PPC Tips for Lawyers & Law Firms – Google & Bing Ads

It’s no secret that legal industry keywords are some of the most competitive and expensive keywords in all of Google Ads. There are many marketing companies that focus exclusively on the legal niche because of how valuable the search market is. With traditional pricing models being based on the percentage of spend, that makes for a pretty sweet deal for PPC agencies who land large law firms. Today, we’ll go through some of the most important tactics when it comes to paid search advertising for law firms, as well as how they can operate as efficiently as possible.

CPCs for lawyers depend largely upon their practice area. A local attorney doing estates and wills won’t have to pay nearly as much for a click as a national firm targeting “mesothelioma lawyer” keywords. The higher the CPC, the higher the stakes, and the more important it is that campaigns are operating as tightly as possible.

PPC Assist Scorecard

The overall score for Attorneys & Law Firms is just about as strong as it gets, coming in at 9.7/10. Firms in the legal industry are a great fit for PPC Assist.

  • Fast Decision Process: The decision process length depends on the practice area. Wills and trusts are typically less urgent than the ultra-urgent accident and personal injury practice areas. The latter would score a perfect 10, while the former would realistically be in the 3-5 range.
  • Measurable conversions: Leads are generally going to be phone calls and form submissions, which are both fairly easy to measure.
  • Niche Negatives: There are a lot of important negative keyword considerations here, from avoiding DIY and informational searches to focusing on the specific services that you offer.
  • Low Seasonality: Seasonality can be a factor based on practice area and geographic location. For instance, divorce searches might be lower during the holiday season but spike afterward. Services for real estate attorneys can be weather and market dependent, causing shifts in volume. But all in all, search volumes for attorneys is more consistent than most other services.
  • High CPCs: CPCs in the legal industry are as high as they get. That makes them a great fit for on-demand management.
  • Keyword Consistency: Keywords are extremely consistent here – this industry isn’t influenced by trends and doesn’t experience frequent innovation risks.

PPC Assist was designed large with attorneys in mind. The above notes, combined with high CPCs, makes it a great fit for the PPC Assist model.

Here are 10 ways we make sure you’re running your Google and Bing Ads campaigns effectively. These are all things we do during our PPC setups and takeovers to put accounts in strong positions to drive effective traffic and optimize.

1. Structure Campaigns Based on Intent

We recommend striking a balance between the old-school SKAG (single keyword ad group) structures and Google’s recommendation of just dumping all your keywords into one ad group. We’re all about the AI-driven bidding, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart about your account structures. If nothing else, it allows you to customize ad copy for specific search intents.

For attorneys, we recommend structuring campaigns and ad groups into a few different ideas:

  • Branded – Searches for the name of your firm or individual attorneys in the firm.
  • Competitors – Searches for competitor firms or attorneys at those firms (though whether or not to target competitors at all is debatable).
  • {service} lawyers/attorneys/law firms – These are the highest quality non-branded searches, as users are showing intent on finding an attorney. For example, “wills and trusts attorney” or “divorce lawyer”.
  • {service} – Searches for specific services that attorneys perform, but the user isn’t searching specifically for an attorney. These are lower quality than the “attorney” searches above, but higher quality than the “reasons” searches below. For example, “create a will” or “file for divorce”.
  • {reasons someone would need a lawyer} – The idea behind these is that they are lower intent then someone specifically searching for a service, or they may not even realize they need at attorney. Differentiating between these and the “service” keywords can be a bit of a grey area, but the idea here is to try to identify where the user is in the funnel. For example, “how do I pass on assets to my children?” or “divorce process in {state}”.
ppc structure for law firms

Whether you want to target some or all of these steps depends on strategies, budgets, assets (mostly landing pages), and the nature of your law firm. After deciding on the general strategy, it’s important to break things out a bit as outlined above so you can cater ad copy based on the intent, stay legally compliant when using dynamic ad text, and most importantly understand the value each idea is driving to your firm.

2. Extensive Negative Keyword Lists

The importance of extensive negative keyword lists has moved way up the list of importance over the past few years. As Google and Bing have gotten more and more liberal with their keyword matching definitions, unintended targeting of certain keywords has become rampant. The only real way to combat that at the moment is with extensive negative keyword lists.

At PPC Assist, whenever we onboard a client, our negative keyword lists are immediately applied to current campaigns. This often results in immediate savings that more than cover our costs. Especially in the legal industry when clicks can cost $10s (if not $100s) of dollars, eliminating a few wasted clicks can have a dramatic impact on performance.

Negative keyword lists should include competitors (if desired), states/cities/countries you don’t practice in, (too) high-funnel informational searches, keywords ancillary to but not targeting your services, words that would disqualify someone, cheap/free/pro-bono, pdfs and other documents, and the list goes on.

