The PPC Problem and Black Fin’s Approach
Pay-Per-Click all comes down to how much you pay per click — and whether it’s getting you what you want.
At Black Fin, we’re consistently getting our clients more than double the average PPC conversion rate for law firms without breaking their budgets.
In fact, for one of our clients, we recently beat that average conversion rate more than seven times over. In today’s case study, we’re going to put that law firm in the spotlight to show you exactly how we achieved sevenfold success.
But first, a word on what we’re up against.
PPC advertising is an enormous industry. Google rakes in over $75 billion from AdWords alone each year, which means our law firm PPC clients are competing against some fat wallets.
That’s especially true in the legal services market. Keywords and phrases relevant to attorneys — and especially to personal injury attorneys — rank as the costliest terms in all of online advertising. (The most expensive keyword in the whole world: “Insurance.”)
And that’s just in AdWords. There are plenty of other PPC platforms that can produce big results for law firms too, chief among them: Facebook and Yahoo! Bing.
But outside of Big Law, few firms have wallets thick enough to outspend their biggest competitors. Bidding on PPC for lawyers can get out of control quickly, and smaller or mid-sized firms can easily bid themselves beyond the point of diminishing returns if they aren’t careful.
So if your dollars can’t be bigger, they need to be smarter, and that’s where PPC strategy comes in.
In the sections that follow, you’ll get a glimpse of one of our real clients, Malman Law, and their PPC goals. We’ll walk you through the custom-developed strategies we used to get them the growth they wanted for their firm, complete with graphs and easy-to-understand explanations.
We think Malman’s story is a compelling illustration for any firm wanting to get better PPC conversion rates than its competitors without breaking the bank.
The Details of the Case: A Look at Malman Law and Its Goals
The Law Offices of Malman Law, PC is a Chicago personal injury law firm with 11 associate and senior associate attorneys alongside president and founder Steven J. Malman. The firm handles everything from auto accidents and worker’s compensation claims to slip and fall, nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, and beyond.
Since opening in 1994, Malman Law has handled over 15,000 cases and has a slew of successful settlements and verdicts to its credit — including several over $5 million each.
Still, despite its success, Malman knows well the scope of competition in the Chicago market. As in every major city — and many of the smaller ones — there are more attorneys than the market really needs, and they’re all battling it out for the same four PPC slots at the top of the Google results page.
But as much as they want to win the race, Malman knows it can’t focus on PPC alone. Attorney web marketing is a multi-faceted exercise, and it includes many other services: inbound content marketing, social media, SEO, web design, local search marketing, and more. The firm has other advertising interests, too — television, billboard ads, outbound print marketing, etc.
So while they are able to devote an effective budget to online advertising, Malman wants to make sure they aren’t spending a single penny on law firm PPC that could be better allocated elsewhere.
In other words, PPC for lawyers it’s all about conversion. At the end of the day, even if you spend enough to claim those coveted spots at the top of Google, and even if your ads are good enough to get clicks, if those clicks don’t become clients, it was all for naught — and a relative waste of finite dollars.
So Malman asked our team here at Black Fin to find out what other law firms are getting in terms of a conversion rate for PPC… and to make theirs better.
Our Results: Malman Law
As it happens, our results were pretty stellar, so let’s get right to them:
The average conversion rate in PPC for lawyers is 4%.
Malman’s conversion rate after hiring Black Fin: over 30%.
And we aren’t just talking about a one-time spike to 30%. Malman Law’s conversion rate and performance metrics have remained steady — and by steady, we mean more than seven times the law firm average — during the entire time that we have managed their account.
30% is a substantial benchmark, and it compares favorably in any industry. That means nearly 1 out of every 3 people clicking their ad goes on to contact their firm.
What would that kind of PPC conversion rate do for your practice?
How Did We Do It? Step 1: Targeted Terms and Optimized Copy
So much of a successful attorney PPC campaign comes down to two kinds of word choice:
- The keywords you target
- The words you use in your ad copy
Because legal terms are some of the costliest in all of PPC, picking the right terms is critical. It’s a value game: which terms will get results for this specific firm in this specific market without spending more than they’re worth?
To find out, we conducted extensive keyword research. Which terms go for the most money? Which relevant key terms and phrases work best? What are their competitors in the market currently paying for?
Armed with that info, we started to bid competitively on “best opportunity” terms for Malman — and started winning the auctions we wanted.
But CPC is only half the equation (literally).
Generally speaking, Google’s formula for serving PPC ads to users looks like this:
CPC Bid x Quality Score = Ad Rank
At Black Fin, we like to think we run quality PPC campaigns for lawyers, so we pride ourselves on high Quality Scores… and that takes us to Step 2.
How Did We Do It? Step 2: Higher Quality Scores
Google is absolutely obsessed with getting its users the best, most relevant content possible. That goal drives everything the company does. It’s why organic SEO matters so much for turning up on Page 1 of their results. It’s why keyword stuffing doesn’t work anymore. And it’s the reason their PPC slots don’t simply go to the highest bidder.
