Paid and organic search are two popular methods of online marketing with two distinctly different approaches. According to a 2016 survey, 53% of consumers use search to find a local business at least one time per month, indicating that attorneys need to have either an organic or pay-to-play strategy or some combination of the two.
Even seasoned internet marketers debate the benefits of paid search over organic search engine optimization campaigns for marketing a law firm online. Both have pros and cons, both require some investment, and both can be incredibly complicated.
There’s A Tool For Every Job
Before we go any further, we can't say SEO is better than pay-per-click advertising or vice versa. Not every job requires a hammer, and each technique has its place in online marketing. More often than not, these two channels work in a holistic fashion to drive traffic to a website. As is true with investing, lawyers should not place all their eggs in one basket. A thoughtful, comprehensive approach is better than a laser-beam focus on one channel.
For firms that find themselves in the position of having to choose between SEO and PPC, here is the reality.
PPC: Fast, Targeted And Precise Traffic
Over the past decade, PPC has become a popular way for law firms to get direct exposure to the hordes of people using Google or social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Mainstream ad platforms make it easy for marketers to target the exact audiences they want (and not the ones they don’t care about). Despite the sometimes prohibitive costs of paid search, attorneys can use it successfully to generate quality leads for their firms. A huge plus for pay-per-click is the immediate nature of it. As soon as campaigns are approved, they can start generating traffic and leads. No other form of digital marketing has that kind of impact except email marketing (which assumes you have a large list to communicate with).
Here are some other pros and cons for PPC:
- The cost per click (CPC) can be very high for legal terms (in some cases, close to $100 per click for competitive niches). However, top positions in search can then be bought, and not all legal terms are that expensive.
- First-page search traffic can be obtained almost instantly; however, as soon as the ad budget runs out or ads are discontinued, the traffic disappears.
- Ads can be shown to the specific audience a lawyer wants to reach, helping him or her land the cases he or she wants. However, ad platforms can be complicated and difficult to learn.
- Although PPC for attorneys can be expensive, some data show that 84% of visitors convert on their first trip a site.
SEO: Long-Lasting Investment In Your Web Presence
Search engine optimization has been catching the eye of law firms that realize the growing need to have visibility on the internet and in search. Google has a dominant market share in the world of search, so it's no surprise law firms fixate on it. Even though SEO can take a long time to show results (in many cases, four to six months), the dividends it pays last long into the future.
Even after SEO work has stopped, law firms can continue to rank well for their keyword terms for weeks or even months for less competitive keywords. A high-quality SEO campaign is focused not only on search but also an attorney's entire web presence. Things like generating good content, building citations out across the internet, and generating a presence on other websites for link building all help build authority for a law firm. In this way, SEO becomes a more thorough marketing initiative instead of a one-off campaign.Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
Here are some additional pros and cons of SEO:
- SEO can give firms a solid footing in organic search but rankings can be lost to aggressive competition and algorithm changes.
- Good SEO can help firms rank in applications like Google Maps, which is used by millions of mobile users. However, there are paid positions for those applications too.
- Optimizing a site for search generates free traffic, but there are costs associated with hiring an SEO agency or spending a lot of your own time doing the work.
Above all else, lawyers should talk to a professional when they weigh their options between paid and organic search. Just like there are a lot of fly-by-night vendors for SEO, there are many for PPC management too. The channel you choose should align with your firm’s near- and long-term goals. It should fit into your budget and those dollars should go where they will get the best possible return on your investment.
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