The 3 Biggest Lawyer PPC Mistakes and How Fixing Them Saves You Thousands of Dollars

I was recently conducting some keyword research on a new PPC campaign I was creating for one of my Attorney clients.  One of the very first things I do when I put together a new PPC (pay-per-click) campaign on Google AdWords is I study the Competition.  By surveying the landscape of the state of the current market for that particular niche or practice area, I am looking for an advantage my client can pursue to win in their campaign and spend less money to get there.

Specifically, I want to know: Who are the top competing Lawyers or law firms in that area of practice? What keywords are they using? Which keywords are working? How much they are paying for them? Then I want to know: What Ad copy are they using and how long have they been using it? Is it working or are they just lazy?

In other words, I let those who are already running PPC campaigns do the heavy lifting (and spending) for my clients so we let them essentially do a lot of the testing for us.  Obviously this approach saves a lot of time and money and was similar to what I would do in practice…let others invent the wheel, I’ll just roll with it!

So when I recently did this for a client, I stumbled upon some competitors of theirs who were making so many obvious mistakes and wasting so much money that I thought they would be worth pointing out in this blog, which I am now affectionately calling “Bark and Bite.”

This is Part One of a Three Part series where I will explain these biggest paid search campaign mistakes Lawyers make and how avoiding them can save you thousands of dollars in your paid search campaigns.

THE first Big ATTORNEY PPC mistake I discovered in my recent CAMPAIGN research:

Mistake #1 – Using Geographic Keywords Outside of Your Local Market

I couldn’t quite believe this one or understand if this was an intentional strategy or just sheer laziness.  If you are a Bankruptcy Attorney in Miami, why on earth would you be bidding on keywords like “Bankruptcy Attorney Arkansas” or “Bankruptcy Attorney Charleston” or “Bankruptcy Attorney Houston?” This guy must be blowing half of his $7,500/month PPC budget on this stuff! I’m thinking, why are you doing this???  I thought you were a smart guy!

Let’s suppose somebody in Houston is searching for a Bankruptcy Attorney in Houston and they “Google” (enter the Keyword “Bankruptcy Attorney Houston”) and boom, up pops this Miami Bankruptcy Attorney’s website and the searcher clicks on his Ad. This Attorney just paid for this click (that’s why they call it pay-per-click) and for what? To pay for a click from someone searching for a Houston Bankruptcy Attorney that will never hire this Miami Bankruptcy Attorney…ever? I’m thinking what could possibly be the strategy here and the only thing I could come up with is, there is no strategy here.


It is an amateur “shotgun” approach to Google AdWords using every geographic combination possible and not thinking it through. While this is not necessarily a bad strategy for a national firm with offices in all of these locations, most Attorneys are in a local market. They are just burning money bidding for keywords that are geographic in nature that would only be useful for people searching in that geographic area. Doing this wastes impressions that would be used by Google for keywords that may actually bring you clicks that could result in leads. It diminishes your ability to reach or get impressions out there for keywords that help you.

It’s about quality, not quantity. Your goal is not make Google richer by getting and paying for as many clicks as you can…it’s about getting more business from people who need your services and getting them to click your Ad because they need you, you can help them and you can make them a client…and get paid!

I know this Attorney. He’s a pretty smart guy and runs multiple Florida offices and I was honestly shocked when I saw this huge gaff in his PPC campaign.  Does he have someone advising him to do this, I wondered? Did he come up with this approach himself by sitting around one day trying to think of all the possible combinations of terms using the words Bankruptcy Attorney?

All I could think when I saw this was, “oh my, what has he done and does he know he’s doing it?” I mentioned it to my Wife and she asked me if I was going to tell him the mistake he was making, since I personally know him (she is so sweet). I told her no I would not be doing that.  When she asked me “why not” I explained that since he was not my client and my client was his competitor, I would be exploiting this weakness for the benefit of my client. “Sorry baby, I’m not being mean” I explained,  “but that’s how it works out here in the dog eat dog world of the business of law.”

After all, I’m a Law Dog and my job is to help my client chisel into a PPC market using every advantage I can find for them…and I just found one. Ruthless? Maybe…Shrewd? You Betcha! Woof! Woof!

Mistake #2 – Using Too Many Keywords and Never Trimming Your List

There is a lot of debate and speculation about how many keywords you should include when you run a Google AdWords campaign. In my recent client campaign research, I noticed many Lawyers including dozens, if not hundreds of keywords in their PPC campaigns. Because of tools I use, I could tell that many of these had been running a long time but had no clicks!

