May 032012

Pay per click (PPC) is an advertisement campaign. Your website will be listed in the paid section of search results and you get charged per click. You will be charged regardless of whether the click turns into a lead or not. Clicks can come from potential clients, competitors or programs. Depending on the keyword, some lawyers pay in excess of $50.00 per click. If a competitor clicks on your site 10 times in a day for a high demand keyword, your PPC costs could go through the roof.

For one Florida attorney, his PPC campaign may have been sabotaged. According to the online press release, the attorney filed a complaint with the local bar, alleging that his former law firm drove up his PPC costs by repeatedly clicking on his advertisement, to the tune of $6,000.

There are no fool proof ways to control sabotage clicking or click fraud. Search engines basically admit they cannot completely detect competitor clicking, probably because they can only detect IP address or track patterns, such as time of day, number of clicks within a period, etc. Within a given business or company, there can be hundreds of people using the same IP address, so there is no way to find the person responsible.

Google’s Policy regarding “Invalid Clicks” states that it will analyze certain factors (IP address, time of click, etc.) to try and isolate and filter out invalid clicks before they hit your account.

According to a 2007 study, Click Fraud, by Kenneth Wilbur at the University of Southern California, click fraud can increase or decrease search engines’ revenues, depending on competition for the keyword. So, a search engine like Google can only try to block fraudulent or competitor clicking.

While search engines like Google try to block invalid clicks, lawyers who run PPC campaigns are largely left to fend for themselves and the costs can be quite high. For the Cape Coral lawyer, that cost was $6,000.

Law firms and lawyers who hire a PPC agency should ask the following questions:

1. What method does the agency have to detect competitor clicking or fraud;

2. What does the agency do once they find such issues (i.e., cease/desist letter, contact the search engines, leave it up to you to file complaints with the local bar association, etc.);

3. Has the agency worked with other lawyers before? If so, do they have a list of satisfied PPC attorney customers; and

4. Does the attorney have control over the meta description (i.e., the small paragraph which appears under the title).

PPC can help attorneys find clients, but it must be done in a way so that the attorney understands the return on investment for using PPC. That can’t be done if PPC is one of many campaigns which are run at the same time.

Instead, consider using PPC to supplement your organic search results, rather than choosing multiple keywords you hope to hit on. For example, if you rank well for a term like “Dallas criminal lawyer possession of drugs,” then consider a PPC campaign for that term, instead of going after a term which you don’t rank for, like “Dallas criminal defense lawyer.”

Being in both the paid and organic sections for a given keyword search result page can help increase click through rates and overall website traffic. But, be prepared to pay for click fraud or competitor clicking.