Negative Keywords for Lawyers: Mastering Google Ads for Maximum ROI

Effective digital marketing is crucial for law firms seeking to attract new clients and maintain a strong online presence.

According to a recent study by the National Law Review, 96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine in their decision-making process.

This highlights the importance of having a strong online presence. Platforms like Google Ads help you reach potential clients actively searching for legal services.

However, to maximize your return on investment, it’s essential to understand and implement negative keywords in your ad campaigns.

In this blog post, we’ll review the power of negative keywords and how they can be used to optimize your Google Ads campaigns.

Understanding negative keywords

Negative keywords are terms or phrases that prevent your ads from being displayed when users search for those specific words. They help you refine your ad targeting by excluding irrelevant searches, ultimately improving the efficiency of your Google Ads campaigns.

By excluding specific terms, you can prevent your ads from being shown to users who are unlikely to require your legal services, like those looking for information outside your practice area or location.

Benefits of using negative keywords in Google Ads

There are several benefits of using negative keywords, as follows:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Negative keywords help reduce wasted ad spend by preventing clicks from users who aren’t interested in your law firm’s services. This increases your ads’ cost-effectiveness and allows you to allocate your budget toward more relevant, high-converting keywords.
  • Improved ad relevance: By filtering out unrelated searches, negative keywords enhance the relevance of your ads to users’ queries. This leads to a higher click-through rate (CTR) and better overall ad performance, as users are more likely to engage with ads that closely match their needs.
  • Higher quality score: Google Ads rewards advertisers with high ad relevance and CTR by assigning a higher Quality Score. A higher Quality Score can lead to lower costs per click (CPC) and better ad positions.
  • Better conversion rates: With more targeted ads, you can attract searchers who are genuinely interested in your legal services, increasing the likelihood of them becoming clients. This results in better conversion rates and a more effective advertising strategy overall.

Identifying common negative keywords for law firms

There are several types of commonly used negative keywords that you should be using to maximize your law firm’s Google Ads campaigns.

Generic legal terms and phrases

Using negative keywords helps exclude searches with generic legal terms that are not specific to your firm’s services.

For example, words like “law,” “legal advice,” or “attorney” may attract users seeking general information rather than those looking for your specialized services. Excluding these terms can sharpen your targeting and improve ad performance.

Irrelevant practice areas

Identify practice areas unrelated to your services and exclude them as negative keywords.

For example, if your firm focuses on personal injury, you may want to exclude terms like “divorce,” “bankruptcy,” or “estate planning” to avoid showing your ads to users seeking a lawyer to help with those issues.

Geographical terms unrelated to your target location

Targeting the right geographical area is vital for law firms that only work locally. That’s why it’s essential to perform local keyword research.

Exclude locations where you don’t offer services as negative keywords to prevent your ads from appearing in irrelevant searches. For example, if your firm operates in New York, you might exclude terms like “Los Angeles lawyer” or “Chicago attorney.”

You could get even more into the weeds and exclude cities or counties nearby that don’t give you high-quality clients.

Job titles and educational terms

Certain searches may include job titles or educational terms irrelevant to your law firm’s services.

Excluding these terms as negative keywords can help ensure your ads don’t appear for users looking for jobs, internships, or educational resources.

Examples of terms to exclude might include “paralegal,” “legal secretary,” “law school,” or “bar exam.”

How to add negative keywords to your Google Ads campaign

There are several ways to add negative keywords depending on your specific case. With that said, here’s what you can do.

1. Log in to your Google Ads account

2. From the left-hand menu, select “Keywords”

negative keywords menu

3. Click on the “Negative keywords” tab

4. Press the plus (+) button to add new negative keywords

negative keywords 2

At this point, you can either add new individual keywords, create a new negative keyword list, or apply an existing negative keyword list to your chosen campaigns or ad groups.

Add negative keywords to ad groups, campaigns, and negative keyword lists

1. Click “Add negative keywords” or “Create new list”

negative keywords 3

2. Decide whether to add negative keywords to a campaign or an ad group, and then select the specific campaign or ad group

3. Input your keywords, one per line. Ensure that your negative keywords don’t conflict with your regular keywords, as this will prevent your ad from being displayed.

negative keywords 4

4. Note: When adding negative keywords to a search campaign, you can choose a match type using the appropriate symbols. For Display and Video campaigns, all negative keywords are added as exact match, and the match type cannot be changed.

5. Click “Save”

Monitoring and adjusting negative keywords over time

Consistently review your search term reports to gain insights into which keywords trigger your ads. This helps you identify new negative keywords and ensure your ad spend is used efficiently.

Schedule periodic checks to stay on top of your ad performance.

As you review your search term reports, look for irrelevant keywords or phrases that you haven’t yet included in your negative keyword list.

By continuously adding new negative keywords, you can optimize your ad targeting and prevent your ads from being displayed for unrelated searches.

Once you have identified new negative keywords, update your list accordingly.

Make sure to remove any outdated or redundant terms that are no longer applicable to your campaigns. Regular updates to your negative keyword list will help maintain the effectiveness of your ad targeting.

Top tips for using negative keywords effectively

Here are a few tips to help you get started with negative keywords.

Start with a comprehensive negative keyword list

Begin your ad campaign with a well-researched and extensive list of negative keywords. This allows you to minimize wasted ad spend and improve targeting from the outset. Over time, refine your list based on your search term reports and evolving business needs.

Use different match types for negative keywords

Leverage broad, phrase, and exact match types for negative keywords to enhance your ad targeting precision. Each match type offers different levels of restriction, so choose the appropriate type based on the specific keyword and your advertising goals.

law firm keyword match types

Don’t overdo negative keywords

While negative keywords are crucial for effective ad targeting, adding too many can limit your ad reach and potential client exposure. Strive for a balance between excluding irrelevant searches and maintaining visibility for relevant, high-converting searches.

Collaborate with other lawyers and law firm marketing professionals

Network with colleagues and industry professionals to exchange insights and best practices for using negative keywords. By collaborating and learning from others, you can stay updated on new strategies and trends, ensuring your law firm’s digital marketing efforts remain cutting-edge and successful.

Level up your law firm’s PPC ads with negative keywords

Understanding and effectively utilizing negative keywords is key to any successful law firm marketing campaign.

By identifying common negative keywords for law firms — including generic legal terms, irrelevant practice areas, unrelated geographical terms, and job titles or educational terms — and applying them to your Google Ads campaigns, you can optimize your ad targeting to attract the right audience and convert them into clients.

Ensure you regularly monitor and adjust your negative keywords and incorporate best practices to enhance your law firm’s online presence and client base.

Or, continue reaching out to a law firm marketing agency like JurisPage to handle your Google Ads campaigns from start to finish.

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