A Complete Guide to Personal Injury Lawyer Marketing both Online & Offline

Frank Olivo

Frank Olivo is the founder of Sagapixel. He writes on a number of topics related to digital marketing, but focuses mostly on web design and SEO.

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Effective personal injury marketing can be transformative to your law firm. It can make the difference between accepting anything that comes in the door and cherry-picking cases from a pipeline of leads (and referring out the rest).

Over the last several years, our personal injury marketing team has had the opportunity to handle marketing for personal injury law firms across the United States. This has allowed us to see a cross-section of personal injury marketing across markets both large and small.

This article will share some of those insights and break down the three strategies personal injury lawyers use to build their practices. I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of each strategy, then get into the details of what makes each work.

If you would like to schedule a discovery call with me or one of the strategists at Sagapixel, please click here. Perhaps your personal injury firm can become another of our success stories.

The 3 Personal Injury Lawyer Marketing Strategies

There are three primary channels available for personal injury lawyer marketing:

  1. Referrals: This involves developing a widely known reputation for winning specific types of personal injury lawsuits and cultivating relationships with other attorneys, as well as community organizations, including unions, sports leagues, and religious groups.
  2. Digital Marketing: Digital marketing for personal injury law firms normally centers on PPC (pay-per-click advertising) & SEO (search engine optimization), with Facebook and other social media supporting it. The majority of personal injury lawyer marketing is digital marketing.
  3. Television, radio, and billboards. While these media are often not particularly effective at driving immediate results, over time, they can build lasting mental associations between a personal injury law firm and a specific type of lawsuit. This means that when someone is involved in a certain type of accident, a specific personal injury lawyer comes to mind.

Naturally, there are pros and cons to each of these three strategies.

The Pros and Cons of Each of the 3 Personal Injury Marketing Strategies

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the three strategies for personal injury marketing, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each.

The Pros of Relying on Referrals

A personal injury practice that can generate referrals from an organization such as a union will have the lowest client acquisition costs of any of these three channels. There are no referral fees to cut into your profits and no advertising costs involved. The only costs we’ve ever observed were involved with nurturing the relationship.

While the referral fees can be quite hefty, relying on other attorneys for personal injury clients can also free up your time and allow you to focus on your work and cultivating relationships with other attorneys rather than hiring a marketing department or legal marketing company (though it can be painful to sign those referral fee checks after doing all of the actual work of representing your client and winning a case).

The Cons of Relying on Referrals

It Takes Time

It can take a very long time to establish the reputation and relationships that deliver steady referrals. On top of that, even after you’ve established these relationships, you may find that referrals are an unpredictable and inconsistent way to fill your pipeline. This results in a feast or famine cycle in your personal injury law firm.

Referral Fees Are Expensive

In addition, the cost of referral fees to other law firms can make this the most expensive channel for a personal injury law firm to generate leads. Expect to pay out tens, if not hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in referral fees if you leverage this strategy. That kind of investment in any paid advertising could make your personal injury firm the king of your market.

The Pros of Digital Marketing for Personal Injury Lawyers

SEO, PPC, and social media are the most measurable marketing channels that have ever existed.

All three make it possible to calculate a personal injury law firm’s return on investment (ROI) on marketing spend to the dollar. In addition, both PPC & SEO are targeted marketing channels that get in front of personal injury clients in the moment when they are actively searching for representation.

This measurability allows your personal injury firm’s marketing to be agile, adjusting your marketing tactics and spend in response to your KPIs. Traditional advertising involves a lot of guesswork and doesn’t lend itself to any sort of experimentation and iteration.

PPC is Immediate

PPC advertising for personal injury lawyers has another unique characteristic—you are virtually guaranteed to get leads within a short time. Unlike SEO, which can take months before generating a steady flow of leads, PPC advertising through Google Ads starts working as soon as you start.

