Google Advertising For Lawyers: 17 Tips To Skyrocket Your Performance


Google 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 know 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, I attempt to answer that question by touching on common mistakes as well the most critical optimization opportunities for a law firm’s Google Ads campaign.

Let’s get started.

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

Forget “lawyer” and “attorney”. These single-word, ‘head’ terms are astronomically pricey 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 exploit keywords.

The focus should be on long-tail keywords and ‘body’ keywords, which incorporate more than just a single word in a query.


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

  1. Head Keywords: Single-word general terms with high competition, like ‘lawyers’
  2. Body Keywords: 2-3 word phrases attracting a good search volume but more specific than head keywords – like ‘brain injury lawyer’
  3. Long Tail Keywords: 4+ word phrases that are very specific, such as ‘brain injury lawyer free consult’

By targeting long-tail keywords, you ensure that you are being as specific as possible. This makes it more likely that you’ll attract potential clients interested in your specific services, rather than general ‘browsers’. It may also make the terms you are competing for more attainable, rather 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.

With our clients at Inbound Law Marketing, we use about 7-10 negative keyword lists for a variety of purposes, such as excluding:

  • 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
  • Resource: Terms associated with guides, courses, how-tos, etc.
  • Undesirable: Terms unlikely to result in a qualified sales lead such as legal aid, games, apps.

Because you want qualified leads with a high likelihood of turning clicks into paying customers, you do not want to waste money on certain undesirable searches such as these.

Negative keywords can apply to whole campaigns or to ad groups.


We recommend being aggressive with keyword exclusions. Not only will this technique help boost your conversion rate by reducing unnecessary clicks, it will 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 defence and you have an ad group that promotes impaired driving in Calgary. The results may appear as in this screenshot.


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

One ad can, therefore, 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 is an advanced feature that should be used sparingly. It does require some specialist knowledge of Google Ads before implementing it.

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 important tip with Google Ads keyword bidding is to target zip codes and postal codes – not just entire cities.


It is 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 codes, 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 this cost-effectiveness significantly – so it pays to learn a little about this.

With keyword bidding, you have essentially four options:

  • Target CPA – where Google adjusts keyword bids through its algorithm to satisfy your stated cost per lead/acquisition
  • Target a position – where your bid is altered in order to gain you a spot in the top section of search results (good old ad ranking 1-4) or on the first page of search results.
  • Enhanced CPC – where Google algorithmically determines how to get your keywords the clicks most likely to convert
  • Maximized clicks – where 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 for some keywords, you should bear in mind that bidding too high or for the first position can eat away at the daily budget too quickly.

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

Keep in mind that people can be rather ‘click-happy’ with the top ad position. Sometimes it works better to be in position 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 term

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

If you don’t bid on your teams, then 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:


Also bear in mind that when you bid for your own branded terms, you are 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 nowadays? 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%.


So, for instance, 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 in limiting exposure to a given device. If you DON’T want your ads to display on Mobile, setting the bid adjustment to -90% is likely to 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.

The set up of Google Ads allows you to set up different ‘ad groups’ for different types of keyword themes. It’s important to use this feature to segment your keywords based upon your audience’s intent and to make campaign management easier and more effective.

It’s basic Google Ads optimization 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, breaks up their practice area keywords into different ad groups so that they can target their ads based upon what people are searching for.

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


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


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


Separating ad groups by keyword themes may sound like more work in the account creation and account management, but the greater targeting accuracy will more than makeup 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.


There are several ‘match types’ for keywords – and this is really where you 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
  • Broad match modified: Add a plus sign (for example, +keyword) to modify a broad match keyword. Ads may show on searches that include modified broad match keywords (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order.
    • Example keyword: family +lawyer
    • Example search: family attorney
  • Phrase match: lets a keyword trigger your ad to show only when someone searches for your exact keyword phrase, or close variations of your exact keyword phrase, with potentially other words before or after that phrase. 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 match has 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 whom your services may not be 100% relevant.

The best strategy, then, is to separate your ad groups by match type. For some keywords, you will want an exact match and for others (for instance, when the number of searchers is low), a broad match, broach match modified 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 that are performing at an extraordinary rate, it’s a best practice to isolate the terms in an ad group on its own and to optimize it accordingly.

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 – so improving this score can make campaigns more cost-effective.

For our client Defend Your DUI with the keyword Impaired Driving, you can see how prominent this is in their ad:


And on their landing page:


This will not only reduce bounce rates but also help to 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 – and 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 therefore 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 anything but 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:


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 maybe 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: all 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 space’ 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


Call outs – to promote particular features or offers


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


Location extensions – to show your office address in ads


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

Note that not all the ad extensions 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 set up.

14. Create local search ads

Does your law firm mainly service local clients?

If so, you can create local search ads by linking your Google My Business account to display your address and reviews in the local search results. This is an effective way to increase click-throughs from your target customers.

I mentioned location extensions in the ad extensions tip above. For local search ads, these need to be set up to show your business location (you cannot use the call extensions feature in local search ads but you can, of course, include your phone number).

The other benefit of local search ads that link to your Google My Business account is that potential customers can find out more about your business – with business hours, customer reviews, photos, and so on.

This is how one of our clients does it:


15. Leverage remarketing lists for search ads

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

With the use of tracking code on your website, you can retarget potential customers who showed interest in your services by viewing your website – and get a second chance to convert them into paying customers.

Just like on e-commerce sites, when people abandon their shopping carts, there could be many reasons why a customer never picks up the phone to call you or completes 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 taking 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: you can be quite aggressive as the user has already displayed some interest in your services.

16. Run campaign experiments

You’ve already seen how experimentation is such an important part of Google Ads for lawyers. We’ve discussed A/B testing for landing pages – and later we get into testing different ad copy.

But Google also provides plenty of help with its ‘campaign experiments’ function built in to Google Ads.


Just as Unbounce looks after the testing of landing pages before they are published, so 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

There are some exclusions to what’s supported by 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 a period of time – in most cases a number of weeks or a month. You specify this (and the budget) when you set up the experiment and also extend or shorten the period as you monitor it.

17. 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 to budget for future Google Ads campaigns.


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 the savvy folks at Inbound Law Marketing – your firm is sure to benefit from the increased exposure and visibility in Google’s search results.