in ALL tracked keyword rankings
exactly correlated to running Facebook Ads
Our goal was to drive more brand awareness & branded search traffic. The significant organic ranking improvement was a bonus.
Los Angeles personal injury is an extremely competitive market
Very little existing search volume for the firm or attorney names
Expensive and competitive search ad clicks for non-branded terms
Slow but steady organic ranking growth due to market competition
No previous experience with social advertising
What impact do social ads have on Google organic rankings? The suggestion that there is any connection might be classified as blasphemy in some circles, but evidence suggests there is a definite connection. In our own case study, we observed a solid correlation between organic rankings and major budget shifts in Facebook ads. What’s more, industry experts have alluded to what exactly drives this relationship.
Let’s set the scene: It’s December 2019 and NiftyCon in Park City, UT is wrapping up. We spoke in part on the importance of utilizing social ads to help build brand awareness and branded search traffic. Sherif El Dabe of El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers attended and had decided to invest in social ads as a strategy to drive more branded search volume.
As a personal injury firm in Los Angeles, social ads presented a unique opportunity for them to achieve highly-targeted brand exposure in an extremely competitive market.
A highly-targeted Facebook ad campaign centered around individuals in need of a personal injury lawyer
In-depth audit of all digital assets (SEO, Design, Branding, Ads etc.)
Complete campaign creation including targeting and retargeting
Geo-specific landing pages
Complete audit of current branded search volume
Various ad creatives and split testing
One month later, we had created Facebook ad campaigns for their firm, targeting individuals with recent behaviors or interests related to car accident or personal injury law. This was accomplished by targeting anyone who was currently or recently within a 1-mile radius of local hospitals AND researching subjects related to legal services, personal injury, or accident law. In addition, we targeted individuals within Orange County and LA County with very relevant interests and behaviors like “personal injury attorney”, “accident attorney”, etc.
In conjunction with these campaigns, we created retargeting campaigns for anyone engaging with the firm’s Facebook page, ads, or website. Finally, all of these ads directed traffic to a landing page summarizing the firm’s experience, testimonials, and services.
155% increase in Google branded search volume AND observed organic ranking improvement.
increase in Google searches for firm and attorney names
28% Ranking Improvement
ALL tracked keyword rankings improved by an avg of 14 positions.
Achieved rankings in the local pack for competitive terms
The campaign did well, had solid ad engagement, and led to a rapid 155% lift in branded search volume.
Fast forward to May 31st. After some discussion with Sherif and firm partner John Ritter, we agreed it was time for a switch-up utilizing Google ads. This new tactic would target competitive direct-intent search queries like “car accident attorney near me”, “la accident attorney”, etc. To accomplish this we reduced his Facebook ad budget from $4300/mo to $1300/mo and shifted that money along with additional investment into Google search ads. After all, Facebook’s low CPM and excellent targeting abilities allow for great results on a small budget.
The shift in spending accomplished the desired goal: more direct intent phone leads directly attributable to the Google Ads channel. However, what we did not anticipate was a corresponding dip in organic rankings. After scratching our heads and diving into the data, we found some interesting correlations. First, the Facebook ad side of the equation illustrating the ad spend, and when the launch/budget reallocation occurred.
Launching Facebook Ads generated quick results in the form of brand awareness and clicks. Notice the dates of launch, and the budget shift.
We also observed the correlative impact of these budget shifts on the volume of branded search traffic:
Organic search volume for attorney John Ritter or the firm name.
Organic search volume for attorney Sherif El Dabe or the firm name.
Increase when Facebook Ads were enabled
Decrease as a result of major budget reduction
What’s interesting here is the apparent delay between the budget cut and the branded search volume drop off. Our best guess is the delay was due to retention. This might be further supported by the typically short client journey within personal injury, where clients need an attorney within hours to a few days after an accident. Considering this, brand retention might not be quite as lasting or relevant to individuals as it would in a practice area like family law, where the journey may last months or even years.