Social Media is Great for Retargeting

Social media can be a particularly good medium for retargeting visitors to your website. In other words, when someone clicks on a PPC ad or lands on your website through organic search, you can retarget those visitors with ads on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media channel is popular with your target client (note: Google does not allow for retargeting for personal injury lawyer advertising on YouTube or the Google Display Network).

SEO Has the Lowest Cost Per Lead—and it Doesn’t Go Away

SEO is typically the marketing channel with the lowest cost per acquisition — when done correctly. Unlike PPC or social media, both of which stop delivering results as soon as you stop spending money, SEO should deliver results even once you stop spending money on it. Once your website is ranking for queries that personal injury clients are searching for, you might even be able to stop spending on it if you’re happy with the number of leads it’s generating.

The Cons of Digital Marketing for a Personal Injury Law Firm

It’s Hard to Find a Good Digital Marketing Agency

Digital marketing for personal injury lawyers is not without its cons. The biggest con to digital marketing, quite honestly, is that it can be particularly difficult to differentiate between legal marketing agencies that know what they’re doing and the ones that don’t.

While there are plenty of good digital marketing firms out there, there are many more that are great at sales, but bad at digital marketing. Engaging a digital marketing firm to handle your personal injury marketing can be a roll of the dice unless you know what to look for in a marketer.

Aside from the risks inherent to hiring a digital marketing company that works with personal injury law firms, there are other cons to digital marketing.

Personal Injury PPC and Paid Social Media Are a Constant Investment

PPC and paid social media, for instance, both require constant investment. As soon as your personal injury firm stops spending money on either one of them, you will see your leads start to dry up (unlike SEO, which delivers leads even after you’ve stopped—assuming you’re ranking for the right keywords).

SEO for Personal Injury Rarely Pays Off Immediately

SEO, as you probably already know, can take months to start delivering a return, in particular when your personal injury firm’s website is new.

To start, the long lead time makes it difficult to determine if your SEO company is good or not. It also requires more working capital as you wait to start generating cases that may not pay out for a couple of years.

The Pros of TV, Radio, and Billboards

Takes a Long Time to Work, but Can Be Long-Lasting

TV, radio, and billboards, when done effectively, can leave an indelible mark in the minds of those that see your personal injury firm’s ads.

While it is highly unlikely that someone is going to hear a radio ad or see a billboard, pull over to the side of the road, and call you, it is possible that you could be the personal injury law firm that comes to mind when those individuals suffer an accident later on.

I am over 40 and still remember the personal injury television ads that used to come on daytime television in the 1980s when I was home sick from school.

There is one exception where we have seen radio ads generate phone calls almost immediately: Spanish language radio. It seems that this audience has lagged in its adoption of Google to find what it needs. In addition, it could be that they often do not have personal injury attorneys in their personal network, making them more responsive to advertisements to find legal representation.

The Cons of TV, Radio, and Billboards

The lead time from spending money on TV, radio, or billboards and getting a return on that ad spend is longer than any other advertising for personal injury law firms.

I once spoke with an associate of a personal injury attorney in Baltimore that is a minor celebrity in the region because of his ads:

These ads are so well-known that he sells T-shirts with his catchphrase on his website:

personal injury lawyer selling tshirts

People stop him in the street to take pictures with him:

personal injury marketing on Instagram

According to his associate, he has stated that it took 10 years before he saw any sort of return on these TV ads.

In addition to the long lead time to see an ROI, a personal injury marketing strategy that leverages TV ads is walking a fine line. It is very easy to diminish one’s reputation in the eyes of judges and other personal injury attorneys through TV ads. I am sure that there is a “Better Call Saul” personal injury attorney in your market that you would prefer not to emulate.

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of each of the 3 strategies for personal injury lawyer marketing, let’s get into more detail of how to make each one of them work.

Digital Marketing for Personal Injury Lawyers

While there are countless digital marketing channels, from email marketing, to programmatic, to SMS marketing, there are 3 that have proven the most effective for personal injury lawyer marketing:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
  • Paid social media

Given that we specialize in digital marketing for personal injury lawyers, we’ve had ample opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t.

