Over the last year, Google has been testing Local Service Ads (LSAs) for lawyers, allowing approved businesses to appear at the very top of the search results page. Typically these local service ads were reserved for – local services (plumbers, electricians, contractors, ect.), which is where the name comes from. But after going through a verification process and background check, you can have your law firm become a “Google Screened” business.
What is a Google Screened Law Firm?
A firm that carries the Google Screened mark has an enhanced Google Business profile that lets searchers know that you are a legitimate, trusted company. It also allows you to run Local Service Ads for different areas of law. These LSAs work differently than normal ads, in that people are not brought to your website when they click on an ad; instead, they get a shortlist of your:
- Total customer reviews
- Overall review score
- Business hours
- How quickly you are to respond to messages
- If the firm has received complaints
- The proximity of your firm to the user
And all of these items determine your ad ranking, cost per lead (along with competition), and positioning.
The Pros and Cons of Local Service Ads for Law Firms
There are many pros and cons to using Local Service Ads. Whether one outweighs the other depends on your law firm, reputation, and if the cons are not burdensome.
The Pros of Local Service Ads
- You appear as the first thing that loads on the page. This gives you a huge advantage over regular Pay-Per-Click ads, Google Maps listings, and even organic results.
- Users tend to trust submitting their information to LSAs. Google does have to verify your license and insurance details, as well as a background check through a local Google representative to become a screened business. The “Google Screened” mark helps build that trust immediately for people searching for your legal help.
- You can appear in the LSAs, Maps, and organically all at the same time. This gives you a lot of exposure from one single user search.
- You can use a mobile app to communicate with users through the ad directly. They can click-to-call the firm or send you a message similar to a text message.
- High ranking businesses even receive support from Google Assistant’s voice search responses. The exposure that you can get through this is high, as Google only selects a small handful of businesses for this.
- The leads coming from LSAs can be a little earlier in the sales process, but they are usually cheaper than standard Google Ads conversions. If you can respond to them immediately, they can be quite useful. However, response time may also be an issue – more on that below in the cons.
- Local Service Ads are good for law firms that don’t have a modern website design. Users are not sent to the website; instead, they view your information directly on the search results page. This can be an excellent alternative for law firms that need updated landing pages to build effective PPC campaigns.
The Cons of Local Service Ads
- You may have to rename your business: To have an LSA and the Google Screened status, you may be asked to rename your Google Business profile name so that it does not include keywords. LSAs were ultimately created to try and limit practices that manipulate the positioning that you show up for in Google Maps. Businesses that contain keywords in their name (“Mike Jones DUI Law Firm”) have fared better than those without. If you are asked to change your business profile name, this issue becomes far worse when taking into account that all of your business citations need to be updated (Yelp, Yellowpages, Findlaw, etc.). Accurate business details across all of your citations are one of the most significant strength signals for your maps positioning.
- These are pay-per-lead, and Google dictates what that cost is. They’re usually comparable to the cost per conversion from normal campaigns, but sometimes these can be higher or lower depending on how many businesses are using them. You also typically see lower costs per conversion with a well-optimized campaign in conjunction with a useful landing page. Whereas these ads more so take into account your reputation and exclude the positive effects of good web design, conversion optimization, and to some degree, your experience/case history/awards. In addition to this, you are charged for the lead-based on any action that connects you with the user, even if they are a case that you don’t want to take. These actions include:
- Getting a text message or email from a potential client
- Receiving a voicemail
- When you answer their phone call
- Or if you miss a call from a potential client but contact them through text message, email, or the phone.
- You cannot target keywords; Local Service Ads show up for people searching for one of the categories listed in your Google Business profile. This means you would need to refine the categories to make sure that you are listing your most sought-after case types and nothing general that could bring in unqualified leads. You also have to set the specific locations that you want cases from, and only people in those areas would see your Local Service Ads.
- Visitors to your city are less likely to send you leads through this ad type. If someone is visiting your city on vacation, and they search for a car accident lawyer, Google will ask them for their local zip code. Listing their home zip code causes Google to show them a warning message that they are looking for a lawyer outside of their home area – and then brings them to their local lawyer list. This is due to LSAs being designed for local service companies where you want someone who is actually local.
- To ensure you continue to receive messages, you have to respond to them quickly and almost entirely (even if you are declining their case, or if they intended to search for an area of law that you don’t practice/want cases in.) Suppose you regularly fail to answer calls or respond to messages. In that case, your ad ranking may be affected, and you could see higher costs per lead, poorer placement, and this will be listed on your business profile for future searchers to see.
Are Local Service Ads the Right Choice for My Marketing Strategy?
All in all, Local Service Ads can be worth testing out. These ads are still relatively new, and they weren’t initially designed for law firms. They will likely experience some adjustments soon, hopefully, to fix some of the cons above. As long as you can be responsive to the ads, they can be a great addition to your advertising. But similar to using chat services on your website, if your response time is slow, you may end up paying for one weaker lead in place of 9-10 clicks in Google Ads that may have provided better quality.
If you are interested in making your law firm a “Google Screened” business – especially if you plan to run Local Service Ads – contact us, we are happy to work with you to get these set up so that your potential clients know who they can trust.