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When Lawyers Compete: Winning at PPC Without Breaking the Bank

Case Study: Taming Cost Per Click for Legal Keywords

Our client runs a thriving personal injury law firm in a major metropolitan city in the Midwest. Like every legal practice, the attorneys felt pressure to continually grow their practice to stay competitive.

The digitally savvy attorneys recognized the potential of pay per click advertising and its ability to deliver new clients with just a click.

Their quandary was figuring out how to use PPC advertising without breaking the bank.

PPC ads excel by marrying keywords and search, which puts a practice in front of prospective clients at the exact moment they are seeking an attorney. Select strategic keywords and a practice can even target the specific kinds of cases it is seeking, such as workers' compensation lawsuits.

PPC Looked to be a No-Brainer

Or so the attorneys thought.

PPC can be painted as a virtual gumball machine that spits out new clients with the drop of a dime, but the reality is far different. Unlike a gumball machine, you are not guaranteed a new client with each click.

And, as attorneys already know, Google's legal keywords cost a pretty penny. To ensure a return on their investment (ROI), attorneys need to protect themselves from erroneous clicks and improperly designed campaigns — a money-for-nothing recipe.

The reality is that Google is both friend and foe. But it is always a business. In fact, PPC advertising generates a significant portion of Google's revenue. So, it's important to remember that whether or not a click generates a return for you, it most definitely will for Google. It is up to you to ensure that your PPC campaign is set up correctly to ensure quid pro quo. 

Reality Check: If implemented poorly, PPC quickly turns into a money pit.

And the pit can turn cavernous for lawyers. Massive adoption of PPC by lawyers has produced a bidding war for legal keywords and sent pricing to the top of Google's charts. Consider these statistics:

  • 23 of the 25 most expensive search terms on Google involve lawyers and litigation. The most expensive term "San Antonio car wreck attorney" costs a cool $670.44.
  • 78% of the most expensive keywords relate to legal terms.

Obviously, making a mistake at these price points is costly.

Reality Check: PPC requires a strategy. Throwing money at Google is not a strategy.

Pay per click can deliver results, but it is not an automatic slam dunk. Each market is different and even in the same market, adjustments need to be made for each campaign. Then, after the campaigns are implemented, they need to be closely monitored and tweaked. 

Creating a successful PPC campaign requires time and commitment, resources that are in short supply with cookie-cutter PPC programs like the ones marketed as "Silver," "Gold," and "Platinum" packages.

For example, a successful PPC program needs to employ hyper-targeted keywords that signal a prospective client is in purchase mode, not research mode. "Top Personal Injury Lawyer" sounds like a prime keyword, but the reality is that it doesn't perform well. In addition, it's expensive.

Other keywords are better at targeting potential clients who are further down the purchase funnel and ready to call or fill out a contact form online. If you get clicks without this final conversion step, you are buying clicks with no hope of a return. (Money for nothing ♬) 

PPC also requires regular monitoring. Unlike a crock-pot, you can't cook up a winning PPC recipe then set it and forget it. Unfortunately, your top converting keywords this week may not work next week. Or, since the price of keywords fluctuates like the stock market, your bid that snagged the top ad slot today, may cause your ad to drop out of sight next week.

Reality Check: PPC is not easy.

And that's what our client discovered. The law firm had already experimented with Google AdWords using another PPC provider, but saw minimal return on its investment.

Yet, while they couldn't get PPC to work, they didn't think they could afford to ignore it either. And rightly so, as these statistics show:

  • Three out of every four people looking for attorneys use the Internet.
  • One out of three people in the US will seek legal counsel in their lifetime.

So even though PPC was frustrating, the attorneys understood the potential that advertising on search engines offered: The ability to drive high-intent traffic (code for "clients in need of an attorney right now") from the Internet to their front door.

Benefits of PPC



To stay competitive, the firm knew it had to buck the PPC headwinds.

But this time the firm's attorneys needed a smarter approach. They didn't want to join the stratospheric bidding war over legal keywords. But, even with a smaller budget, they still wanted qualified leads that produced a profitable ROI. Otherwise, what's the point?

Audit Insight

Einstein Law, an online marketing firm with more than 20 years of experience, stepped up to the plate.

We were confident our data-driven, high-touch strategy could produce the clicks and conversions the attorneys wanted. Without breaking the bank.