Finally, things got really weird when we took a look at rankings relative to enabling social ads versus the sizable budget cut:
Chart illustrating average keyword rankings for El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers. Notice the corresponding dates for ranking improvement and drops, related to the start of Facebook Ads as well as the budget shift.
Avg Ranking Improvement for all tracked keywords
What stood out to us is that there is a definite trend with improving first-page rankings around the time Facebook ads launched and a significant decrease in first-page rankings around the time the budget was reduced by around 70%. Using brightlocal we observed that ALL tracked keyword (yes, you read that correctly) rankings improved by average of 28%, or 14 positions. To clarify this, Brightlocal only tracks up to 50 positions, so it’s very possible there was a greater improvement than what we observed. For example, the keyword “Personal Injury Attorney LA” was a keyword that El Dabe Ritter was not ranking for prior to the brand awareness campaign. After 6 months, they moved into the local pack and moved up to the 26th position in search results. After Facebook spend was cut, they fell out of the local pack and dropped 10 positions to end up 36th in search results.
Fluke? Maybe. Now, take into consideration this comment from Barry Schwartz (Google Product Manager) at a Search Engine Roundtable:
“Search volume for a business is a determining factor in Place Labels.”
What are place labels?
Place labels, as defined by Google, are “a feature of Google Maps that surfaces great content such as landmarks, businesses, and tourist attractions on our base map data.” You’ve likely seen these on your phone’s map:
The most prominent businesses are featured here. Having a Google places label is a really good indication that Google sees your business as an authority locally. These also tend to carry over directly to better local search rankings.
Search volume for the business local is likely a large factor for determining what businesses get a Places Label.Joy Hawkins
Let’s bring this full circle. Social ads (such as Facebook and Instagram) are a well-known way to build brand awareness, thereby increasing the volume of individuals searching specifically for the business name. Our El Dabe Ritter is a perfect example; we observed a corresponding increase and decrease in branded search volume related to the launch of Facebook ads and the budget reallocation.
Therefore, it stands to reason that utilizing social ads has a direct impact on local SEO rankings by driving branded search volume.
What should your law firm do about it?
If you aren’t actively investing in the awareness and interest phases of your client journey via top-of-funnel channels like Facebook Ads, Youtube Ads, Display Ads, etc – start there. To effectively drive brand awareness, you’ll need to ensure your targeting is relevant and that your ads are eye-catching and engaging. If you’re already investing in these types of advertising channels, we recommend auditing your accounts closely. We’ve included our own checklist below.
Social Ads Audit Checklist:
- Mark significant dates related to each campaign or account.
- Launch / end for each account or campaign
- Major budget adjustments up / down
- Major targeting or ad creative changes
- Using Google Search Console, look for correlations related to traffic specifically for your brand.
- Using a ranking tool like ahrefs, look for correlations between the dates you discovered in step 1 and changes in rankings.
- Reference lead-tracking platforms like CallRail to determine if the increased brand traffic or improved organic rankings impacted overall PNC’s.
- When you identify a correlation between a specific channel and its residual impact on rankings or incoming leads, it’s time to start split testing and adjust your marketing investment accordingly.
- Keep in mind that you are hunting for correlations, which isn’t a perfect science. If the adjustments to targeting, budget, or new channels weren’t substantial enough, you might not notice a correlation.
- Be thorough in your record-keeping of marketing efforts and changes. If you purchased a TV spot, or notice a big change during a holiday season, keep these types of things in mind as you look for correlations.
If you haven’t tried social ads yet, now is the time. The recent pandemic of 2020 has driven more attention than ever to platforms like Facebook and Youtube. (Source: NYTimes)
If you already have social ads running now, or have used them in the past, look at the value of this channel through a new lens. Used properly, a solid social ads strategy can have a huge ripple effect via email list building (w/ lead magnets, a topic for another time 😉 ), increased branded search volume, and as we’ve shown here – organic ranking benefits.
Reach out if you’d like to discuss a social ads strategy for your firm!
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