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Mobile Geofencing: The Next Big Thing In Legal Advertising

October 11, 2018 at 5:16 PM

Lawyer advertising using geofencing

For many lawyers, search advertising is a necessary evil.

You know you need to do it as—well, let’s face it—all of your competitors are already advertising on Google, and a whopping 76% of consumers go straight to the search engine giant when researching their legal options.

But you also know that jumping on the Google bandwagon will almost certainly burn a hole in your wallet. With every lawyer and her dog bidding on the same keywords and prominent search placements going to the highest bidder, it can cost hundreds of dollars to get your ad on the first results page.

Fortunately for you, the legal industry also has some of the highest margins, so a couple hundred spent on acquiring a lead can still be a great investment as long as that lead converts into a client.

So how do you ensure that your money’s well spent?

With geofencing.

Geofencing offers lawyers a way to maximize their ad spend by bidding on not only the right keywords, but the right locations as well. It provides a method for solo law practices to compete with firms spending six figures a month on advertising, and it offers a way to better ensure that each lead you bring in is high in both quality and intent.

In other words, it’s a way to cherry-pick your results and only bid on those most likely to pick up the phone today and request legal counsel.

And we’ll show you exactly how to do that, along with three creative ways our customers have grown their firms with geofencing in this post.

But first, what is geofencing in the context of legal advertising?

Simply put, geofencing is a means of targeting your digital advertisements to only appear to potential clients when they are at a location of interest. It’s a matter of drawing a virtual circle on (a “fence”) around a location (a “geo”) and then using mobile marketing and GPS tracking to reach the smartphones of anyone within that area.

For a personal injury lawyer, a location of interest can be anywhere a potential client is likely to visit at the start of their search for a lawyer. The classic case for this is marketing to E.R. waiting rooms, where accident victims and their loved ones are likely assessing their rights and options. Other locations of interest could include clinics potential clients regularly visit to get over an injury (local chiropractors, physical therapists, repair shops) or even the exact intersections and highways that see the most accidents each year.

Whatever your location of interest may be, the important thing is that you’ll be dramatically slashing your ad costs by targeting only a very specific location rather than the entire city, which would eat up the average daily budget within an hour.

And it’s perfectly legal?

Although some have been quick to liken hospital geofencing to “virtual ambulance chasing,” the American Bar Association does not make this comparison, and there are no laws prohibiting its use.

While it may be worth checking your state bar association’s rules or going with an agency that can help you navigate state-by-state discrepancies, geofencing for lawyers is currently not only acceptable but gaining momentum in all 50 states. And because it doesn’t collect any personally identifiable information, it’s GDPR-friendly and likely here to stay.

What can lawyers do with geofencing?

While the opportunities are endless, here are three creative ways we’ve seen attorneys incorporate geofencing into their advertising campaigns:

1. Appeal to the new way clients search for legal advice

Like many experiences, the search for legal representation has become increasingly mobile.

Today, 31% of all traffic to law firm websites came from smartphones. And while there are no published studies, we’ve seen from our own clients that visitors coming in from mobile tend to be higher in intent—that is, they’re more likely to fill out a form or call your number within the hour.

Mobile clicks convert 27% better than desktop clicks for search-driven legal leads.


Mobile geofencing allows lawyers to take advantage of both these findings, appealing to the growth in mobile searches and the urgency associated with pulling out your phone and searching for “top personal injury lawyers” from a hospital waiting room… which brings us to our next tip.

2. Get in front of clients at the very beginning of their search—from the E.R. waiting room

With mobile geofencing, you can ensure that your messages reach the right potential clients at the right place and time.

In a high-stress situation—such as in the aftermath of a recent auto accident, workplace injury, or medical malpractice incident—consumers often forgo the intense research they’d normally put in before purchasing a high-ticket item and, instead, call the first lawyer they see. They’ve likely never even imagined needing to call up a personal injury lawyer or another type of attorney and don’t know how to begin… other than going to Google, searching “lawyer,” and clicking on the first result they see. (And in fact, the first search result gets more clicks than the next nine combined.)

