PPC written on blocksThis is the next post in a series on my thoughts about pay-per-click for both lawyers and law firms. My last article looked at the problems with law firms using a PPC manager. The point I stressed in that article is that companies who manage such marketing campaigns can have a conflict of interest. Such a conflict can result in increased costs for lawyers. If you follow our blog regularly then you know that I strongly believe that attorneys should avoid pay-per-click altogether. It’s much better, instead, to invest in content which you own outright as such content will provide your firm a continuous return over time. If you’re still going to use a paid click campaign then it’s important that you ask your web provider a few questions. Those questions relate to whether your provider has a conflict of interests and what their long-term strategy is for making sure that you don’t have to rely on PPC long-term. Let’s get to it.

Lawyers must explicitly ask PPC providers whether they also assist competing attorneys

Pay-per-click is based on a bidding system. In other words, the attorney who bids the most for a particular phrase will appear above others in the paid search results. If a management company has two attorneys, in the same practice area and geography, then the problem is obvious. Those attorneys will now be bidding against each other for the same keywords. The marketing manager collects a higher fee when those firms bid up their own costs. This is due to the fact that the manager takes a percentage of the amount being spent on ads (which, again, is being bid up by the fact that there are multiple attorneys being served by the same manager). In order to ensure that your marketing manager isn’t increasing your costs, and lining their own pockets, it is important to make sure that they are not assisting other attorneys with whom you compete.

If someone is managing a paid click campaign for your firm then you should explicitly ask them whether they serve other attorneys in your practice area and geography. If they are serving your competitors then you should ask them whether you and your competitors are bidding on the same keywords. Either A) you are bidding on the same phrases, which is bad for the reasons discussed above, or B) they are not letting you bid on certain phrases due to the fact that they have another attorney already doing so. Either way, this is bad for you.

I’ve previously broken down numbers on how attorneys can can increase profits by investing in content rather than spending money on PPC. That is the core approach of our lawyer web design and SEO services. As part of this approach we only work with one attorney, per practice area, in a given geography. This helps to ensure that each of our clients gets a better return on investment. If we can take this approach with content management then there’s no reason why your current provider can’t take a similar approach with a paid click campaign.

Attorneys must ask their website provider if they have a plan for not relying on pay-per-click long-term

Every attorney should have a goal of making their website self-sustaining. By this I mean that a website, which the law firm owns, does well in organic search. This allows a lawyer to not spend money renting ad space each month. Every web provider will tell you that they have a plan to help you do well in organic search. The big thing, however, is to ask them how they are actually going to do that. I’ve discussed before what it is that constitutes legitimate search engine optimization for law firms. I won’t rehash that well-written and insightful article here (yes, I like to compliment myself sometimes). The big thing to understand is that legit search engine optimization revolves almost entirely around making sure your site provides a good user experience (as defined by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines) and that it is regularly updated with meaningful content. If your marketing person isn’t managing the design of your site or helping with your content then you have to ask what it is they’re actually doing that will help with your search performance. If you want to get off of pay-per-click, over the long-term, then these are issues you need to raise.

Why do you feel so many attorneys rely on pay-per-click managers without raising these issues? Please chime in through the comment form below.