Google Ads for Lawyers: 18 Tips to Generate More Qualified Leads

google ads for lawyersGoogle Ads is a powerful way to convert website users into prospective clients for your law firm.

Most firms know the importance of using Google Ads to attract customers.

They know that ads increasingly dominate the search results page. They understand how paid traffic can supplement SEO organic traffic. And they hear about the type of results that other firms have achieved.

So, why do they never seem to achieve these results for their own firm?

In this article, we attempt to answer that question by touching on common mistakes and the most critical optimization opportunities for a law firm’s Google Ads campaign.



What are Google PPC Ads for lawyers?

PPC means pay per click, a form of digital advertising where you pay a fee every time someone clicks on your ad.

Google PPC ads for lawyers involve using Google Ads (which uses the PPC model) to advertise your law firm.

Rather than attract clients organically, you can “buy” traffic through PPC.

Perhaps you want to appear on Google for a challenging keyword, like lawyer, but the keyword difficulty is high. You could bid on the keyword, and if you pay enough, your ad will appear on the front page regardless of where you rank organically.

Here’s an example:

google ad lawyer

Whenever someone clicks the ad, you pay a small fee. When your ads are optimized, these fees are dwarfed by the ROI. Basically, you’re supposed to earn more per click than what you pay per click.

But it’s not as easy as simply setting it up.

To get a high ROI, you’ll need to do a lot of experimentation and learning along the way.

Google provides a wealth of free education, helping you put together the best ads. So, if you want to DIY it, we recommend you complete a couple of their courses beforehand.

Otherwise, you could always hire a professional who is sure to get you the results you deserve.


18 tips to master Google Ads for law firms

Here are 18 tips to get you started with Google Ads.


1. Focus on long-tail keywords, not just head terms

Forget “lawyer” and “attorney.” These single-word ‘head’ terms are astronomically priced, and only the biggest firms can afford to compete in that arena.

Being too general on Google Ads is a costly business. But there are plenty of other opportunities to capitalize on with keywords.

The focus should be on long-tail keywords and body keywords, which use more than just a single word.

google ads keyword chart

You may recall the three basic categories of keywords from our Definitive Guide to SEO for Lawyers.

  • Head Keywords: Single-word general terms with high competition, like “lawyers”
  • Body Keywords: 2–3 word phrases attracting a high search volume but are more specific than head keywords — like “family law firms”
  • Long-Tail Keywords: 4+ very specific word phrases, such as “divorce finance lawyers in Calgary”

By targeting long-tail keywords, you ensure that you’re as specific as possible. Aiming for long-tail keywords makes it more likely that you’ll attract potential clients interested in your particular services.

Long-tail terms you’re competing for are more attainable than the main head keywords that everyone shoots for.

So, think specific. Think niche. Think buyer intent. Think of the practice areas that generate the most revenue for you.

See the difference? It’s subtle but profound.


2. Get aggressive with negative keywords

Negative keywords are terms that you DON’T want your ad to show up for.

We use about 7–10 negative keyword lists for various purposes with our clients.

We exclude things like:

  • Provinces/States: Provinces/States outside of your target region
  • Cities: Cities outside of your target region
  • Careers: Terms related to jobs, job listings, internship, careers
  • Cheap/Free: Terms modified with cheap, free, and inexpensive. Usually, these terms result in low-quality sales leads.
  • Education: Terms associated with education such as college, university, and scholarships
  • Resources: Terms related to guides, courses, how-tos, etc.
  • Undesirable: Terms unlikely to result in a qualified sales lead such as legal aid, games, apps

You don’t want to waste money on undesirable search terms because you want qualified leads that will turn into paying customers.

Negative keywords can apply to whole campaigns or ad groups.

google ads negative keywords

We recommend being aggressive with keyword exclusions. Not only will this help boost your conversion rate by reducing unnecessary clicks, but it’ll result in more qualified customers visiting your website or landing page.

Tip: If you click on the Keywords column of Google Ads and select Search Terms, you’ll see the actual search queries used when your ad appeared. This will help you identify keywords that are used but aren’t relevant.


3. Use dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) in your ad copy

Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is an advanced Google Ads feature. As the name suggests, it dynamically inserts your keywords into your ad text to match a customer’s search terms, customizing your ad to match the search query.

It’s best demonstrated with an example.

Say your law firm specializes in criminal defense, and you have an ad group that promotes the keyphrase impaired driving in Calgary. The results may appear as in this screenshot.

dynamic keyword insertion google ads

Where you have multiple keywords in an ad group, DKI allows you to have one generic ad serving all these keywords.

