$500, Your Law Firm and SEO

A couple of weeks ago in The LAB, Sam asked: Can solos really compete with big SEO budgets? I think this is a topic worth a little more discussion, so I’m going to expand on my response here.

Before we get to the “what lawyers can spend $500 to market their practices online” part, we need a few words on whether lawyers should spend any marketing dollars online.

Q: Should you spend money on web marketing or advertising?
A: I have no idea.

The very nature of marketing and advertising is that it is speculative. Some might even call it a crapshoot.

Even the most data-informed marketing campaigns can fail. And by fail, I mean not achieve the desired goal(s).

What?!?!?! Marketing and advertising doesn’t always “work?”

That is correct.

Sure, some legal marketing and advertising strategies, activities, campaigns, tactics, etc, have a better track-record than others.

But in the end, what works for one lawyer might not work for another. In other words:

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

It’s true for legal services, it’s true for marketing and advertising. And it’s certainly true for internet marketing and SEO.

But assuming you’ve moved past the “should I spend money online” to “I have $500 to spend,” here are some things you might try.

SEO for $500 per month?

By now, you should know the difference between organic and paid search results. SEO is increasing one’s visibility in organic search results. There are a lot of approaches. Some better than others. And some is just downright risky. Everyone has an opinion.

Before you spend a single dollar on SEO, you should know all of this.

Godaddy is selling SEO services for $2.99 per month. I don’t recommend it, but don’t take my word for it. Read some reviews.

In my opinion, your best SEO investment at this budget level would be to pay someone to fix technical SEO site issues (i.e. fixing HTML problems, improving site speed, etc) offer consulting and provide regular support and maintenance.

But this “stuff” is really just ticket-to-entry. It’s necessary, but by itself, it’s unlikely to drive meaningful organic search traffic that will earn enough business to support your practice.

Sure, you can pay someone to teach you about SEO. You can pay them to assist you while you do the heavy-lifting (i.e. content creation, outreach, etc). And you could also pay for some local business citations.

But the real marketing that drives results for competitive searches is simply much more expensive.

You’re going to be much better-off learning how to market your practice online with an eye toward search. Of course, it’s going to take time to learn what to do and then to develop the skills necessary to make it work. And depending on your background and learning curve, that could be a lot of time.

Maybe, you can invest in “something cool” for your website. By cool I mean something that people might actually find useful. Not bells, whistles or those little people that pop-up and talk to you about themselves (yuck).

Think about what someone is going to really be able to accomplish for $500. And also consider what your competitors are doing and investing to compete in organic search results. Most of the time, your $500 is going to be better spent somewhere else.

If you insist on paying for SEO, really at any budget, but especially at a lower budget, be extremely clear about:

  • What you’re paying your SEO to do.
  • Why you’re paying them to do it.
  • What the intended goal is for the work.

Don’t take “it’s a secret” for an answer. There’s really nothing to decipher. Create awesome pages that people actually want to link to and share. Get those pages in front of people who can actually link to and share them (i.e. people with blogs, journalists, people active online).
Of course, make sure that your pages are “seo-friendly” but that’s really just the foundation.

AdWords / AdWords Express?

To be clear, paid search advertising is not SEO.

Frankly, it’s going to be tough to be competitive in AdWords for $500 per month. You have to ask yourself:

What’s the target value of a new client?

How many potential client inquiries will I have to weed through to get to a paying client?

How many clicks will I have to buy to get enough inquiries to get one client?

How much will those clicks costs?

If the clicks to get a client, plus the costs associated with servicing the client (don’t forget about overhead), are less than the fee generated by the client, then maybe AdWords might make sense for you.

But, for many practice areas, you’re probably going to have to be very creative in finding inexpensive keywords (read lower-volume) that will make this formula make sense for your practice.

And if you don’t have the time or desire to learn about how to manage an AdWords campaing (and don’t have the budget to pay someone to do it), you’re probably better off with AdWords Express.

No matter what budget you have decided to allocate to internet marketing for your law firm, you shouldn’t rely on it as a the sole source of new business. As Sam notes, many firms “would be far better off leaving the search results to the big spenders and focusing on other ways to get referrals.”

I’m not saying that there aren’t things that can be done to help your site perform better in organic search results for $500 per month. However, most cheap SEO programs that I have seen are just, well, cheap. If you have additional questions, head over to the Search Engine Optimizaiton thread in The LAB.


  1. Avatar Douglas Bridges says:

    No offense, but this is a pretty useless article. If I gave this sort of advice (or lack thereof) as a lawyer, I would never get a client. Why not give suggestions like, it might be worthwhile to budget around $XXX dollars for an initial consult with an SEO consultant to optimize your website with a reoccurring $XXX dollars per month to make sure that everything is properly tuned. With the remaining money that you have, you can apply $XXX per month on Adwords Express if you target local clients or $XXX per month on extremely targeted Adwords if you are targeting a very specific niche. Otherwise, the money might be better served on traditional marketing or PR.

    As it is, the article simply says two things that everyone should already know. A) there is a difference in SEO and ads and B) you need to evaluate the returns from your ad and SEO purchases.

    • No offense taken. And no offense intended but, you suggestions demonstrate your general lack of understanding about SEM & SEO. In a nutshell, there aren’t any one-size-fits-all answers. Generally speaking (and I thought I said this in the post), frankly, it’s going to be tough to be competitive in AdWords for $500 per month. I’m glad that you believe that everyone should already know your A) and B), but frankly, they don’t.

  2. Avatar Allen Rodriguez says:

    Attorneys can actually get a lot done with just $500 a month. Aside from the technical fixes on their site to benefit their SEO, they can hire someone with UX experience to maximize the conversion of existing traffic.

    • I suppose “a lot” is a relative term. I don’t know too many UX folks that are taking projects of a couple hundred dollars. And even if you find them and they’re good (pro bono UX), as you say, UX improvements, in most cases, are only going to improve on existing traffic, not attract new visits. And even then, those improvements are going to be incremental.

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