Episode 14: Paid Search Advertising with Leann Pickard

Leann Pickard is the Director of Advertising at Juris Digital. Leann brings extensive PPC experience is backed by a fundamental understanding of SEO, which all contributes to exceptional success for Juris Digital clients. With over 10 years running pay-per-click + social media campaigns, she prides herself on optimizing campaigns so attorneys can sign more clients.

In this episode, Leann talks to Casey about the importance of paid search and how it can put your law firm in front of your competition.

Prefer to read? Read The Transcript Below

Interview Transcript

Casey Meraz:

Hi, I’m Casey Meraz, and you’re listening to the Lawyer Mastermind Podcast where we help attorneys grow their law firms by interviewing experts who can fast-track their success.

Casey Meraz:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Lawyer Mastermind Podcast. Today, I am joined by Leann Pickard, the Director of Advertising at Juris Digital. Leann, thanks for joining us today.

Leann Pickard:

Thanks for having me, Casey.

Casey Meraz:

Absolutely. Today, we’re going to be talking about pretty much all things paid search, and I think we should probably start off with the elephant in the room. What are people seeing now at the top of Google when you’re searching for different attorney keywords, the boxes that are showing up top?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah, those are called local services ads. They were recently rolled out. They’ve been around for a while for home services. They’re originally called home services ads, and they were allowed for plumbers and those types of home services. Then they’ve been testing out immigration lawyers and estate lawyers for some time. I think a little bit over about a year now. Just at the end of July 2020, they rolled out pretty much every practice area for lawyers that we have. So it’s been pretty awesome and very efficient as far as quality of leads and so forth. So they’re great so far.

Casey Meraz:

Got it. Yeah. It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve seen the rollout fully come to fruition. I did see the tests a long time ago, but now that we see a lot of personal injury lawyers joining it, it seems like everybody’s kind of jumping on board. What is the process for firms that aren’t listed there that want to show up there? Can they just go into Google ads like typical or is this a different process?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. So the process is fairly complicated. Since it was rolled out in July, there’s a lot of hiccups and different things like that on the Google side of things. It’s still technically on the backend connected through Google ads, but they’re two separate entities. So local services ads functions solely on a different basically planet. Then Google ads functions on its own different planet. The billing information is somewhat connected between the two. So the set of process is basically you go to legal services on Google, you start your application, you want to have a Gmail account. So something that’s not associated with Google ads as a whole. So I would basically recommend starting a brand new Gmail account to set up that account just so there’s no glitches that happen and it gets verified and approved quicker. Then you go through that process of setting up an account with your practice areas, your law firm information, the founded year of when your law firm was founded. One owner will start the application. Basically, if there’s multiple owners of the company and just one person needs to do that sort of application.

Leann Pickard:

Then you’re going to want to put in either as many lawyers as you have in the firm or however many owners you want to show on the application. Then you’ll fill out all the information that local services ads gives you. After that’s done, you set a minimum budget. So Google gives you and kind of makes you choose what your minimum budget is. Obviously with Google, you can spend as much as money as you want. So there’s no max, but there is a minimum spend as far as a monthly budget. So for personal injury lawyers, we’re starting to see, depending on the area and the location, we’re seeing from $73 cost per lead to $193 cost per lead. So in some areas, that’s still cheaper than Google ads at some points, if they’re trying to get car accident lawyers. So there’s benefit in the cost per lead there. Then after the application is filled out, you are sent a link that you are required to do a background check. So there’s a business check that verifies your business and a background check that verifies that you’re an okay human, basically.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Pinkerton’s running that?

Leann Pickard:

Correct. Yeah. So Pinkerton has been, over the 10 plus lawyers we’ve set up, Pinkerton has been the sole company that’s been doing the background checks. There has been talk and from Google reps. They’re saying that there’s another company that does them, but from my experience has been Pinkerton as a whole. But yeah. The verification process, you want me to keep-

Casey Meraz:

Yeah.

