Should Lawyers Use Google Ads or SEO?

What Works Better for Law Firms, Website SEO, or Google Ads?

Should lawyers spend money on Google Ads or SEO for their law firm’s website?

Is it easier to compete against the big billboard lawyers in your area with Google Ads or SEO for your law firm’s website?

SEO and Google Ads are both important parts of a law firm’s advertising and marketing campaign, but there are crucial differences between SEO and Google Ads, especially for lawyers.

In this article, I will discuss the differences between website SEO and Google Ads and share my experience with both. I started writing content and doing SEO for my law firm’s website in the days of Excite and Yahoo before Google was born.

Short Answer

Want the short answer to whether website SEO or Google Ads is better for lawyers?

Google Ads works faster, and it is much easier for law firms just starting to advertise and those with smaller advertising budgets to compete against big law firm budgets. But it’s also better for larger law firms.

Google Ads produces results almost immediately, with much better-quality leads and a highly predictable ROI, while SEO can take months and is unpredictable.

Large law firms should do both Google Ads and SEO.

But keep reading to discover why Google Ads are better and why you should invest in website SEO.

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What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization is needed to get your law firm’s website to appear in the top Google “organic” search results. Organic search results are regular unpaid results that Google shows under the Google Ads and Local Listings.

SEO involves a great deal of work both on your law firm’s website and what’s called offsite (involving other websites). You may think personal injury is a lot of work, but doing SEO on one website is like working on 20 personal injury cases.

Just like personal injury cases have case expenses, SEO also has costs.

Your SEO company will have to pay substantial fees to get backlinks to your website, which will be billed to you. Some backlinks have a one-time cost, and some have an annual or monthly cost. Backlinks are links to your website from other websites. See below to find out how much backlinks cost.

SEO is constantly evolving and highly technical, requiring substantial technical experience and a lot of time. In fact, these days, an SEO firm requires several people with technical experience in different areas of SEO.

For instance, one person may be an expert in writing content, while another will optimize the content for keywords, and someone else may be an expert in optimizing website speed, and there are other areas of specialization. That’s why it’s costly. See below for how much SEO costs for your law firm’s website.

Getting backlinks is one aspect of offsite SEO, which is much more difficult for law firms than other industries.

(video: 12 minutes 43 seconds)

Search Engine Optimization is Important for Two Reasons

  1. Obvious: SEO will result in signing personal injury cases.
  2. Not obvious: SEO will improve Google Ads results.

If your website is properly designed for branding, visitors will be likelier to click on your Google Ads because they were previously exposed to your brand.

That’s why I spend a lot of time on SEO. We brand 1-800-HURT-911® everywhere on our law firm website.

Neil Patel discusses how long it takes for a website to rank in Google and some SEO basics

(video: 7 minutes 51 seconds)

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What Are Google Ads

Google Ads appear at the very top of the page in the Google search results.

Google Ads are pay-per-click ads on either the Google search engine and/or Google partner sites. Partner sites are websites that display Google Ads but are not owned by Google. You pay every time someone clicks on your Google Ads.

I advertise on the Google search engine but not on Google partner sites, but that’s a subject for another article. I do not recommend advertising on Google partner sites unless you have a large budget.

Google Ads are designed by Google to be easily managed by anyone without technical skills. However, someone highly knowledgeable about managing a Google Ads account for lawyers will prevent you from wasting money and result in a higher ROI.

What Costs More, SEO or Google Ads?

SEO requires a continuing investment to keep a law firm’s website in the top Google search results. SEO results in a law firm receiving an unknown number of leads without any direct cost per lead.

Google Ads is an expense, not an investment. It can cost you a lot of money each time someone clicks on your Google ad.

SEO Cost says, “You can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 per month to a lawyer SEO agency.” However, I know large law firms that spend $25,000 to $50,000 monthly and more.

Besides paying an SEO agency, you’ll need to pay for backlinks (links from other websites to your website). SEO without getting backlinks won’t be very effective.

Legitimate SEO firms charge a fee that depends on the website’s domain authority from which the backlink comes. The fee is often $150 to $650 or more per backlink to your law firm’s website. You can easily pay $1,500 to $3,500 per month just for backlinks. See’s pricing, which is approx. $1,000 per backlink, but you can pay less, depending on the quality of the backlink. See for information about backlinks and the cost.

Obtaining backlinks is a continuing affair because of two reasons:

  1. You need to continually add more backlinks to grow the importance of your website. Even if you could afford to pay for all the backlinks upfront, Google would ban your website.
  2. Backlinks are not forever. They eventually disappear.