I could write a book on each of these channels, so this is going to be far from exhaustive, but it will cover the main points that any personal injury attorney or marketing manager should know.

SEO for Personal Injury Lawyers

Have Dedicated Pages for Each Type of Personal Injury Case You’re Targeting

One of the most common search engine optimization mistakes we address with new clients is that they may have dedicated pages for each area of law they practice, but not for each type of injury attorney their potential clients are searching for on Google.

In other words, a personal injury lawyer may have pages for:

  • Personal injury
  • Medical malpractice
  • Workers’ compensation

The assumption they make is that a “personal injury” practice page should be able to rank for car accident lawyer. This is simply not the case.

Here’s a tiny slice of keyword data for a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia that illustrates how many different ways a person may search for a personal injury lawyer. This is only 9 lines out of several thousand (the purple number is the number of impressions that the website has had for the corresponding keyword):

Keyword data for personal injury lawyer

A page optimized for philadelphia slip and fall lawyer, philadelphia motorcycle accident lawyer, or philadelphia truck accident lawyer is going to outrank your generic personal injury page.

You can increase the relevance of your web pages to the way people actually search by having dedicated pages for all of the different types of personal injury cases you want. 

However, you do need to do it correctly.

Don’t Clutter Your Navigation

Resist the temptation to include every single type of case you handle in the navigation bar of your website.

Having a navigation like this website’s makes it virtually impossible to find what your potential clients are looking for:

cluttered navigation on personal injury lawyer website
(this list goes on and on)

Place your personal injury page in the navigation and link to each of the dedicated injury pages from there.

Get Your Internal Linking Right

After you’ve linked from your personal injury page to your dedicated truck accident, car accident, and slip and fall pages, make sure those pages have breadcrumbs linking back to the personal injury page. This is what they should look like:

example of breadcrumbs on personal injury lawyer website

This will help Google to understand how your area of practice pages relate to each other and the types of queries they are relevant to. Additionally, they help to distribute PageRank throughout the website. Don’t skip adding breadcrumbs!

Go through your blog. There’s a good chance that you’ve written articles that mention the different types of cases you handle. Start linking to those practice pages from the articles you’ve written using anchor text you’d like those practice pages to rank for.

Create Practice Pages for the Towns You Serve

A common local SEO tactic for personal injury lawyers is to create dedicated “location pages” for the towns they serve. A personal injury law firm located in a large metro will often represent clients in surrounding suburbs; adding location-specific pages for each of these towns can be an easy way to drive leads to a law practice in less competitive markets.

Monitor Your Coverage Report

Google Search Console provides invaluable information about your website’s presence on Google. Your coverage report is one of the most important reports it provides.

If there are pages on your website that Google hasn’t found or has chosen not to index, this is where you’ll find about about it:

Google Search Console Coverage Report

This is what the coverage report looks like:

Search Console coverage report for personal injury lawyer

The last thing you want is to spend hours creating content for your blog or practice pages only for Google to not even include them in its index.

Link Building

A key part of getting personal injury areas of practice pages—and to a lesser extent, your blog articles—to rank on Google is for other websites to link to them.

I could write an entire book on link building strategies, but for the sake of brevity, I’m just going to say that it’s a topic you need to discuss with your SEO strategist. Before you do that, however, educate yourself on link building.

Link building is a must if you are in anything resembling a competitive market. If you’re working with an SEO company that doesn’t have a clear link acquisition strategy, you’re going to languish several pages behind your competitors.

That said, link building is probably the most difficult aspect of SEO, and it’s extremely easy to do wrong. There are many methods of acquiring links, many of which carry some level of risk of incurring a penalty from Google. Our experience has been that in any major market in the United States, at least a third of the personal injury attorneys on page 1 have some amount of spammy links pointing to them.

