Get Ready for $300 CpCs in Legal

I spent today at SMX Advanced Local – a Workshop hosted by the inimitable Greg Sterling in conjunction with the greater SMX Advanced Conference.  I talked about advanced linkbuilding, but was mostly interested in the talk preceding mine from Google’s Ali Turhan who shed some light on upcoming changes in local advertising.  As far as Greg knew (and he would know) – this was the first time Google has really talked publicly in any level of depth about the upcoming sponsored (read: ads) maps listings.

What are ‘promoted pins”?

Very simply, the promoted pins are a way to buy yourself onto mapped local results – to hell with reviews, links, NAP etc – these are a color coded (i.e. visually delineating between sponsored vs. natural) pins that show up on the Google map interface in local results.

Why this is (another) game changer (again).

Ali mentioned many times they are still experimenting with exactly how these would function.  However, he kept coming back to what seems to be a default plan: one promoted pin within the map interface.  When pressed – my read was that maps would continue to have just 3 results – with 1 of them being “promoted”.  So the local pack looks like it has just shrunk again – from 3 down to 2 organically listed results (ahhh- remember those wonder years of the 7 pack.)

While it has yet to be seen exactly how these sponsored pins perform, I can only imagine the extremely high click through rates commanded within the legal industry. Especially on mobile devices, primed for that first initial inquiry from a potential client.

Top Announcements From Google Ads & Analytics Innovations Keynote

This morning, we tuned into the Google Ads and Analytics Innovations Keynote at the Google Performance Summit. The theme, overwhelmingly, was a focus on mobile;  “mobile is everything” and we’re living in a “mobile-first world.” Here’s what we learned:

Upcoming Changes to Google AdWords

  1. 50% more ad text. Ads will soon be made up of two 30 character headlines and an expanded description (up to 80 characters).
  2. Display ads. Where as currently you (or your designer) must create different ads in different sizes for each device, the process will soon be made much easier. In the future, you will only need to submit an ad headline, description, and image, and site URL and Google will create responsive ads for you.
  3. Individual bid adjustments for each device type. Instead of desktop being the default, you’ll be able to choose a base keyword bid for whatever device matters most to you, and then adjust for the others accordingly.

Location-Based Advertising Changes

  1. Location Extensions Expansion. Location extensions will be richer and more expanded, and will be shown on, the maps app, and Google Maps.
  2. Promoted Pins in Google Maps. Promoted pins will display to users as they’re navigating. For example, on your walk to the bus stop, you may see a promoted pin for a nearby Starbucks.
  3. Enhanced Accuracy. Using Beacon signals, accuracy will be improved allowing advertisers to better track in store conversions after a user clicks a mobile ad.

New Features for Display Advertising

  1. Similar Audiences for Search. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads currently allow advertisers to target users who have already been to your website. Using Similar Audiences for Search, you’ll be able to create a list of Google users who have not yet been to your site, but have similar demographics and interests to users who have visited your site.
  2. Demographics for Search Ads. This update will allow advertisers to adjust text ad bids based on age, as well as other user demographics.
  3. Extending reach of Google Display Network. The GDN will be expanded by giving advertisers access to Cross Exchange Inventory.

Finally, in the more distant future, advertisers can expect a complete overhaul to the AdWords user experience. There will be a new homepage dashboard, and a new campaign creation flow, among other updates. For a complete list of all changes announced, check out Search Engine Land’s coverage.

What do these changes mean for law firms?

The announcements, while exciting, have ambiguous release dates ranging from “in the next few months” to “2017”. So while you can’t implement these new features now, it’s a good time to make sure your advertiser is on top of these changes. If you run your own advertising, make sure you’re staying on top of release dates. If that sounds unrealistic, think about if now might be the right time to bring someone else in to help you out.

Call Only Campaigns

Nearly a year ago, AdWords announced Call Only Campaigns. In case you missed it, Call Only Ads are similar to traditional paid search ads – but they don’t link to your website. Instead, when searches click on the ad, they will be prompted to call your business.



If you are advertising with Google AdWords and are interested in people calling your business, you’re a candidate for Call Only Ads. The success of Call Only Campaigns is widely variable, like any advertising campaign. However, in some cases the results can be dramatic.

For example, we have one client who implemented Call Only Ads on November 1st, 2015.


