How Long Does It Take to See Results from Google Ads for Lawyers?

Home Google Ads How Long Does It Take to See Results from Google Ads for Lawyers?

Understanding the timeline for seeing results from Google Ads is crucial for managing your expectations and optimizing your law firm’s campaigns effectively. Various factors influence how quickly you can see results, including the initial setup and approval, the learning phase, the optimization phase, and ongoing maintenance efforts.

This detailed guide will help you understand what to expect and how to manage your Google Ads campaigns for optimal results.

For those seeking a quick answer, you can expect to start seeing initial results from Google Ads within 2 weeks to 1 month. However, achieving peak performance typically takes between 3 to 6 months.

Factors Affecting Time to See Results:

Practice Area Competition

High competition in your industry can slow down the process of seeing results. As expected, competitive keywords and ad spaces require more time and budget to yield significant results.

Below I have attached a table ranking some common practice areas based on their level of competition in the USA:

RankPractice AreaCompetition LevelDescription
1Personal Injury LawVery HighHighly competitive due to the large volume of cases and high potential settlements.
2Criminal Defense LawHighSignificant competition, especially in urban areas with high crime rates.
3Family LawHighHigh demand for services such as divorce, child custody, and support, leading to strong competition.
4DUI/DWI LawHighMany firms specialize in DUI/DWI cases, resulting in fierce competition for leads.
5Employment LawModerateCompetitive, especially for cases involving wrongful termination and workplace discrimination.
6Estate PlanningModerateSteady demand for wills, trusts, and estate management, with moderate competition.
7Bankruptcy LawModerateConsistent need for bankruptcy services, but less competitive than personal injury or criminal law.
8Immigration LawModerateHigh demand in certain regions, but overall moderate competition.
9Real Estate LawModerateCompetition varies by region, with higher competition in urban and high-growth areas.
10Intellectual Property LawLow to ModerateSpecialized field with fewer practitioners, leading to lower overall competition.

Location Based Competition

Building on the previous point, the competition of your practice area isn’t the only thing you should lookout for, but also how competitive your particular location is. This varies depending on the practice area, so because of this we are unable to produce a table.

However, you can have a look at the specific competition level for particular keywords on Google Ads in your area by using the keyword planner.

So below we can see the most competitive terms related to ‘lawyer’ in the United States:

Competition for legal keywords in United States using Google Keyword Planner

But compare that to the most competitive terms in Los Angeles and you’ll see an interesting difference:

Competition for legal keywords in Los Angeles using Google Keyword Planner

Using this tool can help to provide you with a really good idea of how competitive your practice area is in your particular location as this varies significantly.

Budget and Bid Strategy

Your budget and bid strategy significantly influence the speed at which you see results. A higher budget and more aggressive bidding will accelerate the process but must be managed carefully to avoid overspending.

This should come at no surprise.

Despite the fact that a higher budget will lead to faster results, we typically don’t approach Google Ads in this way.

We normally look to establish a proof of concept with a smaller budget, and then once the campaign is profitable we consider scaling it up.

The last thing we want to do is go live with a campaign, invest a huge amount into it, only to realise that it wasn’t profitable. At that point we’d have spent so much that pivoting becomes extremely difficult.

Seasonality and External Factors

Seasonal trends and external factors, such as economic conditions, can impact your campaign’s performance timeline. Be aware of these factors and adjust your strategy accordingly.

For example if you start your campaign in December just before Christmas you might find that it will take longer to ramp up. It truly depends on your practice area and location, and what the demand is like at particular points of the year.

For example for a client of ours that practices estate planning we saw December as a relatively quiet month (as expected) but then January was extremely busy.

Ad Quality and Relevance

Higher quality and more relevant ads generally perform better and faster. So if it’s your first time running Google Ads it is going to take longer to see results than if you are working with someone that has run ads for other clients similar to your firm.

It’s easy for us to get Google Ads campaigns functioning quickly when we manage a very similar one at the same time and have an excellent idea of which keywords, bidding strategies, landing pages and negatives to implement for the best results.

Client Decision-Making Timeline in Different Legal Practice Areas

The timeline for seeing results can vary based on how long it takes clients to make decisions. For instance, if you start running ads for an estate planning firm today, you might see clients from these efforts starting to come in 6 months from now.

