For those of you that enjoy science experiments, advertising online can present a very interesting lab. Your objective in advertising is to sell a product or service, in this case, legal services. The measure of success is the amount, if any, of revenue you generate from your advertisements, taking into account the actual cost of advertising online.
There are a fair number of places to advertise online. For the internet search market, Google, Yahoo and Bing are probably over 90% of the market based on usage statistics. All of these services provide a way to advertise your web site. These work by displaying ads that are triggered by the keywords that search engine users enter into the search form. For example, if you create an ad that is tied to the keyword “copyright infringement,” and a user searches for that or a similar phrase, your ad will display alongside the indexed results from the search engine. Where your ad appears in the results will depend on how much you have bid for the advertising space and also how relevant the search engine thinks your ad is (and the link it will take a user to) in relation to the words that are searched for.
You also have the option of advertising on certain social networking web sites, such as linkedin and facebook. In the case of facebook, you write an ad that will display based on the demographics that you are targeting. For example, facebook will target your ad to display to people living in Maryland that are older than 18, are male, and have a college degree. Linkedin, by virtue of targeting working professionals, allows you the ability to target prospective customers based on their industry, job category, and location.
All of these services provide you with a way to pay for “clicks” or for individuals that see your ad and actually click on the link to travel to a page on your web site. Where users end up on your site will likely determine whether you get a customer as a result. So, if you were to write an ad looking for prospective clients with a pending divorce case, your “landing page” (the page that your ad will display when clicked on) should probably have information about your practice, your experience handling divorce cases, and a way to contact you to schedule time to meet. A landing page that is not relevant to the search terms that led your user there will likely cause your visitors to quickly go somewhere else.
Not all advertising campaigns will lead directly to cash. You may only want visitors to come to your site to learn more about you and to think of you the next time they have a legal problem that you can help them with. In that case, you can set other goals for your advertising campaign, like, increasing the time that users spend on your site that find you through a search engine, or increasing the number of pages that users click through on your site. You might also want to develop a following or a group of users that return to your web site over time by subscribing to an RSS feed of content from your web site or blog. Or you may want to increase the number of people reading your tweets on twitter. Having certain, measurable goals helps you to determine if your ads are performing properly, whether your landing pages are structured properly, and whether your overall web site is properly organized for your prospective clients.
And, with online advertising, you can tinker with your advertisements over time to evaluate what ads brought clients to your site and which ads did not. With some search engines, you can also develop graphical ads and run them alongside plain old text ads to see which works better for bringing in users to your web site, and ultimately, converting into paying customers.