One ad can have many variations, appearing differently depending on the user’s search term.

While it can be very effective in optimizing your campaigns and is relatively simple to implement, it’s an advanced feature that should be used sparingly. It does require some specialized knowledge of Google Ads to implement correctly.

Tip: Remember: you ARE allowed to bid for competing law firm names in keywords, but you are NOT allowed to display them in your ad copy.


4. Target zip codes and postal codes — not just cities

Being specific and targeted is very important for all aspects of Google Ads — especially for locations.

Another essential tip with Google Ads keyword bidding is to target zip codes and postal codes — not only entire cities.

google ads location targeting

It’s often the case that some areas of your city will be more target-worthy than others. This can include communities that are more affluent or more densely populated.

So, make a point to break down these areas by zip and postal code rather than targeting these areas at the city level.


5. Adopt an effective keyword bidding strategy

The cost-effectiveness of running Google Ads depends partly on your success at keyword bidding. Knowing what to target and how much to bid can increase the cost-effectiveness significantly, so it pays to learn a little about this.

With keyword bidding, you have four options:

  • Target CPA: Google adjusts keyword bids through its algorithm to satisfy your stated cost per lead/acquisition
  • Target a position: Your bid is altered to gain you a spot in the top section of search results or on the first page of search results.
  • Enhanced CPC: Google algorithmically determines how to get your keywords the clicks most likely to convert
  • Maximized clicks: You bid to maximize your clicks

Your bidding is closely tied to your budget. While it may seem like a sound strategy to bid for the first position in Google’s ad section, keep in mind that bidding for the first position can eat away at the daily budget too quickly.

That means that you end up paying more than your competitors for the same quality clicks.

Remember that people can be rather click-happy with the top ad position. Sometimes it works better to be in positions 2–4 with ads, as searchers may be more selective, and it shows that they’re not simply clicking on the first ad they see.

The 2–4 positions are also much less expensive on average.


6. Bid on your own branded terms

Just because you already rank in the SERPS for your own branded terms doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t advertise for these terms as well.

If you don’t bid on your teams, one of your competitors might use your firm’s name for one of their ad groups and siphon off your customers. This is a technique we call “brand-jacking.”

How would that make you feel? Even if you rank number one in Google’s organic search results, one of your competitors is above you in the paid advertising section for your own brand name!

This is what you should be doing:

google ads branded keyword targeting

When you bid for your own branded terms, you’re likely to pay far less than your competitors as a result of your increased quality score. This makes it an affordable way to defend your brand in Google’s search results.


7. Use device bid adjustments

Do you get more customers contacting you through mobile rather than desktop? Are your campaigns succeeding or failing on all devices similarly — or are there significant variations in performance?

This has become more of an issue in recent years where, increasingly, people find products and services through smartphones and tablets.

The good news is, you can increase the exposure of higher-performing devices by using device bid adjustments.

Device bid adjustments can be used in campaigns or ad groups. In the Campaigns interface, you can select Devices from the Segment tab. Once you have the data to identify the best-performing devices, you need to apply device bid adjustments by setting percentages for particular devices. These can range from -90% to +900%

google ads bid adjustment

If you have a campaign that performs well on mobile devices with a max CPC bid of $5, you may want to increase the percentage of customers who see this ad on mobile. You increase the bid by 10% for searches on mobile devices, so the final bid amount is $5.50.

Bid adjustments are also effective for limiting exposure to a given device. If you DON’T want your ads to display on Mobile, setting the bid adjustment to -90% will likely reduce the campaign’s exposure to a trickle.


8. Separate your ‘ad groups’ by theme

I still see law firms group all their keywords and ads together in one ad group so that everyone sees the same ad regardless of the term they search.

Google Ads allows you to set up different ad groups for various keyword themes. It’s essential to use this feature to segment your keywords based on your audience’s intent and to make campaign management easier and more effective.

Basic Google Ads optimization dictates that the ad should match the keyword being searched — as that makes it more likely that the right clients will click through.

If you separate your ad groups by theme, you will achieve this.

Our client, Oykhman Criminal Defence, a criminal defence law firm in Edmonton, breaks up their practice area keywords into different ad groups to target their ads based on what people are searching for.

So, if a potential customer is searching for “Toronto Criminal Lawyers,” they see this ad:

toronto criminal lawyer google ad

If they are searching for a “Drug Defence Lawyer” they see this ad:

drug defence lawyer google ad

If they are searching for a “Domestic Violence Lawyers” they see this ad:

domestic violence lawyer google ads

Separating ad groups by keyword themes may sound like more work in account creation and account management, but the greater targeting accuracy will more than make up for the extra time involved.


