Google Screened Ads for Law Firms
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Whether you have a comprehensive online marketing plan for your law firm or are just beginning to grow your digital strategy, you’ll want to look into Google’s Screened program.
In short, Google Screened lets prospective customers know your firm has been vetted by Google through extensive background and licensing checks.
This credential, signified by a green check mark next to your Local Service Ad listing, is only open to professional service providers in Law, Financial Planning and Real Estate so far. It’s a quick way to build trust with prospective clients before they even click through to your ad or page, and it can help generate a higher click-through rate.
But how do you get Google Screened for your law firm, and how can it help you advance a competitive online marketing strategy?
First, let’s start with Google’s Local Services Ads and how they work with Google Screened.
About Google Local Services Ads
What Are LSAs?
Google’s Local Services Ads are paid placements that appear at the very top of the Google search results page. They’re available to attorneys and other local service providers, and they appear even before the pay-per-click Google ads, maps and organic search results.
The LSA itself is a small cameo preview with relevant info about your firm. The format is very eye-catching, with premium placement and a very different look than the other ads.
Each one features a headshot, how long your firm has been in business, your review star rating and whether you’re open right now. Hovering over the ad also shows the area you serve and a phone number to call.
Clicking through takes customers to your Local Services by Google profile page, which has Overview, Services, Featured Lawyers, Location, Reviews and Photos sections that tell clients everything they need to know about your law practice.
The top of the each LSA listing shows a phone number and contact request link that will put potential customers directly in touch with your firm. Clients using either the phone number or the link will trigger a charge to you, since Google LSAs are pay-per-lead, not pay-per-click.
How Pay-Per-Lead LSAs Differ From Regular Google Ads
In addition to the top of the page ad placement you get with LSAs, their pay-per-lead pricing structure means you only pay when customers get in touch, and not every time someone just checks out your listing by clicking through.
This can be a better value for spend than pay-per-click Google ads, and you can track it to see how well it’s doing for you. You can even dispute irrelevant leads if you get “mistake” calls (wrong number, wrong practice area, etc.) and get a refund for each of those charges.
Google Local Services Ads can be a great way to generate targeted leads for your law firm, with an excellent conversion rate and ROI because of the pay-per-lead pricing structure. They’re definitely an exciting new addition your law firm’s digital marketing toolkit.
Now that you know a bit about LSAs, let’s get on to the Google Screened program for them.
Google Screened for Your Law Firm LSA
Google currently offers the Google Screened badge for law firms practicing in the areas of Bankruptcy, Business, Contract, Criminal, Disability, DUI, Estate, Family, Immigration, IP, Labor, Litigation, Malpractice, Personal Injury, Real Estate, and Traffic law.
What it tells people searching for your services is that your law firm has passed a set of rigorous checks conducted by Google. For lawyers practicing in all the various law specialties, the requirements are the same:
- Background check requirements:
- Business check
- Owner check
- Insurance requirements:
- Malpractice insurance where required by law
- License requirements:
- State bar license checks for each lawyer in the firm
Google also requires that the practice have at least a 3.0-star review rating from clients, on either a Google My Business or LSA page.
How Do I Set Up a Google LSA for My Law Firm and Get Google Screened?
Google rolls the verification process for Screened right into the LSA signup process, so you’ll want to have the right documentation ready when you begin.
To get started creating a Local Services Ad, you’ll need to check your eligibility and then sign up and provide details about your practice. Then, you’ll provide photos, license, background check information, information about attorneys in your firm and billing information.
Things You’ll Need to Submit:
- Current State Bar Licenses for Each Attorney
- Proof of Malpractice Insurance (requirements vary by state)
- Business Registration Documents (where required)
A background check will be performed on the owner of the firm and the firm itself by a third-party agency like Pinkerton, and all licensing and insurance info will be thoroughly checked. This verification process may take several weeks.
Budgeting and Ad Scheduling
You’ll be asked to create bidding and budget parameters based on how many leads you want to generate each month and how much you’re willing to pay for a lead.
Other tasks will include creating an ad schedule, picking a service area, choosing highlights to feature in your bio, and uploading photos of your firm and team to fill out your LSA profile page.
Because Google requires reviews and a 3-star rating on Google My Business to run an LSA ad, you may need to set up or link to a GMB page and ask former clients to submit reviews before you can proceed. You’ll need at least one review to begin.
One LSA or Multiple?
