SEO or Google Ads for Lawyers?

SEO vs. Google Ads. What Works Better for Law Firms?

Should lawyers spend money on Google Ads or SEO? Both SEO and Google Ads are an important part of a law firm’s advertising and marketing campaign, but there are crucial differences between SEO and Google Ads, especially for lawyers.

One works faster and is better for law firms with a smaller advertising budget.

In this article, I will go into the differences between SEO and Google Ads and my experience with both.

Want the short answer of which is better, SEO or Google Ads for lawyers? It’s Google Ads. But keep reading to find out why and why you should also invest in SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which involves a great deal of work both on your law firm’s website and what’s called offsite (involving other websites).

I’ve done SEO since 1998. SEO keeps evolving and is highly technical, requiring someone with substantial technical experience. In fact, these days, it really requires an SEO firm that has several people with different technical experience.

For instance, one person may be an expert in writing content, while another person 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.

Another cost of SEO involves getting backlinks which is much more difficult for law firms than other industries. No other law firm will want to link to your website. Legitimate SEO firms charge $150 to $450 or more per backlink to your law firm’s website, and after a year or two, you can expect 16% of backlinks to disappear. Backlinks are usually guaranteed for only one year.

This SEO discusses backlinks, effectiveness, cost, and more

But Search Engine Optimization is important. It brings in a lot of leads, and the branding it creates helps to improve results from Google Ads. That’s why I spend a lot of time on SEO.

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

What Are Google Ads

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

I advertise on the Google search engine and prefer not to advertise on Google partner sites, but that’s a subject for another article.

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 not only prevent you from wasting money but will also result in a higher ROI.

What Costs More, SEO or Google Ads?

SEO is a continuing investment that results in a law firm receiving an unlimited number of leads without any direct cost per lead, while Google Ads is an expense rather than an investment and can cost a lot of money each time someone clicks on your ad.

The bottom line is that the cost of SEO and Google Ads are comparable. You could spend the same amount of money each month on SEO as Google Ads.

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.

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.

As a general rule, a law firm can expect to spend from $2,500 to $50,000 per month for either SEO or Google Ads.

This screenshot from SEO software shows there are 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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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 your law firm’s website, as a result of SEO, from organic results (not ads) are usually researching to find answers to:

  • Questions unrelated to buying something or hiring someone, such as “What can I do if someone hit my car when it was parked”
  • Questions related to buying something later or hiring someone later, such as “Who is the best lawyer for a sprain”. This person will look at several websites and may speak with several lawyers before deciding who to hire.

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.

With SEO (and every other form of advertising), the size of your advertising budget makes a big difference.

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What Are Other Differences Between SEO and Google Ads?

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

How Quickly Can You Get Results?

SEO is an investment that takes time. It can take several months for a lawyer to see results after engaging an SEO professional. SEO requires continuous monitoring and tweaking.

Results from Google Ads can be seen the first day you start running ads. Google Ads requires continuous advertising because the instant you stop, 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 because of years of writing content and SEO. We get several leads every day from our website, and occasionally, we get a good case that makes my SEO efforts worthwhile.

But the vast majority of our website leads come from all over the U.S.

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

Quality of Leads

Most of the website leads from our state are from people who have a question that does not involve an injury from an accident.

For instance, we get a lot of leads from people whose car was damaged but didn’t have an injury. In fact, we got two such leads this morning.

The leads we get from Google Ads almost always come from someone who was injured in an accident and usually a recent accident.

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

An interesting note is that we get more website leads from our chat service, while more leads from Google Ads will call. Those leads think they’re calling 1-800-HURT-911®, but 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.

After your law firm becomes successful with Google Ads, you should start investing in SEO. The most successful law firms have a budget for varied advertising campaigns, including Google Ads, SEO, TV, Radio, and Billboards.

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