Expanded Text Ads: The Latest for Law Firm Marketing

When you look around a restaurant, coffee shop, park or store and everyone is staring at their smartphones, you might notice two things: Technology has changed everything. And sometimes, it’s annoying.

But as someone running a law firm, remember this: All those smartphones greatly expand your firm’s opportunities to reach future clients.

It’s been a year since Google unveiled one of the key tools in the effort to seize a piece of that screen time — Expanded Text Ads (ETAs).

And the results we’ve seen at Firmidable are that these pay-per-click ads, which give you a little more space to get your message across, are working as planned, delivering better results. (See below for examples of real ETAs.)

We looked at campaigns of our law firm clients, comparing old, shorter text ads to the new ones.

During the period from January to August 2017, with the ETAs we saw a 57% increase in people clicking on the ads and — most importantly — a 23% increase in the rate of people contacting firms.

At this point, if you launch new ads for your firm, you have to use the new format.

But a lot of advertisers out there are still running their old ads on autopilot.

If you haven’t switched, now may be the time.

Smartphones, Smartphones Everywhere

When Google executives unveiled ETAs in 2016, they talked about taking advantage of smartphone-generated “micro-moments.”

Those moments happen when people browse the internet in an elevator, grocery store line or waiting room.

The numbers on smartphone use continue to be dramatic.

Nearly 40% of people check their mobile device every 30 minutes, or more, as reported in a May 2017 online and phone survey from StatisticBrain.com.

More than 60% use their smartphone while watching TV, while 37% use it while attending a party.

When we study law firm data at Firmidable, we find smartphone use has reached a tipping point: Users on smartphones, for the first time, make up a majority of online visitors at more and more firms.

In the survey by StatisicBrain.com, close to a third of respondents said their mobile phone is the first and last thing they look at every day.

How Micro-Moments Can Mean New Clients

Picture it.

A smartphone user is waiting at her physical therapist’s office. She’s been feeling miserable with back problems and hopeless about being able to continue in her job.

She searches “Can you get disability for depression and anxiety?”

Your ad shows up on her screen because it contains keywords matching what she searched.

In fact, because you targeted those specific keywords, your ad appears at the very top of her screen in a highlighted box, and it’s the only ad.

Doug Thomas, Interactive Manager for Firmidable, says text ads can be powerful because they’re displayed in highly visible locations — above other search results — and they’re related to the topic the person just searched.

“They give us the ability to say the right thing at the right time,” Doug explains.

The searcher in the physical therapist’s office immediately sees an ad with a headline about disability for mental illness, and the link takes her to a law firm.

If your law firm uses expanded ads to respond to the right searches, it creates opportunities for you to serve up exactly what people like that smartphone user are looking for, creating a significant opportunity to cultivate a new client.

When that micro-moment happens, you want to be there with ads that can generate more cases and revenue.

Expanded Ads Are Now Standard

There was a lot of buzz in 2016 about Google’s new expanded ads.

The format provided about double the total character space, including adding a second headline and providing 80 characters for a description field.

This lets you craft a more compelling call to action for potential clients.

You can fit in more information. You have greater control of your targeted message.

Doug says ETAs aren’t really “expanded” ads anymore.

They’ve become the new standard format.

Doug points to how Bing has followed Google’s lead.

“Expanded text ads are the new normal,” Doug says. “This is how they are, how they’re going to be, so we need to use them to their full capacity.”

How to Build Text Ads

Among some best practices Doug suggests for crafting effective ETAs:

  • Lead with keywords that relate to how prospects search for your services.
  • Use three key elements –– the search term, a unique selling proposition and a call to action.
  • Use the terms and phrases your prospects use, not insider jargon for your field.

Digital ad campaigns include dozens or hundreds of individual ads that take slightly different angles.

An effective way to organize this is to write the ads in sections, or modules, that can be switched out. That way you can see what’s most effective and provide the strongest combination of elements.

An added benefit to high-caliber ads, Doug says, is that getting enough clicks may qualify you for a bonus from Google giving you better positions for future ads and possibly lower rates.

A skilled digital marketer can apply all of these techniques for you, to maximize the potency of your ads.

Examples of effective text ads

Another Option: Call-Only Ads

One of the ETA success stories Doug shares is for a law firm using “call-only” text ads.

When you click on other text ads, they take you to a landing page on the web that steers you toward contacting the law firm.

With call-only ads, the potential client’s only option is to call the law firm’s office, right then.

These ads are targeted specifically to smartphones.

Doug says the law firm call-only ads he is monitoring are showing great results, demonstrating that the ads have powerful immediacy:

  • The prospect does a search.
  • The law firm’s ad shows in response.
  • The prospect calls…right then.

Seizing the Moment

“Great moments are born from great opportunities.”

That’s a quote from Herb Brooks, coach of the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team in 1980.

He used those words as part of his pregame pep talk. The team went on to shock the sports world by beating the heavily favored Soviet team for the gold medal. The game went down in history as the “Miracle on Ice.”

What’s that got to do with text ads and law firm marketing?

Your law practice also can seize the micro-moments smartphones create every day.

By doing so, you can find great opportunities for more cases — and growth for your firm.

Firmidable is a multi-channel marketing agency and consultancy for law firms. We know more than anyone else about how Americans choose their lawyers. If you’d like to grow your legal practice, call (504) 525-0932 or contact us via e-mail.

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About the Author: Will Chapman

Will Chapman is a writer based in New Iberia, La., and a former newspaper publisher and columnist.

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