Does Your Personal Injury Law Firm Know Your SEO Cost per Case and ROI?

The value that SEO contributes to personal injury law firms is undeniable, but measuring ROI and cost per signed case can be a challenge, and not understanding cost per case and ROI for SEO can lead to not truly understanding how SEO is contributing to your overall marketing mix and signed cases.

In this Plain Talk edition, we’ll cover how personal injury law firms can measure ROI from SEO, how firms can begin to understand cost-per-case values from organic search, and additional perspectives on how to best evaluate your marketing return.

What are SEO conversions?

A personal injury law firm should think about conversions as the actions a user takes while on your site. Typically, a site conversion will come in the form of a call, chat, or form fill. These are your on-site conversions that can be measured directly through Google Analytics.

What’s also important to understand about on-site conversions is that they are not an effective measurement of ROI on their own. In other words, actions like phone calls, live chats, or form submissions don’t always lead to signed cases. Therefore, relying solely on on-site conversions to gauge ROI and costs per signed case for SEO is misleading and does not reflect the true effectiveness of your SEO efforts when it comes to signed cases.

How search engine rankings will impact your SEO ROI

Advanced Web Ranking, 2024

Before delving into methods of measuring ROI and costs per signed case for SEO, it’s essential to grasp the significance of keyword rankings and how they directly influence click-through rates (CTR) or traffic to your site from a search engine. Where your keywords rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs) has a substantial impact on CTR, as users are more likely to click on results positioned higher on the page.

The chart above represents Google’s CTR history, which averages the CTR (Y-axis) from millions of keywords across the web and their average positions in SERP (X-axis). As you might expect, the higher a keyword ranks, the more clicks it will receive. But the most important piece of information to take from this is not that the highest-ranking keywords will acquire the most clicks, but rather the steep reduction in click-through rate after positions 2-3. This means that if you’re not ranking in the top 3 positions on SERP, you’re likely missing out on roughly two-thirds of the traffic and potential cases you could earn.

We talk about keyword positioning because it factors into ROI and can have a substantial impact when trying to understand your ROI or cost per signed case from SEO. If you’re in the early phases of your SEO strategy, or if you’re currently ranked in positions 10 or below, you may not see an immediate ROI from non-branded searches until non-branded terms are pushed into higher positions.

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t measure progress. If you’re working your way up the Google ladder, you should also be focusing on metrics that can demonstrate your growth and progress. These should increase over time and can include:

  • Organic traffic
  • Keyword rankings
  • Click-through rates
  • On-site conversion rates (calls, chats, forms)
  • Backlink profile and quality backlinks gained
  • Any SERP features you may have captured, including Featured Snippets
  • Decreases in PPC cost-per-case acquisition cost

Remember, SEO is a long-term growth investment. Unlike PPC, it may take some time before you reap the full rewards, but if you’re committed, you’ll find that your cost per signed case average will become less and less over time, and the real value of SEO will become undeniable in the form of consistent site traffic and increased signed cases at a lower cost per case than other channels.

Closed-loop reporting for personal injury law firms that provides SEO cost per signed case-by-case type

Now that you have a good grasp on SEO for personal injury lawyers, on-site conversions, and the importance of rankings, we can now talk about how to close the loop, how to get to an ROI from SEO, and a cost per signed case dollar amount by case type.

What is closed-loop reporting?

Let’s look at how most SEO agencies for personal injury law firms report on SEO efforts. Typical metrics and KPIs often include things like:

  • Organic users
  • Organic sessions
  • Keyword rankings via Semrush or a similar platform
  • Click-through rates
  • On-site conversions (calls, chats, forms)
  • On-site conversion rates
  • Backlink profile and quality backlinks gained

These are all valid SEO metrics and KPIs that should be tracked. However, a personal injury law firm will not be able to measure SEO ROI or cost per signed case with these numbers alone. After all, a user, site visit, or on-site conversion doesn’t always mean a signed case or a case that your firm will want to take on.

