For nearly two decades, pay-per-click advertising (also known as “PPC”) has been the leading way for law firms to advertise their firms in Google and get found by more potential clients in online search.
However, earlier this year, Google launched a brand-new paid search ad format for attorneys called Local Services Ads (LSAs), and it has been quickly picking up steam within the industry —giving attorneys another way to become more visible and competitive in online search.
(Note: LSAs are currently only available to estate law and immigration attorneys in select geographic markets.)
However, with all the recent changes, many attorneys are getting confused about the difference between LSAs and PPC ads.
We’re here to clear up the confusion.
In this post, we’ll dive into the six ways LSAs differ from PPC ads, as well as how each ad format impacts your law firm.
#1: LSAs are now the FIRST thing potential clients see on the Google results page.
Before, if you invested in PPC ads and you were able to rank in one of the top three or four ad positions, you were one of the first law firms a prospective client would see on the Google search engine results page.
However, LSAs are now the ads being featured at the top of the page, which means PPC ads have been pushed down.
So, what does that mean for your law firm? If you’re using LSAs to advertise your practice, it means you have a new opportunity to get seen first by potential clients in your local area. And if you’re currently only using PPC ads (and LSAs are available for your market), it means you’ll need to take this new form of competition into account and possibly get more creative in your paid search strategy, if you want your firm to stand out.
It should be noted that only three LSAs appear at the top of the Google search results page. Other ads are visible when the searcher clicks on the “More” tab.
[image focusing on the More tab]
#2: LSAs use a pay-per-lead model instead of a pay-per-click model
If you run PPC ads for your law firm, you’re used to paying every time someone clicks on your ad. However, with LSAs, you pay by the lead instead of the click, which means you’re only charged when someone calls or sends a message to your practice through the LSA platform.
One benefit of pay-per-lead ads is that they allow you to reserve your advertising spend for people who are further along in their journey of becoming a new client. At this point, they’re not just clicking on your website to learn more about your practice—they’re actually making contact with your team, which means they may be more likely to sign on with your firm as a new client.
#3: With LSAs, you can’t leverage budget to improve your ad placement
PPC can be a numbers game. By increasing your budget to the right level (and improving the quality and relevance of your ads and landing pages), you can usually achieve a better ad position for your firm (e.g., moving from the fourth ad displayed on the page to the second ad displayed).
However, with LSAs, you have less control over where your ad appears. That’s because LSAs operate on a flat-fee model, so there’s no way to “pay your way to the top”. And here’s another point to consider: the placement of LSAs are largely dictated by your law firm’s location, which leads us to our next point…
#4: The placement of your LSAs relies heavily on proximity
The biggest factor Google uses in deciding where an LSA will rank is the law firm’s proximity to the searcher. While Google also considers factors like relevance (if your firm’s services match what the searcher is looking for), proximity is the greatest driver of the positioning of your ad—considering that the whole purpose of LSAs is to help consumers find Google-verified attorneys right in their local communities.
In contrast, law firms are not as restricted by proximity when it comes to their PPC advertising campaigns. Thanks to advanced targeting capabilities like geographic targeting, a law firm in New York can show an ad to someone in Los Angeles with no problem.
This is something to keep in mind when deciding what types of audiences you want to reach with your paid search ads.
#5: LSA can substantially lower your cost per lead
If you have ever invested in PPC ads for your law firm, you know these ads don’t come cheap—especially if you work in a crowded market or you want to use more competitive bidding to achieve a better ad position.
One benefit of LSAs is that they’re a more affordable form of paid search advertising (because of their flat-fee model). And when you lower your advertising costs, you’re usually able to lower your cost per lead, which can help to increase your marketing return on investment.
Be careful, however, not to discount the benefits of PPC ads simply because they tend to be more expensive. While PPC campaigns usually run a higher tab, they do give law firms more flexibility and consistency in attracting the types and volume of leads they want each month, considering that the attorney has more control over their advertising budget and targeting options. (Google’s PPC platform allows advertisers to target their audiences based on factors like keywords, locations, device, time of day, etc.).
#6: To get approved for LSAs, you must complete an extensive application process
If you want to run PPC ads on Google, it’s not hard to get started. Any law firm can set up a Google Ads account, build an advertising campaign, and immediately start showing their ads to potential clients.
However, with LSAs, it’s not that simple. Law firms that want to run these ads have to go through an extensive application process and get approved by Google. The process entails paperwork, attorney background checks, verification of the attorneys’ bar standing, and more. Furthermore, only certain types of attorneys in certain geographic markets are eligible to apply.
So, why does Google make law firms jump through all these hoops in order to enter the LSA program?
It’s because legal LSA ads come with a highly coveted “Google Screened” badge, which assures potential clients that they’re working with a firm that has been thoroughly vetted and verified by Google. The “Google Screened” badge is an extremely valuable asset in helping build trust with potential clients, which can help attorneys attract more leads.
So, what should I invest in for my law firm—LSAs or PPC ads?
For most law firms, it makes the most sense to advertise in both paid search advertising strategies.
The reason is that LSAs and PPC ads actually operate quite differently and therefore offer their own unique benefits. LSAs allow you to attract potential clients right in your local community at a lower cost, and they also provide your practice with the credibility of being “Google Screened” (which can lead to more online conversions). Meanwhile, PPC ads give you a greater level of control over who you advertise to and how, as well as how many leads you can attract in any given month.
By investing in both LSAs and PPC ads, your law firm is able to benefit from the best of both worlds, giving you more opportunities to get found by potential clients and capture new business.
Furthermore, while the LSA program is just starting up for the legal community, it has the potential to see significant growth in the future—just like it has for the home services industry, with the home services LSA program currently being available nationwide for 17 different business types. As the legal LSA program grows, competition will become stiffer, making it even more important to have both an LSA and PPC presence in Google.
If you would like to learn more about how LSAs and PPC ads can help you grow your law firm, make sure to speak with one of our legal digital marketing experts. We’re a Google Premier Partner that has been approved by Google to help attorneys with LSAs, so you can rest assured that your advertising is in the right hands.
Contact Scorpion today to get the conversation started!