(Local SERP anatomy from GetListed.org)
Paid Results (Adwords / "PPC")
Paid search listings are the ones where you pay the search engines for a listing. The most popular paid search engine advertising platform is probably Google Adwords. Advertisers usually pay for paid search listing by the click. In other words, they Pay-Per-Click (PPC).
Paid search advertising is working for many law firms. But it's not a great advertising channel for all law firms. Depending on the practice area and location, paid search advertising can be very expensive. In fact, in some areas, like personal injury, advertising law firms will pay upwards of $100 per click!
Some advantages of paid search advertising are:
- Immediate Visibility: With paid search ads, your ads go live soon after you launch your campaign, as opposed to organic listings, which take time to earn.
- Control: You have complete control over the keywords you bid on, the geographic locations they are shown, your ad copy and your landing page messaging. This helps attract very targeted traffic.
Organic Results ("Natural" / SEO)
Organic search results are the ones that made Google famous. These are the algorithmic listings generated by a search engine's formula to organize the world's information. Very generally speaking, they're generated based upon a page's relevance and popularity for a searcher's query.
You can't pay search engines to be listed here. The key is to create pages that are both relevant to your target audience and popular with the people who view them. That is, popular enough that those people are motivated to link to, share and otherwise talk about you and your pages online.
Search engine optimization (SEO), includes all the things you can do to increase the visibility of your pages in organic search results. While this begins with technical optimizations, the focus really needs to be on creating pages that are so good that people who see them can't help but link to, share and talk about them on the internet.
The easiest way to think about SEO for law firms is to start by thinking about who you want to attract to your pages / sites. Next, comes thinking about what types of things they will be looking for online. Finally, it's about developing sites, pages and profiles that not only motivate those people to consume, link to and share those pages, but also motivate them to engage, inquire, contact and eventually hire the firm.
Local Results ("Blended" / SEO)
Local search engines and results are geared around delivering information that's related to a specific location. They relate to both "what" a searcher is looking for, as well as, "where" they are looking.
For law firms who provide local legal services, local search should be a top priority. Depending on your practice, people looking for information about local law firms will prefer localized results. Therefore, firms wishing to attract local visitors, need to focus on increasing the quantity and quality of their local search data. This includes:
- Consistent local business information like firm name, address(es), and phone number(s).
- Links from relevant and popular local websites.
- Mentions from relevant, popular and trusted local websites.
- In addition to traditional organic search engine popularity signals.
We continue to get questions from lawyers asking to explain the differences between paid search, organic listings, Local Business Center listings, etc. I think since there are so many services out there offering all different kinds of internet marketing options for law firms, it's critically important for you to understand the Google search engine results page. By understanding each element of the page, how it works, and whether the results are sponsored or not, you can get a better idea of what each type of service is offering you.