5 Out of The Box Tips for Law Firm Digital Advertising

In jazz improvisation, “outside” playing describes an approach where one plays over a scale, mode, or chord that is harmonically distant from the given chord.

Greats such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane all went “outside” the changes and produced some revolutionary music, as well as concepts, that musicians still study today. These jazz innovators were all advanced masters of music theory, and the approaches they took were calculated – it wasn’t accidentally playing the wrong note or lack of understanding a chord progression that lead them “outside” – it was deliberate experimentation and countless hours of practice. They knew the fundamentals and were reaching for something beyond them.

Before we go further, we know what you’re thinking about jazz….

…but hear us out.

In this article, we’re going to look at how to go “outside” with your Google Ads campaigns. Just like with jazz music, this does require a high level of understanding, competence, and respect for the fundamentals. If you go “outside” all the time, the context is ruined and the effect has less of an impact. So, too, with our law firm pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns – best practices, campaign setup guidelines, and industry standards are there for a reason. They are effective, tested rules and tactics that get results.

The catch here is that everyone knows them, and therefore everyone uses them. The tactics we are looking at in this post are measures to take advantage of what the other legal PPC advertisers are doing and maybe find some new ways to reach potential clients without dropping a major ad budget in the process. I am not suggesting that solid account management fundamentals and optimizing for high-intent keywords is a bad thing – in fact, quite the opposite. You build on the fundamentals, but don’t get stuck on them – you can unlock some alternative approaches with a little experimentation.

Saving a Percentage Budget Toward the End of the Month

This tactic takes advantage of a lot of the auto-pilot / automation solutions that are out there. Budgets are set on a monthly or daily basis, and pacing can be an afterthought. What happens is that your competition spends their whole budget early, leaving inventory on the table at the end of the day and end of the month. This means less competition and lower prices because there aren’t as many advertisers in the auction.

The best way to get this going is to set aside some budget to experiment with and check your own data to make sure you aren’t crossing over with any campaigns that are already running. Maybe set some schedules on everything so you can be sure your “maximum end of the day/month budget” test is getting the attention it deserves.

Buying Surround Words

Think about what services a potential client would be needing in addition to a lawyer after they were involved in a serious car accident. Keywords like “chiropractor” and “occupational therapist” may seem like the intent would place this way out of bounds and irrelevant, but what if they were searching for those services without realizing they could talk to a lawyer? Or what if they were searching for those services first and were waiting to make a decision regarding legal representation?

In order for this to work right, you MUST use creative ad copy here. This is no time to fall back on a generic “injured in an accident” PPC ad. You have to address the situation more personally – “Medical expenses starting to pile up after your accident?” for example. This is most effective in acknowledging the specifics of the situation (why they are here looking for a neurologist) and the hardships it has created and offering a solution.

On the results end of this, I had a client sign what ended up being a $50K case from the word “neurologist.”

Buying Brand – Slogans, Catchphrases, Brand Associations

In my experience, it’s not a bad idea to pick up the keywords for your law firm name. This ensures you are at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPS) ─ always good for those lazy-click mobile phone searches ─ and you add to the number of times you appear on the page, which has been shown to be beneficial.

According to Searchengineland, running paid ad campaigns that 1) offer precise messages and 2) are located next to your organic listings on Google can increase overall click-through-rate (CTR) and lead to a higher return on your investment.

There’s nothing really “outside” about simply buying the keywords that are your name or your law firm name, but there is another option to check out beyond just a proper name:

Got a Slogan or Catchphrase? BUY IT!

“One call, that’s all.”

“In a wreck? Get a check.”

“Personal service, effective results.”

Any of those sound familiar? Pretty common taglines ─ some have been turned into jingles on TV commercials ─ but do this: Google them.

Not a lot of ads are there, right? Maybe none ─ at least in the examples, I checked. This is a low-cost, high-reward opportunity. You take the top of the SERPS, you get to use ad copy to define what message is associated with the phrase ─ and bonus, if it’s yours, you’ll probably get a couple of spots on the page, which is a good thing.

Side note: You can buy whatever phrase you want here ─ even if it’s not yours ─ but depending upon state bar rules, this may or may not be ethical, so tread lightly here.