9. Use a variety of keyword match types

Not all keywords are created equal, and generally speaking, keywords are grouped by their match type.

Keyword match types help control which searches on Google can trigger your ad. So, you could use broad match to show your ad to a wide audience, or you could use exact match to hone in on specific groups of customers.

google ads keyword match types
(Image Source)

There are several match types for keywords. It’s essential to understand the differences, as they can make a big difference to your results.

Match types for keywords can be:

  • Broad match: Lets a keyword trigger your ad to show whenever someone searches for that phrase, similar phrases, singular or plural forms, misspellings, synonyms (such as lawyer and lawyers), related searches, and other relevant variations.
    • Example keyword: family lawyer
    • Example search: divorce lawyers
  • Phrase match: Lets a keyword trigger your ad to show when someone searches for terms like your keyword phrase, including close variations of the keywords in any order. Close variations include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms (such as lawyer and lawyers), abbreviations, and accents.
    • Example keyword: “family lawyer”
    • Example search: family lawyer in Miami
  • Exact match: Ads may show on searches that match the exact term or are close variations of that exact term. Close variations here may also include a reordering of words if it doesn’t change the meaning and the addition or removal of function words (prepositions, conjunctions, articles, and other words that don’t impact the intent of a search).
    • Example keyword: [family lawyer]
    • Example search: family lawyer
  • Negative match: Ads may show on searches without the term. So, if you’re a family law firm, but you don’t provide mediation services, you could add “–mediation” as a negative keyword so that your ads don’t show for people searching for mediation terms.
    • Example keyword: -mediation
    • Example search: mediation lawyer (ad will not display for this term)

If you’d like to learn more about keyword match type, check out this article.

As you might expect, exact matches for keywords have the highest precision and relevance — usually leading to a higher conversion rate (if the landing page copy is good) — but it will also likely have the fewest searches.

A broad match will mean more impressions and clicks, but there may be a higher proportion of traffic for who your services may not be 100% relevant.

The best strategy is to separate your ad groups by match type. For some keywords, you’ll want an exact match. For others (for instance, when the number of searchers is low), a broad match or phrase match will be the best plan.


10. Use ‘single keyword ad groups’ for highest-performing keywords

Single Keyword Ad Groups (or SKAGs for short) are exactly what they sound like. They’re ad groups with only one keyword.

As a general practice, your best-performing keywords should be in a ‘storage container’ all of their own, as they are prized assets with a high-quality score, high search numbers, and high conversions.

Isolating individual keywords has a few benefits, including:

  • A greater level of control over ad copy triggered by a keyword
  • A greater level of control over keyword bidding
  • And a greater level of control over a keyword’s Quality Score

In short, when you discover keywords performing at an extraordinary rate, it’s best practice to isolate the terms in an ad group on its own and optimize it accordingly.

Please note that this is still an effective strategy, but it’s now more challenging to form clean-cut ad groups with updates to the match types.


11. Integrate keywords into your ads

There are some basic optimization tips required for your ad copy. Just as you would practice basic on-page SEO by including keywords on your website, the same applies to Google Ads copy.

Your keywords should attempt to appear in:

  • The ad headline
  • The display URL
  • The ad extensions
  • The body copy

In some cases, it isn’t possible to include your target keywords in each area, but you should strive to include your terms in at least three of the four.

Remember that Google uses Quality Score to assess the relevance of your keywords to your campaign — improving this score can make campaigns more cost-effective.

Our client Defend Your DUI uses the keyword Impaired Driving. You can see how prominent this is in their ad:

google ads keyword in ad

And on their landing page:

google ads keyword landing page

This will reduce bounce rates and help improve the user experience, increase conversion, and improve a campaign’s Quality Score.


12. Test compelling messaging in your ad copy

One of the fundamental rules of Google Ads is to test everything —  nowhere is this more important than in your ad copy.

This is the copy that will either convince a potential customer to click or convince them to look at a competing law firm. So, it’s all on the line with your ad copy.

Your messaging is key here. It needs to speak to the needs and concerns of your target audience.

But don’t fall into the trap of believing that you KNOW what people want to read in your ads and going with your gut feeling rather than cold, hard numbers. You can write the best ad in the world (in your own mind), but it’s not performing if it doesn’t boost click-through rates and lead to conversions.

Fortunately, Google provides all the tools you need to test and measure different versions of your copy to see what works best: unlike most marketing, you can access the data on what’s working and what’s not.