Traditional PPC Campaign, From August 1st, 2015 to October 31st, 2o15

3 conversions

8.11% conversion rate

Call Only Campaign, From November 1st, 2015 to January 31st, 2016

15 conversions

31% conversion rate


By no means is this a perfect study, but an additional 12 conversions is nothing to scoff at. For more information on how to set up a Call Only Campaign, check out AdWords Help.

Google Rolls Out Huge Changes to Search Results

Expect your PPC campaigns (and therefore probably your SEO traffic) to go a little haywire this week.  Google has abruptly rolled out a very large change to the search engine results page (SERP) interface…. removing all ads (and apparently everything) from the right rail – see Siberia below.


Here’s What We Know

  • The changes impact desktop searches only.
  • There are now four ads above natural search results and three below.
  • The changes only impact “commercial” queries – presumably most of the more transactional legal terms, but probably less so for queries researching a particular issue (see example below).
  • The change is permanent (for now).


What it Means (I think)

  • Clearly pushing more ads above natural search is going to shift traffic from organic to paid…. SEO players lose, PPC players gain (and so does Google.)
  • In the already overpriced legal PPC market, there’s even more competition for just 4 prime spots (remember, SERPs used to have up to 11 ads, including most legal queries) which is going to drive up already irrational (read: unprofitable) PPC bidding among lawyers.
  • (Smart) lawyers will look to diversify their paid marketing channels – driving up bids in Bing.  (For more on the economics of this see my 2013 post – Google Adwords Costs 150% More than Bing Ads.)
  • Local now becomes even more important for lawyers (and remember, it was just August when the number of local results constricted down to the three firm “snack pack”.


In summary, there are fewer ads total; however, they take up more of the prime real estate – which impacts both natural and paid results.

Why Your PPC Landing Pages Should Be Part of Your Website

In the world of legal marketing, we see a general push from our clients to have more than one website. We constantly see law firms with a website for each practice area, or, in this case, separate websites for general use and PPC landing pages. So we reopen the age-old debate – should your law firm have more than one website, specifically for PPC vs non-PPC purposes?

Separate domains for PPC landing pages

When running PPC campaigns, we’ve heard the experts urge us to have landing pages that are relevant and specific to the content mentioned in your add. But how to you integrate that content into your existing site, if it’s not there already? This dilemma becomes increasingly difficult when you are running more and more PPC campaigns – where do you put these pages?

An answer some are turning to – separate domains. For example, these sites below. On the left is the law firms “normal” website, on the right, their PPC website.

lemonlawexperts website screenshot
Main site at
PPC landing pages site at

Is this a good idea? Our stance, no.

Four Reasons to Have One Website for Your Business

  1. Google says so. Google does not like duplicate content. It has said so here. And if you weren’t convinced, Google releases algorithm updates like Panda that beat sites with duplicate content into a pulp. By having two websites discussing your law firm and a specific area of practice (lemon law, in this case) you’re bound to have nearly identical content. There is only so many ways you can say “we will help you with your lemon law case.”
  2. You’ll get more traffic. Having two websites is means you’re self-cannibalizing your traffic. Business school beat “synergy” into me – the idea that 1 + 1 can sometimes equal 3. The same concept applies here. Sure, you get traffic on your main site. And you get traffic on your PPC landing pages site. But chances are, if you consolidated the two, you’d get more traffic than the sum of them separately. And more traffic -> more clients -> more money -> happy you.
  3. Improve your ROI. The more websites you maintain, the more money you spend. You need to buy each additional domain, pay for hosting,
  4. Better user experience. Imagine this: your car sucks, desperately you do a Google search for a lawyer. You click a brilliantly constructed ad, and get taken to a site relevant to your search query. It’s all good so far. But then, you, the not-dummy you are, decide to poke around this site. Sure, there’s some content, but it seems weak. So you leave this crappy website because it doesn’t quite seem legit.

Consolidate Your Websites and Live a Longer, Happier Life

Seriously. Just do it. You’ll save money, probably see an uptick in traffic, and build some karma in the Google Gods book.

7 Reasons You Should Bid on Your Brand Name

Branded SearchWhen speaking about digital marketing, I’ve been asked time and again if companies should bid on their own brand name in Google AdWords and Bing Ads. “Should we create paid search campaigns based on our brand name? If we rank #1 organically, why pay for traffic that we’re going to get for free anyway? Isn’t it just wasting money?”

In short, SEO and PPC, when run together, are greater than the sum of their parts. Of course PPC costs money, and a branded paid search campaign might cannibalize a portion of your organic traffic, but according to a study from Bing, companies see an average of 32% more clicks when they appear in both organic and paid results.