Dead backlinks are usually guaranteed to be replaced for only one year.’s price is $1,000 per backlink; replacement is guaranteed for only one year.

16% of the backlinks will disappear after a year or two. With 16% of the backlinks disappearing after a year, a monthly budget for backlinks of $3,500 is really $4,166.

Ahrefs study on link rot found, “At Least 66.5% of Links to Sites in the Last 9 Years Are Dead”

Google Ads Cost

With Google Ads, depending on your location, you should budget anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 per month to start. You will likely use a Google Ads Manager, which costs 10-15% of your monthly ad budget.

How Much Should a Law Firm Spend on SEO or Google Ads?

The amount your law firm should spend on SEO or Google Ads depends upon many factors, such as your law firm’s field of practice, geographic market, competition, the amount of money you have available in your budget, and other factors.

I recommend that law firms spend from 8% to 17% of gross revenue on all advertising. See how much lawyers should spend on advertising.

Personal injury is one of the most expensive fields for advertising. A personal injury lawyer in a large city will need a larger advertising budget.

Generally, a law firm can expect to spend $2,500 to $50,000 per month for either SEO or Google Ads. Some of the largest personal injury law firms spend as much as $100,000 monthly on each.

On this Reddit thread, a PPC professional wrote:

“As far as the budget goes, yes I’ve managed clients in the $100K range who were dominant players in a major metro. At a $100 avg CPC that’s only 1000 clicks, so it can add up in a hurry.”

This screenshot from SEO software Ubersuggest shows 480 searches per month on Google for “philadelphia accident lawyer” with a cost per click on Google Ads of $136.

cost per click of google ads for accident lawyer

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Is Competition Tougher With SEO or Google Ads?

Google Ads has a secret that puts every law firm on a level playing field.

With SEO, the amount of money a law firm is willing to spend makes a big difference. Your law firm will compete with law firms that spend a lot of money to get on the first page of Google results.

With Google Ads, there is a secret that eliminates the competition from law firms with huge advertising budgets. Another law firm may bid higher than you for a keyword, but Google rewards advertisers whose ads get more clicks and a higher conversion rate.

If your law firm’s Google Ad performs better than a law firm with a huge budget, your law firm will be rewarded with a lower cost per click and higher placement in the ad pack.

What Is the Biggest Difference Between SEO and Google Ads?

SEO will get traffic to your website from people researching answers to questions.

People coming to our law firm’s website, as a result of SEO, from organic results (not Google Ads) are usually researching to find answers to:

  • Questions unrelated to hiring a lawyer, such as: “What can I do if someone hit my car when it was parked?”
  • Questions related to hiring a lawyer later, such as: “Who is the best lawyer for a sprain.” This person will look at several websites and speak with several lawyers before deciding who to hire.
  • Questions related to hiring a lawyer, but the person is not in your state. We get many leads from states nationwide, but we’re in New York.

Today, we got a lead from someone who co-signed a car loan, and the bank is coming after her. I called her back and gave her free advice because I hope she’ll remember us when she knows someone in an accident.

Google Ads gets people who click on an ad looking to buy something now or hire someone now.

For instance, when someone searches for “injury lawyers near me,” Google will morph into the Yellow Pages and show more ads than when someone is researching for information. The searcher will likely click on one of the Google Ads.

With Google Ads, you will compete on an even playing field against other lawyers who have much more money than you. In fact, with Google Ads, a lawyer with a $5,000 per month advertising budget can outperform a lawyer with a $50,000 per month advertising budget.

The size of your advertising budget makes a big difference with SEO (and every other form of advertising except Google Ads).

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What Are Other Differences Between Leads From a Law Firm Website and Google Ads?

There are other differences between website leads due to SEO and advertising leads from Google Ads. Some of the differences are peculiar to lawyers, which can make Google Ads more interesting for most lawyers.

What You Need to Start


Before paying an SEO firm, you’ll need a professionally designed website with several ways for people to contact you. Your website will also need a lot of content written by someone with several hats for SEO, marketing, branding, and, most importantly, to provide original, useful information.

Original content is expensive to create unless you write it yourself. If you do, you’ll probably have to pay an SEO firm to rewrite it.

Google Ads

Before starting a Google Ads campaign, you’ll need a few well-designed landing pages and a reliable method of answering calls, chats, and emails from leads. Your Google Ads campaign manager can create and set up landing pages for you.

You do not need a website, but every personal injury lawyer should have at least a professional-looking website as a law firm brochure in case a lead or current client decides to look at your website.

