Driving traffic to your law firm’s website is arguably the most effective way to land new clients. That’s because 86% of people use Google to find a lawyer online.
Generally speaking, there are two main ways to generate website traffic for your law firm—organic search and paid ads.
PPC ads and other forms of paid digital marketing have always been a popular choice for lawyers nationwide. But with so much competition in this space, the cost to run paid ads for law firms has skyrocketed. This dramatic increase begs some new questions for law firm marketing.
Are ads still worth it? Should you shift spending to organic search strategies? Is law firm SEO worth it?
That’s why I created this guide. I’ll start by breaking down the landscape of paid ads for lawyers. Then we’ll compare the ROI and benefits of paid ads to organic search and SEO.
How Much Do Law Firms Spend on Ads?
Here’s a question I hear almost every day from clients—how much should my law firm spend on paid ads?
It’s a cliché answer. But truthfully, it depends.
That’s because the cost of search ads varies based on location and practice. For example, personal injury lawyers in a major city or highly competitive area can expect to pay more than an estate lawyer in a small rural town.
Most law firms start with a minimum of $2,000 to $3,000 per month on paid ads. Again—this is the minimum. With the cost of some highly competitive keywords costing more than $500 per click, lawyers can easily spend anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 per month on PPC ads alone.
The experts at PPC Project conducted a study on the most expensive Google keywords in 2021. They used Ahrefs as the data source and only included keywords with a minimum of 100 monthly searches to filter out anomalies. Here’s a look at the top results:
As you can see, these are all related to law firm services. The average CPC for the top ten most expensive keywords is $576. All of the top 40 keywords on this list are related to lawyers, attorneys, and law firm services. Even the terms at the bottom of the list have an average CPC of $310.
Let’s say you’re in a competitive market targeting a keyword with an average CPC of $400. Getting a 2% CTR (click-through rate) on your search ads is a reasonable benchmark.
If the monthly search volume for that term is 2,000 searches, you could pay upwards of $16,000 per month on PPC ads for that keyword. If that search volume doubles, you’re spending over $30,000+ the following month.
This is just a hypothetical scenario for one keyword. Imagine if you’re targeting several highly competitive search terms. Your paid ad costs can easily reach six figures here.
Why Are Law Firm Ads So Expensive?
Here’s another question I hear from my clients on a daily basis—why are lawyer PPC ads so expensive?
This answer is much more straightforward. It all has to do with demand.
Let’s rewind for a minute to the days when Google first made advertising available to businesses. Lawyers weren’t really rushing to this strategy, as it was a relatively new concept. They were sticking with traditional commercials, billboards, bus stop bench ads, and print advertising. With low demand, the cost was cheap.
Those days are long behind us. Now seemingly every law firm is competing for these keywords, as a single referral could lead to a six or even seven-figure payday.
Lawyers understand that their marketing dollars are going towards qualified leads. Nobody is searching for “motorcycle accident lawyer in Boston” unless they’ve crashed a motorcycle.
How Much Does Lawyer SEO Cost?
Let’s start with the basics—what is law firm SEO?
SEO is an acronym that stands for “search engine optimization.” In simple terms, lawyer SEO is the strategy used to increase organic search rankings for your law firm website. The higher you appear in SERPs (search engine page results), the more traffic will come to your website.
Here’s a look at the average CTR on page one of Google by position:
As you can see, the top five results get the lion’s share of all clicks. If you’re not ranking on page one for a given search term, there’s a slim chance that your site is going to get traffic.
So what’s it cost to get on page one? Unlike paid ads, you can’t just throw money at law firm SEO and get the #1 position.
You’ll need to invest in things like content marketing, page performance, and site architecture.
Your lawyer SEO budget may involve hiring a writer to publish blogs and hiring a developer to improve your page loading speed. Law firm SEO involves building domain authority, getting backlinks, improving your internal linking strategy, creating valuable meta tags, and more.
If you’re new to this concept, you can check out my book, Content Marketing and SEO for Law Firms. Download a free sample chapter to get started.
Lawyer SEO vs. Law Firm Paid Ads
Is SEO or pay-per-click better for lawyers?
Both strategies have pros and cons. With ads, you know exactly what you’re getting, and it’s easy to measure your ROI. But as we’ve seen, ads can get really expensive for lawyers. Even if your firm is comfortable spending tens of thousands of dollars per month on PPC, you’ll have nothing to show for it when you pull the ads.
Law firm SEO is a long-term game. You won’t see results overnight. But as time passes, you can easily rank high in the organic search results for your target keywords. This investment ensures that you’re getting traffic to your site for the long run.
Plus, prospects are much more likely to trust an organic result than an advertisement. The numbers speak for themselves.
The average CTR for Google search ads is 1.91% and 0.35% for display ads. But as we saw earlier, the top result of an organic search has an average CTR of 31.73%.
Final Thoughts — Is Lawyer SEO Worth It?
Law firm SEO is 100% worth it.
With the cost of lawyer ads rising to astronomical levels, your marketing dollars can go a lot further if you invest in SEO. I’m not saying you should pull your PPC ads completely. The best marketing strategy is a mix of both organic search tactics and paid ads. But as your site climbs the SERPs, you can slowly scale back your PPC spending and put more money into lawyer SEO.