In fact, an advertiser with a sky-high quality score can win a Google ad auction with a smaller CPC bid. So what is a Quality Score and how do we boost it?
A number of factors influence your ad’s Quality Score, including:
- Relevance of the ad copy to the keyword it’s bidding on
- The quality of your landing page
- The relevance of your landing page
- Your AdWords account’s performance over time
- The ad’s click-through rate
No one knows exactly how much weight Google assigns to each factor, but through careful (read: fanatical) monitoring, we were able to fine-tune Malman’s ads so that they earned optimal Quality Scores for each targeted key term.
This is where our expert copywriting comes in. By choosing words that work — both for the ad itself and for its landing page — we’re able to give Google the gold-standard relevance it’s looking for.
How Did We Do It? Step 3: The Bigger Picture (Multiple PPC Platforms)
To some extent, this is a “chicken and the egg” proposition. As Quality Scores improved, Malman’s Ad Ranks continued to rise. This, in turn, improved click-through rate, which would then lead to an even higher Quality Score.
It’s easy to get caught up in that cycle and lose sight of anything that isn’t AdWords. But the truth is that while Google’s service is still leader of the pack, there are many other sophisticated PPC platforms out there that can drive substantial and highly relevant traffic to a law firm online. We wanted to make sure Malman wouldn’t miss out on those opportunities.
PPC platforms aren’t created equal, though, and what makes sense for one firm might not for another. LinkedIn’s PPC program, for instance, works well for business and transactional attorneys. Not so much for personal injury lawyers, who will generally get more bang for their bucks at Google, Facebook, Yahoo! Bing, and YouTube. So that’s where we concentrated our energy.
How Did We Do It? Step 4: Clear Communication and Goals
So far, we’ve talked a lot about what we did for Malman, but in reality, we do all of this with Malman, and that’s a key ingredient for success.
PPC is a significant investment for any law firm. The client needs to know its dollars are going to good use. They expect us to be good stewards of their investment and to produce a sizeable, demonstrable return.
Managing PPC for lawyers is unique in that our clients are some of the busiest working professionals out there. So while Mr. Malman and his attorneys don’t have time to pour over every little metric in our data, they do expect us to.
They also expect us to explain our findings in a way they can clearly visualize and confirm.
We want to bring a good report card to our clients — honest and transparent but also evident of real success. That’s why we work hard to optimize CPC and Quality Scores. We don’t sign our clients to long-term contracts, so if we don’t show results, we wouldn’t expect Malman to continue with our services.
A more than sevenfold improvement over the average attorney PPC conversion rate? Yeah, that’s a pretty stellar report card. And we’re producing that same level of success from month to month and from quarter to quarter.
How Did We Do It? Step 5: Great Site Content & Web Design
Earlier, we talked about optimizing the copy on Malman’s landing pages so that users who click their ads are taken to useful and relevant destinations.
But if they’re going to convert into clients (and remember: conversion is what it’s all about… that’s the ultimate goal, and it’s the metric we successfully multiplied over the industry average for Malman), they are almost certainly going to venture beyond that first landing page.
So the rest of the site has to look great, read well, and perform masterfully too.
Studies of web user behavior show that most people have very little patience for a sloppy or slow-loading site. And when it comes to professional service providers, like attorneys, they expect a really Grade-A website. Anything less raises real questions in the user’s mind about the law firm’s credibility. (A halfway decent law firm should be “with it” enough, and should have budget enough, to maintain a great website… or so the reasoning goes.)
Our law firm web design team here at Black Fin designed Malman Law’s website using WordPress, the #1, top-rated, most widely used Content Management System (CMS) in attorney web design. We invite you to visit and take a look.
- A strong visual message that gets right to the point
- A personable connection between the real people behind Malman Law and the real clients they serve
- Compelling, SEO-friendly web copy
- Intuitive layout
- Fast-loading, mobile-responsive design
- An overall content strategy that complements the content we put inside each of Malman’s PPC ads
The ads drive users to the website, but the site is what makes the sale. It’s Malman’s single most important conversion tool, and it’s the secret to the killer results we deliver them.
Need Some Help with Your Own Law Firm PPC Strategy?
We realize that our results for Malman are pretty extraordinary, especially given how quickly we got there and how consistently we’ve stayed there.
But we were also reminded throughout this campaign that an all-in commitment to making our digital marketing efforts a success (and having a client who is willing to make that commitment with us) can make all the difference.
We understand that every law firm is different, and yours might not be ready to embrace PPC with arms as widely opened as Malman’s were, but we’ve also worked with enough law firms over the years to know that diligence and strategy will translate to ROI.
If there’s been a consistent lesson to come out of working with all our clients, it is this: committing to excellence always works.
If you haven’t seen the level of success you’d like in your past PPC campaigns, we can help. Our team is passionate about making your website and your web marketing efforts the law firm growth tools they ought to be. Contact Black Fin today for law firm PPC management services.