What is pay per click advertising? Is it effective? What should I do?
You may want to consider pay per click advertising on the search engines. A pay per click account allows you to advertise on the search engines with text ads. When anyone types in "New York Corporate Lawyer", "Florida Bankruptcy Attorney" or similar phrases, your ad will appear. In fact, FindLaw and almost all other directories use pay per click accounts to drive traffic to their portals, including your listings.
Depending on your bid, your ad will be ranked higher or lower than your competitors. If you bid a few cents higher than your competitor, then typically you will be ranked one-spot higher (think of it like eBay bidding). Bidding can range from ten cents per click for some obscure keyword phrases, to over fifty dollars for highly sought after keyword phrases such as "Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer". However, most bids are in the reasonable realm of several dollars per click.
The good news is that you can have a campaign up and running in a matter of a few hours. The sign up process for a Google Adwords and Yahoo! Search Marketing accounts is relatively painless. All you do is research what keywords you want to target, create a keyword list, create an advertisement, bid on the keywords, and then set your daily ad budget. Between Google Adwords and Yahoo Search, you will be covering over 90% of all searches done on the internet.
The better news is that you will be directly advertising on the search engines. There is no middle man. When a user clicks on your advertisement they are going directly to your web site, versus going to a portal site which could point visitors to…gasp…your competitors.
The best news is that this means you can track your inquiries and spending. Google and Yahoo both have tools that allow you to track your total number or impressions, your clicks, your budget, and even tools to track which clients contacted you from your web site. Ideally you would create a landing page that is unique for each keyword phrase. That way, when they type in "NY International Lawyer", they come to a page that talks about how you are a NY International Lawyer, and not just a general page. I would also recommend including a contact form on that page, so you can track the number of inquiries you receive versus the amount you are spending. On the spending side, you can cancel your campaigns at anytime, set daily or monthly budgets, and for a few hundred dollars per month, you can pick up new business.
Finally, the only bad news is that there is a nasty trend that upwards of 20% of all your spending could be fraudulent clicks. Fortunately, Google and Yahoo have policies of refunds and are working every day to combat click fraud. Moreover, there are several programs which you can install on your web site, or have hosted, that will help identify click fraud and report it for a refund.
My clients have found this an effective way to attract new business. It is not the end all means, but it does supplement their business and is cost-effective.