The Right Option for Marketing Your Law Firm: SEO vs. Pay Per Click

The goal of online marketing is to increase the flow of traffic to your law firm’s website to ultimately reach more potential clients. When it comes to increasing that flow of traffic, you have two primary options at your disposal: search engine optimization or pay per click advertising.

Both strategies have their strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to understand the basic tenets of both strategies, their advantages, and key factors to consider as you make the decision of which option to go with. Ultimately, your law firm’s advertising budget, location, and competition will play a major role in determining which mechanisms you employ for your online marketing strategy. 

When it comes to choosing an option for your law firm’s marketing plan, factor in the resources you have available and how the options differ. 

Different type of search results. You see paid, local results, and organic search results.

What is SEO? 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the use of targeted keywords to ensure you’re found by the audience performing internet searches for those keywords.

There are best practices in place to help you do this. This is a more organic form of internet marketing – you rely on strategically developed content laced with keywords as well as your landing pages to guide internet users in your area to your law firm’s site. 

SEO typically accounts for local and organic results which are shown below (*excluding the top paid ad shown in local)

Local and organic results with one paid listing shown as well.

What is PPC? 

Pay per click (or PPC) advertising is the practice of purchasing internet traffic using specifically cultivated programs with search engines such as Google and Yahoo. You set up an ad to be displayed in the “sponsored results” portion of their search engine results. Depending on how common the keyword you choose is, you’ll pay the search engine every time a user clicks your ad. 

This guarantees your ad will be moved to the “front of the line” with the search engines you’ve partnered with. While it will be labeled as a “sponsored result,” you can at least ensure that your link is viewed by the specific group you’re targeting. 

While these do appear at the top, less people click on paid ads than typical local or organic.

Paid (PPC) results show above organic results.

Advantages of SEO

SEO is a less expensive way to gain the attention of internet users seeking the counsel of a law firm. You save money by attracting organic interest from users in your area.

You can attract this free traffic by implementing a content development strategy – blog posts on topics of interest to your potential clients. This has the added benefit of establishing you as a subject matter expert in your practice’s particular field. 

Advantages of PPC

Whereas using primarily SEO you save money, using primarily PPC saves you time. PPC is a quicker fix than SEO. If you have a larger advertising budget, PPC offers a faster payoff than waiting for organically placed search terms to gain attention. PPC puts you right in the potential client’s crosshairs – you gain access to an audience that you’re certain is looking for the type of legal services you provide right away. 

With SEO, you’re unable to pay for preferred placement in the search listings. You’re at the mercy of Google or Yahoo’s algorithms to rank you favorably. 


The major difference between these two mechanisms is the difference between organic and paid traffic. There are four major factors you should consider before opting for SEO or PPC: 

What is your advertising budget? 

PPC costs more but can offer faster results. If your firm has a higher advertising budget, opt for a PPC-focused campaign. When it comes to SEO, your major investment will be time. You may not spend as much money in the short term, but you may end up dedicating significant staff resources towards getting the most out of your SEO efforts. With PPC, the costs for your firm are front-loaded. 

How much (and what type of) competition do you face in your area? 

It’s critical to consider what kind of competition you face from other law firms in your area. Do they offer the same services as you? What type of clients are they pursuing? 

For example, let’s say you operate a personal injury law firm in a medium-sized city. You wouldn’t have to worry quite as much about a firm that specializes in patent law in the same area. But any competing personal injury attorneys may be targeting the same keywords as you. This will matter whether you have to develop keywords for your PPC or SEO campaigns.

How common are your target keywords?

Using Google tools such as its Traffic Estimator and its Keyword Planner, to help you gauge the popularity of the terms you plan to target, particularly in your area. It will also help you judge what keywords your competition is targeting. Consider the terms your competition is targeting and in what ways you can differentiate yourself from them. The more specificity you can insert into your targeted keywords, the better. This helps you establish your firm as a set of specialized experts and separates you from your competition. 

Do you follow updates to the Google algorithm? 

Both your organic and paid traffic will rely on targeted keywords. To optimize your use of Google this way, you have to stay on top of updates to the Google algorithm. Otherwise, your firm may be penalized by not showing up in search results as often as you’d like. This can hurt both your paid and organic traffic stats. 


In order for your online marketing to function effectively, your advertising campaigns require significant investments. For PPC you’ll need to invest capital and for SEO the major investment is your time. 

You don’t have to choose one or the other but can use both to complement each other. PPC puts you at the forefront of your potential client base’s internet purview as long as you’re willing to make a significant financial investment. SEO takes patience but can establish you as a trusted authority in your field through the development of content while saving you money in the short term. 

For the best return on your investments of both your time and money, it is necessary to adopt a campaign containing elements of both SEO and PPC.  Pairing the two together for your law firm’s marketing campaign will cast a wide online net reeling in both paid and organic traffic that will lead to more clients. 

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