I don’t condemn nor condone spammy link building itself, but it is important for you to understand what is being done and how it aligns with your risk tolerance. Tactics such as private blog networks can have a high payoff but carry a lot of risk. Some businesses are ok with that; others aren’t. It’s just important that your law firm understands this.

Here’s a high-level overview of the most common types of link building and their cost/risk/benefit combination:

Approach

Cost

Risk

Effectiveness

Digital PR

Very High

None

High

Guest Post Link Building

Medium-High

Medium-High

Medium-High

Broken Link Building

Medium

None

Low-Medium (few SEOs know how to do it efficiently, it’s hard to scale, but can be effective when an opportunity arises)

Mass Directory Submissions

Low

Medium-High

Low

Fiverr Links

Low

High

Low

Creating Link Magnets

Varies Substantially

None

Varies Substantially; few SEO agencies know how to do it

Web 2.0 (blogspot, etc.)

Low

High

Low-Medium (I’ve seen #1 results using this method, though we would never touch it)

Private Blog Networks (basically, anything that uses the word “network”)

Medium-High

Extremely High

Varies Substantially; may not move the needle, could make a website dominant search—unless it’s detected by Google

A final word: be careful with your link building practices.

Technical Audit

Technical SEO fixes can bring outsized, almost immediate improvements to the visibility of your personal injury law firm’s website.

If your personal injury law firm’s website is small (<20 pages), it should take very little time to do a quick audit to uncover any opportunities (be wary, however, as many SEO salespeople pass off non-issues as critical).

Here are a few examples of technical SEO issues that can help deliver big improvements to your website’s visibility on Google:

  1. Missing or un-optimized title tags on practice pages (missing meta descriptions are a non-issue. Google often doesn’t even show them to begin with)
  2. Missing title tags on location pages (same with the missing meta descriptions in #1)
  3. Broken internal links
  4. Nofollowed internal links
  5. Missing breadcrumbs
  6. Using bolded text instead of header tags
  7. Practice pages with no internal links
  8. Misplaced nocrawl or noindex tags
  9. Areas of the website blocked by robots.txt

Claim and Complete Your Google My Business… And Collect Reviews

In cases where we have a personal injury lawyer in both the map results and the organic blue links for a query, there’s about a 50-50 split between the traffic.

In other words, half of the traffic your personal injury firm can get will come through Google My Business (GMB). I would also add that I expect this number to increase.

Claim and complete your GMB. Add flattering pictures that tell the story of your law firm. Make sure you’re listed under all of your relevant categories.

Get Reviews

You probably already know how important it is to acquire reviews on your GMB, but did you notice that the words your clients use in their reviews impact the results?

To start, make it easy for someone to leave you a review. It is possible to share a link that will open up the review box on your GMB; don’t send them a link and ask them to hunt for the “leave a review” button.

Second, if you have a rapport with the client, ask them to mention the kind of case you helped them with. A GMB listing that mentions “car accidents” in several reviews left by active Google accounts (Google can tell if it’s a real person or not) will increase the likelihood of your listing showing up for a keyword such as car accident lawyer.

Personal Injury PPC

As I stated earlier, Google Ads is the fastest way to get leads for a personal injury lawyer. Depending on the types of keywords you’re bidding on, however, it can be extremely expensive.

Hire a PPC Manager

Hiring a PPC agency to manage your Google Ads account will pay for itself several times over. Personal injury PPC keywords can be expensive, and those that try to DIY it are going up against people that do it for a living. You’re likely to burn through a lot of money—quickly.

PPC Best Practices

The purpose of this section is not to teach you how to handle personal injury PPC. You really need to find a professional to do it for you. However, it can be tough to tell if a PPC manager is good or not, so here are some best practices you should know about. If you’re using someone whose practices differ significantly from these practices, it’s a red flag.

Get Access to Your Google Ads Account

Your PPC manager should give you “view” access to the Google Ads account. You should be able to see what is going on in there.