Items to test:

  • Headline variations
  • Body text
  • Calls to action.
  • Display URLs

Here’s an example of five ad variations for one ad set:

google adwords ad copy

With ad copy, you can set up A/B tests as you would with a landing page on Unbounce. Google will randomly display either the A or B version of the search ad. Then you can tap into the in-built reports on impressions, clicks, and conversions to see what’s working best.

You may be surprised what works best when you start testing — and you may be even more surprised what a difference it makes to your conversion rates and cost per acquisition.

NOTE: A/B testing is not just for lawyers starting out in Google Ads. It needs to be an ongoing process — the most successful Google Ads campaigns utilize A/B testing on an ongoing basis.


13. Leverage ad extensions

The biggest crime in Google Ads is to pay for ads that just don’t stand out and are, essentially, invisible.

Ad extensions are useful free tools provided by Google for enhancing your ads, providing more visibility (and usability) for potential customers.

Using ad extensions can seriously increase click-through rates because of the increased visibility of your ads. They help you take up more real estate on the results pages and provide important information such as phone numbers, reviews, and location information.

Ad extension options include:

Sitelinks – to add more links to your ads

google ads sitelink extensions

Callouts – to promote particular features or offers

google ads callout

Call extensions (also known as click-to-call extensions) – to add phone numbers for mobile calls

google ads call extensions

Location extensions – to show your office address in ads

google ads location extensions

Other manual extensions, such as price extensions, are of less relevance to lawyers. The above four are the main ones you should focus on.

Note that not every ad extension you create will be shown in every ad. Google decides what to show based on the customer’s search query and other factors about your Google Ads setup.


14. Create local service ads

Does your law firm mainly service local clients?

If so, you can create local service ads. This is an effective way to increase click-throughs and calls from your target customers.

Local service ads allow lawyers to feature at the absolute top of the search results page for related searches to individuals near them.

This is how it looks:

local service ads for lawyers

With local service ads, individuals call you directly. You‘re only charged when a call is made, and the lead is deemed relevant.


15. Create responsive search ads

Responsive search ads are Google’s new type of ad. Depending on their profiles, they adapt the text to show more relevant messaging to your customers.

By providing Google with multiple variations of headlines and enabling automatic testing of different combinations, the most optimized combination will show each time to customers.

This has the potential to increase ad relevance and improve your campaign’s performance.

Here’s what it looks like:

responsive search ads for lawyers

It’s quite early days with responsive search ads, but they’re scheduled to replace the current expanded text ads at the end of June 2022.

We have seen a 50-percent increase in click-through rate (CTR) in some cases when compared to standard text ads, suggesting that this type of ad will become highly prominent in 2022.


16. Leverage remarketing lists for search ads

Remarketing lists are another great resource for getting every last drop of performance from your search ads.

Using a tracking code on your website, you can retarget potential customers who showed interest in your services by viewing your website. You then get a second chance to convert them into paying customers.

Here’s a short tutorial.

There could be many reasons why a customer never picks up the phone to call you or complete their details in a contact form. It may not always be because your services aren’t suitable — it could be due to a slow-

loading page, they got called away, or the dog chewed their computer cable!

One thing is for sure — once they’ve left, you probably won’t get them back; unless you leverage remarketing lists through Google Ads.

So, when they leave your landing page without engaging with the call to action, you can re-connect with them if they continue looking for the same service with Google Search.

This way, you get a second bite of the cherry: you customize the ad that they viewed previously, customize keywords, and tailor bids and ads to these visitors when they’re searching. The beauty is that you can be quite aggressive as the user has already displayed some interest in your services.


17. Run campaign experiments

You’ve already seen how experimentation is an integral part of Google Ads for lawyers when testing different ad copy.

google ads experiment

But Google also provides plenty of help with the campaign experiment function built into Google Ads.

Just as Unbounce looks after the testing of landing pages before they’re published, campaign experiments allow you to A/B test other elements related to the performance of each of your campaigns in search and display networks.

This includes elements such as:

  • Keywords
  • Ad copy
  • Bidding strategies
  • Ad rotation
  • Ad extensions (more about these below)
  • Day & time parting
  • Geo-targeting

The following are not supported by campaign experiments:

  • Ad customizers using “Target campaign” or “Target ad group”
  • Some automated strategies like target search page location & target outranking share
  • Campaigns with shared budgets

With campaign experiments, depending on what you’re testing, it’s a good idea to let them run for some time — in most cases, several weeks or a month. You specify this (and the budget) when you set up the experiment, and you can extend or shorten the period as you monitor it.