Leann Pickard:

… talking about this one? As far as the verification process, with the help of a Google rep, we can get those verified within maybe three days from our services and being helpful in that area. If you do it on your own and kind of just let it sit there, it could take between two to five weeks depending on different things. So I would say the whole process from beginning to end, if you’re thorough about it, probably one to about two weeks process to get fully verified.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Got it. You touched on a lot of different, really important points. So one of them I want to highlight is you mentioned cost per lead. So obviously, that’s completely different than Google ads. So you’re only paying per qualified lead, is it?

Leann Pickard:

Yes, which is huge because we get a lot of lawyers coming through the door. Either one, they’d been burned by particular agencies that didn’t run their funds well and they didn’t get a good cost per lead and they wasted money. Or they’ve ran their own Google ads, campaigns, and didn’t really know how to do it and they’ve also wasted money on that. Or the cost per click is just so high, and especially personal injury areas where it’s out the door costs. So the great thing about local services as is from the front, from the opening the door of the application of local services ads, you know what your budget’s going to be, how many leads you’re going to get because that’s dictated on the budget and the cost per lead is set from the beginning.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. So that makes sense. Obviously, that is fundamentally different from Google’s other products in that sense, but I think you’re right. A lot of attorneys have been burned by either poor paid spend, but not only that. I wrote a report a couple years ago now where I looked at all these lead generation companies for lawyers like the law two and these different ones, and a lot of them were taking leads that were not exclusive and selling them to law firms. The quality was low, the price was high and the consistency was not really there. Are these unique leads to that law firm that are paying for them? And what are the qualifications to make it a legitimate lead as opposed to just crap?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. So, you’re still obviously, going to get those crappy calls. There is a Google sets in it where anything less than 30 seconds is not… just kind of gets not charged. So anything over that does get a charge, unless it’s somewhat spam. So you get the benefit of disputing those leads that are not technically a quality lead. We found that majority of those get charges back if they’re not legit. So if a person calls in for personal injury lawyer and they’ve been in an accident, they have been in an accident, they’ve been injured, that sort of thing, they’re technically a qualified lead in that realm. But I would say the thing that probably sets the service apart from hiring a company to you’re paying per lead by those agencies is you don’t have to pay them a commission of that lead. You’re not paying upfront for those specific leads or have a bank of two grand and that’s kind of pulled away as you get leads within that. You’re specifically paying per lead and can dispute if the leads are good or bad yourself.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. So if they’re the wrong practice area, for example, would that be one that you can dispute?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. So wrong practice area, a spam call, if it’s a miss call. What else is there? Yeah, those are basically the key points in disputes.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Then I know some lead generation services have different qualification. So they have to be in your practice area like we just mentioned. Geographically, they have to be there. If it’s an injury case, from some providers, you have to have an injury. Are there any of that criteria that apply as well?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. So you have to be in the location of the service. So if you’re licensed in Florida, but you somehow… Google sent you a lead from North Carolina and you can’t take that service on, then you can distribute that lead as well. So it has to be in the geographical locations within the licensed attorney.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Do you think local services ads are here to stay? What’s your opinion on that?

Leann Pickard:

I think they are. We’re seeing a lot of low competition in a lot of areas. So right now, I think the costs specifically I’m speaking to personal injury lawyers, that cost per lead is really low in my opinion, especially a lot of people are… You have to be a verified business, so I think that cuts out the spam in half. We have seen a few spammy type of positions come in, but you have to have that checked, green screened check box and that is favored truly by Google.