But Einstein Law had a prerequisite: A PPC audit. Einstein Law, a data driven company, knows that research is the first step in building a PPC campaign that succeeds. Audits provide the data and insight that guard against misguided chases after red herrings, saving both time and money.


Our client agreed to this custom approach and, with audit in hand, had the information they needed to make educated choices and set dramatic goals, specifically:

  • Increased visibility outside their local area
  • Top 3 positioning in Google ads
  • A manageable cost-per-click that could still bring in quality conversions, starting at $75 per click. (More about that price point later. We don't believe in throwing money at Google.)
  • A dual focus that maintained their strong organic traffic while layering on a robust PPC campaign at the same time.


Einstein Law offers many types of paid digital marketing, but Google AdWords proved to be a good fit for our client's goals.

We set about designing new PPC campaigns that focused on the law firm's areas of expertise:

  • Personal Injury
  • Workers Compensation
  • Construction Accidents

With the PPC targets in place, Einstein Law tackled tactics. We assessed high volume keywords, comparing their performance to niche terms that could convert at a lower cost per click. And, since every market is different, we also analyzed search behavior in the firm's market, adjusting keywords and bids to create laser-focused campaigns.

A tight focus ensured that even with a conservative PPC budget, our client could be a player in the niche. If a budget is spread too thin, then a campaign won't hit the minimum threshold necessary to compete. Instead of collecting conversions, you end up frittering away money in a campaign built to fail.

We zeroed in on keywords that could perform in the attorneys' market and created targeted campaigns around them.

And then, like traders on the floor of the stock market, we watched.

PPC is a fluid market where keywords rise and fall in value, both as targets and in price. We monitored and adjusted for the ebb and flow to squeeze out the maximum return on each dollar spent.

Average cost per click was reduced 95%

Taming Cost Per Click

Our data-driven, high-touch tactics gave Einstein Law the insight to crack the code of high-cost legal keywords, revealing the myth for what it was. A myth.

As the new campaigns proved, high cost per click is not a prerequisite for success. With sophisticated analysis and high-touch monitoring, we proved that you don't have to throw money at Google to win at paid digital marketing.

Even for legal terms.

Consider these statistics highlighting the success of the custom PPC campaigns:

PPC Case Study Results

And remember that $75-a-click keyword price point? Einstein Law drove the average cost per click down to $6.17. (No, that's not a typo.)

The statistics are impressive. But as the oft repeated saying goes: there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. So consider these benchmarks:

  • Increased Visibility - Einstein Law increased visibility in all regions the attorneys were targeting with ads displaying in the top two positions.
  • Quality Conversions/Leads - With a commitment to constant monitoring, we brought in the exact types of leads the practice needed.
  • Controlled Advertising Budget - Einstein Law also aims to trim clients' advertising budgets over time without losing conversions. What doesn't get spent with Google goes back into the client's pocket. The attorneys in this case study saved 36% of their Google Adwords budget.
  • Managed Customer Acquisition Cost - Unlike many PPC providers, Einstein Law is transparent about where a client's investment goes, allowing law firms to verify the true cost to acquire a case. In this case, we reduced the firm's cost more than 70%.

Pro Tips

If the promise of pay per click has eluded you but you know it's too important to ignore, consider these takeaways:

  • A PPC audit is the first step in developing data and actionable insight to spark innovation in PPC marketing. Without data, you risk throwing away significant sums on ineffective PPC campaigns.
  • Beware your "frenemy" Google. Google is a business and whether or not a click generates a return for you, it most definitely will for Google. It is up to you to ensure that your PPC investment is set up correctly.
  • Trust but verify. Transparency allows you to verify the underpinnings of your campaign. A truly transparent PPC provider provides a summary report for your campaigns along with access to your advertising platform, allowing you to verify that the summary isn't a victim of spin and that your campaign is set up correctly. (You don't want to be paying for clicks in California when you practice in New York. Yes, that happens.) Need more info? See this SlideShare presentation "10 Questions for PPC Providers" on vetting PPC providers.

Are you looking to take advantage of the immediacy and flexibility that online advertising offers? Or are you researching?

Either way, we are happy to answer your questions. We can also explain the newest options, such as social media ads, which are growing in popularity and are less expensive than PPC ads.

Feel free to call us at (800) 650-0003 or write us.