Broad Match Wastes Budget on Irrelevant Keywords

Make sure your PPC agency is not bidding with broad match for any keywords. There should be quotation marks, pluses, or brackets surrounding keywords, like this:

  1. “personal injury lawyer” (phrase match)
  2. [personal injury lawyer] (exact match)
  3. +personal +injury +lawyer (broad match modified, which is being phased out)

If you are bidding on a naked personal injury lawyer in your Google Ads account, you are burning money.

Organize Your PPC Campaigns by Injury Type

You should have your account structured so that different areas of practice and injury types have their own dedicated ad groups.

For example, there should be an ad group or campaign for slip and fall, another for car accidents, another for trucking accidents, etc.; not a catchall “personal injury” ad group that bids on these keywords. Doing this will increase the relevance of the ad copy to the keywords you’re bidding on, thus raising your Quality Score.

Quality Score has three components: Ad Relevance, Landing Page Relevance, and Expected Clickthrough Rate. It directly impacts the position of your ad and how much you pay for a click.

Don’t Create Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAGS)

There shouldn’t be an ad group for every single variation of the keywords you’re bidding on. “Car accident lawyer” and “car accident attorney los angeles” should both go in the same ad group. Not doing this can make your account difficult to manage.

Leverage Audience Bidding

A good PPC agency should use audience observation and adjust bids according to the data. For example, a birth injury campaign can increase a bid if it knows someone is a parent of a baby or toddler by using audience targeting.

Only Run Your Ads During When They Are Most Likely to Convert

Your ads should not be running 24/7. Unless you have a limitless budget, your ads should only run when they are most likely to result in a phone call or email.

A good PPC manager stops the ads from running during times that don’t convert. This can be set in Google Ads under “ad schedule.” Try setting the schedule to 3-hour blocks and stop running entirely around times that don’t convert.

ppc for personal injury lawyer

Use Ad Extensions Whenever Possible

Your PPC campaign should be using as many ad extensions as possible. Google Ads allows for the use of a number of ad extensions, which allow for your ads to show:

  • Images
  • Structured snippets that outline the types of cases you handle
  • Callout extensions that feature awards and recognitions as you have received
  • A link to your website and the local map results
  • Call extensions that allow the searcher to call your personal injury firm straight from Google
  • Site link extensions to your attorney bio or contact us page

Your Google ads campaign should have as many extensions enabled as possible.

Focus on Mobile

Your Google Ads campaign should focus on mobile users. We have managed PPC for personal injury lawyers across the United States and have yet to see a campaign perform better on desktop than on mobile.

That said, it goes without saying that you must have a responsive website that displays optimally on mobile devices.

Not only should the website display well on a cell phone, but it should also load in under 3 seconds (preferably closer to 1.5 seconds). You should also have a green tap to dial button displayed on mobile:

personal injury lawyer

Between live chat, contact forms, and every other way a client could potentially contact a personal injury law firm, green “call now buttons” usually outperform every other contact method by at least 3-1.

Social Media for Personal Injury Practices

At Sagapixel, we mostly leverage social media marketing for retargeting visitors to the website of a personal injury law firm.

You’ve seen retargeting in the past—you visited a website, only to see ads for the same business for a period of time afterwards.

While YouTube doesn’t allow retargeting for personal injury attorneys, Facebook does. This means that any visitor to your website can be shown ads following their visit.

The intention is to get those visitors back onto your website to fill out a form, or if they’ve already contacted you, to nurture the lead until they sign with your law firm.

It is possible to build an organic following for a personal injury law firm on social media, but it is difficult. The key is to produce engaging, interesting content and only occasionally “sell.” The rule of thumb we use on our social media team is to have 7 non-promotional social media posts for every self-promotional one.

The second tip is to leverage social media to foster relationships with organizations that could potentially generate leads. If you’ve decided to try to foster a relationship with a union, for example, it would make sense for part of that interaction to take place across social media. Liking and commenting the union’s social media posts could be a beginning.

Generating Leads Through Referrals

This is the area of personal injury marketing I know the least about, though I have observed numerous personal injury lawyers do it well.

