Google launched Local Services Ads (LSA) in 2015, starting with home services-type businesses. Google made LSAs available to attorneys in 2021. Jim Christy, President of Postali, spoke with Zack Glaser, Legal Tech Advisor, about how law firms can use LSAs and their potential rewards and risks.
LSAs differ from Google’s primary advertising tool, pay-per-click (PPC), in two ways. First, instead of displaying in line with organic search results, LSAs display above the traditional results list. LSAs are prominently set apart. Second, Google prices LSAs on a “pay-per-lead” model.
Under a PPC model, which Google still offers and should have a place in firm advertising budgets, clicking the ad costs money, irrespective of what the user does afterward. Clicking the ad and closing the browser tab costs the same as a user clicking the link, spending an hour on the attorney’s landing page, and completing a contact form.
The LSA model is different. Google does not charge the advertising attorney merely because a user clicked on the LSA. The user must contact the law firm. Only a successful connection costs money.
Making LSAs Successful for Your Firm
The LSA algorithm also differs from PPC in how Google chooses which LSA to display for a search. With PPC advertising, prominence flows from spending. Paying more puts the firm’s ad higher. In contrast, Google selects LSAs based on many factors, including user (i.e., star) ratings. A firm must have a particular number of Google reviews to be eligible for LSA inclusion (Google requires up to 5 reviews depending on profession & practice area). Beyond that, location, business hours, responsiveness, profile quality, and, of course, marketing budget, play a roll in an individual firm’s LSA ranking.
Pay Only for Leads, Not Clicks
Google charges firms for contacts, not clicks. When configuring its LSA profile, the firm sets practice areas and geographies. If a user reaches out through the LSA but doesn’t match your practice area and geography, the firm can dispute the charge with Google and seek a refund.
Unlike PPC ads, Google offers limited specificity concerning practice areas and keyword matching. Jim gave the example of a personal injury firm that only represents wrongful death matters. While PPC ads could tightly target this niche, LSAs could run too broadly (e.g., all personal injury searches).
With LSAs, a firm may get calls that aren’t disputable but not a great fit, so they might pay the higher LSA cost. With PPC, Google charges the firm for every click, but the ad may get more desired exposure because of the additional specificity and targeting tools PPC has.
Costs of LSAs
When LSAs initially launched for attorneys, ad prices were relatively inexpensive and predictable. Both benefits are fading. For example, some specific personal injury locations, LSA prices have climbed 300% since 2021. In some categories, the return-on-investment of PPC ads may now exceed that of LSAs, even though LSAs promise higher quality leads.
Using LSAs as a DIYer
While Jim encourages firms to engage professional assistance when running PPC ad campaigns, LSAs are something a solo or small firm can experiment with on their own. For the inspired DIYers, Google’s LSA profile provides three tools.
- Category: The firm tells Google its areas of practice. Family law is a category, for example. The firm must have at least one category and can have more than one. Google also permits excluding categories, mediation, for example. That’s about the extent of LSA granularity. An attorney could seek auto accident injuries, but if the firm specialized in auto accident head injuries, LSAs could not be that specific.
- Budget: The firm must set its LSA budget weekly; that’s the only option. Google presents two options: Maximize Leads and Manually Set a Max Bid. Setting the budget to Maximize means the campaign uses the current market rate for that LSA placement to serve the LSA to the most viable users at the most viable time to optimize for getting leads. Setting the budget to Manual means that the firm controls the amount they are willing to spend per week, the price is still as variable as with Maximize, but fewer or no users may see it due to the price cap.
- Geography: This option controls who sees the ad based on a user’s state, county, city, or ZIP code. Users see LSAs based on their location when searching, so it’s possible firms may receive “out of area” contacts (e.g., if someone searches while at work versus home).
Jim advises that LSAs involve some strategy, and he’s happy to discuss strategy with you. Once the firm decides on a direction, “pulling the levers” is much simpler than Google’s PPC tools. The LSA area of Google search results is prime real estate. If you have not set up Local Services Ads yet, Jim encourages you to do so, even if you don’t intend to run ads immediately.
To learn more about Postali and why you should use LSAs, visit their blog.
Last updated November 17th, 2023