SEO and PPC are often compared and contrasted against each other when it comes to advertising online. We answer the Internet-old question, which should your law firm focus on? In our comprehensive analysis, we’ve asked our in-house SEO and PPC teams to duke it out, comparing the two marketing strategies in their completely biased views. Either way, you should look into embedding our Booking Widget on your site - it's proven to triple conversions from both of these channels!
Intro to SEO
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is the process of optimizing your webpages to be easily found by clients looking for answers online. Since the advent of the internet, sole practitioners and larger law firms alike have viewed SEO as a cost-effective marketing strategy capable of competing with Am Law 100 marketing budgets. With Google constantly changing their algorithms to provide the best results for its searchers, this is one area of marketing that’s a relatively level playing field if you know what you’re doing. SEO does entail spending some time each week creating content, building backlinks, and perfecting meta-tags (we’ll get to all of those later), but the payoff is well worth the time spent.
Why You Should Focus On SEO
It should come as no surprise that Google is the most frequented website in the world, but did you know that an estimated 93% of online experiencesbegin with a search engine? Not only are search engines used in a majority of online experiences, but they are also a trusted source for product reviews as well. An estimated 88% of consumers say that they read online reviews before making purchase decisions within service sectors. Further, leads generated through SEO are eight times more likely to convert compared to traditional methods of advertisement such as print or direct mail ads.
Unsurprisingly, organic SEO destroys paid search results when it comes to clickability, with the former being 8.5x more likely to be clicked on than the latter. Paid search results are 1.5x more likely to convert on a sale, but that still makes the opportunity from organic SEO marketing 5.66x larger than PPC. In today’s age, consumers are marketed to so constantly that they almost entirely ignore advertisements in the world around them (see the graph below). From the TV shows that they watch, to the buses that they take to work, to the coasters at happy hour after work, people have become de-sensitized to traditional advertisement. Thus, marketers have changed their techniques to adapt to the changing market demands. One of the most effective changes made to marketing strategy these last few years is the push towards content marketing, content syndication, and consequently, SEO.
Content marketing is providing valuable content for free that your customers may be looking for. A good example would be Anthropologie’s “DIY Drink Series.” Anthropologie established who their target customers were (millennials), found a common thing that they were looking for (good summer cocktail recipes), and provided them with a free resource without being “salesy.” This establishes trust and subtly pushes the reader towards a purchase by creating a positive brand association with Anthropologie. Think about it this way: how did you find this article? Did you click on a paid advertisement? Or, were you looking for relevant information about a question that you had?
Blogs are an excellent way to engage with your customers, and they simultaneously provide an opportunity to improve your site’s search rankings. If you can establish who your target customer is, what they most commonly search for, and provide valuable content that answers their questions, Google will reward you. Without much effort, a strong blog with a focus on SEO can provide your website with a major traffic boost in only a few weeks. A good place to start is by thinking about the typical first questions that you receive from clients.
If you need some help figuring out how to write a great blog post, you can also check out our article on the Ten Necessities For A Good Legal Blog Post.
Why You Shouldn’t Focus On PPC
Now, I’m not saying that PPC is completely dead. PPC actually makes a whole lot of sense for many companies in various sectors to use. If a business is selling an extremely niche product, for instance, and uses hyper-refined search keywords, then PPC is an excellent route to go. Or, if a company has a limited-time offer or deal that they need to get the word out about quickly, PPC can provide that fast awareness that the company needs. No, PPC isn't dead as a whole, but it definitely is dead within the majority of the legal industry. Accounting for some of the most expensive PPC campaigns, legal-related keywords are among the most competitive on the internet. With keywords such as “attorney” “lawyer” and “personal injury” fetching over $100 per click at times, there are simply cheaper, more effective ways to get new clients.
Beyond the price, PPC campaigns lack the conversion rates that many are looking for. A recent article by the Wall Street Journal estimated that 36% of all website traffic to paid advertisements were not real people, and instead, hijacked computers that were programmed to create an illusion of site traffic. Further, with the recent rise in concerns over cyber security, PPC campaigns may have an inherent “creep factor” to the average american due to their use of browsing history and cookies.
How You Can Work On SEO
One of the largest misconceptions around SEO is the idea that SEO is too complicated for the average person to learn and implement within their own website. In reality, SEO is actually quite easy to understand and to master given enough dedication and the right tools.
SEO used to entail “keyword-stuffing” your meta-tags (essentially just writing the same few words over and over again) to climb the results pages, but as search engines continue to improve upon user feedback, the algorithms behind the search engine results pages become more and more complex.
MOZ, the leader in do-it-yourself SEO, has built an excellent guide to SEO that can help you get started if you’re interested in working on SEO for your own business.
Intro To PPC
Pay Per Click, or PPC for short, is paying a set price for every time a display advertisement of yours clicked on. Being one of the most well-known forms of marketing, it is surprisingly also one of the least understood. Essentially, a marketer establishes a set of criteria for the campaign, sets a bid price for keywords, and sets an overall budget. Then, the search engines do the rest. By utilizing browser cookies and browsing history, PPC ads are designed to reach customers at the point-of-sale. For instance, say someone starts searching incessantly for DUI-related keywords such as: “First time DUI,” “What to do after a DUI,” and “How to keep my license after a DUI.” The search engine’s algorithms recognize a trend and start introducing DUI attorney advertisements to the searcher.