Become Known as the Local Expert in a Certain Type of Case

Attorneys will often refer out a case when they feel they are more likely to earn more from a referral fee than from trying to do it themselves. In these cases, they look for the personal injury attorney that has a proven track record for handling that kind of case.

Given any major market in the United States, there is likely to be a personal injury attorney that is known for being the best at:

  • Construction accidents
  • Opioid death
  • Birth injuries
  • Airport accidents
  • So forth and so on…

A generalist will have a much harder time generating referrals. Pick a specific type of case that you’ve handled in the past that you can hang your hat on and run with it.

Nurture Relationships with Organizations

Some of the most successful personal injury law firms we know of generate the vast majority of their cases from relationships they have with religious organizations, labor unions, and other communities.

These leads tend to be the easiest to sign as clients as well, since someone they trust has likely vouched for you.

As for developing these relationships, it will normally need to be done on a case by case basis. In some cases, such as a religious organization, the goal is to simply join the organization, offer as much as you possibly can to it, and build some sort of stature in that community.

Sometimes it can be as simple as running a local little league for many years and developing a reputation as someone that is competent and trustworthy.

The most coveted relationships are those with unions. This will normally require some sort of pre-existing personal relationship to “get an in.” From there, it’s a matter of doing everything you can for the members of that union. This is an area where you’ll need to be creative.

TV, Radio, and Billboards

Many younger personal injury attorneys don’t know that it used to be against bar rules for attorneys to advertise. It only became permitted in the late 70s and early 80s, when radio, billboards, and TV were the only channels for advertising a law practice.

Many personal injury lawyers that saw success through these advertising channels still do it, as do attorneys that began at firms that generated leads this way. While it is hard to argue that TV, radio, and billboards are more effective than digital marketing for driving leads, it certainly can work.

Branding

Traditional advertising media—such as TV, print, billboards, and radio—are good at creating what I refer to as “category kings.”

Through repetition and a focus on a singular message, a personal injury law firm can create a mental association in the general public between their name and a certain type of lawsuit.

It is a proven method that has been used across every industry that does any sort of mass media advertising. Volvo owns safety in the minds of automobile consumers. Toyota owns reliability. Walmart equates to everyday low prices in retail. Geico owns “saving money when buying insurance,” while Allstate has gone for “reliability and getting your insurance claim paid.”

Become the Category King—as Long as There Isn’t One Already

In the case of a personal injury attorney, it is critical to craft a simple message to go along with your name. Big Al has positioned himself as the accident lawyer for African-Americans through his years of radio advertisements on urban radio. El Cantaso has done the same on Spanish radio in Long Island.

Someone in these markets that doesn’t have a personal injury lawyer in their network is quite likely to think of them if they are ever involved in an accident.

Wherever you practice, there is likely someone that already owns a specific category. Save yourself some trouble and go after something else. It is extremely difficult to unseat a category king once he is positioned in the minds of consumers.

It Takes Time

Branding through mass media advertising is a function of repetition. Pavlov’s experiment would have failed if he had only rung the bell two or three times. You need to ring it hundreds or even thousands of times.

If you decide to explore this personal injury marketing strategy, you must be in it for the long haul; otherwise, it’s a waste of money.

Personal injury lawyers that mistake TV, radio, and billboards as being a direct response advertising medium will run ads for a couple months, not get any calls, and think that it doesn’t work. While it is entirely possible that your advertising and messaging are falling flat, it is even more likely that you’ve not given it enough time.

Which Marketing Strategy is Best for a Personal Injury Practice?

There is no one answer for this. The shy personal injury lawyer will struggle to generate referrals. The nervous nelly is unlikely to be able to handle the waiting game with traditional advertising. The technophobe may struggle to understand SEO & PPC.

It’s all a matter of understanding what medium is most suited to you, then communicating your personal injury firm’s unique value proposition.

If you would like to schedule a discovery call with a strategist at Sagapixel, fill out the form below.

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