Many lawyers successfully use Google AdWords to promote both their practices and certain solutions to legal problems, connecting with potential clients who are searching online for what they do. Unfortunately, in recent years keyword auctions and paid click prices have become much more competitive and expensive. Still, paid search campaigns can provide one of the most predictable and manageable returns on your marketing investment.
While many try to game Google to get their firm pages to show up higher in a Google search, Google continues to add tools to allow the paying advertisers to more effectively drive clicks through to their websites. And no wonder: Paid clicks represent the vast majority of Google’s revenue. In October, Google announced that paid clicks are up 28 percent year on year and 13 percent over the previous quarter. Those growth rates are astounding when you consider the huge numbers Google already has.
Last year, Google introduced Google Instant, which sent searchers down the prescriptive paths Google suggested, helping them match more advertisers to search queries and improving the number of queries Google monetized. And recently Google announced another evolution in AdWords called Dynamic Ads. With Dynamic Ads, rather than select your own keywords, you point Google to your page and let Google determine the best keywords and advertisements to run. In preliminary results, Google claims increased click-through rates and conversions for some pilot users.
Proceed With Caution
The most obvious users of this new option are inventory-based businesses—e-commerce sites where products are frequently added and removed, or those running short-duration promotions. Since those advertisers may not have the same goals as law firms, proceed with great caution before adopting Dynamic Ads. Here are a couple of reasons:
- Google’s goals are not always aligned with an advertiser’s. As an advertiser, you want to maximize new clients from your advertising, ideally at the lowest possible cost. So, when managing AdWords campaigns, you will try to eliminate clicks to landing pages that do not convert into calls and clients. For example, a law firm may feature some pro bono work on its website, which shows humanistic and caring qualities that may help in attracting new paying clients. It is highly unlikely, however, that any law firm would pay to attract potential pro bono clients to its website. But this could easily occur if Google was allowed to crawl the page and dynamically generate the keywords and ads.
- Often Google does not have visibility into what happens “after the click,” so they focus on optimizing clicks. As an advertiser, you care more about clients than clicks. Google’s quality metrics prize the click-through rate because that is how Google makes money, but those clicks may not be turning into new customers or clients for advertisers. For example, we’ve found that more than 80 percent of inquiries come via phone calls. Google has neither visibility into those calls nor any view into which calls turn into new clients for law firm advertisers. Yet that call data is critical for optimizing and improving any business development campaign.
To sum up, advertising with Google is much more complicated today than it was 10 years ago. Some online marketing experts even speculate that it is too difficult for humans to even manage. Its power as a performance marketing channel, however, is irrefutable when done properly.
In my opinion, Dynamic Ads is Google’s attempt to apply to ads much of the algorithm it uses to rank pages in its organic content. Google knows which pages and what copy draw clicks in organic content and, if applied to ads, it will only blend the experience to searchers on Google, which seems certain to drive up clicks—and Google revenue.
Luckily for lawyers, your skepticism will serve you well when considering any new AdWords options.
Carey Ransom is an Internet marketer and software entrepreneur. He is currently CEO of RealPractice, a leading cloud-based client development and practice management software platform. Carey is a frequent speaker on legal technology topics and an active blogger and social media participant.
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