Leann Pickard:

So we’ve seen that your LSA can be approved if it’s verified and show up, start showing up, but it will not have the Google Screened checkbox. So that means you’re going to be showed up at the very bottom. So once your actual firm and your employees and your law firms and your lawyers are verified in background checks, you get that Google Screened checks box and you start popping up near the top and you actually start seeing the results that you need. So you may still show up without the Google screened check box, but you’re not going to get as quality of leads or be favored in Google’s eyes if you don’t have it.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Got it. And if you’re not showing up after you’ve gone through the process and everything, is it Google ads? Maybe your budget’s run out, or something like that? What would be the case in that situation?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. So the Google Screened checkbox is obviously, put in there once you’re fully screened as far as background check and your business is verified and all the lawyers go through with a clean background check. So you get that checkbox. Now, if your budget runs out, so say you only have like a $250 a month budget, that gives you about maybe one to three leads a month. If you hit that mark, then your ads are not… That Google check box is going to go down. You’re not going to be showing that. It’s not going to show that green check box and you’re not going to be served basically anymore leads for that month. We haven’t seen it go down officially, meaning it doesn’t take your ad off, but it doesn’t give you the Google check, the green screened check.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Got it. Again, these results are the ones that are showing up kind of really the top now, or even above. Are these showing up above paid ads? Or what’s their placement if we’re looking at the tradition of Google ads and local pack and organic results?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. So as far as how things were before local services ads showed up, you had the four top Google ad spots. So you get either three or four ads up there, then the map pack ads and then at the very bottom, you get the other three Google ads. So these LSAs are showing at the very, very top; so above the map pack ads, above the four spots in the Google ads. So they’re showing up in the top, the three little boxes, and you can have a little link that says, “see more criminal defense attorneys,” or, “see more personally attorneys.” Once you click that box, it kind of populates into all of the people that are running those ads in the area. But yeah, they’re definitely showing up above everything else and I don’t see that fading away anytime soon.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Got it. So let’s say that a firm has unlimited budget. Where would you say they should focus their efforts? They just want to drive leads. What’s the best way to do that? Is it taking advantage of just this or a multi-pronged approach? Just trying to get your opinion there.

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. I would definitely take the multi-pronged approach. So my goal is always to get the most real estate on a search as you can. Now, we have the option with the local services ads. So getting that local services ad up there, that way you’re guaranteed leads that come through the door, the quality of leads that are coming through the door. So you’re guaranteed leads, right? Then you have the spot where you’re in the top. It’s called top page results for those specific ads. So I would get an ad there. That way you’re taking up local servers, you’re taking up a super top result ad, and then you’re taking a map pack ad. So those ads specific are called call only ads or map pack ads, and those show up underneath the map with all of those other GMB locations, so the Google My Business locations.

Leann Pickard:

Then hopefully, you have a top ranking organic SEO. With all the SEO you’re doing, you get that top organic ranking there. So if we can take up all of that real estate, we’re guaranteed to get results in the door if you have the budget for that. If you do not have the budget for that and you’re a personal injury lawyer, we would want to evaluate what your cost per lead is for the LSA and then what we can maybe get you as a cost per lead in a budget for Google ads. So I would still use both approaches, but it would highly depend on the client’s budget for the month.

Casey Meraz:

Sure. No, that makes sense. Budget is one thing, a major thing for a lot of law firms. They have to know how much they’re going to spend. And really the only way to guarantee that that budget is going to generate leads, at least for Google ads platforms, would be through the LSA. Is that correct?

Leann Pickard:

What was that question again, Casey?

Casey Meraz:

If you just wanted to guarantee, “I have this much money and I want this many leads,” you’re basically going the LSA route, right?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. Yeah. I would say if you want a quick fix and you want to know how many leads you’re going to get and how much this is going to cost with no risk involved, then yes. I would say LSA is the way to go. To work with an algorithm that we can determine down to your cost per lead and get around about if you sign 15… If we get 15% of those cases for the budget and you sign about 40% of those cases, we can work out a system that we can kind of guarantee a certain amount of leads per month in your budget. But again, that’s still,, with Google ads, is still a little bit more risky situation than like LSAs.

Casey Meraz:

Sure. No, definitely. I just wanted to highlight that difference. Obviously, this product is really new, at least for personal injury lawyers like you were mentioning. So I guess we’ll have to see how it plays out. Do you see any disadvantages to getting involved with it at this time?

