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Jul 03, 2024

What’s Up with Ads that Promise a Guaranteed Number of New Cases for Your Law Firm

Key Takeaways

  • Beware of Guarantees: Ads promising a guaranteed number of new cases often come with hidden costs and unrealistic expectations.
  • High Costs: Achieving 30 new cases in 90 days can cost around $90,000, which many law firms cannot afford.
  • Ethical Concerns: Many agencies use bait-and-switch tactics, making bold promises to get you on the phone and then selling you something different.
  • Lead Generation Methods: Common methods include Google Ads, cold email outreach, and using fake Google Business Profiles, each with its own set of challenges and ethical issues.
  • SEO as a Reliable Alternative: Organic and Maps SEO offer a sustainable, long-term strategy for building your law firm’s online presence and generating leads.
  • Ownership and Value: SEO builds valuable assets for your firm that you own, unlike other lead generation methods where you may have little control.
  • Long-Term Benefits: SEO improves key performance indicators over time, such as visitors, leads, and cost per acquisition, providing better returns on investment.
  • Consistency is Key: Regular investment in SEO, tailored to your firm’s financial needs, is more effective than sporadic, large expenditures.
  • Consider SEO’s Broader Impact: Beyond just lead generation, SEO enhances your firm’s credibility, website value, and overall digital presence.
A diverse set of visual representations related to digital marketing for law firms, including images of SEO optimization, high costs in advertising, cold email outreach, Google Business Profiles, etc.

As an attorney and law firm owner, I’m sure you’ve seen the following on your Facebook and Instagram feeds: “You will get 30 new cases for your law firm in the next 90 days or you don’t pay!”

Sounds so good that you may have even taken one of these companies up on that offer. After all, if it’s not successful, you will get your money back and all you would have lost is time.

In this article, we will pull back the curtains on those offers and show why Organic and Maps SEO is a more reliable, cost effective strategy, especially in the long run.

Full disclosure, we at ApricotLaw were one of those agencies promising a guaranteed number of new cases in the next 90 days or you don’t pay!

In 2023, we hired a Social Media Agency to see if they could generate new qualified opportunities for us. It was successful. It did generate new opportunities for our agency. The problem is, we were 100% honest with those law firms about how much it would cost to ethically generate 30 new cases in the next 90 days.

Typical Cost Per Lead and Cost Per Acquisition 

A visual representation of high advertising costs for law firms. Include elements like a law firm office, a large invoice or bill, and a graph showing rising advertising costs for law firms.

With a seasoned Google Ads campaign, our typical cost per qualified lead (phone calls that actually happen, not including call requests and no shows) for personal injury firms is around $1,500. 

Assuming a 50% close rate – one out of every two prospects that gets on the phone with the personal injury attorney becomes a signed case – that means our typical Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) in Personal Injury is $3,000 per case (using Google Ads).

With this $3,000 CPA, delivering 30 new cases would cost around $90,000 (30 X $3,000). In a 90 day period, that’s a commitment of $30,000 per month for 3 months.

99% of Law Firms Don’t Qualify for the Guarantee

And so, 99% of the firms we spoke to didn’t qualify for that offer. Regardless of the guarantee, they either didn’t want to put up ninety grand OR they weren’t prepared to take on thirty new personal injury cases. That’s a lot of work that requires a certain level of infrastructure and support.

It turns out, the huge promise gets people to call but it doesn’t actually lead to new business.

If we scaled back on the promise and made it more realistic and suitable to a larger percentage of law firms, the message would get lost in a sea of huge promises and would, therefore, plummet the number of calls it produced.

Bigger, Bolder Guarantees

Instead marketing agencies are now expanding on the initial promise, making it even more crazy and unbelievable just to continue to capture attention and generate calls.

That’s actually what the Social Media Agency recommended that we do when we complained that people were calling us but not signing up for our services because the message was not aligned with what we were offering.

What’s Really Going On?

The truth is, this strategy needs to be a “bait and switch” if it’s going to work. The agencies running these ads will say whatever they have to to get you to call. Then, once they have you on the phone, and once you realize you don’t qualify for the offer, they will sell you something else. 

We were not willing to lie to people and we were not willing to use high-pressure sales tactics just to sign new clients. So this strategy never worked for us. 

Perhaps you spoke to a less ethical agency and they got you to sign up for their lead generation strategy.

Let’s assume the agency was actually in the business of delivering new leads to law firms.

To generate leads on-demand, the agency employed one of three methods.

The Top 3 Methods These “Guarantee” Agencies Used to Generate Phone Calls

  • Google Ads (also known as PPC Advertising)
  • Cold Email Outreach
  • A Network of Fake Google Business Profiles

Let’s look at each lead generation method individually.