Below I attached a table which shows a rough estimate of a time frame between which someone knows they need an attorney and them actually taking action:

Practice AreaTime FrameDescription
Criminal Defense LawWithin hours to 1-2 daysClients seek immediate representation to handle urgent legal matters due to imminent court dates or arrests.
DUI/DWI LawWithin hours to 1-2 daysUrgent need for legal assistance due to impending legal consequences and court dates.
Personal Injury LawWithin days to 1-2 weeksClients often seek quick action following an accident to address medical bills and compensation.
Employment LawWithin days to 1-2 weeksPrompt action needed for wrongful termination or workplace discrimination cases.
Family LawWithin 1-4 weeksDecisions are often made quickly but can be delayed due to emotional and financial considerations.
Bankruptcy LawWithin 1-4 weeksClients typically decide to file after prolonged financial distress, needing immediate relief.
Immigration LawWithin 1-8 weeksDecision cycles vary, but urgent cases (e.g., deportation defense) require quick decisions.
Real Estate LawWithin 2-8 weeksDecisions are based on transaction timelines, inspections, and negotiations.
Estate PlanningWithin 1-6 monthsInvolves careful consideration and planning, often not urgent.
Intellectual Property LawWithin 1-6 monthsTypically involves detailed analysis and long-term strategic planning.

What Are Realistic Expectations With Google Ads?

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Results

Short-term results typically include initial impressions, clicks, and some conversions. These can be seen within the first few days. Long-term results, such as consistent lead generation and improved ROI, typically take a few weeks to a few months to achieve.

  • Note: The latency between getting started and seeing results can be longer than expected, so it is best to get started as soon as you are ready, not when you need it.
    • Because if the inflow of new business decreases and you want more clients, it will take some time, so you should start this process when things are going well so that when times are not so well you have everything in place.

It is important to note that this process can vary a lot. We’ve had a client that received their first client after just three days, but for most we typically see a positive ROAS within month one.

Cost Expectations

  • Initial Investment: be prepared for an upfront investment in creating assets, setting up the account, and running initial ads.
  • Ongoing Budget: Expect to allocate a monthly budget for ad spend, which can vary based on your industry and competition.
  • ROI Expectations: Initially, your return on investment (ROI) might be lower as your campaign goes through the learning and optimization phases. Over time, as your campaign stabilizes and performs consistently, ROI should slowly improve.

Starting early and maintaining consistent effort will ensure that your campaign delivers the desired outcomes over the long term.

Understanding The Phases Involved With Google Ads

To help make this easier to comprehend, we have broken down the results timeline into five different phases.

  • Setup and Approval Phase
  • Learning Phase
  • Optimization Phase
  • Stabilization Phase
  • Long-Term Phase

Google Ads Setup Phase

Understanding This Phase

The initial setup phase of a Google Ads campaign is crucial for laying the groundwork for a successful advertising strategy. This phase involves preparing all the necessary assets and systems, setting up the Google Ads account, and ensuring that everything is optimized for launch.

What Happens During This Phase?

Asset and System Creation

A major factor impacting the timeline for seeing results with Google Ads is whether you have the necessary assets and systems in place. These are crucial for success with Google Ads. Here is a checklist of the main components we deem necessary before launching:

  • Optimized Digital Presence:
    • Is your website well-developed, aesthetically pleasing, and designed to convert visitors at every stage of the funnel?
    • Is your law firm’s Google Business Profile set up correctly and optimized for high performance?
    • Are your firm’s social media profiles optimized for conversion?
  • Dedicated Landing Pages:
    • Do you have different landing pages for each practice area?
    • Are they optimized for mobile search?
      • If not, do you have different landing pages for mobile and desktop?
    • Do you have several variants to test, speeding up the time it takes to find a winner?
  • Conversion Mechanisms and Automations:
    • Do you have processes for educating and nurturing leads unfamiliar with your firm?
    • Do you have strategies for convincing leads to act now, rather than postponing their decision to hire an attorney?
    • Do you have methods for engaging leads who are comparing attorneys and deciding who to hire?
  • Procedures for Calling and Messaging Leads:
    • Do you know which team member will call leads and when?
    • Do they have ample availability to handle these requests?
    • Do they have a strong framework to follow to produce consistent results?
    • Are they well-trained?

These are just some of the most important assets and systems. Before going live for our clients, we typically use a more exhaustive list with other critical components required for maximum success.