Leann Pickard:

Honestly, no. I had a client asked me that recently, “What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing LSAs?” Honestly, right at this point, I don’t see any disadvantages. As long as your firm is able to get background checks and you’re able to pull in a good background check and solid background check, I don’t see it being an issue because you’re still showing up. If you get a call, it’s most likely a qualified lead. I can see down the road, it being a disadvantage if their limited budget and you have high competition, that cost related, it’s most likely going to shoot up to be super high to be even able to compete there. But at this moment, no. I don’t see any disadvantages.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. I was reading a little bit about a bidding option that had opened up. What’s that? Can you touch on that a little bit?

Leann Pickard:

So in local services ads, you have to bid options. So obviously, Google gives you a minimum amount of budget that you can spend and there’s no max, but you have two options of bidding for those particular leads. The recommended option is the maximum leads. So you’re set of budget, let’s say $3000 for that month. You’re guaranteed… It gives you a guarantee of, let’s say, four to 12 leads per month. Then Google uses that budget to give you however many leads it can. So the difference is you’re not guaranteed a $93 personal injury to lead for costs per lead. You’re just guaranteed three leads in the month, or in that week, and it’s just going to use the budget itself.

Leann Pickard:

The other option is a set max per lead where you can manually set your own and the maximum cost you want to pay for a lead. So if the lead is $93, you’re only going to pay $93 for those leads that month. However, someone can come in and say, “I want to bid $150 for that lead,” then you’re probably not going to get as many leads as you would want that month. So it’s Google algorithm of what they feel is best for your budget or set per lead costs that you’re going to spend within your budget.

Casey Meraz:

You see the big budget players kind of taking advantage of that, or what’s your take there?

Leann Pickard:

Honestly, I’ve tried both different approaches with multiple different law firms. It seems, there is no data on this because we don’t have any data to prove anything at this point, but I do see under everything Google does with the recommended options, they recommend maximum leads a month. I’m seeing that you do get a maximum leads within how many leads they offer you and your ad shows up a little bit more often in those rankings. With the cost per lead option or the max per lead option, I’m not seeing as many leads come through the door. So I definitely think people are outbidding and just kind of using more of the maximum leads option of that. So I don’t know if that answers the question per se.

Casey Meraz:

It does, and it sounds like it’s going to be kind of a moving target, like a work in progress here with a lot of things changing as well.

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. I think anything Google sets is recommended is all obviously favored in Google’s eyes. I’ve seen this across the board in Google ads and I’m definitely seeing it in local services ads as well.

Casey Meraz:

Sure. Okay. Got it. What are the biggest complaints your clients have had, if any, on the local services ads?

Leann Pickard:

There was one complaint involving… They were litigation lawyers and personal injury lawyers. We had their campaign set up for both types of entities because they were licensed in both areas. There’s little toggle bars on the back end of the job types. It’s got job types under the different practice areas. So under personal injury, you’re able to select the different job types of assault and battery or car accidents or auto accidents and those sort of things. So for litigation lawyers, we had everything turned off and they were still being served constant litigation calls and their ad was being shown for that.

Leann Pickard:

So we had to call Google and just be like, “We don’t want this on our accounts. We don’t want these cases.” So there’s not technical… Little glitches like that, that a client’s been complaining about or worried about. They’re getting these irrelevant leads for cases they don’t necessarily want in that regard. There was also another one where a personal injury lawyer and Google has it said to be auto accidents. So there’s no difference between car accidents and truck accidents. It’s all kind of lumped together in a auto accident. So they wished it’d be a separate.

Casey Meraz:

Got it. Yeah. I just wanted to take a critical look at it to just potentially see what those downsides were. Is there anything else that comes to mind?