Google Ads (also known as PPC Advertising)

This is your usual pay-per-click advertising where the agency builds out a Google Ads campaign, either on your Google Ads account or on an account that they own.

If they are building this campaign from scratch, it typically takes 30 days just to get the campaign up and running. Keyword research, seed keyword campaign setup, ad copy creation and landing page development take time.

Once the Google Ads campaign is live, the initial costs (costs per click and cost per lead) will be high. The first visitors that see your ads may be searching for terms that are not exactly related to your services. It will take dozens of ongoing optimizations (keyword pruning, expanding the most effective keywords, optimizations to your ad copy and landing pages) to gradually dial in the targeting and to get your costs down.

At around the 90-Day mark, your ads should start hitting their stride with costs that are more in line with your firm’s economics. 

Ideally, at that point, you’re starting to field calls from qualified prospects at around $2,000 per opportunity or less.

If the guarantee was 30 new cases in the first 90 days, using a brand new Google Ads campaign will miss the mark by a mile. By then you will have to decide whether you want to continue with the agency or not. After all, the campaign is producing. It’s just not producing as well as originally promised.

If the agency is using Google Ads campaigns that have already been optimized and running for a while, you might start to see leads coming in much sooner.

The downside here is that you don’t own the campaigns. You have no visibility into the details of the campaigns. Then they have you hostage. If you decide to leave, they will simply stop sending you leads and you are back to where you started.

Cold Email Outreach

Cold emails are another way agencies can produce leads on demand for your law firm.

The cold email campaigns have a similar setup period to Google Ads campaigns.

Cold email outreach setup includes:

  • Buying or scraping a list of emails for prospective clients
  • Buying and seasoning email accounts to send the outbound emails from
  • Writing email copy
  • Creating dedicated landing pages for your marketing funnel

The first 30 days will be dedicated to setup, before the first email is sent.

Once the emails start going out, the agency will have to monitor various metrics such as open rates and click through rates. 

Constantly tweaking email copy, testing different calls to action, trying different recipient lists and adjusting the time emails are sent, by Day 60 or so, hopefully, you will start fielding new inbound calls.

Actually getting the 30 new cases you were promised in the first 90 days is starting to sound more and more unlikely.

The challenge with cold email is threefold:

  • People are getting bombarded with email every day
  • It’s becoming harder and harder to deliver email
  • Internet Service Providers and cell phone companies are taking away your tracking, making it impossible to see what people are doing with your emails

Let’s say the agency you hired has an existing cold email process that’s already producing leads and you will simply be plugged into that process. Theoretically, that means you can start seeing new leads come in much sooner. 

The downside, again, is that you don’t own anything. If they are plugging you into an existing process, once you stop paying, they will stop sending the leads to you.

A Network of Fake Google Business Profiles

A visual representation of ethical concerns in marketing for law firms - elements like a law firm office, a scale of justice, bait-and-switch and a telephone.

This is a black hat SEO tactic that most people don’t know about. In the SEO world, people discovered ways to either claim existing Google Business Profiles or to sign up for new ones even if they don’t actually own the business.

No wonder Google makes it difficult for legitimate businesses, especially for personal injury firms, to claim and maintain a Google Business Profile. There are so many people trying to game the system, Google continues to add checkpoints and security measures to make sure it’s only displaying real businesses with actual office locations.

Nonetheless, some agencies have developed a network of hundreds of fake Google Business Profiles. Each GBP has been optimized and made to look like a real law firm. They have positive user reviews, pictures, services, hours of operation and social media profiles.

The purpose of these Google Business Profiles is to generate leads that the agency can refer to real law firms on a pay-per-lead basis.

There are obvious ethical issues with this approach. Unfortunately, law firms wanting to generate new business don’t even know that this is happening.

Questions to Ask a “Guarantee” Agency

  • How exactly will you be generating these leads?
  • Will you be plugging me into an existing lead generation process or creating this just for me? Will I own the system – will it be created on accounts that I own and control forever?
  • What software will you be using to implement this lead generation system?
  • What specifically will I be able to see (marketing metrics, ad copy, landing pages, email copy, etc)? 
  • What happens if you don’t deliver as promised, aside from getting my money back? Will you continue to work for free until I am made whole? 
  • What other firms have you worked for that I can contact?

Search Engine Optimization (Organic and Maps SEO) as an Alternative Lead Generation Channel

Pros of SEO as a lead generation strategy for your law firm

You own everything and are building an asset for your law firm

As long as your SEO Agency states this explicitly and the domain being optimized is one that you own (on your domain registrar and on your hosting account), all the content you publish and every link that you build is adding value to the digital asset that is your law firm’s website.