Attorneys have typically viewed PPC marketing as a less time-consuming alternative to traditional marketing strategies. With very little effort, PPC campaigns allow you to get quality exposure and traffic almost instantaneously. Better yet, you can set a limit on the amount that you would like to pay, and you only pay if someone clicks on your ad, ensuring that you get your money’s worth out of the campaign. PPC campaigns are also some of the easiest to alter and change on the fly, allowing for you to create iterations of the add throughout the campaign.
Why You Should Focus On PPC
Arguably the best aspect of PPC is the relatively small time commitment that the strategy requires. As long as you’re following PPC’s best practices, it will only take as much as 20 minutes of your time to optimize per week. Further, you can receive benefits from this marketing technique almost instantaneously (as opposed to SEO, which can take months to see results with!). Businesses that use display ads gain a 63% increase in brand awareness to their targeted audiences. Need to get some more exposure to a time-sensitive offer? There may be no better way to get the word out quickly and effectively than with a PPC campaign. Need to get more traffic to your website ASAP? Display advertising has proven to increase traffic to your website by 300% possibly faster than any other strategy.
The iterative aspect of PPC campaigns also makes PPC extremely effective, as you can improve and adapt your ads to your customer’s changing wants and needs, or change up your ad monthly to stay culturally relevant. PPC campaigns not only allow you to set a strict budget, but also let you conduct some of the most targeted marketing that money can buy. This precise, targeted marketing allows you to build marketing campaigns that are extremely personalized to the group of people being marketed to. Inherently, this targeted marketing allows you to get in front of the perfect audience for your law firm. PPC also allows you to rise to the top of search result pages very quickly, beating out your competition’s six-month SEO efforts with a click of a button. Many people believe the myth that PPC is dead, but when you look at high commercial intent keyword searchers, or people who are looking to buy a product, an astounding 64% of people click on sponsored results as opposed to 35% who click on organic (or unpaid) links. Simply put, PPC works. On average, a company makes $2 for every $1 spent on PPC.
Why You Shouldn’t Focus On SEO
Though there are many statistics showing strong traffic being sourced through SEO marketing strategies, website traffic does not give you much information about the actual return on your marketing investment. Even if you’ve seen a doubling in website traffic, you’re going to be making no money if your conversion rate is at zero. With PPC, you are able to clearly track the number of conversions sourced through the marketing channel, and adapt if the conversion rates are lower than what you would like.
SEO really only makes sense to focus on if you’re going to spend a lot of time with it. With an estimated 75% of users never scrolling past the first page of search results, it’s imperative to be on the front page. As any SEO expert will tell you, getting to the first page on search results (especially commonly-searched-for keywords) is extremely difficult and time-consuming. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to address their searchers’ needs. Thus, even if you make it to the front page, you could be dropped from it overnight due to one small tinker in the algorithm. Don’t believe me? Ask the estimated 40% of companies who were affected by Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ earlier this year. PPC, on the other hand, is never affected by algorithmic updates, preventing you from wasting precious time throughout the year tinkering your SEO to address various updates.
Speaking of mobile accessibility, PPC phone leads are actually three times more likely to convert than organic search results. Further, 52% of peoplewho click on PPC ads still go on to call the advertiser (making the conversion rates much higher than the estimated figures floating on the Internet). With mobile overtaking fixed internet access for searches last year, its more important than ever to focus your efforts on the mobile search market.
How You Can Work On PPC
The largest misconception surrounding PPC is that you need a massive marketing budget to see much impact, which simply isn’t true. I actually believe that starting with a smaller budget is more beneficial to your PPC campaign, as you are forced to create extremely targeted campaigns. If you’re on a limited budget, check out the article on how to optimize your settings for PPC. This guide helps you get the most out of your marketing dollars.
Wordstream, the online leader in PPC, has also provided a great getting started guide that you should check out. Also read up on the five worst PPC mistakes a beginner can make before getting started as well.
So, Who Wins?
Though both of these viewpoints are valid to some extent, SEO and PPC work best while in conjunction with each other. The exposure that you receive from a PPC ad can indicate trustworthiness to consumers. Google’s research blog shows that even if you rank #1 in Organic Search Engine Results Pages (or SERPs), having a PPC ad on that page as well improves traffic by 50%. If you rank #5 or lower in Organic SERPs, PPC exposure can boost your traffic by up to 96%. Having a ‘double listing’ within the SERPs (i.e. one organic, and one paid-for display advertisement) reinforces your brand in front of searchers, as it gives your brand the opportunity to take up more “digital shelf space.
Frankly, the statistics don’t lie. When organic results show up on the same page as paid advertisements, clicks went up 92%, orders for products went up 45%, pageviews were raised 44%, and overall time spent on the website increased by 40%.
If you’re looking for a little help starting and SEO + PPC campaign, read up about the strategy in this comprehensive guide from Moz on harmonizing SEO and PPC.
You might also enjoy our article about Facebook Marketing and why it isn't so great of a marketing platform!
Updated: June 14th, 2016