You can choose to create one LSA for all the practice areas in your firm or create separate LSAs for each. For instance, if your firm includes both criminal and family law attorneys, you may want to run separate LSAs to improve your chances of being seen in a search. Deciding what makes sense strategically and financially involves many factors, and you may find it challenging and time-consuming.
After You Apply
Google requires that you pass the Google Screened process to run a Local Service Ad, so you may need to resubmit licensing and background check info if there are any verification issues. They will run LSAs pending verification, but they will pull the ad if they can’t complete the process for any reason.
Reasons for verification failure may include not submitting the right documents or a failed background check. A failed check may be remedied by correcting any errors and resubmitting after thirty days, but if you fail the process twice, you will have to wait a year to reapply.
Ongoing LSA Monitoring
Once you’ve completed the LSA process and passed the Google Screened verification process, you’ll want to monitor your click-through and conversion rates for your ad and adjust your budget and scheduling parameters periodically to maximize ROI.
You may need to adjust your practice offerings and service areas or change how much you’re willing to pay per lead as the price changes (cost per lead is based on a bidding process). Your LSA performance should also be analyzed alongside your other online marketing efforts.
Google provides some guidelines to help you apply and decide on spending, scheduling and marketing strategies with LSAs, but you might want to enlist the services of a marketing expert for the whole process, since there are so many moving parts. Expertise here can be especially helpful if you’re using LSAs as part of a larger digital strategy for your firm, and it can save you valuable time and money.
- How Much Can I Expect to Spend on LSAs?
Google will suggest a weekly budget based on your practice and service areas, number of desired leads and other specifics you provide about your firm. They’ll also let you set a monthly maximum spend to control your costs.
Your actual charges will be based on how many leads you generate, but Google won’t bill you for more than your monthly max.
Prices vary across different markets in the US and will vary with demand since Google uses an auction-style pricing model. You can use their budget tool to get a sense of how much you can expect to pay.
The good news is that the cost you pay is per lead, so you know you’re always paying for actual engagement with the ad. Per-lead cost varies over time and across regions, but you do get to set the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for each lead.
- How Do I Know I’m Paying for Quality Leads?
The phone number listed in your LSA will be a unique number that tracks back to your account, and it will connect potential clients to your law firm’s regular phone contact number. Here are the pay-per-lead leads you’ll be charged for:
Note: The ability to dispute charged leads is currently only available in the U.S. and Canada.
Valid leads are related to your business or to the services you offer, and can occur in the following situations when customers find your Local Services ad on Google:
- You receive a text message or email from the customer (US only).
- You receive a voicemail from the customer.
- You answer a phone call and speak with the customer.
- You receive a missed call (without a voicemail), and you return the customer’s message with a text message, email or call where you either speak with the customer or leave a voicemail.
- You receive a booking request from a customer.
Google takes pains to ensure that your ad is seen only by people in the locations you serve and those looking for your specific legal services. They also guarantee you’ll pay only for real leads by letting you dispute any wrong calls or misguided contacts.
If you get a call for a practice area that isn’t listed on your profile, from a customer in the wrong location or a spam or bot call to your number, you can dispute it with Google and they will issue you a refund.
- What If I Have Enough Clients and Don’t Need the LSA to Generate New Leads for a While?
You can easily pause your Local Services Ads for as long as you like. Simply sign into your Google Ads account, click Campaigns and hit Pause to suspend the ad indefinitely. You can go back and hit Enable when you’re ready to resume the campaign, or Remove if you decide you no longer need it.
You can also edit your campaign to adjust the number of leads you want each week or change your monthly budget to suit your needs. Go higher when you’re looking for more business or reduce your LSA’s activity when you don’t need as many new clients coming in.
- Can These Ads Replace My Other Digital Marketing Efforts?
Short answer: no, but they can make them more effective. You’ll still need to maintain your website, social and SEO strategies and utilize other SEM avenues to maintain a competitive presence. They can be used in conjunction with pay-per-click ads or instead of them, but many effective campaigns will incorporate both.
What digital strategy you’ll need, exactly, will depend on your practice, region and budget as well as your specific goals for growing your firm’s client base. Having a digital marketing specialist analyze your situation can provide valuable insights and save you considerable time and money.
Ready to Use LSAs with Google Screened to Elevate Your Profile and Attract New Clients?
Let us handle the heavy lifting. Talk to a digital marketing expert about how to use LSAs and the Google Screened program to your firm’s greatest advantage. We can also help you develop a comprehensive online strategy for your firm.
Schedule a free consultation by calling 800-692-4037 or filling out the form on our Contact Us page.
By Marc Apple
Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.
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