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$935.71 cost per click.
That’s not a typo: in the United States it can cost a personal injury attorney $935.71 every time someone searches for the “best mesothelioma lawyer” and clicks their ad on Google. Furthermore, Search Engine Watch found that 19 of the top 25 most expensive keywords on Google are searches related to personal injury law firms.
However, these numbers become a little less surprising when you consider that in many cities you can’t turn on a television for more than 30 minutes or walk down the street without seeing an ad for a personal injury lawyer. It’s an extremely competitive industry, thus the extremely high prices it can cost for just one click to a legal website. And this trend is not stopping anytime soon, due to high competition and the potentially large return a lawyer can get from just one click.
Simply put, personal injury law firm business models are unique. It’s important to understand the basics of how they operate before planning for a legal marketing campaign. So let’s take a quick look at how these firms work and what makes them so unique (lawyers and those familiar with the industry – feel free to skip this next section).
How Personal Injury Law Firms Work
To use an overly basic story to illustrate, Joey was in an accident that wasn’t his fault. Now he needs to get his car fixed, has medical bills to pay for his injured shoulder, and is missing work while he is healing. Meanwhile he begins receiving phone calls from the insurance company saying they will be willing to pay him for only half of what his medical bills cost.
Before working in this industry, I was naive to the fact that similar scenarios happen quite frequently to those who have been injured in an accident. So Joey’s 3 options are:
- Take the money the insurance company offered
- Negotiate with the insurance companies himself to get reimbursed for all of his expenses from the accident
- Hire a personal injury lawyer to do the negotiating and other work for him
What does Joey decide to do? Who cares, I know you’re only here for marketing tips and not my terrible made up stories. Which we’ll get to after one more area I feel is very important to discuss: how PI lawyers charge for their services.
How personal injury lawyers charge their clients
Most injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis (but not the terrible lawyer Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons, seen changing his fee structure below). A contingency fee is simply a percentage of what the final settlement is, and in most states law firms’ fees average around 33%.
The larger the settlement, the more income is generated for the law firm. Pretty straightforward, right? So why am I painting this long drawn-out picture of the industry? Besides the obvious, I’m trying to demonstrate why it can be so difficult to find an ROI for legal marketing campaigns. Every case is different and income is percentage-based. It’s all variable. And it can take years for a case to settle and receive the revenue that your pay-per-click (PPC) campaign generated years ago.
When you throw in the fact that case value is largely determined by insurance limits for both parties, now you have an analytical marketer’s nightmare. But this also presents the opportunity for high returns if you can figure out how to outsmart competitors in your market.
With that being said, let’s look at some legal digital marketing tips and tricks that I use for use for my personal injury lawyer clients.
My 8 Best Marketing Strategies for Personal Injury Lawyer Law Firms
Here's everything I've learned from working with personal injury law firms to ensure they achieve ROI from their ad spend.
1.) Forget ROI – Set “Cost Per Case” Goals
You might be surprised by the uncomfortable look I get from some lawyers when I ask what their desired Cost Per Case (CPCase) is. In their defense, it can be a tough question to answer because a legal case could be worth $2,000 or millions of dollars. The practice area also plays a large role because an attorney specializing in car accidents may only want to pay $500 per case, while a Mesothelioma attorney may be willing to pay $100,000 per case.
CPCase is a great way to set expectations for yourself and the firm. If you don’t currently know what your firm’s desired CPCase is, drop everything and start with this. Even if it is a loose number, it will guide your marketing decisions and significantly decreases the importance of not being able to calculate immediate ROI. For those who don’t know how to come to this number or who can’t get an answer from the law firm, I suggest the following steps:
- Find the firm’s average case settlement value from the past 2 years. (Advanced: To exclude outlier data, you can use the TRIMMEAN function in Excel. Be careful with the percentage of outliers you use – you don’t want to shave too much off.)
- Take your average case settlement and multiply by 10%, 20%, and 30% to get three possible CPCase numbers.
- Take these three numbers to the owner or partners and show them how you arrived at the CPCase. They should then make the business decision whether they are willing to spend 10%, 20%, or 30% of the average case on marketing (or anywhere in-between). That is a business decision that is different for every firm, so I unfortunately can’t give insight on what is right for your firm.
