Monday, March 2, 2009

SEM: Why Google Works for Lawyers

Ever wonder why Google has created the world's most efficient and valuable advertising platform? The reasons are many, but it really comes down to one thing: User Intent

When a user comes to Google and searches, they are in shopping mode. Depending on what they are searching for, they want the advertiser's content (or link). Compare that to Yahoo mail or display ads in general, which are fueled by interruption marketing and the effectiveness of Google becomes much clearer. Just for fun, here are a couple of analogies:
  • Shopping at the mall (Google ) vs. Door to Door Sales (Display Ads). You know those kiosks at the mall? You can put virtually anything in those things (like cheap hairbrushes or $2 sunglasses) and they will sell. Neither the product or the salesperson need to be very good because consumers show up at the mall looking for ways to spend money. On the other hand, door to door sales takes some serious talent. And a good product. Like Kirby vacuums. Its impossible to not be impressed and tempted to buy when those guys show up. But, that's a tough racket. What's my point? You need to seriously know what you are doing to make display advertising work because you have to convince the user to look at your ad and notice you. Like the Kirby vacuum salesman that needs you to stop watching TV or playing with the kids or fixing the leaky faucet so that you will listen to him. In search, they are looking for you. Put anything in the kiosk and staff it with a moderately attractive teenager and it will sell.
  • Bridal magazines and the Sunday paper (Google) vs. US Weekly and the sports page (Display). Do bridal magazines actually have any stories in them? And isn't it ironic that the Sunday paper is usually 4x the price of a weekday paper, when it is almost 80% ads? Shouldn't they both be free? You know you have a good thing - from an advertising perspective - when the consumer is paying money to look at your ads. My wife loves reading the Sunday paper so that she can take a look at the circular. Compare that to the back cover in the sports page . . . can you name the ads that you just looked at when you were checking the box score? US Weekly has to attract "brand-driven" advertisers because few direct marketers can make the back cover generate enough sales to cover the cost of the ad.

Google works for lawyers because it is incredibly obvious that, if you are a divorce lawyer in San Francisco, that a web user that visits Google and types in "divorce lawyer san francisco" is probably someone that you want to tell about your practice. The same user could be all over the web doing all sorts of things - like looking for a new place to live or reading an article on a celebrity divorce or updating his relationship status on facebook. Try to find him at the exact right moment to show him your flashy display ad. Good luck with that.

Yes, user intent is the single biggest reason why paid search works for lawyers. There's only one problem (which we'll discuss next). It works for all your competitors just as well. And Google has designed an incredibly efficient bidding system that means you will pay top dollar to get your firm in front of that web user searching for you.

See also:

Effective SEM Requires Landing Page Optimization