Lawyers Guide to Google Local Service Ads

The legal industry is one of fierce competition, and external factors like COVID-19 pushed it towards digitalization at an exponentially faster pace. Digital advertising campaigns and Local SEO for law firms are paramount in this day and age, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. 

To maintain your firm’s competitive edge in the legal landscape, both in the online and offline worlds, you will need to find strategies that will allow your firm to remain 2 steps ahead of the game to remain recession-resistant.

Google LSAs or Local Service Ads, can help your firm excel and score quality leads that ultimately turn into paying clients. The primary focus of these ads is to help your firm appear to prospects who are in the area and searching the web for services like yours.  

Securing leads = securing the sales pipeline.

Leads are those found in the middle of your sales funnel:

You can think of LSA as the newest “middleman” between your law firm and clients if you will. Google even refers to LSA as the “messy middle.”

Just like what Consultwebs talked about in this interview: 


Although Google originally launched local service ads for home services, they are now being served to the prospects of other lines of business as well, and law firms were added to the list of eligible industries last year. Since then, LSAs have become the most appealing ad type for search campaigns, and your law firm can take advantage of this opportunity, too. 

For example, this firm is securing above industry averages resulting from  LSAs’ efforts.

In law, the average CTR for search is 2.93%. While this firm is up to 5%, their conversion rate is almost double, at 9%.  

Read on to uncover how LSAs can give your firm the boost it needs to start generating the ROI you always envisioned. 

It’s All About Showing Up

Your prospects are in your area and searching for you as we speak. The only way for them to find you is if you make yourself visible on Google, and your best bet is through local service ads for law firms. 

How? 

Let’s first get into the details of what LSAs are and are not:

Difference between LSA and PPC

What Local Service Ads Are

  • A completely different advertising program where law firms are pre-vetted and verified on Google.
  • Lead directly to a “click-to-call” functionality. 
  • A new ad format above PPC and all other search ads on Google within the search query. 
  • Operate on a pay-per-lead basis.
  • Level the advertising field between large and small law firms.

What Local Service Ads Are not

  • Local service ads (not to be mistaken with local search ads.)
  • Managed through Google Ads (Only their billing and payment system is.)
  • Operational on a PPC (pay-per-click) basis.

 

Local service ads have completely changed Google’s SERP hierarchy and consequently impact the way local businesses partake in advertising. The new hierarchy from top to bottom is the following: 

 

If your firm were to build a search strategy around LSAs, the profile of your firm or the lawyer representing your firm would appear at the very top of Google’s search results.  Here is an example:

As you can see, local ads are Google screened and provide the user with valuable information, such as performance (reviews) and years in business.

That’s why, nowadays, the most successful law firms invest capital in technology to enhance their digital capabilities. 

Take a look at these findings:

LSA’s Benefits Beyond Your Firm’s Expectations

As a whole, a strong SEO services can build on your firm’s long-term success. With SEO, it takes a while to notice the fruits of its labor. But with LSAs, you can see a more noticeable impact. 

Some of the benefits LSAs have on your firm’s growth include the following:

Benefit 1 – Bringing in more calls. 

LSAs give prospects the option to directly call your firm. Seeing as these ads include specific information on how happy past clients are with your services, as well as other valuable info, they will be more call-happy than with other advertising tactics

Benefit 2 – Building more trust. 

LSAs require an extensive verification process. 

(You can find a step-by-step guide below.)

After your firm goes through the verification process, it receives a “Google Guaranteed” checkmark and a badge. This, in turn, helps users identify your firm as a legitimate one. Trust is the name of the game, so this gets definite plus points.  

Benefit 3 – Helping your website’s traffic. 

LSAs are ads that are served to prospects based on their proximity to your firm and their specific needs. This makes this ad type one of the most targeted and, with it, one of the most prone to actually converting into a profitable business. 

Here’s a great example: The image shows how the combined efforts of LSAs and SEO help a personal injury law firm enhance its financial performance.

Benefit 4 – Providing more information. 

LSAs give users a direct connection to your Google My Business information, such as phone number, address, years in business, and reviews. Perhaps the most important connection is that it also links to your website, so your prospects can scour the content you have on your site for information as well!

Benefit 5 – Managing your budget. 

How your investment is managed on the LSA platform is in weekly intervals. By working with weekly budgets, your total investment is carefully monitored, and adjustments can easily be made at any time to meet your current needs.  Additionally, LSAs work on a pay-per-lead basis! 