Leann Pickard:

I think just data. I would love to see the data. On the back end, very, very back end portions, if you pull in your accounts to your Google ad under that management MCC, you can see in some impressions. So you see that local services ads get highly, highly viewed, and the impressions are super high, like thousands per day of viewings and impressions, which is great data, but there’s no cost per click. We don’t really know what that is doing on the backend. We can’t really see the data of how many people are actually clicking the ad and not calling the company. We don’t have that transparency with that specific data. I think that’s definitely something that I would love to see just for an analytical part of that.

Casey Meraz:

Sure.

Leann Pickard:

Yeah.

Casey Meraz:

Well, hopefully Google gets better at being transparent with that data. Obviously, that’ll help everybody make better decisions, but they’re not necessarily known for that is one of the issues.

Leann Pickard:

It’s true. Yeah. I don’t feel like it’s getting any better these days either, especially with the new changes in Google ads. A lot of our search queries are being taken away. I think using the different Google tools like Search Console or Analytics and being able to, as a PPC strategist, looking at all those different avenues to get valuable numbers and not just relying on one specific area in data, I think, is definitely key in becoming more key moving forward.

Casey Meraz:

So were you just talking about traditional Google ads when you said, “taking away data”?

Leann Pickard:

Yes.

Casey Meraz:

And could you elaborate on that?

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. So there’s a thing called, under key terms, there’s this thing called search terms. So search terms are what people actually are searching in order to click for your ad. Usually, those sort of terms can be used to, if we’re getting a lot of traction, a lot of conversions on a specific key term that we’re technically not bidding on we’re having in our keen term lists, we can add those certain key terms. So there was a lot of data around those specific key terms and kind of more transparency in what people are searching and different things like that. Now, they’ve made a change where kind of that data is basically taken away. So it’s a little bit less transparency in the search data and what we relied on kind of to give us more insight into what search was doing on those specific ads is less transparent these days in the last couple of months or in the last month and a half.

Casey Meraz:

Do you see them doing more of that in the future?

Leann Pickard:

I do. Yeah. I’m starting to see them kind of streamline a lot of those services with the different tools that they’re adding. I do see a little bit less transparency there. I think we’ve seen that theme come along and we’ve seen them push where, “We’re offering this sort of tool that gives you more transparency, but we’re actually taking away transparency from the actual tool that gives us data.” I think that’s been a theme. I also think that Google launches these sort of tools and these different programs and these sort of new developments, and they don’t follow them up with a plan and they launch it too soon. They launch it too soon without a plan.

Leann Pickard:

That’s been, I think, a problem for all of us advertisers of we’re super excited. For example, LSAs, we’re super excited about LSAs, but we’ve had problems uploading photos for those clients and they change it in the middle of it, of the verification process where now we can’t do black and white photos, or now we can add text on photos. Or what do we do with different locations that attorneys have? How do we approach that system? Well, you can’t use one Gmail account for all of those avenues. So it’s just a lot of things that they don’t communicate. So I would say the communication is not as transparent as I think it should be in a launch of a tool, or more data in transparency on why they did a certain thing to make this change or take data away in that transparency.

Casey Meraz:

Yeah, I think you bring up a good point. That’s probably my biggest complaint with Google in general, especially if I compare it versus Apple. I feel like Apple, when they launch a product, they refine it and then ship it and obviously, nothing’s going to be perfect. But with Google, it seems anyway, that they’re more interested in shipping, getting it out there and then maybe not polishing it, and they kind of fix it as it goes along or whatever, but I don’t know. That’s just my take.

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. I think Google is definitely more on the Band-Aid mentality of things versus launching a solid product before… I definitely see the same trends between Apple and Google in that. I think Google, people use this more and more and I think that’s the majority of the usages of Google these days amongst users. They just can’t keep up and we’re so excited about these new tools that keep popping up, but just no credibility, in my opinion, behind the launches.

Casey Meraz:

Sure. Got it.

Leann Pickard:

I don’t know if credibility is the right word in that.

Casey Meraz:

Well, yeah, but I know what you meant.

Leann Pickard:

Communication or transparency within that.

