Attorneys Should Stop Using Pay-Per-Click In 2017

The new year is in full swing and many attorneys are looking at ways to grow or sustain their practices. As part of a growth effort you may be using pay-per-click marketing (PPC) to drive traffic to your website or you may be considering doing so. I’m writing this article due to the fact that doing so in 2017 (and going forward) is one of the biggest mistakes you can possibly make. This is for reasons in addition to the ones I normally state for ignoring PPC. Fundamental changes in the legal services market are going to greatly decrease the effectiveness of a law firm’s pay-per-click efforts and recognizing this now is one of the best things you can do. Attorneys who recognize that the world is changing and act accordingly will be doing the happy dance like these fine folks:

happy dance

While lawyers who ignore the changing market will wind up looking for another way to make a living. Part of adapting to the new world is dumping pay-per-click. Let’s get to it.

I’ve written before on why attorneys should avoid using pay-per-click. The reason why is simple; investing in content which you own and control will provide a far better return on investment. It’s important to understand, however, that any return offered from a PPC campaign is about to drop dramatically. I wrote in 2015 as to why the legal profession is struggling. Those struggles (meaning that the number of attorneys is increasing while the amount of work for them to do decreases) are going to greatly intensify in 2017 and in the coming years. I’ll be discussing, in an upcoming series, why the legal profession is in for some rough days. For the purposes of this article it’s important to understand several practice areas (such as DUI defense, criminal defense, and personal injury) are drying up and that they are doing so quickly. This is going to reduce the effectiveness of PPC, not just in those practice areas, but in all areas of law.

Attorneys must stop using pay-per-click for declining practice areas

Again, several practice areas are declining rapidly and the “lawyer bubble” that exists in the United States is popping. Technology and societal changes are the reasons for this. In the context of pay-per-click marketing I’ll use DUI practice as an example of an area where these changes require you to get out of pay-per-click marketing.

The rise of Uber and Lyft are greatly reducing the number of DUI’s in the United States. Consider that Texas had 70,569 DUI arrests in 20141. In 2015 this number dropped to 65,6092. So arrests dropped by just under 5,000 even though the state’s population increased by almost 400,000 during this time3. The state also added 1,463 lawyers during this time4. These statistics are similar to virtually everywhere Uber and Lyft does business and the number of arrests tend to continue dropping in each successive year as more people use such services. Many DUI attorneys are responding to these types of trends by spending more money marketing to DUI clients and this increased spending includes adding to their PPC budget. These lawyers are using a flawed logic of “if there are fewer cases then I have to fight harder to get them.” Well, Tower Records fought hard to sell compact discs in spite of technological and cultural changes. Blockbuster Video also fought hard to rent out DVD’s in the face of such changes. How did that approach work out for those two companies? Increasing your marketing costs to go after a declining market does nothing but make your profit margins look like this:

chart of declining profits

And those profits will eventually go to zero if you pile money into the pursuit of a shrinking client base. In spite of these facts many attorneys are piling more money into PPC for declining areas. This is only going to drive the cost of those clicks higher. If you’re using pay-per-click to market for a declining practice area then you should stop doing so as the costs for a click are going to go up while the number of clients to be had is going to go down.

Pay-per-click costs are going to rise in 2017 for attorneys in non-declining practice areas

2017 is going to see a “great rotation” in the legal profession (we began seeing this last year actually). Many attorneys are getting out of declining practice areas because it is simply becoming more difficult for them to earn a living. This means more lawyers, for example, are exiting personal injury and entering an area such as family law (again this is just an example). What’s one of the first thing those attorneys do once they enter the area of family law? They start a pay-per-click campaign to attract family law clients. Well, more attorneys piling in to bid on those keywords drives the cost up for the entering lawyers as well as for existing family law attorneys who rely on PPC. The result of this is a higher PPC cost for everyone and greatly reduced profit margins. These lower profit margins means PPC is losing its effectiveness and as practice areas continue to dry up over the next few years those margins are only going to get tighter. In other words, it’s time to get out of PPC even if you are in a practice area which is not declining.

Attorneys must invest in their own content rather than relying on paid advertising such as pay-per-click

The article I linked to above, regarding why attorneys should avoid pay-per-click, lays out the math of why you are better off investing in your own blog content than in PPC. To keep this article from becoming too long I won’t rehash that discussion here. But the gist is that instead of pouring money into pay-per-click, which is going to become increasingly ineffective, you should start a blog today and begin investing in assets which you own and control. If you haven’t read the article linked to above then I suggest you do so.

Do you think attorneys will make the mistake of continuing to rely on PPC? Please chime in through the comment form below.

References:

  1. 2014 Texas arrest data accessed at http://www.dps.texas.gov/administration/crime_records/pages/crimestatistics.htm
  2. 2015 Texas arrest data accessed at http://www.dps.texas.gov/administration/crime_records/pages/crimestatistics.htm
  3. http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/48>
  4.  http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/market_research/national-lawyer-population-by-state-2006-2016.authcheckdam.pdf

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