You may also want to have specific negative keyword lists for your “tier 1” campaigns that you’re paying super high CPCs on, such as the “{service} attorney near me” searches and the like. You can apply a negative list of more informational searches to this campaign, and have a second campaign that does allow for these higher funnel searches, but at a much lower CPC.

3. Don’t Stress About Match Types

As an old-school PPC manager who’s been at this for 15+ years, it pains me to say this, because I used to love my detailed exact and phrase match type structures. And while I’d go back to it if I could, the way Google has “evolved” over the past few years makes managing campaigns in this way less and less feasible. This evolution is one of the reasons why PPC Assist exists and is embracing the Google’s philosophy. Paddling with the current, if you will.

Don’t stress about match types because they don’t matter that much anymore. Exact doesn’t mean exact, phrase doesn’t mean phrase, so agonizing over match type structures is just a guessing game of what keywords you’ll actually qualify for. Rather than worry about that, embrace the AI-focused bidding and give Google and Bing the opportunity to drive cost-effective results for you.

This is feasible as long as negative keyword lists are done effectively. With extensive and useful negative keyword lists, you can loosen your grip on match types and allow for more targeting freedom, knowing that you’re restricting the AI from spreading too much given your extensive exclusions.

For new accounts, we still recommend starting with exact and phrase keywords. As an account matures and the negative keyword list lengthens, you can introduce or switch to broad targeting to expand your reach without introducing lots of poor quality.

4. Landing Page Optimization

In highly competitive verticals, maximizing conversion rates are integral to being successful in paid search. We see a lot of companies driving expensive traffic to outdated websites that don’t communicate effectively and often aren’t optimized for mobile devices (which may receive most of your traffic).

Increasing conversion rates from 6% vs 10% when the stakes are this high is invaluable.

It’s important to understand that if you’re investing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in traffic acquisition, it’s worth the investment to actively test and try to improve conversion rates.

5. Conversion Tracking

At PPC Assist, our management philosophy relies heavily on effective conversion tracking to operate successfully. Utilizing “big data” AI-driven ideas relies on the algorithm being able to differentiate between a good click and a bad one.

Tracking contacts is vital, and it’s the bare minimum you should be doing in such a high-stakes, high CPC industry like legal services. So click-to-calls, calls from ads, contact form fills, landing page form fills, etc.

If you’re investing a lot into paid media, you should be taking it a step further. This often means scoring leads and feeding those values back into Google and Bing so they know the quality of the leads that came through. You could also use a Lead vs. MQL vs. SQL model instead and eventually optimize for qualified leads rather than just contacts.

Optimizing for qualified leads rather than simple contacts or form fills helps campaigns optimize for the right users, which gives you an advantage over advertisers who are optimizing for any contact.

6. Write Unique Ad Copy

Best practice is to match headlines and ad copy to search terms, which you should absolutely do. You need the lines that say “Personal Injury Attorney” or “Wills & Estates in {City}”, for example. That said, differentiating a bit is also important. You don’t need to have a catchphrase like attorneys that advertise heavily on local TV and radio, but saying something unique or memorable that differentiates your firm from the rest of the listings can help cut through the noise.

There’s more flexibility in descriptions for this than there is in headlines. Maybe 1 headline can have differentiating copy that can grab someone’s attention, and then once you have that, you can draw them in with the description lines and extensions. Which leads us to…

7. Make Full Use of Ad Extensions

structured snippet extensions for attorneys

Ad Extensions allow for a little creativity (mainly with Callouts), but the main theory here is to take up as much real estate on the SERP as Google will allow. Forgetting to use these just ends up with smaller, less compelling ads with lower quality scores, decreasing CTRs and increasing CPCs. Not good.

Location Extensions – Your GMB listing is important, and it should be integrated into your account as an extension. Map listings can be powerful, so make sure this is optimized and added to your account.

Call Extensions – Skip the website if you can! Get users to call you immediately, especially for personal injury and other practice areas where people want assistance now. Make sure to schedule these only for times someone can answer the phone.

Callout Extensions – These allow for some creativity and allow you to differentiate from competitors a bit. Popular callouts could be awards/accolades, big cases won, number of attorneys / firm size, promotions, benefits, and more. If you can be specific with callouts on the campaign or ad group level, do it.

Sitelink Extensions – The more content you have on your website, the more options you’ll have here. This allows you to be specific with Sitelink Extensions, using not just service pages and contact pages, but also relevant resources, subservices, or even testimonial pages.

