It’s no secret that bankruptcy lawyers are having a tough time advertising online.
Between policy changes limiting the types of ads that can be run on different platforms, to sights being set on a more private web, it’s looking a lot more like this trend is going to continue instead of getting easier.
Take this growing issue, and throw in policies like the CDC eviction moratorium that have the impact of reducing bankruptcy filings, and you’ve got a perfect storm that results in much lower case volume.
What can you do about it?
While it’s definitely getting harder to advertise online, it’s not at all impossible. Here are some of the biggest platforms we’re seeing our bankruptcy attorney clients looking at, their difficulty ratings for approval, and what you can expect to see.
- Google PPC
- Google Local Service Ads
- Yes, bankruptcy attorneys can still advertise online
Difficulty Rating: 5/10
There’s definitely a lot to criticize about Facebook, but with an audience of 2.89 billion active monthly users, it’s an advertiser’s dream.
Sure, not everyone on Facebook is going to be looking for a bankruptcy attorney, but with those kinds of numbers, you can rest assured there’s a group somewhere in there that is.
I’ve written before on some tips to get a legal ad approved on Facebook – it can be tricky, but doable with the right verbiage and creative, hence the middle difficulty rating.
Facebook advertising pros:
- Approval can be tedious, but much easier than something like PPC
- Ad targeting options are some of the best of the best
- You get a chance to talk directly to the people interacting with your ads
Facebook advertising cons:
- Finding the right creative that jives well with the other content in peoples’ news feeds can be difficult
- Facebook can (and will) shut down your ad account for having too many rejected ads. Appealing a banned ad account is a nightmare, and usually irreversable
- Some of the best features (like lead ads) need extra software like Zapier to make the most of them
Facebook policies to be aware of
As far as bankruptcy lawyers go, there are two sets of Facebook policies that tend to make up the most common rejections: personal attributes and discriminatory practices. If your Facebook ad was rejected, you can usually bet it was a result of something in one of those.
Taking a look at the personal attributes policy, there are two points in particular that tend to sink bankruptcy ads:
Speaking from experience, they take the “implies” part of the policy very seriously. You can’t insinuate that the person reading your ad needs a bankruptcy attorney, because you’d then be making an assumption about their financial status, which is a personal attribute.
Considering bankruptcy attorneys advertise their services to people that need to improve their financial status, that can make things a bit tricky.
Here’s Facebook’s example:
This policy isn’t quite as cut and dry as the personal attributes policy when it comes to being a speedbump for bankruptcy ads, but one piece of it in particular can raise red flags with the automatic ad approval process:
Any United States advertiser or advertiser targeting the United States or Canada that is running credit, housing or employment ads, must self identify as a Special Ad Category, as it becomes available, and run such ads with approved targeting options.
Credit and housing are two of the words to emphasize in this policy.
A lot of the people that are looking at bankruptcy as a solution are typically staring down piles of credit card debt and/or potential foreclosure actions. Bankruptcy can help them with these things, but advertising that turns into a slippery slope that can clash with this policy.
We both know that you’re not offering your would-be client a credit card or housing opportunity that’d actually land you in the special ads category, but because the first layer of ad approval is handled by bots and algorithms, those kinds of words can trigger automatic rejections.
How bankruptcy lawyers can advertise on Facebook
The best tips for getting a legal ad approved on Facebook have already been covered in another post, but here’s a quick primer:
Don’t use the word “you” in your copy: The moment you throw the word “you” into your ad copy, you’re directly targeting (and implying something about) the person reading it. Avoid it entirely to save yourself a headache.
Showcase your services: Like the example above from Facebook shows, there’s nothing wrong with saying that you provide debt relief services. That’s just a fact. You’ll run into problems if you insinuate your reader needs those services, but presenting them is fine.
Write for your clients, not yourself: Most people couldn’t explain the difference between a chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy, so you’re not really giving them much to work with if that’s your main offering. Bankruptcy itself is a scary word to a lot of people, so focus on what it can provide for a would-be client when writing up your ads, or look to more generic phrasings like “debt relief” and “financial services.”
