COVID-19: Its Impact on Google Ads for Legal Services and How to Proceed

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Understanding the Impact of the Coronavirus on PPC Campaigns

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Tips for getting started on a new Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign.

In the past week, we here at PaperStreet have been talking with client firms about the potential impact the COVID-19 global pandemic is having on their advertising campaigns, including paid search (PPC) with Google Ads, and whether it is worth it for them to run ad campaigns in the midst of this pandemic. In most cases, the answer will be yes.

From a financial, medical, and social standpoint, the COVID-19 crisis has had an adverse effect on just about everyone, law firms included. That being said, based on data from our clients and research from others in the industry, legal is one of the industries least affected by COVID-19 to date. Our analysis suggests the best course of action is to maintain your budget or, in some cases, possibly even increase it. 

What Are the Benefits of PPC Marketing Now?

With everything that is going on, you may be wondering what the benefits are of your current marketing efforts. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • The statute of limitations of potential cases that may come in during the epidemic will, in all likelihood, be far longer than the COVID-19 lasts. While face-to-face interactions with potential clients may be limited, the cases and inquiries are likely to be as viable in a month or more as they are today.
  • We have the ability to pivot our campaigns to meet your circumstances. Need to run on reduced hours or put increased emphasis on calls? No problem. Google Ads are very flexible, and we are fully staffed to handle requests.
  • Other firms may decide to shut down their marketing efforts. Odds are that, if you have considered it, so have they. A decrease in competition should inevitably lead to an increase in performance and conversions.
  • Similarly, if you decide to pause your paid ad campaigns, your competitors that stay the course will get a lion’s share of the cases coming in during this crisis, which could serve as a windfall for those firms once the courts reopen. Pausing your campaign could give your competitors free rein over the market and have lasting effects on competition beyond this event.
  • For family law firms, in particular, it should be noted that Chinese officials have reported a sharp increase in divorce cases now that the spread of the virus has waned. It’s not unreasonable to think that could also happen in the U.S. Applying this same logic, firms handling cases in bankruptcy, securities, medical malpractice, personal injury, nursing home abuse, business law (business interruption insurance/franchises), employment, estate planning, probate, elder law, and tax law all could see similar increases.

Are People Still Searching for Legal Services?

Global events do have an impact on SEO and PPC; this is true. Traffic and impressions across all industries have seen a slight decrease in the United States, but less than 10% overall in the last week. To illustrate this, the chart below indicates the interest level in the search terms for “divorce lawyer” (yellow), “personal injury lawyer” (blue), and “criminal defense lawyer” (red) for the past year, as reported by Google Trends.

Line graph showing three data series in yellow, blue, and red, over time from March 24, 2019, to December 1, 2019. Bar chart on the left indicates average values for each color.

As you can see on the chart, there is a recent downward trend; however, when compared to this time last year, the interest levels are nearly identical. The bottom line is: People are still out there, and they are still looking for legal services.

What About Search Performance?

In terms of performance, we are also seeing an impact on our client base, but it has been minimal and not necessarily negative. Here are some of the observations we are seeing as an agency in the time from immediately after the first case of COVID-19 in the United States (March 1) to date, compared to the same timeframe immediately prior to that case:

  • Overall
      • No change in click traffic for search campaigns (less than 1% change)
      • A slight increase in conversions and conversion rates (10%) and decrease in cost per conversion (5%)
      • Moderate increase in cost per click (40%) and clickthrough rate (40%)
  • Criminal Law
      • Moderate decrease in click traffic (20%)
      • No change in conversions, but a moderate increase in conversion rate (30%) and decrease in cost per conversion (10%)
      • Moderate increase in cost per click (20%) and slight increase in clickthrough rate (10%)
  • Personal Injury Law
      • Moderate decrease in click traffic (15%)
      • No change in conversions or cost per conversion (less than 1%) and a slight increase in conversion rate (5%)
      • Slight increase in cost per click (5%) and clickthrough rate (5%)
  • Family Law
    • Moderate increase in click traffic (30%)
    • Slight increase in conversions (10%) and cost per conversion (15%) and slight decrease in conversion rate (15%)
    • No change in cost per click (less than 1%) and slight decrease in clickthrough rate (15%)

The overall numbers, as well as those of the individual practice areas, indicate that all systems are still a go for PPC at this time.

Conclusion and Tips

While we can’t predict what will happen over the next few weeks or months, we can say that there are a number of positive signs and compelling reasons to keep running your campaigns. In the meantime, here are a few tips that might help your law firm succeed in this uncertain time.

  • If you are only available at certain times, make sure your campaigns are updated to reflect that.
  • If phone calls are the best method of contact, make sure your marketing efforts are optimized for calls and that your ads and website display the best number to reach you or your staff. Additionally, ensure you have someone to answer the phone if that is your ideal method of contact and that all calls are routed to this individual.
  • If you have a Google My Business account, make sure it is up-to-date and indicates that your firm is still in operation, along with any limitations on service (for example, if the physical office is closed but you and/or your staff are still working remotely).

At PaperStreet, we are committed to seeing our client firms succeed, regardless of the circumstances of the outside world. If you need any updates or changes made to your marketing to make it work best for your situation, don’t hesitate to reach out. For our part, we are fully operational.  We plan to stay on top of trends and continue to optimize your SEO and PPC campaigns and keep you updated to the fullest of our abilities. Finally, and most importantly, we hope that you and your families stay safe and healthy during this crisis.

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