How Do You Get an ROI When Pay Per Click Is So Expensive?

The latest data from WordStream shows that on Google Ads the average cost-per-click for lawyer keywords is about $54 per click. For Bing ads it was $109. With average conversion rates around 7%, you’d need about 15 clicks to get just one lead. And with the average cost-per-click for lawyer keywords on google ads at $54 that’s $810 for a lead. At those cost-per-lead rates, I get asked all the time if Google ads are just too expensive to get a positive ROI. But if you only focus on cost-per-click and industry averages, you’ll end up turning your back on PPC. Which means you’ll miss out on one of the key tactics that many law firms use in their online marketing investments that consistently drive new business to their firm each and every month, and provide an incredible return on investment. Truth be told you you should strongly consider hiring a pay per click management services firm. This will ensure your dollars are well spent.

This is about how to get a great ROI when PPC in the legal industry seems so expensive. But first, let’s talk about PPC really quick. PPC stands for pay-per-click which is actually just one tactic in overall paid advertising strategies. Now understand that we’re going to use PPC occasionally just like everyone else to really mean overall paid advertising strategies. It is strongly believe that paid advertising is a great supplement to other digital marketing strategies like SEO. There are many reasons for this such as paid advertising being much faster to get leads flowing into a law firm while waiting for other great strategies like search engine optimization to kick in. Or paid advertising quickly provides great data on key word phrases people are actually using that can inform your SEO content strategies. And paid advertising is fast and easy to test new content and conversion ideas that we can use in other marketing tactics such as SEO title and meta descriptions and email marketing subject lines, and many more. In fact you may want to work with a web design company, that can get your website in good shape. Because after all what’s the purpose of driving traffic to a website that is not designed right. Traffic simply won’t convert. You need to have your lead-forms, navigation and other UI/UX on point to get the maximum out of your PPC dollars.

Let’s all of this because before we dive into getting an ROI on your PPC campaign, we want you to understand that there are other benefits to PPC than just another lead source. With these expensive keywords though, how do you get a great ROI with paid advertising? Let’s broken this down into four things that will help your firm use paid advertising with a much smarter approach than those attorneys who lose money each and every month paying way too much for new cases in Google ads than they even profit on a case.

Number one, don’t focus on average cost-per-click.

When you’re just starting out with pay-per-click the big obvious number that all the tools show you is the average cost-per-click for a key word. But here’s a secret you’ll learn with experience and time using Google ads after optimizing your campaign for a few months you can always get a lower cost-per-click than the average. The reason is that while pay-per-click advertising feels like an auction and the highest bidder should get the number one spot, that is not how most platforms like Google, Facebook and Bing actually work. These platforms incorporate a quality or relevant score into their equation to figure out which ad goes on top and how much that ad will need to pay-per-click. The lower your quality score the more you will have to pay-per-click. The higher a quality score, the less you’ll pay. In Google ads, quality score is measured on a scale of one to ten.

There are many factors that go into it but know that five is average and typically represents the average cost-per-click numbers you see in those keyword research tools. Our data shows that if you’re quality scores seven or higher you can see a discount on that average cost-per-click of 20 – 50%. For those law firms that don’t pay attention to quality score, if the score falls below five you’re often paying more than the average cost-per-click number. Like all the search engine algorithms the exact quality score formula is not really known but we do know that it’s mostly based on relevance of the searcher’s keywords to the exact keywords you’re bidding on to the copy of your actual ad and to the landing page your ad sends the user to. This is why it takes a few months to optimize the right performing keywords for your market to the right ad groups. And then create and optimize landing pages for each ad group. But once you do this, your quality score will start moving up and you’ll be able to pay half as much as what someone else is paying for the top one or two spots.

Now that you understand that average cost-per-click is not what you actually pay, you must know that even though it’s one of the metrics that comes out of the box on Google, Facebook and Bing ad tools you need to ignore cost-per-click as a key metric for your PPC campaign. The key metric you’ll want to focus on is CPA or cost-per-acquisition.

At GNGF, they like to break down the cost-per-acquisition into two parts.

  1. One is the cost-per-lead, which is how much you have to spend to get one new lead.
  2. And two is the cost-per-client which is how much on average you spend to get one new client or case from your pay-per-click campaign.

To get the cost-per-lead, you need to track forms, chats and phone calls on your website to get accurate information from your analytics tools. To get cost-per-client unless you’ve invested in CRM intake tools like Lawmatics or Clio Grow, you’re gonna need to use a spreadsheet and do some manual tracking of the leads that turn into actual cases. Or if you can export all the new clients from your practice management system into a spreadsheet each month, your agency should help you manually match the pay-per-click leads to an actual cases and that can provide an approximate cost-per-acquisition.

Do that for your clients all the time to help them measure real ROI of their marketing investments. So yes, cost-per-click is a metric that you will have to incorporate into your calculations and forecasts but once your campaign is optimized you really want to focus on the cost-per-lead and ultimately the cost-per-new-client. If it costs you less to acquire a new client than you profit on the case, you’re getting a positive ROI no matter the cost-per-click. In fact, once you know these numbers the math will actually show that you may want to actually increase your cost-per-click bids to generate more traffic.

Second is Improve your conversion rate on your website.

Once you have a quality score that allows you to pay less than the average cost-per-click, the next best way to decrease your post per lead is by increasing the conversion rate on your website. Your PPC conversion rate is simply the number of people who convert to a lead on your website, you know by filling out a form or calling your office, or initiating a live chat divided by all the clicks you’ve sent to your website. The average conversion rates we see when someone is just getting started or from the many PPC campaigns we take over is around 5%. This is way too low. According to WordStream data, the average conversion rates that they see in the legal industry is 7%. But you should be able to get your landing pages to convert up to about 20% within six months. If you do the math, and compare the cost-per-lead for a landing page converting at that legal industry average of 7% versus a landing page converting at 20%, you’re gonna see that the savings on the cost-per-lead is almost 65%.

