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Should Lawyers Prioritize PPC or SEO?

Written by Shea Antonucci

On April 16, 2020

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SEO or PPC? It’s a big question for lawyers who want more traffic and more leads, especially during the current world state, where COVID-19 has rendered online presence and online marketing more important than ever for all attorneys, regardless of size or specialty. 

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s organic, a way of optimizing your site’s content so that search engines like Google and Bing recognize it as a quality source and direct more people to you. 

PPC stands for pay-per-click advertising (sometimes it’s written as SEM, or paid search engine marketing, which is the same thing). It’s paid, a way of targeting specific keywords related to your services in order to serve ads to web users who search for that keyword. 

Both have their merits, in general, but for lawyers, in the case of PPC vs SEO, we believe that there is a clear winner. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each and help you understand why one may be better for your firm’s growth and profitability than the other! 



Most attorneys know that they have to be advertising online to succeed and reach their clients, but they often shy away from PPC because PPC is expensive. SEO (search engine optimization, the process of organically ranking higher up in the search engine results page, or SERP) seems so much more attractive. There are all sorts of flashy, sexy SEO agencies out there promising stellar results and presenting a high volume of deliverables. And SEO is free – other than paying an agency to do it for you, if you do, you don’t have to pay anything for it. SEO involves things like blogging, html tags, social media, and other types of content production, all of which don’t cost anything other than the cost to produce them, which you could do yourself (or pay an agency). 

But many of the lawyers we’ve talked to have been burned by SEO agencies. They’ve overpromised and underdelivered – they charge thousands of dollars but don’t get visible results. This is because SEO takes a long time. You rank higher on the SERP when the search engine recognizes you as a quality source over your competitors. It could take several months or several years (more often the latter) for this to happen – for search engines to acknowledge that you are a reliable expert in your field and that your site should be shown to users before other lawyers.

If you’re a one-person practice starting SEO and trying to compete with other major firms in your area who have already been doing SEO, you don’t have years to get cases. You have to pay for your space, you have to pay your assistants, and you need to make money.

Search engine optimization also doesn’t allow you to control different variables of the search engine results page or what users see when they land on your site, so it doesn’t give you complete control over your funnel.

SEO is a long term solution that isn’t at all guaranteed to get you to rank #1. Lawyers using SEO are going to struggle in the short term, because the big law firms have a big advantage: they were established first. It doesn’t mean that you can’t become a source to be reckoned with, but it’s going to take hard work and time. You’re not going to see instant results. 



PPC, on the other hand, is an instant way to get results. AND it gives you total control over the entire user journey. 

PPC is an auction system – an instant, paid way to rank first on the SERP and bring in qualified traffic to your site. You bid for a keyword that people who would want to hire you are searching for. When they search for that keyword, Google looks at your bid – if it’s higher than your competitors, you are shown above them. This gives small firms a chance of competing with larger firms right away

 PPC also gives you the ability to view data and determine what’s working and what’s not. You can change your campaigns, ads, and landing pages in real time so that you can send users to highly relevant pages (unlike with SEO). 





PPC and SEO should ideally work together to enhance your law firm’s digital marketing strategy, but if you have to choose one, or allocate more of your digital budget to one, go with PPC. PPC actually helps SEO, because it increases your traffic and gives you actionable data that can inform your SEO strategy. If you have both, you can show up twice on the same results page, which increases your chances of a conversion. But SEO is a long term investment without a guaranteed ROI; PPC is a short term way to rank above your competitors, get qualified leads, and make money! 


Have questions about your legal marketing strategy, particularly in the era of COVID-19 and post social distancing? Empirical360 is a Google Premier Partner who specializes in getting more clients and more cases for lawyers online through paid search engine marketing (Google Ads), social media marketing (Facebook Ads), conversion rate optimization, search engine optimization, website development and design, and video production. Contact us today to learn how we can grow your practice faster than your competitors! 




Shea Antonucci - Author

Director of Content Marketing

Shea is an expert content writer and is a classic literary nerd! She loves writing highly engaging content and has a knack for making it convert!

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