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The tyranny of the blank Google AdWords page can be overwhelming. Even more confounding can be the failure to show up on the first page of a Google search. So what might you do to keep top of the digital mind? As a legal funder, you've likely had the case strongly made for Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, as one of the most leveragable strategies for lead generation. Put another way, the best chance for "originations" is an "organic search." But to show up high in Google's PageRank or the Yahoo-Bing Network requires more than an appreciation of the art of SEO.
A few quick relevant facts for those less familiar with search engine optimization:
This pattern of fact dictates that it's critical to show up first on Google. However, costless organic search results may be too random to predict, and paid results may be dominated by a few major players with complex media and marketing organizations.
How can you combat this? The answer is quite simple: focus on keywords.
First, let's take a look at an unpaid keyword strategy. Within SEO, there are two types of searches: long-tail and short-tail.
A short-tail search is typically a one- or two-word search combination, e.g. "legal funding." Compare this to a long-tail search, which is a three-or-more term search, e.g. "cash advance on my New York car accident case."
Having a deep understanding of unpaid long-tail search is mission critical, especially for small and medium-sized firms.
Short-tail searches, typically the most popular terms, will be dominated by the largest, richest players in the space. As the 15th Google result for "legal funding" you are quite unlikely to receive any meaningful search traffic. Rather, it's best to dominate a specific search string, which can also help drive originations of plaintiffs with specific needs in mind, e.g. "short-term legal funding settlement."
We must caution you not to go too niche. It's unlikely that a plaintiff will search for "legal financing broken leg lawsuit settlement." No point in being the mayor of a town with no population.
To own the long-tail SEO game, you must first establish a set of mostly three- and four-word search combinations that show up with a relative degree of frequency.
Repeating the processes above with quality and consistency, while avoiding any black hat practices, can lead to extremely high material results for a low amount of investment. You will also be able to develop subsequent novel keyword searches by checking your Google Analytics page and discovering unique user searches that led to your site being discovered.
Here are some long-tail search phrases we at Mighty recently researched, which you may want to consider:
The table below is Google AdWords' KeyWord Planner tool. Here you'll see the approximate search trend ranges for these search phrases on a given monthly basis in the United States. This is a rolling 12-month average. The other columns discussing "Competition" and "Suggested bid" are related to paid search engine marketing (i.e. advertising on Google), which we will discuss next.
Now let's turn our attention to a more controlled SEO method-paying for it. The vast majority of Google's revenues still come from paid search engine optimization, which is also called search engine marketing, or SEM.
A paid strategy can work for both long-tail and short-tail searches and can be joined with an unpaid strategy. However, a paid short-tail and unpaid long-tail combination is typically optimal.
Paid SEO/SEM can be complicated for the uninitiated, and those in the legal funding space need to take heed of certain rules and restrictions that Google has in place for all lenders: How Google's New Policy Could Impact Your Legal Funding Business.
AdWords generally average a slightly higher than 3 percent Click-Through Rate (CTR) compared to organic search results at around 7 percent. Put another way, for every 1000 searches for "legal funding" which show the same results, approximately 30 people will click on the top paid ad, and approximately 70 people will click on the top organic search result. Note, however, that this is a generalized result across all industries.
It's also important to note that Google AdWords are just that-advertisements. Paying for a "keyword" will not help your brand show up first in a Google search result, but it can help your keyword show above organic search results as a paid advertisement.
There are many nuances to running a successful paid SEM campaign:
It's important to not expect miracles with just $100 of ad spend. Rather, it is a process of experimentation through time that should be considered a significant, but potentially worthwhile, investment.
Here are the top 10 short-tail terms we discovered in our AdWords laboratory:
As with our long-tail table below, you can see the monthly U.S. search ranges for these terms on a rolling 12-month average. Here you will want to pay special attention to the competition rating and suggested bid rate for these search terms were you to desire to bid on them.
The searches above represent, on a monthly basis "at best", approximately 35,000 search queries. With a 3 percent click-through rate on top-performing ads, that's potentially around 1,050 new leads click-through to your brand on a monthly basis.
While this is a highly-optimized, and likely expensive, microcosmic example, it begins to prove out the macro-level benefits of a well-run SEM campaign.
As you're thinking about budgeting, keep in mind some of these figures (compiled from research by Mighty):
For both paid and organic SEO/SEM, it is mission critical to understand what your competition is doing. Knowing this should drive you to or away from certain keyword and search term strategies more than any other factor.
We've done some of the work for you. Here are three leading legal funders using SEO/SEM and some insights on the terms they are competing for each month. Click any of the links to get a more in-depth breakdown of these companies SEO/SEM strategies. What we start to see across these three competitors is a trend of competitive search terms which many firms in the industry utilize.
This information is available to anyone through a variety of services like SpyFu, Moz, and WordStream. The latter provides good insight from a variety of SEO experts on how they perform competitive research and also provides a benchmark for AdWords in the legal/law industry.
To sum up, an unpaid long-tail SEO approach can be highly effective, especially for smaller and younger brands. While a paid short-tail SEO/SEM strategy can also be highly effective, it does have some risks if not approached intelligently and with managed expectations. But when both strategies are properly executed with the processes above in mind, SEO/SEM can lead to a large number of new, highly-qualified plaintiff originations.
* The term "loan" was used throughout this piece as examples of keywords or searchterms that legal funding companies target. This is reflective of how consumers colloquially think of the service provided by legal funders, not of the mechanics of the service itself. As all legal funders know, this asset class is distinctly structured as a non-recourse investment, not a loan. Advertising as a loan could be bad for the industry and put your business at risk. As such, Mighty advises against the practice.