2.) Track, Track, Track
Now that you have a target Cost per Case, it’s time to make sure you are tracking every lead you can. Let’s start with the easy tracking first – website submissions and online chats. These are pretty simple to set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics. If you aren’t sure how, here is a guide from Google on setting up conversion tracking.
But law firms tend to be most focused on driving phone calls, so I always add phone call tracking to client websites and landing pages. The image below from Wordstream demonstrates how call tracking works. You can read more about it here.
Here are four call tracking services that I’ve used in the past to help with campaigns (no affiliation to any):
Pros: Integrates great with Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords). And it’s free!
Cons: Very little data about the call. Doesn’t show full phone number that called. Only integrates with Google Ads Campaigns
Pros: Shares detailed information about phone call. Works on a keyword level.
Cons: Limited to PPC. Have to already be using WordStream software.
Pros: Extremely detailed call data. Dynamically changes number on website depending on source of website visitor.
Cons: More expensive than some of the others.
Pros: Dynamically changes number on website depending on visitor. A little less expensive than others.
Cons: Not as many options as some of the other call tracking services.
I’m sure there are plenty of others out there that can do what these can, so what is most important is finding software you feel comfortable implementing and using.
3.) Bid on Your Brand Name on Google
If you’re reading WordStream, I’m sure you know what PPC is (and if not, you sure are in the right place to learn). As confusing and technical as PPC can be, the easiest and best investment you can make is bidding on your own brand name. Average costs per click on a brand name ranges anywhere from $.50 to $3.
Now the first question that probably comes to mind is, “Why would I spend money on brand searches if I already show in organic?” Great questions and here is the number one reason:
Brand protection. If you aren’t bidding on your brand name, your competitors might, and that will mean the first thing a user sees is your competitor’s message and not yours. Do you want the people trying to steal your clients to have the power of being seen first? I wouldn’t. Here is an example of this in the wild. If Shopify wasn’t bidding on their brand name, look at the second ad, which would otherwise be the first result on the page with a message of “Don’t Waste your Time and Money.” That’d be bad news.
There are additional benefits to advertising on your brand terms, like being able to control the message put in front of potential clients. If you are relying on organic results you are letting Google choose what they show a potential client. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather talk about my firm as opposed to letting Google choose how to do it.
Brand bidding is relatively cheap in the grand scheme when you consider the value you get for it. You’ve worked hard to build up a brand name, make sure you protect it!
4.) Make Friends with Mobile
More than 50% of all searches are from a mobile device. That shouldn’t be news to you; just think about how often you reach into your pocket or purse to Google something that is on your mind (sorry Bing). The mobile trend is no longer a trend, but a necessity for many businesses.
Users are 5x more likely to leave a site that is not mobile friendly. “Mobile Friendly” here means a completely functional responsive site design, as opposed to a site that just has a different URL on mobile. Having a fast page is important, too: a 10-second page load time has a 123% higher bounce rate than a 1-second page load time.
Follow these steps to make sure your website is ready in this mobile-first world:
- This one’s obvious – make sure your website is responsive or at the very least is usable on a mobile device. If it’s not, sorry, you need a better website.
- To double-check that your site is mobile ready, go to this URL to make sure you have Google’s mobile friendly approval: Google Mobile Friendly Test. This tool will give you detailed insights as to why your page is or is not mobile friendly.
- Check your speed. Visit this page to test your mobile page speed. If your number is in the red, follow the instructions to get your speed back up in the green. Some suggestions such as image optimization or cache issues are as simple as downloading a few Wordpress plugins.
5.) Use Ad Extensions to Dominate Search Results
Ad Extensions are features search advertising platforms give as options to enhance your ads. When used, they can both improve your ad performance as well as give you an advantage over the competition. The image below points out a couple of the common ones:
- Sitelinks (“client testimonial” link shown above): additional website links that allow you to send users to different areas of your site
- Call extensions: adding a phone number to your ad. These calls can also be tracked as conversions in your performance metrics.
- Location extensions: adds your business address pulled from Google My Business
There are a number of other extensions, but these are the most common ones for localized businesses like law.
So why use ad extensions?
