Are You Using Paid Ads? If So, You Need Google Local Service Ads
What if your law firm’s information could show up at the top of every Google search results page, even above the Google My Business three-pack and the pay-per-click ads? You’d probably receive a substantial increase in traffic to your website, calls to your business, and number of new leads.
This has become possible in many markets with Google’s Local Service Ads (LSAs). For over a year, Google has been testing LSAs in various places across the country. This is a significant development for law firms that rely on local search, but there is plenty that you need to know about LSAs before you decide to put them in your marketing budget.
What Are Local Service Ads?
Being able to find businesses “near me” has revolutionized search over the past several years. Consumers love that they no longer need to enter their address, zip code, or city when searching for local businesses. Google just “knows.”
Going beyond giving consumers a map with business listings, the search engine now offers what is called Local Service Ads. This is the most prestigious real estate on a search engine page. Why? The LSAs appear at the very top of the search results. And instead of clicking through to a business’ website, the consumer can instantly call or message the business instead.
Local Service Ads are only available for certain industries. Some examples are plumbers, locksmiths, electricians, and painters. They are now available for some professional services such as financial planners, realtors, and yes – law firms.
Lawyers in just about any practice area can now purchase LSAs that target specific zip codes and communities. LSAs were once only available in a small number of U.S. markets, but these continue to expand as the program enjoys more success and helps consumers get the assistance they need.
How You Pay for Local Service Ads
If you’re accustomed to pay-per-click ads, these are different. LSAs are pay-per-lead ads, and you only pay for what Google calls “valid leads” for your business. Google will charge you for the ad if certain actions take place after it gets shown to a consumer:
- You get a text message from a potential client.
- You receive a call and speak with a potential client.
- You receive a voicemail from a potential client.
- You miss a call from a potential client but contact them back later via phone, text, or email.
If you are charged for an ad that you don’t believe was a valid lead, you can dispute the charge with Google.
What is the Benefit of Using LSAs for Law Firms?
The fact that Google keeps expanding access to LSAs is telling. Not only are these ads providing a better user experience but they are also giving businesses the results they want. If you’re on the fence, here are some of the benefits that your law firm can experience by adding LSAs to its digital marketing strategy:
- Better Conversions
If you’re pouring all of your marketing budget into PPC ads, you might be dismayed at your results. PPC ads are costly, and they sometimes don’t convert well. But you’ll get much more bang for your buck with LSAs, which promise to connect the right service provider with a searcher.
- Build More Trust
Searchers will notice the badge that appears next to your ad that says you’ve been “screened.” This not only catches the eye on a busy SERP page, but it also looks like an endorsement from the world’s biggest search engine. If Google has checked you out, it’s probably worth a closer look.
- Expand Your Reach
LSAs give you another way to reach consumers that are looking for your legal services. They aren’t meant to replace organic listings or even your traditional search ads. Consumers search in different ways and have varying preferences, so having your business positioned in multiple places is a benefit. LSAs also help you reach people who are using voice search, which is a growing type of search query for local businesses.
- Highlight Positive Feedback
Every LSA includes a link to the law firm’s ratings and reviews. This is one more way that you can highlight the positive feedback you’ve received from prior clients and use it to continue building your business.
What Will Your Firm’s Local Service Ad Look Like?
As a law firm, the number one question on your mind might be, “How do LSAs actually show up in search results?”
LSA ads appear at the very top of the search results. The ad will have your law firm’s name with its Google star rating and a link to its reviews underneath. Next, there will be a green checkmark, and the words “Google Screened,” followed by your years in practice, phone number, and office hours. In some cases, Google is even including your headshot with an LSA, which can increase the potential for clicks.
When you set up your ad, you don’t have to deal with those bothersome keywords. Instead, you choose from a list of categories within the legal industry. These might include things like:
- Criminal Defense
- Estate Planning
- Family Law
- Personal Injury Law
When a person’s local search matches the criteria you’ve selected for the services you offer, your ad will be eligible to show. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean your ad will appear or be first. Google still ranks ads using its own set of criteria.
How Google Ranks Law Firms in Local Service Ads
Similar to Google Ads and even organic search, your LSAs must meet certain criteria to rank in a decent position.
Your ranking is determined by several factors:
- Your firm’s proximity to the searcher
- The services you offer matching the searcher’s need
- How many positive reviews you have
- Being a “verified” business by Google
- Your business hours
Google even tracks how responsive you are to customer inquiries. If searchers click on your ad to send you a message or call your law firm, and they don’t get a response, your LSA rankings are likely to suffer.
Even if you decline a lead or fail to generate positive reviews, Google will notice, and there’s a chance that your rankings will drop. But the opposite is also true. When your business is responsive to client inquiries and generates positive feedback, this can improve your rankings.
How to Get Started with Local Service Ads
If you want to use Google’s LSAs, you’ll need to jump through a few hoops to make them work the best for you. Here’s what you need to do:
- Make Sure You Qualify
Provided you’re a law firm with a local office in a participating market, you should qualify for LSAs. The program covers most practice areas. Google does require that you have a Google My Business profile with at least one review and a minimum average rating of three stars.
- Get Google Screened
Before your ads can go live, Google needs to vet your business. This is where you can set yourself apart from other firms that won’t take the time to go through this process. It involves:
- Confirming you’re licensed to practice law
- Providing proof of legal malpractice insurance
- Undergoing a basic background check
- Set Up an Inbound Call Structure
Since Google uses your response time to determine your LSA rankings and decided whether to charge you for a lead, this last step is vital. Make sure you have a process in place to take calls, respond to messages, and qualify leads.
Should LSAs Replace Your Legal PPC Advertising or Other Strategies?
Many law firms would rather pay per lead than per click. You can stop stressing over Google’s confusing bidding system, and the flat fee per lead seems like a more effective model. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should completely abandon one program for the other.
Local service ads are a powerful digital marketing tool for law firms, but also a new one. In general, you’ll want LSAs to complement rather than replace other marketing channels like PPC, social media, SEO for organic search, and quality content.
Today’s legal consumers are savvy and likely to use a variety of tactics to find the best law firm to meet their needs. So, even if you rank well with LSA’s, a prospect is still likely to read your reviews, check out your social media profiles, and visit your website before making a choice.
If a prospect sees that your firm shows up in several places instead of just one, this will boost brand awareness and increase the chances that you’ll get the call instead of one of your competitors.
Sundown Marketing Group Helps Law Firms With Results-Driven Solutions
Local Service Ads are still somewhat new, and now is your firm’s best opportunity to take advantage of this digital marketing strategy. As more law firms sign up for LSAs, the expectation is that competition and prices will begin to rise.
Staying on top of changes to Google’s algorithm and ad network rules can be a full-time job. As a busy law firm, you shouldn’t have to shoulder this burden while you work to solve your client’s legal issues.
Sundown Marketing Group specializes in creating strategic digital marketing solutions that produce results for law firms. These include website design, SEO strategy, content and video engagement, and paid ad strategies. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.