SEO vs PPC - What You Need To Know!

This is a very important topic if you’re considering marketing for your law firm; there is a lot of information out there about this (read: there’s a lot of wrong ideas), and people don’t tell you necessarily what to expect or the best way to approach this.

SEO vs PPC - What You Need To Know!

This blog post is a transcript of a webinar originally posted to Empirical360 Law Firm Success, a legal marketing Facebook group, by Elliot Alicea, co-founder of Empirical360 and Marketing Bros. To view the video version, please click here.

Today we’re going to talk about the differences between SEO and PPC and what to expect. This is a very important topic if you’re considering marketing for your law firm; there is a lot of information out there about this (read: there’s a lot of wrong ideas), and people don’t tell you necessarily what to expect or the best way to approach this. We actually had this conversation with a client the other day and helped clear up some of their misconceptions, and also probably saved them some money.

The first thing that you need to consider before deciding whether you want to do SEO, PPC, neither, or both, is your goal, or goals, for your marketing campaign. You may need business right now, or you may have business already coming in and you just want to invest in your firm. SEO and PPC accomplish different things, so you need to know your objective before diving into either.

There are a few other things that you need to consider as well…

What’s your budget? Depending on your budget, you may only have enough budget to invest in one source of marketing. If that’s the case, you need to choose wisely!

What’s your timeline for success? If you need business now, one of these options may not be your best bet. What are your expectations? If you’re really counting on this to work quickly, and it’s not performing for you right away, you might make bad decisions like stopping marketing too early, and overall the endeavor will be a waste of time for you.

How many lead sources do you have? If you’re new, that will affect which marketing option you choose.

Let’s talk about search engine traffic. Search engine traffic refers to both Google search ads (PPC) and SEO. They are essentially the same exact lead source; the difference is how you go about getting the leads. Other than referrals, search engine traffic is the highest quality lead source. Why do I say that? Because people are searching for what you have. People are typing into Google “attorney near me”, “personal injury attorney near me”, etc. This is the dynamic that makes Google so powerful - they are searching for you. Your clients are coming to you, and all you have to do is meet that demand.

Google traffic from SEO is the same exact traffic as from Google PPC. When someone types into Google, “attorney near me”, they are shown Google ads at the top of the page, and then organic SEO results next. That’s the same exact person being shown both types of results. So when we hear people say “Well, SEO worked for me, but PPC didn’t,” and technically, that isn’t possible.  If you understand the dynamic of how this traffic works, you will see that that’s not the case, ever...if your Google ads are running correctly, they should actually perform better than your SEO because you have more control over them.

So what exactly is SEO, and how does it work?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. What you’re looking to do is build your site up so it is a quality resource for users and Google recognizes it as such. As a result, they move your website listing higher up in search engine results because you are a quality resource. The higher up you are on the SERP, the more traffic your website listing receives. Eventually, you will appear on the first page of Google.

It’s important to understand that Google makes their money off of Google ads, not SEO. If you visit a search engine results page, you’ll see that Google ads are prioritized on the SERP. The first four listings are Google ads, and sometimes more. Organic results are quite a bit down the page. Now, Google LSA’s (a recent addition) take up even more room before organic results. The other thing to consider is that on a mobile device, you have to scroll even further to reach the organic results. Understand where you are going to be if you’re the number one spot of SEO. It’s not at the top of the page anymore.

Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of SEO.

Here are the pros: eventually, you will get free traffic. That’s the best thing about it. Literally, people will be coming to your website for free, and you will be getting free leads and free cases off of that. It’s hard to beat the concept of SEO because of that. We have attorneys who rank very high, and it’s amazing - they get calls, they get forms, they get traffic, all for free, but they have been in business for 20+ years. They’ve been a quality resource for a long time.

Another pro is that Google views you as a valuable resource. This is great because it’s going to help your rankings. Google trusts your website. It takes time to build that trust, so it takes time to lose it. And you will have multiple listings on Google if you are also doing PPC: an organic listing, a paid listing, and in some cases a map listing (organic or paid). That’s three opportunities for your potential clients to find you. It’s very powerful to have SEO and PPC running together, but if you can only choose one, you have to weigh these pros and cons to decide what marketing method is going to get you the most bang for your buck and help you achieve your goals.

Here are the cons: it takes about 6 months to a year to work. You have to set realistic expectations; you are not going to build a relationship with Google in one day. They have to trust you and view you as a valuable resource before they move you up the page.

Another con is that SEO can be very sensitive to Google algorithm changes. Google does frequent updates to the measures they use to determine whether or not websites are quality resources. If they change something, it can drop your rankings, and you have no control over that. That is a little scary if this is one of your main lead sources. People have had their rankings significantly hurt by Google updates, even being dropped several pages.