This is one of the biggest leverage you have in your pay-per-click campaign. And unlike all the variables on the ad bidding side you can completely control the testing and optimization of the landing pages on your website. Which is why it shocks me all the time when we audit PPC campaigns and see too many of the ads just sending traffic to the law firm’s home page. And some of these campaigns are being run by agencies that should know better and they’re charging a lawyer 30% or more management fees. Not only should you have landing pages for each ad group to help your quality score but landing pages that match the keyword intent and fulfill in the promise in your ad are going to have a much higher conversion rate. If you’re investing in pay-per-click campaigns and you’re not getting 10 – 20% conversion rate or if you don’t even have landing pages at all, just use the link in the description below and schedule an appointment with one of our marketing consultants right away.

The third thing you can do to be smarter

The third thing you can do to be smarter than those other law firms struggling to get an ROI is to narrow the focus in your keyword bidding. The more specific you can get in your key word targeting the less competition and therefore the lower average cost-per-click. Not only is it a lower cost-per-click but the narrower your focus, the more likely your landing page will meet the intent of the searcher and increase the conversion rate of that page. There’s a saying that we use in marketing that you want to enter the conversation going on in your prospect’s head. The narrower you can target keywords the better chance you have of doing just that.

There are few ways you can narrow your focus in keyword bidding and we can’t dive into all the details here but let’s do cover some of this in a guide we created recently called “The Seven Essential Tips for Legal Pay-Per-Click Ads” which has many of the strategies we actually use to grow our clients PPC campaign ROI over 200%.

One of the ways is to create more ad groups with fewer keywords in each. That way each ad group’s core focus can better match the ads and landing pages you create. Which also leads to a higher quality score. Another way is to use geo-targeting. You can actually target ads to specific areas of your town. Why bid on car accidents in Michigan when you’re in California? You know you don’t want to bid on divorce ads in that empty industrial part of town. Or if you’re going after high net-worth clients you can target the central business district or those wealthier residential parts of town.
When you use geo-targeting the ad network such as Google, Facebook and Bing allow you to bid less for the keyword than if you were going after your entire region state and much, much less than going after the keyword nationally. Once your campaign has been optimized and you’re able to have consistent cost-per-lead numbers, you can then try using dayparting to reduce your bid costs. If your data shows that certain parts of the day provide the right traffic to have a great cost-per-lead but other times of the day the cost-per-lead increases, you can decide to bid on just certain hours of the days or days of the week. Certainly, this is a more advanced tactic but it can help increase your ROI even more when you get to this point.

Finally, another way to narrow your focus is with the keywords themselves.

For example, long-tail keywords, these are search phrases made up of four or more words, are not as expensive to bid on. If you mind your campaign keywords, you’ll find some consistent long-tail phrases that you can put into an ad group and get your ad in front of high intense searches for pennies on the dollar. For example, “How much will alimony cost me in Ohio?” is a high intent keyword for a divorce attorney. And it costs significantly less than bidding on the highly competitive “Divorce lawyer” keywords. And do not forget negative keywords. You should always be adding to your negative keyword list to make sure you’re not getting clicks for searches that make no sense for your law firm.

Negative keywords tell the ad service to not show your ad when that word is used in a search phrase. Most firms will want to have pro bono, cheap and free as negative keywords. I mean no sense in paying to get someone to visit your site whose looking for free legal advice. But other common keywords for lawyers are school, salary, and of course jokes.

Work with pay per click management experts.

The fourth and final item to help your firm use paid advertising with a much smarter approach than those attorneys who lose money each and every month on PPC is to work with pay per click management experts. Any lawyer with good time management skills and the willingness to put some evening and weekend work in can be successful in growing their practice using search engine optimization tactics. When it comes to most digital marketing, the reasons to hire an agency is to one, increase the speed to get things working by leveraging their experience and two, trading your precious hours for dollars so you can build more or maybe more importantly not miss your kids game because of the one more article you need to write for your website. But when it comes to PPC, there’s a steep learning curve and the agency experience could really save you tens of thousands of dollars right from the start. There’s a reason that Google, Bing and Facebook highly encourage agency staff to pass tests to be certified on their ad platforms but they don’t require tests to use Google analytics or SEO.

Even though Google is now hiring companies to call small business owners who aren’t using Google ads and telling them how easy it is, they have high standards for certified agencies because of this complexity. If you are paying a full time person in-house about 60-75K a year to manage your PPC campaign including updating and optimizing landing pages on your website that’s fine but you should not have an untrained or uncertified staff managing your PPC.

Let’s recap the four items that will help you get a great ROI on the so-called expensive PPC campaigns.

  1. First, do not focus on the average cost-per-click number you see in all the tools. Look to cost-per-acquisition numbers.
  2. Two, focus on increasing the conversion rate of your website ’cause this could increase your performance by 50-60% or more.
  3. Three, narrow the focus of your keywords using more focused ad groups, geo-targeting, dayparting and don’t forget about long-tail and negative keywords.
  4. And finally, four, leverage the experience of experts.

The increase in your ROI should more than make up for an agency’s management fees and they should help you understand their fees and the ROI or find another agency. Yes, PPC can be very expensive but once you have a positive ROI, that $2500 a month budget you start with can turn into tens of thousands of dollars of profit. Then, like many business owners, you can reinvest some of that profit into more PPC to get even more profitable cases. And the next time you hear someone complaining about how PPC is too expensive for law firms you can chuckle on the inside knowing that you’re getting strong ROI each and every month from PPC.

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