How Quickly Can You Get Results?

SEO is an investment that takes time. It can take 6-12 months for a lawyer to see results after engaging an SEO professional. SEO requires continuous monitoring and tweaking, and results should continue to improve over the years of work.

If you stop investing in SEO, your website should continue to attract visitors for a while.

You should get personal injury leads from Google Ads within the first few days when you start running ads. It may take as much as two weeks before Google starts showing your ads when you start a new campaign.

Google Ads requires continuous advertising because the instant you stop advertising, you will stop getting leads.

Geographic Targeting

Lawyers usually want leads from a specific geographic area, but not necessarily. For instance, a personal injury lawyer may want clients from only one city or state, while a mass tort lawyer will be interested in leads from any state in the U.S.

Our personal injury website gets a lot of traffic and leads daily because of years of writing content and SEO. Occasionally, we get a good case that makes my SEO efforts worthwhile. But most of our website leads come from all over the U.S.

Since Google Ads can target specific local geographic areas, we only pay for leads from the areas we want.

Quality of Leads

People find our website when searching for an answer to their questions. People who click on Google Ads are looking to hire a lawyer.

Website Leads

Most of the website leads from our state are from people who have a question but don’t have a viable case.

Many people don’t have an injury. For instance, we get a lot of leads from people whose car was damaged but didn’t have an injury. They want to sue a driver for property damage or know how to file a police report for the damage. In fact, we got two such leads on the day I wrote this article.

Other leads are often from people who had an accident years ago, someone who isn’t happy with a settlement offer because it’s a minimum insurance policy or someone who wants to reopen a case that’s already settled.

This is why you should be wary of companies trying to sell you leads at a guaranteed cost per lead. The quality of the lead makes a big difference.

Occasionally, someone looking for an answer on our website has a good case. We settled a case for the entire $250,000 insurance policy. A woman was suspicious of her lawyer advising her to settle the case and not worry about a $500,000 ERISA lien. She found an article I wrote about liens and switched to us before she signed the release. We settled the ERISA lien and her case.

When we get a good case, it makes all the SEO worthwhile.

Google Ads Leads

The leads we get from Google Ads almost always come from someone recently injured in an accident. That’s because people use Google Ads as the Yellow Pages.

There is a huge difference between the leads we get from our Google Ads campaign and our website. I haven’t bothered to figure out the exact difference because it’s not close. The quality of leads from Google Ads substantially outperforms the quality of leads from our website.

A good Google Ads Manager will be able to reduce the number of irrelevant leads from Google Ads.

Interestingly, our website leads usually use our chat service, probably because they’re just looking for information or it’s after business hours and don’t want to call.

When people click on Google Ads, they are sent to our landing page. Those people mostly seem to call or use chat after hours. They think they’re calling 1-800-HURT-911®, but when they click on 1-800-HURT-911, they’re really calling a tracking number that goes to our call center.

SEO shouldn’t be ignored. I keep working on SEO for our personal injury website and will never stop since it keeps sending us leads.

If your law firm is just starting to advertise, I recommend starting with Google Ads. When you have extra money in your advertising budget, invest in SEO and traditional media.

The most successful law firms have a budget for varied advertising campaigns, including Google Ads, SEO, TV, Radio, and Billboards.

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Philip L. Franckel, Esq., is the author of this article.

Phil Franckel is the owner of 1-800-HURT-911® and over 1,100 domain names. He is a personal injury lawyer and a former Member of the Board of Directors of the NYS Trial Lawyers Association. He is an expert in branding, advertising, marketing, and SEO. He has been doing SEO since 1994.

Phil Franckel has written and produced TV commercials for lawyers and other industries and has been a consultant to businesses, including several using vanity phone numbers. Phil writes a blog about lawyer advertising at

Phil Franckel began a mail order business in 8th grade, bought and sold coin-operated amusement games in 10th grade, and a used car business in 12th grade through college. After law school, he worked in the wholesale diamond business and part-time for a TV production company. Later, while a lawyer at a large personal injury law firm, he worked part-time for ABC Wide World of Sports and ABC Monday Night Baseball.

Phil Franckel then started a personal injury law practice and is a former member of the Board of Directors of the NYS Trial Lawyers Association.

In his spare time, Phil Franckel became an Aux. Police Cadet in 12th grade and is the Commanding Officer of the Communications Bureau, NCPD Aux. Police Section.

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Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is a member of the Personal Injury Dream Team™; He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client's Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and is a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.