Side Note

If you think of your law firm’s website as a business asset, you’re more likely to treat it like one. 

We’ve had a number of clients go through a partner buyout, or split, at their law firms and something they often overlook until the last minute is who gets the domain name and website and how much those assets are worth. 

Having to abandon your domain name and moving to a new one after an organizational change will mean forfeiting any value accumulated in the original domain name.

Not only will you lose the value of your domain name, you will also have to pay someone to execute the migration properly, even if you’re keeping all of the content and design elements of the original website.

Discussing this up front can save you from disputes and unnecessary expenses later on.

Consider the domain name and the website you build on that domain (content, links and design included) as valuable business assets that should all remain with the business in the event of a sale, transfer or reorganization.

Ongoing investment can be tailored to the financial needs of your law firm

With SEO, consistency is key. Just like a brick and mortar business, your website needs daily attention so visitors (and Google) can rely on it to deliver timely information and guidance.

Consistency of attention means consistency of investment regardless of the monthly budget. It’s better to invest $3,000 per month into your website’s SEO over a number of years than it is to invest $20,000 from time to time.

Our recommendation is to pick a budget that makes sense for your law firm and to stick with it.

There are a number of benefits from SEO other than just leads

Unlike other marketing and advertising strategies, there are a number of benefits from SEO outside of the initial consultation requests it produces. Here are a few:

  • Content to be used for other marketing purposes
  • List building so you can communicate with people regularly
  • Increased value of your domain as measured by monthly visitors, referring domains or backlinks, and number of indexed pages
  • An audience of tagged users that you can advertise to on other websites they visit

Focusing only on the number of leads an SEO campaign produces is shortsighted. Using your website and content for other marketing purposes will multiply your return on investment.

Marketing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) improve over time

Some of the marketing KPIs used to measure the effectiveness of any marketing strategy are: 

  • Visitors
  • Leads
  • Sales
  • Cost Per Visitor
  • Cost Per Lead
  • Cost Per Appointment or Opportunity
  • Cost Per Acquisition
  • Conversion Rate (of every step of the funnel)

Unlike other marketing and advertising strategies, optimizing your website regularly – publishing new content, building links, and fixing technical issues that present themselves – will build momentum over time. 

As momentum builds, all of the major marketing KPIs will continue to improve. Number of visitors will increase, more people will request initial consultations and more people will retain your law firm. 

Because the monthly investment for website SEO remains fairly constant, that means your Cost Per Visitor, Cost Per Lead, Cost Per Opportunity and Cost Per Acquisition go down. 

This is precisely why we believe SEO is the most cost effective marketing strategy available to your law firm over time.

Cons of SEO as a lead generation strategy for your law firm

SEO is a long term strategy 

A brand new SEO campaign can take 3 to 6 months before you start to notice an increase in calls and initial consultation requests. Other marketing strategies can produce results in under 3 months. 

Google’s algorithm is constantly changing so rankings for individual keywords will fluctuate

Just like any platform used to get your message out there, the owner of that platform will make changes to the platform from time to time.

Google makes changes to its platform, to its algorithm, appearance and features, regularly.

As long as you’re publishing useful, quality content and feeding your website with high quality Website Nutrition, the good news is that these changes usually impact specific keywords and pages and not your entire site. 

This means that ranking fluctuations will cause drops in the number of visitors to a group of your pages and not to others. It’s the job of your SEO Agency to monitor these changes, and to make the necessary adjustments to the affected pages. 

Marketing KPIs like Cost Per Lead and Cost Per Acquisition can vary from month to month

Because rankings for specific keywords fluctuate, your marketing KPIs also fluctuate. Although one benefit of SEO is that marketing KPIs improve over time, you should expect to notice ebbs and flows along the way.

A visual representation of SEO as a reliable alternative for law firms - elements like a law firm office, a website being optimized, a search engine optimization.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, while ads promising a guaranteed number of new cases may seem tempting, they often come with hidden costs, unrealistic expectations, and a lack of transparency. Agencies using these tactics rely on high-pressure sales and bait-and-switch strategies, leaving many law firms disillusioned and out of pocket. 

On the other hand, investing in Organic and Maps SEO offers a more sustainable and ethical approach to lead generation. By building your website as a valuable business asset, tailoring ongoing investments to your firm’s needs, and focusing on long-term growth, SEO can deliver consistent results and improve key performance indicators over time. 

Remember, the true value of SEO lies not only in immediate leads but also in creating a robust online presence that continually enhances your law firm’s credibility and reach. Choose wisely and invest in strategies that build lasting value.

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