Casey Meraz:

Exactly. Yeah. It would be nice if they had a roadmap that was published and we knew what was coming instead of you running into these problems and then they’re trying to figure out a solution that seems on the fly, which is kind of weird with LSAs personally in my mind. Because it’s been around for so long for other industries, you would think that they would be more polished just based on that.

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. There’s been a lot of things that have come up that I have not seen people talk about with the older plumbing services ads and home services ads. I feel like once they’ve launched this for lawyers, lawyers have really jumped on it so much and we’re starting to see the holes in a lot of those areas. But over the years, I haven’t seen people talk about the Google screened checkbox or the Google Guaranteed mark and how it comes down after the budget’s exhausted and just a lot of different problems that I’ve seen and experienced through the setup process, but I haven’t seen people talk about this before now.

Casey Meraz:

Sure. Well, I really appreciate you coming on today and sharing your knowledge. I think there’s a lot of really good tips and nuggets of information in there. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with people that we didn’t cover?

Leann Pickard:

I think the biggest focus for me this year has been making sure people understand that, and specifically in Google ads, that volume is not the same as quantity and quality of leads. So people will spend a lot of money on Google ads and see these numbers that say they’re getting 140 conversions, but they’re not checking the data behind those 140 conversions. They’re seeing that… What exactly is your quality of lead? How many quality leads are you actually getting through the door and have that open dialogue and the communication with your PPC specialist on, we signed five quality leads out of the 140 conversions that Google ad says through the door.

Leann Pickard:

So I think for people that are running Google ads, establishing what in how many quality of leads that are coming through the door versus just looking at your conversion and saying, “140 conversions is good enough. That’s great number. We’re spending $20,000 on Google ads. We’re getting 250 conversions. That’s a great number. My cost per action is low,” but really you’re only signing one or two cases a month. So I think being in tune and communicative with your PPC provider about how many quality of leads that you are getting and being in tune and knowledgeable about how many quality leads that you’re actually getting through the door with the money you’re spending. Yeah, I think is a key. It’s simple because I feel like people should be paying attention to that, but specifically for lawyers, I don’t feel like that’s been necessarily the case.

Casey Meraz:

No, and it hasn’t been. And I’m glad that you said that because even though it seems simple, a lot of times, people will just get a report that says, “Oh, this is how many conversions,” but at the end of the day, we know that it matters how many cases you sign and we don’t know what goals were set up to establish that report like the one that we talked about just a few weeks ago where we saw a website where a goal was set up in Google Analytics, but the goal was time on page. That doesn’t mean that they ever contacted you. It just means that they visited that page for X amount of time. So it’s probably a poor goal.

Leann Pickard:

Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, and I’ve seen Google ads set up conversions on the backend and it’s just like… One of the ones I saw I did an audit for client had chat opens. I was like, how is that… We don’t know. That was the highest quantity of conversions that came through the door and it’s like, “Yeah, your Google ads. You’re going to give a chat openly. That means, yeah, people are talking to us, but how many did we sign? ” That’s, I think, the biggest key for me is how many clients are we signing? I’m a little bit probably too engaged with some of the lawyers cause I want that communication and I want the knowledge of how many cases are you accessing?

Leann Pickard:

I don’t care about really how much you make for that case. Yes, it’s definitely something we should talk about. I don’t think that’s enough transparent data there as far as communication, but if I know you’re signing 10%, 15% of those cases, and you’re closing about 40% of those conversions, I’m a happy camper as long as I know we’re delivering quality leads for that. Then the last point would be making sure that the PPC specialist cares about SEO, I think, is big in relation to the two of them. So I don’t know if you want me to expand or you’re out of time.

Casey Meraz:

Yeah. No, those are all great pieces of advice and I think we should save some of that maybe for next time too.

Leann Pickard:

Yeah.

Casey Meraz:

Awesome. Well, Leanne, thank you again so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it. It was very insightful and I hope everybody found this useful. Please let us know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top