Paid Search Advertising: Personal Injury in a Digital World
Personal Injury Lawyers & Internet Searches
With the rise of the internet and the digital age, a whole new technology has been leveraged to revolutionize the way personal injury lawyers market their practice, generate leads and land new clients. The adoption and use of the internet now makes a website an essential tool for any personal injury lawyer trying to sustain and build a practice.
A vast majority of the United States’ population is online, and more and more people are turning to the internet to do online research to make decisions. This applies to legal services too, as a recent survey shows that internet searches are a close second to word-of-mouth referrals from friends as the top method used to choose a lawyer (except for 18-24 year olds and individuals who made more than $150,000 a year – they were most likely to use internet searches to choose a lawyer). Additionally, it’s worth noting that around 75% of the U.S. population uses online resources to research attorneys before making a decision, and approximately 33% of the population will seek legal counsel, at least once, in their lifetime.
Search Engine Results Page (SERP) & Personal Injury Advertising
Because of the increase in internet research, understanding the search engine results page (SERP) and how it may influence consumer research and decision making behavior is very important. The basic concept is that the sooner someone views a relevant search listing for a personal injury firm or service, the more likely they are to visit the website landing page and potentially convert into a lead. With paid search ads taking up more space in the top results of popular keyword search queries, ad placement and positioning can play a vital role in driving brand awareness, page visits and conversions for new leads.
From a paid search marketing perspective, the fundamental goal is to optimize the position and placement on the SERP to maximize exposure, leads and conversions based on related searches. For marketing experts, this is a complex process that typically involves paying close attention to search engine advertising trends, conducting A/B and multivariate testing, and constantly evaluating data such as average cost per click, click-through rates (CTR), site conversion rates, cost per lead and others to ensure that everything is optimized and working effectively.
This is even more critical for personal injury and related searches, which are some of the most competitive keyword terms on the internet. In fact, of the top 100 most expensive Google keywords and phrases in 2015, personal injury and legal queries accounted for 78% of them. Based on the importance of search engine marketing (SEM) for personal injury law firms due to the crowded landscape, this post is going to focus on paid search engine ads, how they work, associated costs and options for personal injury lawyers.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Overview
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is generally used to describe paid search advertising campaigns. Paid search is most commonly associated with pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, but there are also other paid SEM options, such as cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) and cost-per-acquisition (CPA). PPC campaigns are placed through a number of advertising platforms; however, the most commonly used are Google AdWords and Bing Ads (Bing also serves a large portion of Yahoo ads). Note that Google, Bing and Yahoo make up approximately 96% of worldwide search engine market share, and Google dominates that group with a market share around 89%.
The basic premise of paid search advertising revolves around keywords, including keyword phrases referred to as long-tail keywords, and the placement of targeted search ads in front of people doing relevant search queries. These campaigns are not only targeted by relevant keyword searches but to global, national and/or local geographic regions, and even specific devices such as mobile phones and tablets.
Pay-Per-Click Campaigns: Keyword Bidding & SERP Placement
Pay-per-click (PPC) ad platforms operate under an auction-style keyword bidding model. Every time a search query is conducted, the PPC ad platform determines if there are multiple advertisements relevant to a search query. If there are, then an auction is automatically triggered. Because this all occurs almost instantaneously, PPC ad platforms require advertisers to set up keyword targets and an associated maximum cost-per-click (CPC). A max CPC bid is the most money an advertiser is willing to pay for a single click on a particular search engine ad.
If an ad is entered into the search query auction, there are two factors that impact the overall placement on the search engine results page (SERP): The Quality Score and max CPC. Quality Score is typically associated with a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest quality. While there are many components that influence the overall quality score, the main contributing factors include ad click-through rate (CTR), relevance to the user search query and website landing page. It is worth noting that Quality Scores are also evaluated for specific audiences, such as mobile device users, if ads are being displayed on cell phones and tablets.
The Quality Score is then combined with the max CPC bid to determine the overall SERP placement. The Quality Score is so important that it allows bidders with high Quality Scores to pay less per ad click for higher SERP placement compared to competing ads with lower Quality Scores. However, the overall CPC range for a particular keyword is ultimately determined by the number of bidders and the max CPC they are willing to bid for a particular keyword, which, if high enough, can result in a top SERP ad placement regardless of Quality Score. And as you’ll read below, personal injury lawyers are willing to bid a lot for targeted keyword ad placement.
Pay-Per-Click Costs for Related Personal Injury Keywords
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads for personal injury-related keywords are the highest on the internet. In fact, in a comprehensive study conducted by WebpageFX and SEMRush on Google’s 100 most expensive keywords in 2015, the highest bid resulted in $670.44 forone ad click based on the keyword phrase “San Antonio car wreck attorney.” The next four most expensive search terms include:
Accident attorney Riverside VA – $626.90
Personal injury attorney Colorado – $553.08
Top personal injury attorneys –$551.32
Motorcycle accident attorney Los Angeles – $551.11
Additionally, of the top 50 most expensive keywords, all of which cost above $300 per ad click, 42 of them were related to personal injury, attorneys and the legal profession.
SEM & PPC Options for Personal Injury Lawyers
Search engine marketing (SEM) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising are a big part of online marketing and lead generation for personal injury lawyers, and it is only going to become more important as internet access expands and mobile device adoption increases. So what options are available to personal injury lawyers that are trying to grow their online presence and law practice? It really depends on the situation.
Personal injury lawyers and law practices that have significant marketing budgets, as well as dedicated marketing staff, should absolutely put their marketing dollars to work on major PPC campaigns – and most already are. But what about solo practitioners or small- and medium-sized personal injury firms that do not have thousands of dollars a month to spend solely on PPC advertising?
The most important area to invest a limited online marketing budget is in a well-constructed website that looks professional, is user friendly and properly promotes the personal injury lawyers and associated services. Without a website, SEM and PPC advertising are not going to be an effective investment, from the potentially adverse impact on Quality Score and CPC costs to limitations on user conversions rates once they reach the site.
For personal injury lawyers looking to reap the benefits of PPC advertising, but do not want to invest all of the time, money and effort required to do so, it is probably worth considering the use of a marketing and lead generation firm. Often times, an investment in a personal injury lead generation firm that has a team of online marketing experts, large advertising budget and a nationally recognized brand has a much better return on investment than most personal injury PPC campaigns.