No law firm can be successful without a steady stream of clients, but in today’s climate, traditional methods aren’t enough on their own. This is where Search Engine Marketing (SEM) comes in. SEM provides many benefits starting with meeting potential clients where they’re likely to start looking. SEM also provides increased traffic to your website, the flexibility to change your messages quickly, and can be adapted to fit any budget.
What is the difference between SEO and SEM?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are often confused for each other even though they are two distinct methods to attract customers. SEO is the process of improving (or optimizing) your website’s content and structure to make it easier for clients to find you from a search such as Google. This is typically done by incorporating keywords into your website that a potential customer would search for to increase the likelihood your website will appear high on the search results list. SEO lays the foundation for SEM so we encourage you to read our Simple SEO Tips to Grow Your Law Firm before expanding into SEM.
Search Engine Marketing is a form of paid advertising used to gain website visibility, traffic, and conversions (the action you want your potential customer to perform) through search engines. Essentially, you are paying to have your law firm’s ad at the top of the search results. The two primary search networks that SEM professionals target are Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) and Bing Ads.
An example of a SEM ad that appears in Google’s search results
Now that you know what SEM is, how do you go about using it to draw in new clients? Here’s what you need to know to get started:
Like any good business strategy, you should start by setting out goals that you can then measure your SEM campaign activity against. Typically, SEM goals break down into two categories: traffic and conversion.
Website traffic refers to the number of visitors who come to your website. For small businesses or new websites, we suggest to start with 100 site visits a day as a realistic traffic goal. Once you reach a solid 100 visits a day, aim for 500, then 1,000 as you grow, constantly raising the bar. The conversion metrics will give you an idea of the quality of your website traffic, but the more website visits, the more sales and business leads you will generate.
Website analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, enable you to see where your traffic comes from. Tracking where your traffic comes from allows you to attribute the ROI on your ads. The traffic sources break down into a few categories:
- Direct traffic: When somebody types your URL into the browser
- Referring sites: Websites separate from your own such as Facebook (including if you have a business page for your firm on Facebook)
- Search engines: Organic traffic from search engines such as Google or Bing
- Paid search: SEM traffic
A conversion refers to the action you want your website visitors to perform after they land on your website. Depending on your firm’s business model, you may have just one desired action on your site or you may have many but whatever you choose should be something that is tied to successfully recruiting a new client. When setting goals, focus on 1-3 conversions to avoid distractions. Common site conversion goals are:
- Email subscriptions
- Social media engagements such as people liking or sharing your content
Consider what keywords compliment your strategy
At the heart of all SEM strategies are the keywords potential customers will use to find your ad. However, finding the right keywords to compliment your SEM strategy can be difficult. Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner can help you find the keywords that will give you the best results. If the Keyword Planner is new to you, check out this guide from Backlinko.
Think like your customers
Your potential clients typically won’t type ‘what is the best law firm in Edmonton for real estate’, but they would type ‘Edmonton real estate lawyer’. If you’re having trouble imagining what someone might search, ask your friends who aren’t in the industry how they would go about it (if they didn’t know you, of course!)
Be specific but not too specific
The more details you add, the less likely you will be found. For example, “Edmonton Palisades real estate lawyer” narrows your audience significantly to only the people in that one area rather than across the whole city.
Take your time and research the best keywords for your SEM campaign. Don’t be afraid to pivot and try new things down the road if you find you’re not getting the traction you thought you would from some keywords. This also means reviewing how they’re doing often enough to notice when something isn’t working.
Expect a lot of trial and error when you first start using SEM. Often what terms you think potential customers will search for, isn’t what they’re searching for at all. If you find some keywords are performing better than others, don’t be afraid to shut down one campaign to bolster another. Reviewing your campaigns on a daily basis will ensure you’re getting the most out of the budget you’ve set. Plus it only takes a few minutes so incorporate it into your daily morning routine before you get caught up in your normal work.
Understand the pricing model
SEM can work on any budget. When you set up your campaign for the first time, you’ll set your budget and your SEM ads will end once you’ve hit that number to ensure you never spend more than you meant to.
Cost per click (CPC) or pay per click (PPC) is the term used in paid advertising where the advertiser (you) pays a cost to the publisher (such as Google) for every click on an ad. Google Ads are based on an auction system where the item you bid on is the keyword you want your ad to appear under, and your CPC is the bid. Generic keywords such as ‘real estate lawyer’ will cost you more to bid because it’s in higher demand. The most expensive keywords in Google and Bing ads cost $50 or more per click. Alternatively, keywords such as ‘Edmonton Real Estate Lawyer’ will cost you less because they’re more specific and so there’s less competition for it. The average CPC in Google Ads is between $1 and $2.
Using Wordstream’s free keywords tool, you can search keywords to get an idea of what your CPC might be, what level of competition you will have for it, and search volumes (how often people search for it).
Example of the data Wordstream’s tool provides.
Prepare a great landing page for your potential customers
Where your ad sends potential customers is just as important as the ad itself, and it plays a big role in your conversion rates. Create a custom landing page that is specific to the ad you’re displaying. First, this makes it easier to review the success rate of your ads because people will only go there by clicking on the ad. More importantly, it provides a better experience for your potential client who will see the information they’re looking for immediately. On your landing page, you should:
- Display your logo and contact information
- Prominently display your call to action or form if you have one (i.e. a client intake form)
- Keep your content easy to read by using bullets or lists
- Build trust with a testimonial
- Keep it simple
Now you should everything you need to get started with SEM and start drawing in even more new clients!