So, if a lead wasn’t up to your standards, you can dispute the charge.

Benefit 6 – Showing off your reviews. 

Having some form of social proof is arguably the most important decision factor for all consumers searching the web. Luckily, local service ads for law firms incorporate your firm’s GMB (Google My Business).  

 

One of the key benefits of having a Google Business Profile is the possibility to showcase the reviews and ratings your clients have left your firm. This dramatically impacts the decision-making of prospects who are looking to see what has been said of your services, management, and overall support. 

Also, another quick note: If you have negative reviews, too, don’t fret. You can also use them. 

Find out how to create a solid review strategy here.

Do’s and Don’ts To Maximize Your Ads’ Performance 

Now that we’ve explained the basics, it’s important to keep some best practices in mind before jumping in. 

Here are our top 5 recommendations: 

Best Practice 1 – Use the Maximum Paid Ad Budget Recommended. 

Google gives you a weekly budget recommendation for your paid ads. Although you will never pay more than your monthly max, you should stick to the maximum recommendation. By doing so, you guarantee your investment gets you as much quality traffic as possible.

 

Best Practice 2 – Slowly Increase the Paid Ad Budget.

Don’t go “too big, too fast.” Even if you feel like your firm’s ads are struggling to pop up, it is always best to increase gradually.  If you go in and increase your investment abruptly, your local service ads account might be flagged due to suspicious behavior, and this will prevent your LSAs from showing at all. (Here’s the kicker: Google does not warn you about this!) 

Best Practice 3 – Pay Attention To Your Reviews. 

LSAs go through 2 types of reviews. 

  1. The Google Business Profile reviews – They’re automatically attached to your LSA account. It is always a good rule to answer reviews in a timely manner (whether it’s a positive or negative review).
  2. The verified reviews – These LSA reviews are given priority over the Google My Business Profile reviews. These reviews are left after a client uses your services. Like Google Business Profile reviews, they should always be answered in a timely manner (whether it’s a positive or negative review).

Best Practice 4 – Consistently Monitor Your Reports and Dispute On Time.

It is best to regularly monitor your LSA reports and review the leads that are coming in.  With the insights into your qualified/unqualified leads, you will be able to discern what needs optimizing and how. You can also learn and read the rules and regulations when disputing a lead here

Best Practice 5 – Have a 24/7 Response.

Response time is critical. This can make or break your firm’s credibility and overall client service. The best practice is to provide a 24/7 response time. In order to achieve this, you may want to hire a 3rd party to work through your after-hour calls. If you opt for this route, make sure they are able to provide the quality of service and the answers you require. 

 

Setting Up Your LSA Account 

You can make the most of your budget within your firm’s advertisement with an LSA account. 

To do so, follow this 9-step process:

Step 1 – Start by checking your firm’s eligibility here

All the main law firm service areas are included. Here is an example

Step 2 – Continue setting up your profile

This is a series of samples of the information you’ll need to provide:

Since Google has to be pre-vetted and verified, the information your law firm needs to fill in goes deeper than Google Business Profile.  In order to continue, your firm will need the Google Screened/ Google Guarantee badge. This will show customers they can trust you. 

Our best practice advice here is to have all the information you will need at hand; this includes: 

  1. Number of employees in your firm 
  2. Law firm name
  3. Phone number
  4. Website
  5. Owner’s name
  6. Year founded (Important to add, as it shows establishment)
  7. Languages spoken (A great differentiator amongst law firms) 
  8. Law firm address

The information you provide here constitutes the differentiating factor between your firm and others. These are also the factors Google takes into account when giving you your weekly LSA 

“suggested budget.” 

Here’s a head’s up: You will be asked to provide the following additional requirements as well:

  • Different locations of your business (if applicable) 
  • Your practice areas and any specializations your firm focuses on 
  • Business hours

*It is important to note that the best practice within ‘Business hours’ is to accurately state your hours of business. 

Why?

According to LSA research, “If they [Google] notice unanswered calls or form submissions, they might penalize you or exclude your Law Firm from LSAs.” 

Step 3 – Google Screening

As mentioned above, your law firm needs a Google Guarantee badge. Search Engine Journal showcases a business verification sample:  

Per best practices, make sure you have all the information at hand and follow this “must-have” checklist: 

  • Headshot of the person showing in the ad 
  • License information (number and expiration date) 
  • Any other additional information (this includes other lawyers that will be featured in the ad) 

How can your law firm pass the Google screening? 