If you already have these assets and systems in place, the time it takes to see results with Google Ads is significantly reduced. However, if you don’t have any of them, it can easily add several weeks to the timeline.

Some companies may argue that you don’t need all these assets or systems in place, but we strongly disagree. If you’re investing money in advertising, I will assume that you want to receive the best return for every dollar spent.

In practice, I have not seen a situation where a firm got better results by rushing into getting started. It’s just like the tale of the hare and the tortoise…

turtle and the hare illustration

So, for the sake of being cautious, let’s assume your firm has none of these assets or systems. This will add a minimum of two weeks to the pre-launch timeline.

Account Setup

Setting up a Google Ads account involves creating your account, setting your budget, selecting your target audience, and writing your ad copy. This process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the complexity of your campaign and your familiarity with the platform.

  • If you are a complete beginner, it will take some time to familiarize yourself with everything. However, if you want to speed up this process, feel free to go through our resources, which should take you from zero to hero in a short amount of time.

Ad Approval Process

Once your ads are created, they need to go through Google’s approval process. Google reviews ads to ensure they comply with its advertising policies. This review process typically takes around one working day, though it can take longer if your ad is disapproved and you need to appeal it.

Duration

The duration of the initial Google Ads setup phase can vary widely depending on the readiness of your assets and systems. Here’s a breakdown of the estimated timeframes:

  • Asset and System Creation: 2-4 weeks
  • Account Setup: A few hours to a few days
  • Ad Approval Process: 1-3 days

If you have all necessary assets and systems already in place, the setup phase can be completed relatively quickly. However, if these are not ready, expect to add several weeks to your timeline.

Google Ads Learning Phase

Understanding this Phase

After you have set up your Google Ads campaign and you first go live, you will enter what is called the ‘learning phase’. This is a critical period when Google Ads gathers data about your campaign to optimize ad delivery.

During this phase, Google’s algorithms are learning how your ads perform in different contexts, such as varying audiences, times of day, and placements. The goal is to identify the best ways to deliver your ads to achieve optimal results.

What Happens During this Phase?

  • Data Collection: Google collects and analyzes performance data from each ad interaction. This includes metrics like impressions, clicks, and conversions.
  • Ad Testing: Google tests different combinations of your ad copy, keywords, and placements to determine which ones perform best. This experimentation helps in understanding what works best for your target audience.
  • Performance Fluctuations: During this phase, you might notice fluctuations in performance metrics such as click-through rates (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), and conversions. This is normal as Google refines its delivery strategy based on the data collected.

Duration

The learning phase usually lasts about one to two weeks, but can be elongated significantly. This can vary depending on several factors:

  • Budget: If the daily budget is too low, it might take longer to gather enough data to exit the learning phase. A higher budget allows for more impressions and clicks, enabling Google to optimize ad delivery more swiftly.
  • Conversion Volume: Campaigns with higher conversion volumes can exit the learning phase faster since the system has more data to analyze. More conversions provide clearer insights into what works, allowing for quicker optimization.
  • Bid Strategy: Automated bid strategies, such as Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) or Maximize Conversions, rely heavily on data to optimize bids. If data is insufficient, it can potentially extend the learning phase as the system needs more time to gather enough information to make informed bidding decisions.
  • Significant Changes: Making substantial changes to your campaign, such as altering the budget, bid strategy, ad creatives, or targeting, can reset the learning phase. Each significant change requires Google to re-learn and re-optimize ad delivery, effectively restarting the learning process.

What to Expect

During the Google Ads learning phase, expect fluctuations in key metrics such as clicks, click-through rates (CTR), conversions, and revenue. It is difficult to predict what you will receive exactly, but it is not uncommon to start receiving leads and possibly clients during this time.

How Long Does the Google Ads Optimization Phase Take?

Understanding This Phase

The optimization phase is where the real improvements to your Google Ads campaign happen. During this period, you should make data-driven adjustments based on the performance metrics collected during the learning phase. The goal is to refine your campaign to maximize ROI and achieve optimal performance.

What Happens During This Phase?

  • Performance Analysis: Detailed examination of key metrics such as click-through rates (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), and conversion rates. This analysis helps identify areas for improvement and guides the optimization process.
  • Keyword Refinement: Adjusting keyword strategies based on performance data. This involves adding new keywords, modifying match types, and implementing negative keywords to filter out irrelevant traffic.
  • Bid Adjustments: Modifying bids to maximize return on investment. This might include increasing bids on high-performing keywords and reducing bids on underperforming ones.
  • Ad Copy Testing: Running A/B tests to determine which ad variations perform best. This allows for the refinement of headlines, descriptions, and calls-to-action.

