An increasing number of attorneys are shifting advertising dollars from the Yellow Pages print directories to the Internet in an effort to bring the growing number of clients seeking legal services online into the advertiser’s law practice. There are lots of places on the Internet for a law firm to spend its limited advertising dollars making it hard to determine in advance what is going to result in the firm’s best return on investment (ROI).
There are countless online attorney directories. Some directories are practice area specific, others are geographically limited and others are nationwide, covering all practice areas.
The advantages of attorney directories are that several of them are well funded and well marketed, making it easy for consumers to find them. Some of the older and more established directories rank well in the “natural” listings of the search engines as well, which further increases their visibility.
The main disadvantage of the attorney directory is that you seldom have very much control over the placement of your listing. For example, you may be listed under “Family Law” in a directory, but your ad disappears within a long list of other local family law attorneys. Premium listings are sometimes available, but your monthly fee to the directory then increases significantly.
Attorney “Matching” Services
Attorney matching services operate somewhat like lawyer referral services. You pay an annual fee to the service for a specific geographic region for your practice area. When someone goes to the matching service’s Web site and requests a referral, the service sends an email to the subscribing attorneys for that geographic area, who then compete with each other for the client’s case.
The advantage of the matching service is that it is a fast and easy way to get online. You don’t even need a Web site to get started.
The disadvantages are that, depending on your practice areas and geographic location, it can be very expensive to participate in one of these services. In addition, the online law practice forums contain a lot of mixed commentary about the value of these services and whether, ultimately, very many attorneys enjoy a positive ROI from the matching services.
Search Engine Advertising
Search engine advertising refers to the “Sponsored Listings” you see at the top and in the right hand margins of the search engine results pages in Google, Yahoo! and MSN. The way it works is you select search phrases, write ads about yourself, connect them to your Web site, and bid how much you are willing to pay for each click on one of your ads. For example, if one of your search phrases is “San Francisco Bankruptcy Lawyer,” you’d write an ad to display when someone types that in and tell the search engine how much you’d be willing to pay for a click, say $2.00.
The advantages of search engine advertising is that you have complete control over your search phrases, ad copy, placement on the search engine results pages, and budget. People entering phrases such as “Car Accident Lawyer” into a search engine are most likely actively searching for legal services and many attorneys find search engine advertising to be a very economical way to get new clients into their law practices.
The disadvantages are that the learning curve for a well-managed campaign is fairly steep and daily monitoring of your account can be time consuming. A lot of money can be wasted in an under-managed campaign, so if you’re serious about search engine advertising, you may want to consider outsourcing it to one of several companies that provide this type of service.