18. Monitor telephone and contact form conversions

To determine the ROI of your Google Ads campaigns, you should be measuring your conversions precisely.

Click-through rates are all well and good — and are a good indicator of the effectiveness of your ads — but it’s the telephone and contact form conversions that you’re really interested in.

Here’s a simple but effective system for tracking leads from the first point of contact through to paying customers:

  • Setup conversion tracking for landing pages: This is just a snippet of code generated by Google Ads or Google Analytics, which tells you how many people submit forms.
  • Track your calls: Use a call-tracking platform to integrate with Analytics to tell you how many calls come through Google Ads search. The platform we use is called CallRail. It’s easy to install and provides a breadth of information.
  • Record the origin of leads: Use your law firm’s CRM to record the origin of your leads and train your assistants to accurately input call and form data. When these leads become clients or vanish into thin air, make sure that the CRM is kept up to date.
  • Monitor revenue from converted leads: Once a lead becomes a sale, monitor the revenue generated — a $1,000 client is very different than a $50,000 one. You need this information to forecast and budget for future Google Ads campaigns.

Frequently Asked Questions


Do Google Ads work well for law firms?

Google Ads can work well for most businesses, including law firms. But it’s challenging for beginners and can get real expensive, real fast.

While you’re only paying for clicks, in some instances, those clicks can cost over $50.

“Lawyer” is one of the most expensive keywords. Its variations are just as expensive, as are related long-tail keywords.

It’s essential that you know what you’re doing when setting up Google Ads to avoid spending a lot of money advertising to the wrong people.

We recommend you hire a professional to help set up and manage your ad campaign. You’re more likely to have a positive ROI if there’s an expert managing your ad spend.


Should I invest in Google Ads?

You should at least consider investing in Google Ads.

Some practice areas, those that grow by word of mouth and referrals, tend to not do as well with PPC.

These practice areas are largely referral-based and won’t do as well with Google Ads.

  • Real estate
  • Business litigation
  • International law
  • Securities law
  • Estate planning

It’s still possible to net a positive ROI in these practice areas. It comes down to experimentation.

Practice areas that are more likely to produce positive results are:

  • Personal injury
  • Criminal defence
  • DUI/DWI
  • Bankruptcy
  • Employment matters

One reason for this discrepancy is that certain areas of law are shrouded in stigma, and potential clients may not want to discuss it with others.

So, they turn to Google to find a lawyer to contact. Your ad appears, and you have a new lead.

Regardless of your practice area, it could be worth it to invest a little to see what kind of results you get. A professional Google Ads agency can set it up for you and make sure you get the best results.


How soon will I see results from Google Ads?

This is hard to answer.

It depends on your practice area, your ad setup, your copy, the creative, and more.

You could start seeing results in as little as days or weeks if everything is set up correctly. On the flip side, you could never see any results.

A more realistic answer is…

  • You’ll need at least 3 months to mature your Ads campaign. You will begin to see results in this time.
  • After 6–12 months, your campaign will be strong and you’ll see excellent results.

It takes so long to optimize an Ads campaign because, when you start, you have no data to work off of.

The best data to use to optimize your campaign is data you collect yourself. So, over time, you can improve your targeting, your creative, and your keywords to really get the most bang for your buck.


Can I manage a Google Ads campaign myself?

Yes. But it’s unlikely that you will. Google Ads campaigns take not only specialist knowledge but also plenty of time, especially early on in campaigns when testing what works best.

Without investing time into the process, you won’t receive the results you expect. Most lawyers simply don’t have this time on their hands, so they end up outsourcing to specialist Google Ads professionals within marketing firms.


How much does it cost to have someone manage my campaign?

This will depend on who you hire. The best ones charge more because they produce better results. You should probably be wary of those that undercharge.

As a general guideline for lawyers, expect to pay between $500-$1500 per month on average for high-quality Google Ads management. This may be arranged as a flat fee, a monthly fee, a percentage of ad spend, or a performance-based fee.

Make sure that before hiring any Google Ads professional(s), you have a clear idea of the breakdown of costs: what the campaign management fees are and what you’ll be paying to Google. Only then will you be able to budget for your Google Ads marketing effectively.

If they produce the right results for you, anything you pay an agency or Google will be dwarfed by your returns.


Mastering Google PPC Ads

Google Ads can be an effective tool in generating a steady stream of qualified sales leads for your law firm.

By implementing the techniques above – or better yet, getting help from a Google Ads professional – your firm is sure to benefit from the increased exposure and visibility in Google’s search results.

You can get in touch with us for a free consultation.