Difficulty Rating: 10/10
Google PPC, or pay-per-click, is one of the first advertising platforms a lot of attorneys are excited to consider. With the right work (and budget) you can have your ads showing up at the very top of Google for relevant searches you’re after – what’s not to love?
I hate to be a killjoy, but it needs to be said: If you’re a bankruptcy attorney, Google PPC probably isn’t for you these days.
Getting bankruptcy ads approved through PPC has become something of a nightmare thanks in part to an onslaught of ad policies that, frankly, bar bankruptcy attorneys from playing in the space.
You could speculate that Google is trying to push for a better web – or it’s trying to push its attorneys towards their new Local Service Ads. It does seem like a bit of a coincidence that a lot of these policies starting popping up around the advent of LSAs.
Google PPC advertising pros:
- Depending on keyword choice, you can guarantee exposure as long as you’ve got the budget to back it up
- Lots of potential clients go to Google first when they’re running into trouble
- Ad customization options, if approved, can be effective
Google PPC advertising cons:
- Getting PPC ads approved as a bankruptcy attorney can be frustrating at best, and impossible at worst
- PPC policies appear to be steadily getting more and more strict for attorneys as time goes on
- Edits to an approved ad can end up being a setback if you find yourself suddenly thrown into a restricted category this time around
Google PPC policies to be aware of
Google’s advertising policies are an enormous index of different criteria meant to lay out the groundwork for using their platform. You’ll want to keep the following policies in mind when putting together a campaign.
Restricted content – financial services
The financial services section of the restricted content list is sure to be the policy that sinks the battleship of many a bankruptcy attorney. Here’s what it says:
We want users to have adequate information to make informed financial decisions. Our policies are designed to give users information to weigh the costs associated with financial products and services, and to protect users from harmful or deceitful practices. For the purposes of this policy, we consider financial products and services to be those related to the management or investment of money and cryptocurrencies, including personalized advice.
When promoting financial products and services, you must comply with state and local regulations for any region or country that your ads target — for example, include specific disclosures required by local law. Refer to our non-exhaustive list of country-specific requirements for more information but note that advertisers are expected to do their own research on the local regulations for any location their ads target.
Right off the bat, this policy doesn’t seem too terribly difficult to deal with – bankruptcy attorneys help their clients to make informed financial decisions, and supply them with the information needed to do so. That lines up, right?
Not quite. Things get a bit shakier when we dive deeper into the financial services policy blacklist.
The following types of ads are subject to extra scrutiny and rules:
- Financial products and services disclosures
- Personal loans
- High APR personal loans
- Loan modification
- Binary options
- Complex speculative financial products
- Credit repair services
- Debt services
Bankruptcy attorneys can fall into many of the above categories by accident, depending on the verbiage of your creative. The most common rejection you’ll be up against is the “debt services” category.
By default, most bankruptcy ads will be looped under the umbrella of debt services. The problem here, as it pertains to Google, is that there’s a sort of disconnect between the debt services you’re offering, and the ones they’re expecting.
If you submit an ad for approval to Google as a bankruptcy attorney, you’re probably going to fall into this category by default.
To add insult to injury, here’s what Google sets out as a requirement to be allowed to run debt relief ads:
Easy, right? All you’ll need to do is get your firm approved as a non-profit budget and credit counseling agency.
How bankruptcy lawyers can use Google PPC
Speaking from experience, my advice to bankruptcy lawyers looking to Google PPC would be pretty straightforward: skip it, unless you’re willing to invest in dozens of long-tail keywords that only somewhat circle back to your services.
If you want to advertise your firm using Google, look into a solid organic strategy, or Local Service Ads – more on that below.
While some people with endless amounts of patience (and luck) may be able to get the right Google representative to see things their way, the truth of the matter is rulings thus far have been inconsistent at best, and impossible to get past at worst.
