Screwing Lawyers: Calculate The True Cost of Your Agency’s Long Term Contract

I hear this story about once a day from a frustrated lawyer… “Our marketing isn’t working.” “My agency doesn’t tell me what they are doing.” “Our rankings haven’t improved.” “The vendor won’t let us into Google Analytics.” And so on and so on.

Being frustrated with your marketing isn’t uncommon or even unfair.  Sometimes best efforts belly flop (even at my own agency.)  But the lemon juice poured in the fresh cut is recognizing that you are contractually stuck with the ineffective, lazy, useless, opaque “efforts” of your marketing agency for the foreseeable future.

I received this email today from a frustrated firm:

“Just a quick update: we unfortunately found some fine print yesterday that we had previously missed. It looks like we are stuck with FindLaw until November of 2020.”

The true cost of your long term marketing contract isn’t the value of the contract to the agency ($8,200 a month for the next 36 months…) but actually the opportunity cost of all of that lost business your firm could be generating if your agency was actually effective. Using extremely rough math…that $8,200 monthly cost equates to roughly $300K over the life of the contract, but it really should be measured as three years of your firm struggling to find clients while your bottom line bleeds…drip drip drip…into your agency’s top line.

Using basic business metrics, if that investment returned just a pathetic 4x (i.e. cost of client at 25% of the value of the matter) that $300K expense is really $1.2 million dollars in revenue your firm isn’t capturing. And, your underperforming agency has NO incentive to turn this around – because their profitability is inversely related to how hard they work for you.

So let’s be clear: entering into a long term contract with a marketing vendor benefits them, not you. As soon as you are locked in, as this is a service industry, your agency’s profitability skyrockets by doing as little as possible for you. This is compounded by the deliberate obfuscation of performance data. Ask yourself why your long term agency contract precludes you from access to your site’s Google Analytics or Google Ad campaigns. What do they not want you to see? What are they not doing for you?

You are supposed to be sophisticated savvy lawyers. Imagine how you would act if you could be hired under the same terms that you hire agencies: long term, guaranteed retainers with no requirements to share what you are allegedly doing for your clients? Would you do client work or instead hire hordes of cold callers to assail the front desks of your next prospective victim?

Oh, and before you sign…read the fine print.

How to Add & Remove Access to Your Google Ads Account

Do you know who has access (or ownership) of your Google Ads account? Odds are, there are some old agencies or employees that still have access to your entire account. You may want to kick them out, or if you started working with someone new, you may want to give them access (with proper permission levels).

Here’s how to check, add, and remove access to your Google Ads account:

1) Log in to Your Google Ads Account

Go to https://ads.google.com and log in with your username and password.

2) Click Tools, then Account Access

Click the wrench icon in the top right, then click “Account access” under Setup.

3) Add or Remove Users

Make sure you (as a user) have full admin access to your own account. If it says “Standard” or “Read Only” it means someone else actually owns the account, and they can kick you out at any time.
Double check that whoever has access also has the right permissions. Change their access level if you need to – not everyone needs to be an Admin.

To add someone (a person, not an agency), click the blue plus button, select their permission level, and invite them via email. They will need to accept the invitation before accessing your Google Ads account.

To remove someone’s access, simply click the “Remove Access” link in the right column.

4) Add or Remove Managers (Agencies)

There’s another section that’s a little hard to see. Next to “Users” there’s a “Managers” tab. This is where you grant access to agencies and tools (rather than individual people). You may grant Administrative Ownership, but this gives them the ability to add or remove anyone they like. If that makes you uncomfortable, simply toggle that switch off. They’ll still have access, but they won’t have total control.

To add a manager, the agency will need to request access. Give them your Google Ads CID number (it looks like a phone number), and once they send a request, you’ll need to come back to this section and click “Approve”.

To remove a manager, simply click the “Remove Access” link in the right column.

5) Check Your Billing Users

Once you’ve verified that certain people and agencies each have the right level of access, you need to check who has access to your billing information.