Structured Snippets – Attorneys will typically use these to display their practice areas or services using the “Service Catalog” snippet. “Types” can also be used in many cases (e.g. Divorce, Mediation, Amicable Divorce, etc). As the rule goes, just use as many of them as you can, and make them as relevant as possible.

Image Extensions – Pictures draw attention to the ad and should be used in all cases. If an attorney at your firm, or the firm in general, runs media advertising that makes you recognizable to users in the area, these can be especially powerful. They can reinforce previous marketing messages and improve CTRs more than usual.

Video Extensions – While these don’t get much attention for search campaigns, it doesn’t hurt to add them if you have some effective videos uploaded to YouTube. Who knows how Google will promote these in the future. As video continues to grow, utilizing your video assets will be important in getting the attention of your target audience.

For all extensions, it’s important to be as targeted as possible with them. That often means ad group or campaign level extensions (depending on your structure) rather than account-level extensions. The more you can speak directly to the needs of the user and differentiate yourself from the general attorney ads on the SERPs, the more likely you’ll get those clicks and conversions.

8. Location Targeting

Don’t make this mistake! Google and Bing seem to have a very loose idea of “interested in” when it comes to geographic locations. Sometimes it seems that if I show interest in thin crust pizza, Google will decide I’ve shown interest in NYC and show me ads there.

While that’s a bit hyperbolic, the “Presence or interest” – at a minimum – basically sets a very generous radius around your location.

If you want to use the “Presence or interest” setting to be more liberal with your targeting, you can. In these cases, I recommend using negative location exclusions aggressively for these campaigns (which you should be doing anyways). For example, if your firm is located in Chicago, consider adding negatives for surrounding states, which would effectively just extend your reach to more rural Illinois to people who might be willing to travel to Chicago.

You can (and should) also use negative keywords to exclude people searching for services “in” a different city.

Note that this is more relevant for local attorneys that have a tight service radius. If people from out-of-town frequently search for and employ legal services away from their home, it’s a better idea to find a way to target them. Real estate attorneys would be a good example here.

9. Retargeting

The effectiveness of retargeting advertising largely depends on the length of the decision making process for potential clients. For car accidents and slip-and-fall attorneys, it’s often difficult to build large enough retargeting lists to target users in the narrow timeframe necessary to get them signed. On the other hand, family law attorneys and real estate can have longer shelf lives, so running retargeting campaigns can be more productive.

That said, we typically recommend retargeting for all attorneys with enough traffic to qualify for lists (100 user minimum). Making a visual impact and continuing to influence users during the decision making process are a great reason for remarketing. However, from an efficiency perspective, it makes the decision even more attractive.

When you’re paying so much for the initial click, retargeting allows you to continue to reach that user at a small fraction of the cost of your initial click. That’s an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up on.

10. Test Bidding Strategies

Quite frankly, the “maximize conversions/clicks” bidding models that Google recommends these days get pretty scary when multiple large firms are trying to maximize lead volume on $100+ CPC keywords. There isn’t much keeping CPCs from spiraling upward into the stars. For that reason, it can be a good idea to maintain a bit more control on bidding and test alternative (capped) bidding strategies.

Even the “maximize” bidding models allow for targeting CPAs or restricting clicks from going over a certain amount. If click costs are getting out of control, setting a limit here to see if clicks can continue without restricting performance may be a worthwhile test.

You could also consider going a bit more old-school with Manual CPC for a bit to test the elasticity of the bidding market. If there are only 1-3 aggressive bidders in the market, taking bids down could have a significant, positive impact on CPCs and results. If it’s a competitive market, however, it’s likely others will just fill in the space and you’ll lose all your exposure. That’s why it’s something to test, not to set and forget.


The legal industry will always be one of the most competitive, high-stakes industries in the paid search game. As PPC evolves, it’s important to evolve with it. At PPC Assist, that’s exactly what we’re helping law firms do.

We actually created PPC Assist with high-competition verticals like attorneys in mind. Many agencies charge a percentage of spend for PPC management, which just doesn’t make a lot of sense when clicks cost $100/each. And with the increased effectiveness of AI-optimized tools and bidding, it makes more and more sense for lawyers to use a model like this rather than active management.

Regardless of what ongoing costs your law firm pays for management of your Google Ads account, an effective setup is absolutely crucial in all cases for the success of the effort. The tips above focus on putting you in a good place, structuring the account well and reducing wasteful spend as your account runs. There are certainly benefits for ongoing help, and attorneys will likely employ periodic ongoing help at greater rates than many other industries, but that doesn’t mean you should be paying a PPC manager $25/click to watch over a campaign.

If you’re interested in learning more about PPC Assist, check out our PPC for attorneys page, or view our pricing to see how much you can save on management. You can also request a free review of your account!

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