Digital Advertising for Law Firms and the Third Party Cookie Crumble

For the past 25 years, one of the big promises of digital advertising for law firms, was the tracking cookie, the ability to follow potential clients and leads across the web, from social to apps to everything in between.

Well, due to consumer pressure from the marketplace, privacy concerns, and anti-trust legislation, third-party tracking tech and it’s “cookies” are going the way of the Dodo, but that data, and the ability to gather and create solid legal marketing campaigns with it, is never going extinct!

You get the idea…

As leads fracture to platform specific, walled-in gardens, going forward, successful legal marketers will sharpen the skills of traditional advertising, while meeting the demands of measuring and converting on the platforms that drive the most cases and leads.

Let’s discuss some of the new changes to digital advertising, how law firm marketers are adjusting, and how to get the most out of online campaigns in a cookie-less world.

The Third-Party Tracking Cookie Party is Canceled

Digital marketers have long relied on third-party tracking cookies to follow consumers online. Almost every ad tech and martech platform uses cookies for display advertising, targeting, retargeting; and now, that’s all changing.

From the GDPR, to the California Consumer Privacy Act, to smart cookie-blocking technology that comes standard with Firefox and Apple products, the third party tracking cookie party is being cancelled on many fronts.

In some ways, this is a good thing for performance-minded marketers, forcing innovation and exploring new technologies to develop a law firm’s book of business online, while balancing profit and privacy.

But guess what?

The digital advertising campaigns available to law firms on Google Ads, including new additions to the ecosystem like Local Services Ads, continue to drive business.

And so, while there are alternatives to digital advertising on Google, through PPC or SEM, it’s hard to miss their share of market, so it makes sense to dive into the cookie crumbs hitting Google Ads first.

How Google Ads Is Changing for Law Firm Marketers

Google Ads is limiting/halting access to information such as search term reports. Whether it’s by design to push users into automating more portions of their campaigns (and thereby relying on Google’s tools and algorithms to manage ads), or in response to privacy concerns, the days of robust datasets and user tracking are coming to an end.

  • – Note for clarification, according to Google ,”A search term is the exact word or set of words a customer enters when searching on or one of our Search Network sites. A keyword is the word or set of words that Google advertisers create for a given ad group to target your ads to customers.”

Third party cookies will begin to get phased out, and user data will continue the trend of being restricted/removed.

Google is already working to block 3rd party trackers in Chrome and is touting “more transparency and control” in this blog post by VP of Ads Privacy and Safety.

Also from Google’s own playbook:

“This forward thinking group of marketers has:

  • Redefined what it means to have strong, direct relationships with their users. They recognize the growing importance of first-party data, making sure they have solutions in place to collect it responsibly from customers, as well as clear privacy policies that offer people transparency and control.
  • Found ways to reach their audiences and measure results when signals are limited.”

The writing on the wall could be any clearer; digital marketers will not be able to track and segment advertising the way they can now. But the necessity of Analytics and utilizing a law firm’s owned data, and strategizing “best-in-class” search engine marketing campaigns on Google that deliver clicks, plus clients, will be of evergreen importance.

How Digital Advertising for Law Firms Can Work Without Cookies

There isn’t an expected decline in advertising dollars with the tracking cookie industry crumbling, but rather a reallocation and shifting of budgets.

  • Paid ads will continue on platforms like Facebook and Google, along with the targeting options digital marketers have gotten used to.Digital advertising strategies are going to have to rely on more site-specific specialists, or a strong advertising agency that works with law firms specifically, to ensure campaigns are performing properly.
  • Contextual targeting will become more common, which is placing ads on content-specific sites and articles, rather than tracking user behavior all over the internet.The good news is that conversion rates tend to favor contextual targeting over hyper-targeted ad placements.
  • Content marketing, and other opportunities to gather first party data will also become increasing relevant tactics law firms will use in a cookie-less world. Newsletters, video series, and other audience generating content, are good places to start.

And yet, with all the changes to the digital marketplace, traditional advertising principles and skills will prove more cost effective and conversion focused in a cookie-less world.

Solid copy writing and conversion optimization techniques work alongside the targeting available, which is key to designing successful legal SEM campaigns, and strategies, for law firms.

Set benchmarks and run A/B tests to continually discover and refine what works best.

Reviewing patterns of search behavior, rather than individual search terms – may have to split into bigger buckets such as branded vs non-branded.

Gathering First Party Marketing Data in Your Law Firm

A key ingredient to successful digital advertising for law firms without third party tracking data, is a deep understanding of your own law firm’s client base, and a keen awareness on the desired category audience you’d like to expand into.

client experience survey

Via client surveys and other intelligence gathering avenues, fill client personas out as best you can, and not just the typical demographics things like age, gender, income, but social media sites they prefer and platforms the interact with most, because the big guys (Google) aren’t going to make it easy for you anymore.

As third-party data disappears, first-party data on your clients will become even more important to capture.

Call Tracking, CRM, and Data-Driven Legal Marketing

Call Tracking & lead review allow you to score calls and get granular with your lead-tracking.

With tools like CallRail, Call Tracking Metrics, and a case management system, like Needles, or Casepeer, or Clio, you can generate better performing, first-party data driven marketing campaigns.

With a strong connection to the firm’s pipeline, using a reliable dashboard here can generate reports that track both sales and marketing.

Start doing your own research and compiling your own data from your CRM. Use the information you collect to create compelling ads that speak to your audience using the language and affinities that they share, and put them in places where your potential clients will be. Set benchmarks, A/B test to determine effectiveness.

In Conclusion

Digital advertising will always remain a critical brand-building tool, especially for service industries like law firms. Third party data has been an interesting experiment, and really no more divergent than traditional advertising audience analysis methods.

But the marketplace and legal community have spoken out, and thankfully, being on the right side of this means a better yield for advertising budgets in contextual targeting, a higher demand for first party data and the content that goes along with driving awareness, and a digital marketing strategy

Have questions or are interested in improving your law firm’s social media marketing, Get In Touch Subscribe to our Newsletter, and catch up with the LAWsome podcast!

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