The first search result gets more clicks than the next nine combined.

Nearly 80% of searchers don't look past the first three results. Image source: Designer Websites.

In an ideal world, your firm would rank first for all of the keywords you care about in your area. But in reality, this could easily cost seven figures a month.

So how can a law firm get in front of the right search queries without supersized budgets?

By cherry-picking not only which keywords you want to rank for, but also which locations you want to rank for.

As we saw before, different locations appeal to searches with different levels of intent. Someone searching for “lawyer” as they work through Law 101 homework in a dorm room has a much lower intent (that is, less likely to pick up the phone and hire a lawyer today) than someone searching from an E.R. waiting room.

From the 100+ legal marketing campaigns we’ve managed, we’ve seen that clicks from hospitals are 3.1x more likely to result in a call than clicks from other locations.

These are the crème de la crème of clicks - and, what’s even better is that we found no significant difference between the cost of a click in a location-intent area and a click from another part of the same metropolitan area.

In other words, targeting the right locations can make your limited advertising budget net the same results as a budget 3x its size.

Legal searches conducted from within hospitals (acquired from mobile geofencing) are 3x more likely to convert into leads.

While hospitals are the most popular high-intent location, our personal injury clients have also seen success targeting chiropractors, physical therapists, and other pain specialists. For other types of lawyers, we’ve seen great results targeting divorce or family counseling offices (family law), prisons and police stations (criminal law), tech hubs and incubators (startup and IP law), and immigrant assistance centers (immigration law).

3. Maximize the ROI of broad keywords

The right keywords can make or break a campaign, and this has never been truer than in the case of legal advertising, where keywords can cost anywhere between $2 and $200.

Many firms see success with very specific, high-intent keywords that immediately indicate that a searcher is looking for specific legal support:

  • “Best personal injury lawyers in Seattle”
  • “Accident attorneys near me”
  • “Medical malpractice lawyer with free consultation”

These phrases all contain “keyword intent,” or the implied immediate need for a solution (in this case, an injury lawyer).

Contrast these keywords with lower-intent options:

  • Lawyer
  • Car repair
  • Legal help

These latter three keywords could result in a client, but the chances are slimmer. Someone searching, generically, for a ‘lawyer’ is just as likely looking for a divorce lawyer than a personal injury lawyer. And someone searching for ‘car repair’ could have been in a recent auto accident, but they could also just be looking to seal a chipped windshield.

If the first choice of keywords looks like a no-brainer, you aren’t alone. Law firms big and small have recognized the power of keyword intent and are bidding top dollar for these specific, likely-to-convert phrases. As a result, the cost to rank prominently for “best personal injury lawyer” has skyrocketed to $78.13, while the more-generic “lawyer” keyword looks like a bargain for $4.71.

And this is where geofencing comes in.

By targeting for “location intent,” you don’t need to become as reliant on keyword intent. The location does the qualifying for you.

If your ad shows up for “lawyer,” there may be a 5% chance that someone is looking for a personal injury lawyer as opposed to any other type of lawyer (or they may not be looking to hire a lawyer at all and searching, instead, for “how to become a lawyer”). Yet, if your ad shows up for “lawyer” in an E.R. waiting room, the odds are a little more in your favor - three times as likely as we illustrated in our second tip.

Whether you’re bidding on the long tail or the short tail, geofencing areas with a strong degree of location-intent can make a big difference on your bottom line.

Add mobile geofencing to your legal advertising toolbox today

With steep keyword costs and tight competition, legal marketers face an uphill battle when it comes to client acquisition. Fortunately, mobile geofencing offers a way to leapfrog even your best-funded competitors and laser-focus your spend on only those individuals most likely to convert into clients.

To get started, create a Spatially Ads account, where we’ll walk you through geofence targeting in three easy steps.

Or, if you’re looking for expert help, we’re proud to offer the only full-service agency that specializes in location-based legal advertising. We combine data, technology, and unrivaled marketing expertise to get our clients the best possible results — increasing ROIs by an average of 8x along the way. Contact us to learn more and get started with a one-month trial.

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