This is NOT the same as who has access to your Google Ads account. There is a big difference between a Google Ads user, and a Google Payments user.

Go to Tools (the wrench icon) > Billing & Payments (under Setup) > Settings (left side menu) > Manage Payment Users (one of the middle cards).

You can then adjust permission levels, set notifications, select who is Primary Contact, and of course add or remove users as you need.

6) Sit Back and Relax… Then Audit Your Other Tools

Now that you know who has access to your Google Ads account, what permissions they have, and who is responsible for paying the bills, you can sit back and relax. No need to worry about old agencies messing things up, or worse, kicking you out of your own account.

You shouldn’t go through life paranoid, but you should be cautious about granting access to your business’ information. After adding and removing people from Google Ads, check who has access to your website, your registrar, your Google Analytics, your Google My Business, your Google Search Console, and all your other digital assets.

You may be surprised who you find.

Take some time to run a security audit. It’s better to check and not find anything, than to not check and wish you would have.

Google Ads Taking Steps to Combat SPAM in Call Only Campaigns

One of the upsides about being a Google Premier Partner is that we have a direct line to Googlers to whine about terrible behavior on behalf of some advertisers. One of the bugaboos we’ve been whining about is law firm marketing agencies pretending to be law firms and competing with our clients for business. This has been true in local results as well as call only advertisements.

Starting in December (although our notification didn’t mention exactly when in December, but it could be as soon as…tomorrow) Google is updating their Call Only Policy with the following requirements:

  • Service providers will now be required to use their actual business name in call-only ads. Service providers can no longer advertise with a business name that doesn’t represent their specific business or clearly disambiguate from similar businesses
  • When answering calls from users who’ve clicked on their call-only ad, advertisers must begin the call by stating their business name, as it appears in their call-only ads.

Note this not only impacts the spammers but also legit businesses, as you now need to ensure your front desk answers appropriately. (No more, “law offices” as the salutation…which I’ve been trying to get you all to change anyway.)

You can check out the call only ad requirements directly from Google here.

And to all of you lead generation companies masquerading as a law firm…you’re welcome.

Questions your AdWords Agency Doesn’t Want you To Ask

Over the years, I’ve written a variety of posts to help law firms separate the SEO wheat from the chaff here here and here. It seems the same level of either gross ineptitude or deliberate opportunism has firmly planted itself in the AdWords world as well.  So I bring you, four very uncomfortable questions you should ask your current or prospective AdWords agency.

  1. Access – Do you have access to your AdWords account?  We provide our clients with Admin level access to their AdWords accounts.  If you don’t even have read access to your account, what is your agency hiding? My perspective is that it is YOUR account, we get to work on it, not the other way around.  Without access, this means that if clients leave their agency – they have to start all over again – this is a great model for the agency, but horrendous for the law firm.
  2. Reporting – Does your AdWords accurately track all types of conversions through sophisticated reporting infrastructure to get granular on conversions – phone, form, chat and even text messaging.  This means you can dial in to the actual keyword, or ad within an A/B test to tell you what’s working.
  3. Payment Transparency – we are crystal clear with what % of our spend goes to Google and what goes to us…. Ask you agency the same question and see just how straightforward they are with your dollars.
  4. Exclusivity – I don’t believe we can effectively (or ethically) advertise on the same Channel (AdWords) for two different clients in the same market at the same time.

And note, I’m not getting all high and mighty suggesting you should only hire a Google Premier Partner.  There are a (sprinkling) of solid AdWords agency’s not in Google’s program, BUT they are few and far between.

Is Your Brand Synonymous (to Google) with Personal Injury?

Google AdWords broadmatch is very broad. In fact it’s broader than I had thought.