Beyond that, just … use your imagination.

Using Google Trends

This is an old trick, but worth checking out if your goal is strictly to get some name recognition on the cheap. This technique has more in common with TV ad spots or putting your logo on the scoreboard at a baseball game. You are getting it out in front of a massive audience for low cost/effort. This is also the most dangerous tactic in this article, and you can get into real trouble using it, so if you decide to try it out, make sure you have a thorough understanding of how it works and how to set up your campaign to avoid disaster.

Go to Google Trends to find trending search terms/queries.

You can get pretty granular here – location, time of day, etc. You should spend a little time getting familiar with how the different filters work and what are “good” indicators for popularity of a search (which is the subject of a different article).

Once you have a list of trending topics, do some research. This is critical – a negative brand association can be devastating, so take your time and make sure you are not going to be associated with any trends or topics that may have negative implications. (Although I suppose this depends upon your appetite for risk.) In my experience, sports and music are typically pretty safe subjects that always have something trending that’s getting a good amount of traffic.

Once you have your trend identified, buy the keywords associated with them. You will want to run a strong branded search ad ideally incorporating a slogan or mission statement if you have one. Remember – the objective here is to get your firm name in front of as many eyes as possible for a low cost. Do not expect calls or conversions out of this, as it is not a direct response tactic. This is all about brand reinforcement. Like a billboard on a popular stretch of highway.

How it can go wrong? CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING → You don’t want to buy and associate with trending topics that may cause conflicts down the road. For example:

  • News items that become legal battles could color your stance.
  • You buy Oregon Football, they get embroiled in a scandal.
  • You buy a celebrity, and they die. Then your ad is popping up … on their obituary notice.

Also, budget. You will probably get more impressions than clicks, but you still need strict limits or dayparting (time ads are running) to be sure you don’t go broke on accident. Trends can help, though, if you look at time of day and set your ad schedule to run concurrent to volume trends.


The cool thing about remarketing is that you can make all kinds of audiences based on user behavior ─ pages they visited, pages they didn’t visit, returning visitors, etc. A great way to get into this is by looking at your new vs. returning data in Google Analytics to determine the different opportunity windows for your remarketing ads.

retargeting in digital advertisingretargeting in digital advertising

For example, all website visitors are OK, and it is a default setup from Google Ads. However, you need to exclude people who actually converted because you have no reason to keep showing them ads.

Blog post readers could indicate someone trying to learn more about how to proceed in a particular situation and therefore have a higher level of intent than someone who only visited the homepage of your site for 5 seconds and then left.

ALSO – bonus hint – shorten the membership duration of your audiences based on what you know from past clients. How long after being in a car accident did they wait until they contacted a lawyer? Your intake team should have this data for you (and if they do not, they need to start collecting it). You probably do not need to be following around a user for 60 days AFTER they visited your site for the most part – although your data will tell you a more exact duration.

For a brand reinforcement lift in this scenario, you may want to try a more direct sales message for the first 48 to 72 hours after they leave your site, but after that, go for a more general branded ad.

This will give you visibility and keep your firm top of mind in those cases where a potential client is stuck in the research phase of their search for legal help. Please note: These timeframes are arbitrary. Filter your data, test a time frame, and adjust based on results.

Wrapping Up From Outside

Taking a creative approach to your advertising can lead to some great results. However, that does not mean I am suggesting focusing heavily on any of these suggested tactics as a cornerstone strategy for your marketing campaigns. Remember – best practices are there for a reason. Solid account management and mastery of the fundamentals of paid search optimizing are going to be where you want to focus the majority of your efforts – and budget.

So how should a law firm try these tactics out? Your best bet is to set aside a small portion of your budget for your own personal “Advertising Skunkworks.” It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you can go far with a small budget and some creative “out-of-the-box” ideas. Just make sure you’re realistic about your expectations, measure your results, and build on what you learn from your experiments.

***DISCLAIMER*** As with any advertising campaign, there is potential for error and discrepancies regardless of the abilities of the individual administering them. The tactics in this article are presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as a promise or guarantee of results. Use at your own risk.