If you do manage to somehow get an ad approved, you won’t want to touch or edit it in the future, as that could lead to another round of approval queues that could result in more rejections.
Google Local Service Ads
Difficulty Rating: 2/10
If Google PPC is difficult to make work for you, Google Local Service Ads (LSAs) may be the answer you’re looking for. The difficulty with these comes entirely from the setup process, but once you’ve gotten past that point it’s all smooth sailing.
LSAs are screened ads that show up in Google when a user’s search makes it clear that they’re looking for a service. You’ll typically see a row of modules just below the search bar looking a little something like this:
Local Service Ads put your reviews prominently in the middle of the ad, and match them with a photo, the name of your business, and a call to action. You’re only charged for the leads (calls, in this case) you receive, and you can dispute leads that weren’t actual leads.
You’ll get the LSA dashboard, which lists all of the calls Google attributes to its ads. In that dashboard, you can listen to recordings of the calls, assign them to different categories, and leave notations if you’d like.
Google LSA advertising pros:
- The dashboard you’re given is intuitive with most of the information you’d need available
- Easy to maintain ongoing ads once the approval process is done
- The ads themselves are incredibly straightforward
Google LSA advertising cons:
- The setup process can take some time when you account for background checks and business information needs
- Can be expensive depending on local competition
- Further emphasizes the need for great Google reviews, which can be hard if it isn’t already a strength
Google Local Service Ad business verification
LSAs have a “Google Screened” checkmark on them – a requirement to be able to use the service. The screening and business verification process is time-consuming, but worth it when completed.
Here’s what bankruptcy attorneys need:
- Year founded
- Languages spoken
- Headshot for ad
- Your bar membership license number and expiration/renewal date
- Move-in date of whatever office is being used
- Email addresses of all consumer-facing (not lawyer) employees in this office
- Google will send out links for background checks on each employee added to this list.
- This part of the process is one of the longer parts, and can take up to 3 weeks to wrap up
- Company’s tax filing number (EIN)
- State of incorporation
- Representative information:
- Personal phone number
Expect to spend up to a few weeks going through this process and the approvals needed for it. It’s tedious at first, but the good news is that you won’t need to go through it again once it’s done.
How bankruptcy lawyers can use Google Local Service Ads
There are a few things to consider when it comes to making sure you’re getting the most out of Local Service Ads.
First, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the LSA dashboard.
The key to any worthwhile paid campaign is making sure you’ve got as much data as possible, and the dashboard allows you to do that.
Spend some time confirming customer names when a lead comes through, and leaving appropriate notations. Mark the leads that were booked so that you can get an accurate ROI.
Local Service Ads, depending on your location and competition, can sometimes get a bit pricey too; use your dashboard to dispute leads that aren’t genuine so that you aren’t charged for them.
Second, you’ll want to keep an eye on your Google reviews.
With LSAs putting your Google reviews front and center, it’s important to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to maintain positive reviews. This means actively pushing for good ones when you have a satisfied client, and amending the bad ones where possible.
If you’re paired up in an LSA carousel with a competing attorney that has a review rating of 4.8, but you’re showing up with a 3.7, they’re probably going to be the one that wins the click each time.
Yes, bankruptcy attorneys can still advertise online
If you’ve made it this far, it’s easy to tell that yes, there is a light at the end of the policy tunnel for bankruptcy attorneys, but getting to it can sometimes be a bit tricky.
While Facebook right now is one of the most accessible platforms to advertise on, a policy change snuck in under the radar could change that overnight. It’s happened before, and probably will again.
Likewise, Google’s PPC rules could pull an about-face and use some of what they’ve learned from their Local Service Ads to make PPC more accessible.
The key to any online ad pursuit is keeping up to date with the latest policies, and using the data you have available to make sure the money you’re spending on ads is getting you as much as it possibly can.
We’re happy to do that for you if you’d prefer to be spending your time working with clients. Reach out today to see how we can help.