While it’s true that, for high-volume law firms, classic marketing techniques—like billboards, celebrity-sponsored commercials, and mailers enveloped in loud colors—succeed in drumming up new business, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, if you aren’t really working digital marketing, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on clients.

It’s not like you don’t already know this, but a lot of people think that really effective marketing—like search engine marketing (SEM)—is too expensive or too technical, or they’ve outsourced it to someone who’s terrible and didn’t produce solid returns.

But I’m here to say, after several years of leading various marketing initiatives for a high-volume personal-injury firm in East Tennessee, SEM is where it’s at.


What Is Search Engine Marketing (SEM) 

Put simply, search engine marketing is a form of marketing that increases a business’ visibility in search engine results. Or, to say it another way, good SEM makes your firm’s ads pop up more prominently when potential clients search the internet for attorneys, legal advice, or information on possible repercussions of crime.

To get started, you’ll use tools like Google Adwords to bid on different possible search terms. Once you’ve acquired these, you’ll create ads that appear when potential customers search your terms, directing them to you (and away from your competition). Neat, right?


What You’ll Need To Run An Easy SEM Campaign

To carry out the tips I offer below, you’ll need to get a few things in order. First, get an intern; someone you don’t have to pay, or who you can pay very little to focus solely on getting your SEM off the ground.

Second, you’ll need a computer (obviously), a Google Adwords account, and a Bing Ads account. While most of your efforts should be expended on Google (it is the most-used search engine by far), running ads through Bing will help create visibility on Windows 8 (a good thing; just trust us).

Finally, you’ll need a realistic budget. SEM, after all, isn’t free; typically, it’s pay-per-click, so you’ll need, at least, a base understanding of how much you’re willing to spend to acquire new customers and a budget to match.

Once you’ve got all that in place, it’s time to get going.


Easy SEM Tips For Law Firms That Want New Business

When bidding on keywords, you’ll want to:

  • Bid on all crime keywords: Don’t assume you know what or how your clients are searching. By bidding on all crime keywords (at least related to services that you provide), you’ll create considerable opportunity for potential clients to locate you.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords: Aside from Google’s algorithms giving preference to long-tail keywords (“sentence for manslaughter charge” vs. “manslaughter”), creating a number of long-tail keywords will dramatically reduce the cost of acquiring it. While it does produce in fewer results, it increases the likelihood of potential client conversion.
  • Bid on misspellings of all your keywords: Frankly, people can’t spell anymore, and there’s no reason you should be punished for it. Bidding on misspellings of your keywords is cheap, effective, and ensures you don’t get penalized for others’ errors.
  • Bid on slang common to offenses you work with: There are a million different words for everything and, chances are, you’ve heard them all. By bidding on regional / cultural slang terms for different legal scenarios, you’re more likely to acquire new customers.
  • Use location-specific bidding: There’s no reason to try to rank nationally for a keyword like “DUI” unless you have offices or are licensed to practice in all 50 states. Using location-specific bidding allows you to focus on the area where you work, reducing the cost, and focusing the impact of your campaign.

Once you’ve bid on a bunch of keywords (and yes, really, your current keyword list should be MASSIVE), it’s time to start thinking about the content of your ads. After all, the idea behind this bidding is to display effective ads for those searching.


When writing your ads, be sure to:

  • Create 3-4 ads for each keyword: Yes, this seems like a lot, but a good SEM strategy is all about optimization. By creating these ads and tracking which perform best, you can begin making assumptions about how your possible clientele will interact with your firm.
  • Use numbers in your ad copy: While this isn’t exactly a hard rule (and it doesn’t offer any additional SEO benefit), research shows that using numbers in search engine ads (especially numbers offering legal fees, discounts, or success rates) receive significantly more clicks than those that don’t.
  • Create landing pages for your ads: All of your ads should lead to keyword-specific (and keyword rich) landing pages with specific calls to action for your customers. In addition to avoiding Google’s penalties for using specific ads to link to general pages, you’re much more likely to convert if the potential client lands of a page they deem incredibly relevant, and which doesn’t require much of them to get your help. It’s recommended that you provide a pre-populated form for them to submit (asking them to input minimal amounts of information) to create the highest conversion rate (the path of least resistance, as they say).


After you’ve got your keywords down and your ads done, it’s time to start optimizing. SEM experts recommend that, at the beginning, you research and change (not delete) your keywords every 3-4 days (and modifying ads appropriately). While aggressive, this will quickly give you a picture of the most effective keywords for your firm, your services, and your potential client population.

Now I know, I know, this seems like a lot. But remember this mantra: that’s what interns are for. By developing enormous lists of keywords and accompanying ads, and testing them against each other in the wild (of the internet), you’ll quickly understand the best, most cost-effective way to drive business to your firm using search engine marketing.

Also, while you’re at it, give ContactSaver a try. While not a marketing tool, ContactSaver is a TechCrunch favorite and uses intelligent email signature capture to effortlessly create new contacts from email. You can add new client contacts with a single click!