LSAs: A Best Practice to Boost Your Firm’s Local Rankings
The legal industry is one of fierce competition, and external factors, such as Covid-19, are pushing it towards digitalization. Digital innovation for law firms is paramount in this day and age, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. In order 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.
LSAs, local service ads, can help your firm accomplish just that and score you quality leads that ultimately turn into paying clients. . The primary focus of these ads is to help your firm appear to prospects that are in the area and searching the web for services like yours. You can think of LSA as the newest “middle man” between your law firm and clients if you will.
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; 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. Read on to uncover how LSAs may help 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 discoverable on Google, and your best bet is through local service ads. How? Let’s first get into the details of what LSAs are and what they aren’t.
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 aren’t
- 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:
As you can see, LSAs are promoted at the very top of the search results.
If your firm were to build a search strategy around LSAs, the profile of your firm or 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.
LSA’s Benefits Beyond Your Firm’s Expectations
As a whole, a strong SEO strategy 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 has 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.
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, 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.
The way 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 incorporate your firm’s GMB (Google My Business). One of the key elements you benefit from by having a Google My Business page 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 take advantage of them as well. 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 five 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 two types of reviews.
- The Google My Business (GMB) 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).
- The verified reviews – These LSA reviews are given priority over the Google My Business reviews. These reviews are left after a client uses your services. Like GMB 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 sample 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 My Business. 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:
- Number of employees in your firm
- Law firm name
- Phone number
- Owner’s name
- Year founded (Important to add, as it shows establishment)
- Languages spoken (A great differentiator amongst law firms)
- 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 briefly 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 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?
- Add all the information within steps 1 – 3.
- Make sure your GMB (Google My Business) reviews are at least a 3+. We will explain the best practices for reviews in the steps to come.
- Agree to a background check of your firm’s founder
- Prepare headshots for the lawyers in the featured ads.
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 for this will vary between firms. Google states the screening process takes between 2-5 weeks.
Another best practice for Google Screening is to only submit one of the business owners. 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:
- The estimated cost per lead
- 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)
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 24h 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 that calls/text messages/ fills on 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:
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 (ex: 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. Here’s a brief explanation: you can click on a lead summary, follow the three dots at the top right and follow the instructions there. Why dispute leads? You only pay for the leads that are actually qualified.
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 and 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 that can happily assist you in your marketing and search ads endeavors, alongside a dedicated onboarding specialist from the Local Service Ads team.
We are equipped to fight the bidding war by your side!