Duration

The optimization phase usually lasts about two to four weeks.

What to Expect?

During the Google Ads optimization phase, you can expect to see significant improvements in key metrics such as clicks, click-through rates (CTR), conversions, and revenue. Typically you will see your first client(s) during this phase.

Google Ads Stabilization Phase

Understanding This Phase

The stabilization phase follows the optimization phase and is crucial for solidifying the gains made during optimization.

This phase is about maintaining and slightly tweaking the campaign to ensure consistent performance over time. The primary goal is to achieve steady, predictable results while minimizing fluctuations in key performance metrics.

What Happens During This Phase?

  • Consistent Performance Monitoring: Regularly check key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure the campaign continues to perform well. This includes metrics like click-through rates (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), and conversion rates.
  • Minor Adjustments: Make small, incremental changes based on performance data to fine-tune the campaign. This might involve slight keyword adjustments, bid modifications, or tweaks to ad copy.
  • Budget Allocation: Reassess and allocate budget to the best-performing areas of your campaign. Ensure that high-performing ad groups and keywords receive adequate funding to maintain their performance.
  • Quality Score Improvements: Focus on improving Quality Scores by enhancing ad relevance, expected click-through rates, and landing page experience. Higher Quality Scores can lead to better ad placements and lower costs.
  • Audience Refinement: Refine audience targeting based on observed performance. This could include adjusting demographic, geographic, or behavioral targeting to better match your ideal client profile.

Duration

The stabilization phase typically lasts between one to three months. This duration allows enough time to ensure that the campaign adjustments made during the optimization phase are effective and sustainable.

What to Expect?

During the Google Ads stabilization phase, expect to see steady and consistent performance in key metrics. Click-through rates (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), and conversions should stabilize, resulting in more predictable revenue. Typically here you will be establishing a proof of concept, and will have a strong idea of your client acquisition cost. For most of our clients they become consistently profitable in the early part of this phase.

Google Ads Long-Term Phase

Understanding This Phase

The long-term phase is the period where your Google Ads campaign achieves sustained, optimal performance. This phase is about maintaining consistency, making incremental improvements, and ensuring that your campaign continues to deliver strong results over an extended period. The primary goal is to maximize return on investment (ROI) and keep the campaign aligned with your business objectives.

What Happens During This Phase?

  • Strategic Scaling: Here you might consider gradually increasing the campaign budget and expanding targeting options based on proven success to reach a broader audience and acquire more clients.
  • Advanced Testing: Typically you will be implementing more sophisticated A/B tests and multivariate testing to continually enhance ad performance and conversion rates.
  • Integration with Other Marketing Efforts: We typically work to align your Google Ads campaign with other marketing channels and strategies to create a cohesive, multi-channel marketing approach.

Duration

The long-term phase is an ongoing process that extends beyond the initial three to six months of setup, learning, optimization, and stabilization. This phase is indefinite, as continuous management and improvement are essential to maintain and enhance campaign performance. Key factors influencing the duration and success of the long-term phase include:

  • Market Dynamics: Staying responsive to changes in the market, competitor actions, and shifts in consumer behavior.
  • Business Growth: As your business grows and evolves, adapting your Google Ads strategy to align with your new goals.
    • For example, you might want to expand and open several offices.
    • On the other hand, you might want to remove yourself from the business and work on the business rather than in it.

What to Expect

During the Google Ads long-term phase, expect sustained improvements and consistent performance in key metrics. Click-through rates (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), conversions, and overall revenue should continue to improve gradually. Typically during this phase the results will level out and you will be achieving a consistent ROAS.

Conclusion

Seeing results from Google Ads takes time and requires consistent monitoring and optimization. By understanding the various phases and factors influencing your campaign’s performance, you can set realistic expectations and make data-driven decisions to improve your results.

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Santiago Alvarez
Santiago Alvarez

Ad Hoc Digital is an agency that specializes in helping law firms get more clients, and in total our team has over a decade of experience in marketing and advertising. Santiago Alvarez, the founder has been working exclusively with law firms since 2022.

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