AdWords for Plaintiffs’ Lawyers: Keyword Matching

Plaintiffs’ firms are devoting millions of dollars to paid search ads. However, most of the time, their lack of knowledge about managing paid search campaigns results in a ton of waste. One of the sources of this waste comes from a lack of understanding about keyword matching options.

We talk to plaintiffs’ firms just about every day on the subject of paid search advertising. If you’re completely new to paid search advertising, spend some time in AdWords Support and check out this post too.

Our conversations with plaintiffs’ lawyers tend to follow a few general patterns:

  1. I tried AdWords, it was a huge waste of money.
  2. I hired someone to do AdWords for me, I don’t really know what happened.
  3. People don’t use the internet to hire lawyers.

Over the years, we’ve been having fewer #3 conversations. Most lawyers have recognized how pervasive the internet and search engines have become in all of our lives, including their audience of potential clients.

If you’ve hired paid search managers (or outsourced this work to an agency) there’s really no excuse for not knowing what happened. If you feel like you’ve been blindfolded, it’s time to reconsider your expert.

The overwhelming majority of lawyers we speak have tried AdWords on their own and concluded that it’s largely a waste of money. There are a variety of reasons that this happens. Today, I’m just going to focus on one: keyword match types.

Overview of AdWords Keyword Matching Options

AdWords Support says the following about using keyword matching options:

Keyword match types help control which searches can trigger your ad. For example, you could use broad match to show your ad to a wide audience or you could use exact match to hone in on specific groups of customers.

In general, the broader the keyword matching option, the more traffic potential that keyword has. Conversely, the narrower the keyword matching option, the more relevant that keyword will be to someone’s search. Understanding these differences can steer you in choosing the right keyword matching options and can help you improve your return on investment.

Put simply, match types set the rules for which search queries your ads are shown. Let’s take a look at what match types are available in AdWords:

Using keyword matching options   AdWords Help

In the context of advertising a plaintiffs’ firm, you might bid on keywords like:

Broad match: personal injury lawyer
Phrase match: “personal injury lawyer”
Exact match: [personal injury lawyer]

In this example, the broad match keyword, personal injury lawyer, will also likely match to searches for:

personal injury attorneys
personal injuries lawers
law firms for injured

As you can see, this is the most inclusive form of keyword matching.

Next, the phrase match keyword, “personal injury lawyer,” will match to searches for:

personal injury lawyer in chicago
chicago personal injury lawyer
los angeles personal injury lawyer

However, ads would not be shown for:

personal injury lawyers
personal injury attorney
injury attorneys

As you can see, ads will only be displayed for searches that contain the phrase between quotation marks (hence, phrase match).

At the opposite end of the spectrum from broad match, is exact match. The exact match keyword, [personal injury lawyer], will only match to the search:

personal injury lawyer

With exact match, ads will not be displayed for any variation of this query.

Now that you have a sense of how the major match types work, let’s look at how waste is created.

How Plaintiff’s Firms Create Waste in AdWords

Some lawyers will reason that they, “don’t want to miss that next million-dollar case.” So, they’ll take a very inclusive approach to their keyword targeting. They’ll primarily bid on broad match keywords. In fact, many will open up the flood gates beyond keywords that are modified by “personal injury.” For example, they might bid on:

law firm
law firms

Needless to say, they’ll spend a lot of money very quickly. Because they are casting such a wide net, they’ll likely acquire clicks from users who are unlikely to convert into inquiries and clients for a host of reasons.

Some may try to qualify clicks with ad copy. In other words, they’ll serve their ads to people searching for lawyers generally, but then indicate that they only help victims of injuries in their ads. Their intention is to dissuade people searching for various other types of lawyers from clicking their ads.

They are a bunch of issues with bidding like this. However, one of the biggest problems is that it’s likely to crush quality score. If you read the post I linked to earlier, you know that quality score can impact the price you pay for a click.