  1. Add all the information within steps 1 – 3. 
  2. Make sure your Google Business Profile reviews are at least a 3+. We will explain the best practices for reviews in the steps to come. 
  3. Agree to a background check of your firm’s founder
  4. Prepare headshots for the lawyers in the featured ads. 

Now, this information is definitely helpful, but surely you still have some concerns…

Let us elaborate.

  • Do law firms pay for the Google screening? The background check is FREE. 
  • How long can law firms expect this process to take? The answer to this will vary between firms. Google states the screening process takes between 2-5 weeks. 

Another best practice for Google Screening is to submit only one of the business owners because adding all the firm’s partners delays the screening process significantly. 

Having only one business owner within the screening process means there are fewer questions asked in the setup process. This is a sample of a ‘personal injury lawyer in Boston’ that has been Google screened and appears within the top 3 LSAs.  

Step 4 – Understand what your ad will contain. 

According to Google, your firm’s ad will contain the following information: 

Step 5 – Set Your Budget.

LSAs function with a combination of leads and your weekly budget. Your weekly budget is converted into your “suggested budget” for your ads. The way this is determined is through: 

  1. The estimated cost per lead
  2. The number of leads your firm wants to target 

In this budget sample; you can see that your bidding mode depends on your weekly budget and leads.  

This “suggested budget” will vary between firms, years of experience, location, your practice areas, and how many leads your firm can handle. It is still up to your firm to decide on its specific budget, depending on your wants and needs.

Step 6 – Aim for the top 3 positions. 

The legal industry is competitive. It may come as no surprise to you that there are people bidding on LSAs to be in one of the top three spots on Google’s SERP

Although the “winners” of the top 3 LSA spots are usually the highest bidders, you can still help your firm in other ways. Make sure to include: 

  • Quality reviews
  • A completed GMB (Google My Business) 
  • A good record (with few complaints) 
  • Responsiveness 
  • Availability 
  • Location(s) 

Step 7 – Reviews and Responsiveness Are Critical. 

Your firm should actively seek reviews online. Besides the heaps of benefits reviews offer, they can help boost the ranking of your LSAs. 

The best practice advice here is to try to keep response speeds within 24 hours of having received a review. We will elaborate on best practices for reviews in the steps to follow.

Step 8 – Monitor Reports and Dispute Non-Leads 

This step is very important. Google considers a lead anyone who calls/text messages/ fills in a form during your business hours. Within calls, Google considers a lead any call lasting more than 30 seconds. 

Your firm can monitor the LSA reports and expect to see the following:   

You can also learn how to manage the response time and forms of communication

According to research on client responsiveness, you should give your clients and prospects options within their communication process with your firm. 

Our best practice advice is to give your clients options when communicating with you:

  • 19% of millennials with a legal issue at hand would rather text or email a lawyer and avoid phone or face-to-face confrontation. 
  • Clients also like to have a follow-up email (e.g., let them know they are in the waiting process or what to expect next) 

Remember that a missed lead is a missed opportunity, and you can avoid this risk by providing options. 

Step 9 – How To Dispute a Lead 

If you ever receive a lead that was misled or unqualified, you can dispute the lead. An example of an unqualified lead might be someone who calls seeking help in a practice area that your law firm doesn’t offer. Google offers a thorough explanation for disputing a lead

Why dispute leads? 

Because you only need to pay for the leads that are actually qualified.   

Here’s a brief explanation: 

Disputing a charge is only a couple of simple steps. Once you add the details needed, the Google LSA team will review the charge and process the lead dispute within 1 week. After that, a message will show at the top of the lead in the dashboard to notify you if your dispute was approved or not.

Manage Your Firm’s Marketing Alongside A Google Premier Partner

Overall, LSAs are a very appealing tool for law firms, and though we’ve provided you with a basic understanding of how they should be set up and how they work,  it can become a bit confusing without some guidance. 

Partnering with a Google Premier Partner prevents any issues from occurring. They come with the added benefit of having creative ideas to ensure your firm is always 2 steps ahead of your competition. 

At Consultwebs, we have LSA experts on board who can happily assist you in your marketing and search ads endeavors alongside a dedicated onboarding specialist from the Local Service Ads for law firms team. We are equipped to fight the bidding war by your side! 

 

Talk to us and discover how LSAs can be applied to your firm.