Now, maybe you’re saying to yourself, “but LAWDOG, if nobody is clicking, then he’s not paying for it, so what’s the harm…right?” Well, there is a cost even when nobody is clicking on your other 200 low traffic poor quality keywords: Wasted Impressions!

You see, when you run a law firm marketing campaign using PPC on Google AdWords, Google places your Ad out there and those are called impressions. Google wants to see what is being searched to give their searchers the best possible match to whatever they are searching for. It learns as it goes, depending upon your campaign settings and other factors. If you never get any clicks on those low quality keywords, you are depriving your keywords that are getting clicks, more impressions they would otherwise receive. Many people do not realize this and waste a lot of money serving up impressions for keywords that do nothing, month after month after month!

I was actually on the phone yesterday to a Google AdWords employee and he verified this when we discussed it. By never eliminating keywords that are not getting clicks, you are starving out and limiting the exposure (impressions) available to the keywords you are bidding on that are actually getting you clicks on your Ad. So this cost is what economists call an “opportunity cost” and it is as real as a cost per click because it limits your impression reach of other keywords that may actually be working for you.

So How Many Keywords Should I Use?

Don’t be too quick to trim your list. It’s good to start out with a bigger list (that you put together after some quality research in the first place…right?) and then watch what happens.  You should probably run your Ad for 3 to 4 weeks to see what is actually being searched and clicked. If you notice that after a month or so, many of your keywords got no clicks, yet you can see impressions are being served up by Google, that is a good indicator that it’s time to trim the fat from the list.

I like to pause these ineffective keywords for a little longer just to see what happens when I hyper-focus my other keywords on that Ad Group. Then I usually form new Ad Groups with the shorter list and sometimes mix up the match (broad, modified broad, phrase or exact match) and go from there.

PPC campaigns require testing and in Part Three of this series, I will discuss why PPC is a shortcut to market testing unlike anything else that has ever existed in law firm marketing. I will also discuss in Part Three how Ad Copy plays into a good PPC campaign for any attorney marketing plan.

Mistake #3 – Not Doing PPC, for two related and very important reasons: Testing and Content Creation


Ask any Madison Avenue Advertising Veteran (one of the Mad Men) and they will tell you…it’s all about split testing. 5 different versions of Ad copy, different keyword groups with the same copy, different images.  It’s called split testing and the only way to know what works in marketing is to split test.

100 years ago, a famous book publisher used to take out a full page of ads in the Chicago Tribune and have book cover images with 50 different titles, and people would order them. The publisher would wait to see what title sold the most and then print the book based on the test!

That was split testing 100 years ago; now, we can use Google Adwords and know quickly and accurately what works and what does not. This is a valuable tool and a lot easier than Ad men had to do it in 1915. Take advantage of it and test, test, test! Nothing like spending your own money on your own law firm marketing to make it real, but the key is to start on a small scale and test for what works. Then, drop the ads or keywords that don’t work and scale up (spend more) on the ones you discovered actually do work.


The other main benefit in not giving up on PPC campaigns as part of your online legal marketing entirely is because you can learn a lot about what people actually search for on the Internet in the course of a paid search campaign if you pay attention. Everyone wants the free organic search engine ranking, and putting out good content consistently is the way this happens but it takes time and it takes the right content.

Paid Search campaign results can tell you what content you should be creating, rather than guessing or just blogging about things you feel passionately about like many people mistakenly believe. Spending money makes you focus (if you don’t want to just throw it away) and then you learn what keywords people really search for and you learn more about who your audience really is. The key is to use what you learn on the PPC side of your legal marketing and use those search results as clues for what content to spend time creating.

In some upcoming blog articles, I’ll talk more about what makes your content worth landing on when someone clicks (making your website sticky…and a good experience; uh, that doesn’t sound right) but it is essential to converting that lead to a client. Remember, to rank organically it takes good content and PPC testing.

I hope you got some useful knowledge from this 3-part blog series on pay-per-click legal marketing campaigns. I know it can be daunting and there are a lot of things to know but you’re smart. Just apply yourself to this or get some help, but don’t let past experiences of doing it wrong prevent you from learning how to do it right!

If you enjoyed this blog series, do me a favor and please share this on social media with other Lawyer friends so they can benefit from the lessons I have tried to teach in these three blog posts on Attorney marketing and PPC. I also welcome your comments here and will respond if you post them.