By Tres Homer
In late May at the Google Performance Summit, Google announced to the world that there are major changes coming to Google Analytics and Google AdWords. These changes are focused around mobile searches, primarily the new Google map ads.
Local ads are not a new addition to the Maps app, as they were first introduced to the world in 2013, but they are an overhaul to how ads are shown and where they are shown. The expanded use of these ads are the talk of the town. Google will now show local search ads on all versions of the Google Maps app as well as the expanded maps results on Google search.
So what is Google changing? First off, Google is adding Promoted Pins to the Maps application. These promoted pins are a big purple map marker placed on the map along with an ad to draw people to the business. These ads can be customized to give a discount on goods or services, promote a certain product, or to simply drive traffic to the website.
These ads will be shown to users based on their search history, where they are searching from, the query itself, as well as other interests and behaviors that Google identifies.
WHY THE NEW SHIFT TOWARDS LOCAL SEARCH ADS?
At the Summit, Google also unveiled some pretty mind-blowing statistics regarding local search and mobile. Here are some of the statistics that Google has released according to Larry Kim in an article he published to Inc.:
1. Nearly one third of all mobile searches on Google are related to location.
2. Location-related mobile searches are growing 50% faster than mobile searches in general.
3. More than half of all web traffic for the millions of website owners using Google Analytics now comes from smartphones and tablets.
4. Over 1 billion people now use the Maps application from Google.
With such a huge growth in the amount of searches being performed on the Maps application, and the increase in mobile device usage, Google has an opportunity to make even more money off ads.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MY LAW FIRM?
We have been stressing the impact mobile search has on your law firm’s online marketing strategy. The change from seven local results to three has made a huge impact on the amount of visibility some law firms had on Google. With only three results being shown in search, having a solid backlink profile, online reviews, and a high domain authority are mandatory if you want to be in one of those three spots.
It will become even harder to capture these mobile clicks due to the increasing visibility of law firms who are willing to pay for clicks. The top three results will now feature a paid ad up front, followed by two organic listings. This means if you were third in the local search and relied on that position to drive business, you may be pushed off the first page entirely.
If you are performing well and currently being displayed in the local pack, having a high amount of positive reviews, a solid backlink strategy, and accurate information across the web will become more important than ever in order to remain visible. We expect to see an extremely high CTR to the new local ads due to how much they stand out compared to other ad formats, so make sure you keep a close eye on your data to monitor any shift in clicks to your local listing.
You also want to make sure that your Google My Business is fully optimized with your brand, NAP (name, address, phone number), and is connected with your domain before even considering ads.
Another thing is to strive towards gaining a high number of positive reviews on Google. You do not want to buy into the local ads and display a two or three star average to potential clients looking for legal services.
SHOULD I INVEST IN THE NEW LOCAL ADS?
It is well known that legal is the most competitive market for ad space. It is not uncommon to see cost-per-clicks over $100 in some bigger markets for personal injury related keywords. That high price tag is for regular ads in which you are listed with 3 to 4 other law firms. What do you think the cost will be when there is only one listing being fought over by 10 or 20 law firms in your area?
It is possible to see a CPC of over $300 for these local ads due to the increased competition and less space in the larger markets. If you are located in a smaller city, you may see a smaller price tag, but higher than normal ad space.
If it makes sense for your law firm to spend hundreds of dollars for a lead, then the local ads might be a great place to capture some leads you may have not had before.
At GNGF, we like to wait and obtain data before making a recommendation, especially when new changes like this pop up. Until we can measure and analyze the effect that local ads will have on SEO and local search, we can’t advise a law firm one way or another.