Joe decides to look for personal injury attorneys while he’s bedridden at home. He clicks on your ad and visits your website. But when he sees that you don’t have a blog and your About page is riddled with self-aggrandizing claims instead of focusing on helping him, he goes back to the SERPs.
A headline snags his attention.
“7 Mistakes You Make When You Look For a Personal Injury Lawyer,” says the headline of your competitor’s latest blog post. He reads it to make sure he’s not committing one of these common mistakes and breathes a sigh of relief that someone’s looking out for him. He reads another post and learns more.
The more he learns, the more he trusts.
But it won’t be you because you didn’t take the time to help Helen, Marjorie, or Joe before they needed your services.
None of this is to say PPC ads don’t work — they do. But they won’t raise brand awareness the same way that content marketing does.
How to Market Your Law Firm Using SEO & PPC Together
Even the best law firm ads can’t grow your brand or sustain marathon periods of lead generation.
And a single article isn’t likely to bring in leads on its own, and certainly not as well as a PPC ad.
Over time your content may bring in more leads than your PPC ads, but you can’t wait for that.
You need leads NOW.
So, which marketing tactic is better for your law firm?
A well-rounded marketing plan includes both.
Lead generation is challenging no matter how you do it. No platform, tactic, or metric is foolproof.
Learning how to implement an intelligent strategy will stop you from wasting time, energy, and money.
When to Use PPC Ads
All the time.
If you have the budget, then continually running ads will help bring in leads you haven’t captured with content.
Since prospects search for information about law firms when they’re in need, this is a good conversion tactic.
Of course, the best times to use PPC ads are:
- At the very start of your practice
- During dry spells (when you’re not attracting leads through other means)
If your content ranks well for several keywords and you consistently bring in leads through content and social media, you may be more selective with your ads.
If your content ranks well for several keywords and you consistently bring in leads through content and social media, you may be more selective with your ads.
You can either:
- Use ads for keywords you don’t rank for
- Use ads to rank higher for keywords you already rank for
If your site ranks on the first page of a Google search for a keyword, but you want to rank in the first or second position, PPC ads are a good complement.
When to Use SEO and Content Marketing
Again — all the time.
Content marketing, especially at the beginning of your practice, consumes a lot of time.
You should produce a blog post at least once a week.
“For SEO, the ideal blog post length should be 2,100-2,400 words, according to HubSpot data. We averaged the length of our 50 most-read blog posts in 2019, which yielded an average word count of 2,330. Individual blog post lengths ranged from 333 to 5,581 words, with a median length of 2,164 words.”
— Ideal Blog Post Length for SEO 2021, Hubspot
Don’t let this cause you to shy away, though. Producing 1,000-word articles once a week can still effectively bring in leads for your law firm over time.
But if you want to remain competitive, your marketing plan must account for both content creation and PPC advertising.
PPC ads yield immediate results, but they won’t build relationships with your audience. And
focusing solely on SEO will cause a slow start to lead generation.
Start publishing content that serves the customers you want while simultaneously running PPC ads. Up to 72% of online marketers describe content marketing as their most effective SEO tactic.
Law Firm PPC vs. SEO — Key Takeaways
PPC advertising and SEO are designed to accomplish different marketing tasks and are meant to complement each other.
You must publish premium content consistently to build a loyal audience and use ads to generate immediate business. Law firms who find that sweet spot will see influxes of calls and consultations after running an ad while their SEO efforts work behind the scenes to build a loyal community.
Got a PPC or SEO success story? How about a cautionary tale? Please let us know in the comments.