Suppose that SEO is working for you, and working really great - it’s hard to scale. You can’t just hit the “add more” button. It takes time to establish traffic and trust. The keywords that do bring in a lot of volume are extremely difficult to beat them. The law firms that have been there the longest are going to rank for those, and they’re hard to beat. It can be done, but it just takes time.

As Google continues to prioritize their paid products, SEO is moving farther down the page, especially on mobile, as we explained earlier, and this is another drawback of this kind of marketing.

Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of PPC.

PPC, which stands for pay-per-click, is an internet advertising model used to drive traffic to websites, in which an advertiser pays a publisher when the ad is clicked, commonly associated with first-tier search engines. Basically, when someone clicks your ad on Google, that’s when you pay. You’re only paying when you get results. It can be scary to pay for a click, but unlike TV, when you’re just paying for content being projected out there and you don’t know who’s watching, you know that people are interacting with what you are paying for. (Remember, the same person who could click on your ad could click on your organic listing. SEO & PPC have the same traffic source).

Here are the pros: you get results immediately. PPC is a pay-to-play model. You get to choose exactly where you show up on the page (the top). Something that takes 6 months or a year to achieve with SEO, you will achieve on day 1 when you start paying.

Another benefit of PPC is that you control the scaling and quantity, either up or down. You tell Google what you want to spend - you can spend $10 a day, $50 a day, or $5,000 a day (if you’re in a large city and there are a lot of people searching for you) depending on what you want, and you can change that quickly and easily if your situation changes.

This is how Google makes their money. They’re very invested in this product, so they are constantly making improvements to benefit you, because you’re a customer; if their customers aren’t getting good results, less people are going to use their ads, and they’re going to lose money. You know that they’re not going to make changes suddenly that will harm your lead gen.

With PPC, you can have quality control. You can see exactly what people are typing in to trigger your ad and make optimizations over time. If people are searching for “free” or “pro bono”, for example, you can exclude that traffic and get the clients you really want.

Some of the cons of PPC: you have to continue to pay for your ads to show. That’s just the harsh reality, but it will also help your SEO.

The other con is that PPC is hard to implement. You don’t want to entrust your Google Ads account to a rookie, because you have the potential to lose a lot of money. It’s important to go with a trusted partner. (We recommend us, because we’re Google Premier Partners and do this for attorneys day in and day out, but there are other reputable companies out there. Just be careful who you choose.)

Breaking down SEO

The budget for SEO is anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 a month. You’re not paying this to Google; you’re paying this to a company to perform SEO on your website. They will be writing blogs, adding pages, sponsoring your content - if they are not doing those three things, you don’t want them. Make sure that they are regularly adding content to your website, sponsoring that content, doing metadata and linking and that they have a linking strategy (platforms like Avvo, Super Lawyers, etc.). You need to know exactly what that company is doing to justify the cost. SEO is free, but you have to pay someone to do it.

If you don’t start to see results in 6 months, it’s time to question what’s really going on and whether or not your investment is paying off. It could take an entire year or more before you start to get leads.

It’s very hard with SEO to project on lead quantity. If your site is not conversion-friendly, and you get 100 visitors, it’s hard to know how many people will actually turn into leads.

How many lead sources do you have? This should not be your main source of leads if you are new to the space or if you need business now. SEO is something that you do if you’re not in a rush to get leads; it’s a long-term investment into your business.

Breaking down PPC

The budget for PPC is $1,000 to $2,000 a month, but it could be way higher - you can spend $50,000 a month if you’re a personal injury attorney in a large city, for example. It’s however much you want it to be. We charge $699 to do this and our clients spend anywhere from $500 - $1500 a month to start. It’s a fairly low barrier to entry and you’re going to see results quickly.

When you start PPC, you’ll see leads right away. We don’t have any accounts that have launched that don’t see leads within the first week. The results you get quickly can pay for the program going forward, which is advantageous. If you’re asked to sign a long-term contract for PPC, that’s a red flag; PPC works fast. If it’s not working within the first month or two, something’s wrong, and you shouldn’t have to be trapped in a contract for 6 months or more if the company is confident in their abilities and their strategy.

How many lead sources do you have? If you’re new to the space, this is one of the best places to start because it’s quick to work. You control the budget 100% and you can improve the quality over time. If you’re working with a listing service like FindLaw or Justia, you don’t have control over that process - they just send you leads randomly - but this is a predictable, scalable model of marketing.

If you haven’t yet, check out our new book Calculable - it goes over all of the different legal lead sources available to you. You’ll learn more, not only about PPC or SEO, but also TV, billboards, radio, listing services, local associations, and more. It’s a valuable resource and it’s not a very long book so you can read it quickly! You can get it for free and all you have to do is cover shipping.

To learn more about our company or what we offer for attorneys, visit our website!

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