It’s been nearly six years since the ABA Ethics 20/20 Commission green-lighted pay per click (PPC) as an ethically compliant marketing tool and since then, it’s been a popular mainstay of many practices. But is pay per click still effective?
An article by Luke Ciciliano at SEO For Lawyers suggests not. Although Ciciliano comes at this with a bias since he sells SEO services to lawyers, he raises some interesting points worth considering. Ciciliano admits that he’s never been a fan of PPC because it puts lawyers at the mercy of the provider – stop paying for PPC, and you lose all value. By contrast, by investing in the time to build up content marketing, a lawyer creates a long-term cache of resources that can be re-published or re-posted.
That’s always been the inherent difference between PPC and content marketing. But Ciciliano predicts that the efficacy of PPC will drop even for markets such as DUI defense, criminal defense and personal injury which he says are drying up. For example, the advent of Uber and Lyft has cut down on DUI incidents (though it’s not clear why criminal defense work or personal injury would be drying up). In any event, as it becomes more competitive to target consumers in declining practice areas, the profit margin off of PPC shrinks even more.
On the other hand, I wonder if content marketing is as effective as PPC, particularly in the short-term. It can take a while to build up a content base, and that’s also increasingly more difficult as ghost-written lawyer blogs continue to populate the internet. Lawyers just starting out may have the time to generate content on their own, but it will take a while before there’s enough scale for that content to appear on Google. Plus, many people who visit blogs are merely in the process of thinking about hiring a lawyer, whereas those who hit the PPC sites are often ready to buy.
I was fortunate enough to have first-mover advantage with this blog, which still appears on the first page of Google for all things solo, even though I don’t write as much as I used to (hoping to change that). And I’m pretty sure that starting out, I’d have been too cheap to invest in PPC anyway. But the one point that Cilliano makes about PPC that is most powerful is that PPC is out of the lawyer’s control, whereas building your own content is not. And there’s always high risk when a firm bases revenues on a platform over which it has no control or understanding of how it work (though that may soon change with the recent pressure to require transparency in algorithms which may drive PPC selection). So for that reason, I’m not inclined to endorse PPC. What’s your experience been?