That’s huge! But how does this happen? How do you get more clicks when you’re already ranking number one? Well, here are the 7 reasons why you should bid on your brand name and how it can help you get more clicks, leads and clients.

#1 – It’s Really Cheap

Keyword relevancy plays a big part in determining cost per click. Branded campaigns usually have the highest possible quality scores because “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Thanks Dr. Seuss, I couldn’t have said it better. When you bid on your brand name as a keyword, your quality score will be near perfect, because you are you! This high quality score keeps your costs lower than low. It won’t be free, but it won’t cost much.

#2 – It Makes Your Other Ads Cheaper

Instead of guilty by association, think cheaper by association. Your branded campaign’s high quality score raises the average quality score of your entire AdWords account. Your other campaigns benefit simply by being associated with a super high quality campaign. Boosting your average quality score will help lower all campaigns’ cost per click, making non-brand ads slightly cheaper.

#3 – Be the Right Answer & Own the SERP

serp exampleRanking number 1 organically is great, and something every company should be able to achieve for their own brand name. However, search engine results pages (SERPs) have a lot of different pieces. You have organic results, paid results, map listings, knowledge graphs, sitelinks, tweets… it’s a long list. If done correctly, you could cover the entire first page with properties you can manage, but it will always start at the top with paid advertising.

Users are also more likely to click through to a site if they see it multiple times. Prove that you ARE the site people are looking for by showing up again and again. If someone sees your paid ad, then your organic result, there is a sense of recognition and trust that begins to develop. Own your brand name and establish yourself as the correct answer to their question.

#4 – Hide Bad Things Below the Fold

Have some bad press you wish would stop showing up in search results? Going back to my last point, try to cover the SERP with properties you can control. Paid advertising pushes organic results down. If you’re taking up the whole page, there’s no room for bad press. Adding paid advertisements to a SERP that’s already filled with your website, maps and social profiles could be just enough to get those nasty stories onto the rarely seen SERP page 2.

competitor bidding#5 – Don’t Let Competitors Steal from You

Sometimes, competitors will bid on your brand name to try and steal clicks. There are some limitations and regulations, especially within the legal industry, but it is not entirely illegal. If you’re not bidding on your brand name and a competitor does, they will show up first – above your organic listing. This is NOT OK. Defend yourself and protect the top spot with a branded campaign to make sure you aren’t losing traffic to the guy down the street.

#6 – Generate Instant Leads with Click to Call

clicktocallCall extensions are a great tool you can apply to paid search campaigns. Having your phone number show up next to your ad, especially on mobile, is a great way to capture leads (not just traffic). If people are searching for your brand on their mobile device, help them get in touch with a single click. Not only does this button attract the eye, it’s an instant lead generator for anyone who clicks on it.

#7 – Control your Sitelinks

Those little links under your main website are usually great ways for users to dive right into specific content. However, you can’t 100% control which pages show up. Google displays what it thinks is most important, and sometimes, Google gets it wrong. With sitelink ad extensions, you can customize each link and direct people to where you want them to go. This is a great way to help control the look and feel of your brand on the search results page.

In Conclusion

I believe these 7 reasons end the argument of whether or not companies should launch branded paid search campaigns. It makes perfect sense to invest a small amount and increase your clicks by 32% over having organic alone. I say get more out of your brand. Run some high quality paid search campaigns and capitalize on the name you’ve worked so hard to build.

How We Replaced PPC with SEO and Saved $30,000

These are the results I love to share.  Back towards the beginning of the year, I spoke with someone who was concerned about  high PPC budget – she was spending roughly $2,500 monthly on Adwords and weren’t sure if the spend was paying off. In looking at the site’s performance it became clear that the client had most of her eggs in a poorly structured, untargeted PPC basket AND the site seemed to be grossly underperforming in SEO.

Over the past 6 months, we’ve turned her traffic upside down . . . . resulting in PPC savings of roughly $30,000.  While traffic is down about 15%, we’ve replaced the PPC spend with (free) SEO traffic and restructured an unprofitable advertising spend.  Here’s how:

replacing PPC

Step 1: Assess PPC ROI

We did a thorough business review of her PPC campaign – to assess just how much business the spend generated and calculated what her cost per client was for this channel.  (It was really bad.)  Armed with 8 weeks of eye opening data, we drastically cut the Adwords budget and launched a (small) Bing campaign at the same time . . . with CPC’s roughly 90% lower than her original bids. Take note: PPC is never the only answer.  If you look really carefully, you’ll see that we never entirely did away with PPC – its still bumping along, delivering a small trickle of traffic from both Adwords and BingAds – – – generating business at a very low cost per client (read: extremely high ROI).