Essentially, AdWords knows that “attorney” means “lawyer” “law firm” and lots of other variants. It is so broad, in fact, that branded queries for law firms: (i.e. Smith Jones and Williams”) are starting to turn up ads for competing law firms, even though there’s nothing in the branded query that denotes a law firm specifically. Semantically, “Smith Jones and Williams” could be accounting, or a pizza restaurant, or a document or an island, or a treaty from the 1700s… but Google has learned that people looking for that specific firm are actually looking for a criminal defense lawyer and are showing ads for other localized criminal defense lawyers.

Here’s an example I did from my Seattle office, for a huge personal injury law firm in Texas. Note that three ads for Seattle based PI firms show up for the very specific query: “Glasheen Valles”.

 

What this means tactically:

  1. Lawyers should bid on their own brand name. This includes the firm as well as individuals.
  2. Broad match in AdWords may be a path towards spending a lot of money on expensive PPC terms. A sophisticated campaign should be MUCH more specific.

 

Immigration Attorneys: We Want You!

So…. Since starting Mockingbird, we’ve never proactively sought business.  For the most part it has come to us.  BUT…. I’m now proactively looking for more immigration attorneys to add to our client list.  Over the past two years, we have locked down online marketing for a handful of immigration attorneys.  And at the risk of making this sound like I’m selling a set of steak knives or a used Ford Taurus – its an easy, repeatable, fool-proof system that has delivered stupendous results.

I’m writing this this morning after coming out of a conversation with one of our immigration clients that sounded something like this:

“Please turn down the efforts – we’re turning away business – I don’t even bother to reply to half of the voicemails.”

Here’s the inbound traffic growth this client has experienced since we took over his account (from a big box Legal Marketing “Expert”) – he’s now driving 9 times the traffic than prior to our engagement:

Here’s another situation – where we’re driving close to 10 calls per day to a small immigration firm.

Why Immigration? The answer is twofold threefold:

  1. We’ve spent a large amount of time (and money) learning what works and what doesn’t in Immigration.
  2. Much of our effort and experience and learnings are generated from the hypercompetitive markets of Personal Injury, Mass Torts and Criminal Defense.  Simply applying the best practices from those aggressive and overcrowded markets to the less competitive and frequently more distributed immigration market is all it takes to make a huge impact.
  3. (And yes, some of this is undeniably due to the xenophobic politics of the day.)

 

 

How to Share AdWords Access with an Agency

Once you’ve entered into a partnership with a digital marketing agency, whether you’ve signed agreements or agreed to an audit, you’re going to need to provide access to your Google AdWords account. The process is relatively simple if you know what you’re doing, but it’s very easy to get lost.

Here’s how to grant AdWords access to agencies in 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Client Sends AdWords Customer ID

  1. Log in to your Google AdWords account
  2. Find your Customer ID and email it to your agency
  3. Stay logged in and wait for the agency to request approval

Step 2: Marketing Agency Requests Access

  1. Log in to the top level Manager Account for Google AdWords
  2. Under Accounts, click +Account and select “Link existing accounts”
  3. Enter the provided customer ID and click “Continue”
  4. Name the account (for internal use only) and click “Request approval”

Step 3: Client Approves Access

  1. Click the gear icon (top right) and select “Account Settings”
  2. Click “Account Access” on the left menu
  3. Click “Accept Request” and if you’d like provide full access, grant Admin permissions

And that’s it! You’ve successfully granted a marketing agency access to your AdWords account.

How Voice Search May Be Hurting Your Advertising

In the past six months, virtual assistants have become the newest must-have tech device.  Virtual assistants have been around for the past couple of years, but Amazon and Google have taken it to the next level. You can now ask a small speaker in your home to play music, write a to-do list, and search the internet for a restaurants’ phone number. I have yet to hop on the AI bandwagon, but my dad is still amazed that Alexa can play the Magnum P.I. theme song.

While these devices make life a little easier, they can also be hurting your advertising costs, and even inflating your leads. Since there’s no screen to view your search results, your assistant will choose what they believe the best answer is. If it’s the correct answer, then great! If not, you may end up calling a business you didn’t intend to.

