Get Pay-Per-Click Advertising Results and Avoid the Snake Oil Salesman

Guest post from Troy Lightfield.

There are many law firms that allocate large marketing budgets to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. But when asked, they have very little data or knowledge of what they’re actually getting for their spend.

Questions around conversion, what a lead is worth or even which keywords they are buying can send them into a defensive position. It’s not their fault….entirely! With thousands of self-proclaimed SEM gurus online, it can be hard to determine which ones are legitimate professionals.

What follows is a timeline from point-of-sale to the end result : how to easily recognize the snake oil salesman when hiring a pay-per-click management firm.

The Sale

What are they selling and what are you actually buying? While most call it PPC, there are many facets to a pay-per-click campaign and the level of service you receive can vary dramatically. The costs of merely driving traffic to your site versus guiding someone through the sales funnel are significantly different. Before signing anything, you should know exactly what you’re paying for.

You should pay close attention to the contract guidelines, contract length and cancellation policies. A legitimate pay-per-click management firm should have complete transparency in what they are charging for and should clearly define the costs outside of your monthly budget that “you” actually pay to Google Adwords or MSN adCenter). Some typical costs could include account setup, keyword research, ad writing, landing page creation, banner ad creation and ongoing monthly maintenance. You need to fully understand what you are getting throughout your contract — especially if you are signing a contract for over a year — and of course watch out for long cancellation policies.

The Reputation

Before signing with any advertising company, you should research the business the same as you would for any other service or product. Ask for client testimonials or referrals and don’t be shy about calling these referrers. Ask them how long they have worked with the firm and look for referrals that have long-term relationships with the company in question. Can the referral quantify what they are getting from the service?

The Product

I touched on this in “The Sales.” paragraph. An advertising company may offer many different levels of service, so make sure they are clearly defined. A key question you may want to ask is “Will you be using the Google Display Network or the Google Search Network for my ads?” When choosing your PPC campaign, it’s very important to understand the difference:

  • With the Google Search Network, (the one everyone is familiar with) your adds will be displayed next to search queries on (and their partner search engines like AOL and Hotbot).
  • The Google Display Network, which is comprised of thousands of unique websites, can provide far less expensive traffic, but the traffic can often be unqualified, non-converting traffic. The Google Display Network is often used for branding or re-marketing efforts. While this option can be an effective method of marketing, make sure you understand why it’s being used, where your placements will show and how the potential traffic will affecting your online strategy.

The Relationship

Who will be handling my account? How many accounts are they responsible for? Will my campaign be fulfilled by a search marketer only to be handed over to an account manager? Getting answers to these questions will help you understand your level of service, as well as the level of ongoing testing and tweaking you can expect. Professional firms are always testing. Using A/B and/or multivariate methods, they try new ad copy, different images, calls-to-action and will report their findings back to you the client. Other less reputable companies may set up your campaign then setting it free to live on its own! The latter will often report on clicks, impressions and traffic with little — if any — mention of conversion or return on investment (ROI).

The Reward

The reward shouldn’t stop at “did they click on my ad?” The reward is conversion and what you paid for that conversion. Did your potential client pick up the phone? Did they fill out your contact form? Did they sign up for your e-newsletter? These conversion metrics and their costs should be defined before a campaign is ever set into place. You need to understand “the reward” so your expectations are clearly defined. Professional firms will provide metrics to support these conversions, volume of leads, cost-per-lead and cost per “service sign-up.” If a firm claims they only track clicks, traffic or impressions, my advice would be to run. Ask for sample reports and ask them to explain the different metrics included. It can seem ominous at first but it’s important to understand what return you are getting for your marketing dollar.

Pay-per-click advertising can be a highly rewarding form of advertising that really allows you to take control of your marketing dollar. Do your research, ask questions and you will be able to stay clear of the Snake Oil Salesman.


Troy Lightfield works with law firm’s as a search marketing consultant for AttorneyPPC.

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