Step 2:  Fix SEO Problems

Once we dug in, we found the client’s site had some major SEO problems and while they took some time to fix – roughly 3 months – the changes resulted in a 400% increase in her natural search traffic – essentially replacing the traffic drop from cutting the PPC budget.  Interestingly, even if the SEO hadn’t been borked we still would have killed the PPC campaign as it was literally costing her more than she was making from the clients.

Step 3:  Slowly Dial Advertising Back Up

Moving forward – now that we have solid business tracking (so we can ID cost per client by each marketing channel) we’ll slowly dial her PPC campaign up so her margins reflect her business objective:  ie. cost per client makes business sense.  We can also explore additional advertising venues and measure them on their ability to hit these cost per client benchmarks.


The net result?  The client is now bringing in roughly three times the business with the same marketing spend.  AND she could cut off her SEO spend and unlike and advertising spend, the traffic would continue.

Google Adwords Costs 150% More than Bing Ads

Back in July I wrote a post called You are Foolish if you run Google Adwords but not Bing Ads that outlined the economic theory explaining how Bing Ads return a higher ROI although lower volume than Google Adwords.

I’ve been running PPC campaigns on both platforms for Atticus’ clients and have confirmed the theory.  Interestingly, depending on the market forces, Bing is dramatically more effective at delivering not only more cost effective traffic, but more traffic overall.  What follows is comparative data for Adwords and Bing Ads for one client in a particularly interesting market.  While this is an extreme example, consider it an example of Bing delivering vastly better ROI.

This is a fairly simple campaign – with four different Ad Groups representing four different practice areas.  I copied the campaigns verbatim from Adwords into Bing (thanks for the nifty import tool Microsoft).  The only difference is in geotargeting, which I had to manually adjust for the Bing campaign, as they offer much less granularity (read: worse) than Adwords.  So this is NOT a pure apples to apples comparison as the Bing geo is admittedly larger, but as close as I could make it.


Bing Ads vs. Adwords Click Volume
Bing Ads vs. Adwords Click Volume

Now the volume difference was a surprise – and perhaps partially explained away by the larger geo area covered by Bing Ads, although I suspect there are  competitive forces at play there as well that are driving the performance.  The real kicker is the cost per click for Adwords running 150% higher than that for Bing Ads.  And this is the figure that drives ROI.

Adwords traffic costs 2.5x Bing Ads for Identical Campaigns
Adwords traffic costs 2.5x Bing Ads for Identical Campaigns



So let me say it again:  You are foolish if you run Google Adwords, but not Bing Ads.

Google Adwords Launches Offline Conversion Tracking

 (But it doesn’t really matter for lawyers . . . yet)

In an attempt to provide increased analytical information about an Adwords spend, today Google launched AdWords Conversion Import – which tracks offline conversion (like phone calls) back to the original PPC spend.  (Thus presumably increasing the perceived ROI on Google Adwords and therefore encouraging advertisers to continue to adjust their budgets towards PPC spend. . . but I digress.)

Offline Conversion Tracking from Google

As you can see from the cute Google graphic above, the process is pretty simple but it is really designed much more for an online retail experience than a law firm.  Note that this requires a)the user to fill out a form to store the original click information (known as the GCLID) and b)the advertiser to have a customer tracking database that they record the GCLID in and then reupload that GCLID back to Google once the user converts.  Booo.

Why This Doesn’t Work For Lawyers

  1. Online intake form completion for legal websites anecdotally represents roughly 2-3% of inbound leads.  What lawyers really want is the phone to ring (and Google is clear that this doesn’t work for those inbound phone calls.)
  2. This also requires a back end tracking database.  While there are a few solutions (including, ahem, Avvo’s Ignite Suite) that do provide sophisticated CRM for lawyers, very few law firms have actually adopted them.

But Wait . . .

One of my favorite pastimes is reading the Google tealeaves and prognosticating changes in direction and new product features.  Between tracking phone numbers in Adwords and the huge push into the small business realm (think restaurants, plumbers, auto repair, lawyers etc.) things are changing.  Better conversion tracking for small businesses that rely on phone calls for the vast majority of their conversions is coming soon.