I was recently looking through the search terms report in AdWords for a client, and stumbled upon a series of voice searches:

“Okay Google I need probate attorneys in the state of Kentucky USA not Oklahoma anywhere else”

“Okay Google maybe you don’t understand I’m trying to reach probate attorneys in Kentucky Kentucky”

I think it’s pretty safe to say that this was the same searcher looking for an attorney in Kentucky, not Oklahoma where my client practices. But because Google thought this query best matched our call-only ads, the helpful assistant placed a call to their office. Twice.

At least the second search was only half the price of the first…

So with the increased use of virtual assistants, your ad managers need to be vigilant in monitoring the types of searches you’re paying for, and what changes they can make to ensure you’re only paying for searches that are relevant to your business.

Get The Most From Your AdWords Search Terms: 2 [Simple] Tips

The number one reason I love Google AdWords (aside from us now being a Premier Partner) is that their advertising platform enables you to target potential clients who are actively searching for your service. Not only do they place your ad in front of users who are searching for your service, but you can actually see what they searched for before clicking your advertisement. This transparency gives you an immense amount of power. In this post I’ll describe how to use that search data to quickly and easily perform 2 key tasks:

  1. Identify negative keywords
  2. Content idea generation

How to Access Your Search Terms Data

Let’s take a step back. The first thing you need to do is navigate to your “Search Terms” tab in your Google AdWords dashboard. Follow these steps…

  1. Login to Google AdWords
  2. Navigate to the specific campaign you want to work on
  3. Select the “keywords” tab and then select “search terms” in the second menu so you see a screen similar to this:

AdWords Search Terms

Now that you can see how people are finding and clicking on your ads, you’re ready to use that data. Take a minute to scroll through your search terms; if it’s your first time, you may be surprised at what you find.

Identifying and Adding New Negative Keywords

Now that you’re looking at the list of search terms you’ve paid for – you’ll want to identify anything that is irrelevant or not likely to lead to conversions. It’s good to go through at least every few weeks (more frequently if you are running a large budget campaign) and make sure you are excluding terms you don’t want to pay for in the future.

Here are some real client examples from an immigration attorney…

  • is rihanna getting deported” (I don’t think this person is looking to hire a deportation defense attorney for Rihanna.)
  • immigration paralegal openings in clearwater utah” (Unfortunately the law firm isn’t located in Utah and not looking to hire new paralegals.)
  • how many immigrants has trump deported” (Albeit an interesting question… this client doesn’t have the answer, and more importantly, this person is not looking to hire an attorney.)

If you find terms like this that you want to exclude from triggering your ads, simply select the checkbox next to the search term and then scroll to the top navigation and click the “add as a negative keyword” button.

It’s important to mention that as a best practice, you should upload a list of negative keywords before ever launching your AdWords campaigns. This way you are proactively mitigating the irrelevant and unprofitable keywords. Here are some freebies we include on most of our campaigns (dependent on practice area of course):

  • Cheap
  • Pro bono
  • News
  • Job
  • School
  • Statistics

Using Search Terms Data for Content Idea Generation

The queries you find in your search terms data can be utilized as a tool for organic search strategy as well. This list of terms is often a goldmine for generating new content ideas. You can see what people are interested in and actively searching for and make sure you have content on your site that answers those questions. Once more, if you already have relevant content, you can use the search terms report to get insight into how you can optimize the content on page to match the searchers verbiage.

For example, here are more examples from the same immigration attorney…

  • can I get a green card by marrying a permanent resident?
  • which green card is safe from deportation?
  • what are the newest immigration laws?

All of these questions can and should be used as a springboard for new content. If you can become the trusted resource for information about your practice area than you are winning.

Wrapping Up

Make sure you are not neglecting the search terms report in Google AdWords. Not only will it help you cut costs and focus on the relevant queries that drive business, but it can also help support your content and overall SEO strategy.