While there are many factors that Google uses to determine quality score (QS), one of the most significant is click-through rate (CTR). This is a comparison of the number of times an ad is shown (ad impression) versus the number of times it is clicked. It is usually expressed as a percentage, so the most common CTR formula looks like this:

CTR = (# of clicks) / (# of impressions) * 100

Let’s go back to our example of the plaintiffs’ firm that’s bidding on the broad match term, lawyer, and trying to qualify clicks with an ad that says something like:

Injured? Get Help. Free Consultation w/a Personal Injury Lawyer!

Many of the people who searched using the term lawyer, probably weren’t looking for a personal injury lawyer. Therefore, they would be unlikely to click on an ad that speaks to injury victims.

As you can see, this would increase the number of times the ad is shown (impressions), but not increase the number clicks. Hence, this method of advertising would drive down CTR, in turn, drive down QS, which would drive the cost per click (CPC) up.

Put simply, the firm may end up paying more for its clicks than it ought to be.

This is just one very basic example of how plaintiffs’ lawyers can create inefficiencies in their AdWords accounts that create waste.

Personal Injury Marketing, Search & Speed

If part of your client development strategy includes targeting specific types of injury victims (think mass torts, pharma, products), you have to be able to move fast.

Lawyers will sometimes contact me with a “big idea” about a new type of mass tort / injury class action audience to which they want to market.

Conceptually, this thinking can be sound. Obviously, it’s a bit speculative as to the viability of pursuing these types of claims. Nonetheless, when they “hit” they may be especially lucrative.

It should also be obvious that the mass tort legal web marketing landscape is particularly competitive. Especially, in well-established keyword marketplaces. However, if you can be first and fast, you may be able to stay ahead of the competition.

The traditional wisdom is that SEO campaigns are long-term. Most of the time, this is true. It can take a relatively long time to go from no visitors to new clients from organic search in competitive, mature keyword marketplaces. However, if you can build web presence in an emerging keyword marketplace, you might be able to beat everyone else to the punch.

If you like the sound of this approach, you’re going to need the ability to launch sites quickly. In fact, you probably need to turn new sites around the same day that you learn of a new potentially dangerous drug, product, etc.

Further, these sites can’t be light. In other words, you need to be able to generate a variety of useful pages as the news about the target emerges. You need to think of your new site like a journalist covering a story on the ground does in the age of the 24-hour news cycle.

Admittedly, this can be exceptionally difficult and require a lot in terms of time and money. Who is launching the sites? Who is writing the content? Who is editing it? A lot of the same problems news agencies face in an environment where speed is given precedence over quality.

Of course, the better your site’s content, the more likely it is to be shared, liked, linked to, and therefore, rank in search engines.

If it’s unrealistic for you to move at that pace, you should consider paid search advertising (SEM, PPC, AdWords, etc).

You should be able to launch paid search campaigns and landing pages much, much faster than you can build useful content sites on a topic.

Typically, I recommend that you investigate an area of new claims with paid search advertising first. Then, as you’ve vetted that the claims are viable, and likely more numerous, you can supplement with an organic strategy.

This is one of the ways that paid search marketing and search engine optimization complement one another.

If you’re going to do this yourself, your process probably needs to look something like this:

  • Use Google Alerts or Mention to stay notified when target drugs / products make news.
  • Register for a more robust web host (we like WPEngine) that will allow you to launch many sites very quickly.
  • Have a few responsive WordPress themes from which to choose. You might register for a developer account with somewhere like Themify.
  • Register for a phone call tracking solution that uses dynamic phone insertion (we like Ifbyphone and Call Rail).
  • Check out Unbounce for landing page creation and Optimizely for testing.
  • You should also probably sign-up for Fotolia or another place you can get a lot of stock imagery.
  • You should also have a CRM solution in place to track open files by source (at a minimum). Salesforce and Avvo Ignite are good options.

Remember that speed is the key issue. Much of your success will hinge upon discovering a new opportunity to launching marketable web assets and paid search campaigns. If you can’t be fast, you’ll likely loose to faster competitors.

This is certainly not an approach for all (if not most) plaintiffs’ lawyers. As you might imagine, there are many very well-resourced firms playing in this sandbox. However, if you’re good at spotting new claim opportunities and can react very quickly to launching new campaigns, this might be a very effective approach for you.

Whatever approach you take, don’t forget that, to be successful, you have to understand how people search and find lawyers like you.