- The use of ad extensions has shown to increase ad performance because it gives your potential clients more options and drives them further down the lead funnel. On average, use of ad extensions lifts click-through rate by 10-15%. More clicks can mean more opportunities for clients.
- The more extensions you show the more search real estate your ad takes up. In competitive spaces like law, driving a competitor down the page can make a big difference in the long run. In some cases, Google Ads even ranks you higher in results if you include ad extensions, because they view this as a better experience for users.
Implement ad extensions today to drive more clicks and calls to your business.
6.) Test Google Ads Call-Only Campaigns (But Be Careful…)
Years ago I was interviewed in a WordStream article about PPC for lawyers where I was raving about call-only campaigns using call extensions on PPC ads. They were very cheap and very successful for us. Times change, Google changes, and I’ve unfortunately had a change of heart towards my love of call-only campaigns for personal injury law firms.
Here’s the issue with call-only campaigns – if someone clicks your ad you are then charged just like any other click on AdWords. But a click does not mean a phone call, a click means that the phone number popped up on the user’s phone (as shown below).
Depending on the market, I’ve seen clicks turn into phone calls at percentages that range anywhere between 30-80%. Whether the user accidentally clicked the ad, didn’t realize it was an ad to make a phone call, or any other scenario that leads to clicking “Cancel” rather than “Call”, the cost per conversion can add up quickly.
My suggestion: test. Call-Only ads tend to work better if a firm has an old website that doesn’t help anyone, thus leading to people not calling. However, for firms who have websites and landing pages that are helpful to readers on the page, regular ads can result in lower costs and more leads.
7.) Get More Google Reviews
If you’re choosing from the list of law firms above (I intentionally blurred out their names because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings…) who would you choose? #3, because you want to give the underdog a shot? I wouldn’t, nor would most consumers.
In an industry where trust is so extremely important, Google reviews are a great way to show the world how great your business truly is. A simple reminder to clients about your appreciation of them sharing their experience on Google can be the difference between Law Firm #2 and Law Firm #3.
There are many review sites that you could also focus on, including Yelp, Avvo, Lawyers.com, and Martindale-Hubbell to name a few. Regardless of what site you are focusing on, what you really need to do is create a company culture of not being afraid to remind clients that you would love to read online how their experience was working with your firm. If they share their experience online it not only helps your firm learn, but it also helps educate others who have been in the unfortunate situation your client was in. Be polite, don’t be shy, and get some more reviews!
8.) Take Better Advantage of Ad Spend with Facebook Retargeting
Very rarely in the digital world do people see one solution to their problem and sign up on the spot. Consumers search around, click a variety of ads, investigate a number of sites, and read reviews before making a purchasing decisions.
Law firm lead cycles are no different. To get the most out of your digital presence you need to stay in front of your audience. One of the most effective and efficient ways for doing this is retargeting on Facebook.
Retargeting is the most effective and efficient way to stay in front of your potential clients for a couple reasons:
- There is no one more qualified as a lead than a someone who has already visited your site, meaning they’ve shown interest in your firm in the past. Staying in front of these users can lift your website conversion rate by as much as 50% by bringing these qualified people back to the site.
- As mentioned above, some ad clicks for law-related searches cost as much as $950. Retargeting clicks on the other hand average about $1.35 in the legal space on Facebook. Spending a few more dollars to bring that expensive first click back increases ad spend efficiency greatly.
Why Facebook vs. other retargeting? Two reasons:
- People spend more time on Facebook than any other website. On average people spend 20-40 minutes per day on Facebook and visit the social network 14 times per day. Point being once someone leaves your site they are likely to be on Facebook. You want to be where your potential clients are, reminding them of your firm.
- The click-through rate on Facebook ads compared to traditional display ads can be as much as double, meaning the likelihood of bringing clients back to your site is much higher than other ad types.
Start retargeting on Facebook and watch your cost per case start to drop.
That’s it! I hope this article can serve as a guide for anyone jumping into the personal injury industry. If you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me by leaving a comment below.
About the Author
Eric Huhn is the owner and founder of Kinetic Sequence, a digital marketing agency located in Milwaukee, WI. Eric helps law firms grow their practices through all forms of digital marketing. Eric holds an MBA in marketing which he only regrets when he sees his student loan bill.