Working Law Firm Marketing Around Google’s New Ad Structure

By Lisa


Category: SEO

On February 19, a big change took place on Google’s search results page.

For desktop and laptop computer users, the layout of the ads and results has been altered, leaving us with a number of important questions to answer about search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and attorney marketing in general:

  • Will Google’s new ad layout affect my current click-through rates?
  • Should Google’s ad layout change how I optimize my website?
  • Will this new layout affect the cost per click (CPC) of advertising on Google?
  • Should this new layout affect how I use Google AdWords?

Understanding the Layout Changes

First and foremost, stay calm! Before you lose any hairs over the layout changes, you should take time to understand exactly what is different now. Here’s the definitive list of exactly what has changed:

  • The biggest change is that text ads no longer appear along the right-hand side of the search results. These are the traditional text ads, which include a title, an address, and one line of text.
  • At the top of the page, up to three or four paid text ads now appear. For search queries that are “highly commercial,” which includes many types of attorney queries, four paid text ads will appear instead of three.
  • At the bottom of the page, up to three more traditional text ads will appear.
  • The right side of the search results are now only reserved for two types of content: product listing ad blocks (for shoppers) and knowledge panels, which are sometimes associated with an ad. Product listing ad blocks rarely appear when users search for attorneys or law offices.
  • These changes only hold true for desktop and laptop computer searches, not for mobile searches or tablet searches.

In review, the most important change is that more ads may now appear at the top and bottom of the page, though users may see fewer ads overall (due to the ads eliminated on the right side of the results page).

Google Ad Layout & Attorney Marketing: What It Means For Attorneys

Now that you understand exactly what has changed about Google’s search result page layout, let’s take the next step and look at what these changes might mean for the bigger picture.

  • There will be fewer overall ads on each page. In the past, Google could fit as many as 11 ads on a page. Now, only up to seven ads will appear on each page: a maximum of four on top and three on the bottom. This could mean that PPC ads could become more expensive with less supply available.
  • Top ads will get a boost. Initial research shows that the top ad spot still receives the most clicks. Additionally, adding a fourth ad at the top of the page improves clicks for the third ad in line. The best place to advertise continues to b at the very top of the page.
  • Organic SEO will be taking a hit. Having up to four ads at the top of the page means that organic search results may not even be visible “above the fold” unless users scroll down. It may not be as useful to compete for big, obvious keywords like “Atlanta attorney” on an organic level – there is simply a smaller chance that users will see your website without a lot of scrolling and clicking.
  • Right-side ads were never very effective. Less than 15 percent of clicks came from ads on the right side or bottom of the page – the vast majority come from the top of the page. Therefore, eliminating right side ads isn’t a great loss for advertisers or users.
  • Desktop searches are quickly losing importance. At this point in time, less than half of all search engine queries come from desktop PCs or laptops – and that number continues to fall. Today, most searches come from mobile devices like smart phones. This means that even if the consequences of the new Google layout are negative for you, the outcome is not nearly as bad as if your mobile search marketing plan was adversely affected.

How You Should Take Action

Finally, let’s get to work and take a look at how you should react to these changes, including how you engage in organic SEO and how you use Google AdWords. Here are our two biggest takeaway lessons:

  • For organic SEO, focus on longtail keywords. Forget writing content based on obvious keywords like “New York divorce attorney.” Instead, focus on longtail keywords like, “How can I find an affordable Brooklyn divorce attorney?” Don’t attempt to compete against PPC ads for “highly commercial” keywords.
  • When buying ads, track your results! It is more important than ever to track your PPC advertising results so that you know what is working and what is a waste of money. With so many changes taking place involving Google search and mobile search, you should be devoting lots of time to analyzing your PPC results and changing your marketing strategy based on your analysis. Far too many attorneys throw money at PPC ad campaigns and never look at the results.

Black Fin Attorney Marketing Services

We know that you are extremely busy with your law office, your clients, and your personal life outside of your practice. At Black Fin marketing, we offer attorneys a suite of services that allow you to focus on your work without neglecting your practice’s marketing, advertising, and social media strategies. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get the most out of your marketing dollars, even as the online advertising landscape changes daily.

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