In order to understand ROI from SEO, personal injury lawyers must first “close the loop.” In other words, personal injury lawyers must establish a system that connects their SEO leads (calls, form fills, chats) with tangible outcomes such as the number of matters generated, cases signed, SEO dollars invested, and revenue generated from SEO-signed cases.

To close the loop on SEO ROI, you will need a few additional pieces in place on top of on-site conversion metrics:

  • Your total monthly SEO investment dollar amount
  • A dollar value for each signed case that was generated by SEO
  • A way to tie a signed case back to SEO is to properly give this channel credit or “close the loop.”

Dollar amounts you need to measure ROI from SEO

In order to fully close the loop and get to an SEO cost per signed case, we’ll need to review what dollars should be included in your SEO ROI calculation.

Overall, SEO investment and internal time

To reach a true ROI, you’ll need to consider all of the resources and budget that you invest into SEO. This is step one. Consider your spend on things such as:

  • SEO services from your personal injury SEO agency, including the development of content, website management, local SEO strategies and services, etc.. Depending on the agreement you have with your marketing agency, you may be charged the same fee every month, or just as you charge for your legal services, you may be charged their hourly rates. Every agreement is different, but this is important to understand when looking at your full SEO investment.
  • Also, consider your team’s internal time. How much time are they spending on working with outside agencies, or conducting SEO activities that you prefer to handle in-house. What is their hourly rate, and how much does that time equate to in dollars?
  • Any software costs that are associated with your SEO efforts should also be included in your overall investment.

Once you have a dollar amount for how much you’ve invested in SEO, the next step will be understanding the revenue that has been generated from that investment.

Revenue generated from your law firm SEO investment

The most important thing to know is how much revenue signed SEO cases are generating for your law firm. However, this will require a value from signed cases that are generated from SEO.

You can look at a couple of different values and decide which one is best for you to include in your SEO ROI calculation:

  • Historic average case value (by case type): Historic average case value provides a realistic baseline for estimating the potential ROI of signed cases. By factoring in the average revenue generated from past cases, firms can more accurately project the financial impact of their SEO efforts. The downside to this method is that you will not be directly associating your SEO signed cases with the actual return from the signed cases that were generated by SEO efforts.
  • Actual revenue generated: Associating the actual revenue that was generated from signed cases that came from SEO is also an option. The benefit of using this value in your calculation is that you will have a precise understanding of the direct financial impact of your SEO efforts. By associating the actual revenue generated from SEO-signed cases, you can accurately measure the ROI of your SEO strategies. The challenge a personal injury law firm may run into using this value is time. Depending on the complexities, it may take years to know the actual revenue generated from a case. This is where using the historical average by case type becomes more immediate.

Give credit where credit is due: Connecting a signed case from SEO back to the source.

When tracking a signed case back to the source, you probably already know that the goal is to connect an online conversion (call, chat, form) to an offline conversion (a signed case that your intake team converted).

This is where an experienced agency can help. However, it will take some collaboration and transparency on the part of the law firm and the agency to make it happen. Remember, each will have their own data. Your agency will have data from marketing platforms and lead collection sources, and your firm will have data from your CRM that shows which cases were signed and the value/settlement amount of those cases. Both of these pieces need to be connected in order to properly associate the signed case (in your CRM) with the SEO lead (in the marketing platforms).

This can be done in various ways, including a combination of UTM parameters, call pool tracking and a centralized database that works to bring this disparate data into a singular view. Depending on your CRM, there may also be a way to automate the entire process without a separate database.

If you’d like to learn more about how to implement this method of tracking, which is imperative to calculating your costs per signed case and ROI from SEO, give us a call, and we’re happy to talk through your options.

Beyond rankings: How to measure personal injury SEO ROI

Now that we have the total investment for SEO, the number of signed SEO cases, and the revenue these signed SEO cases generated, we can apply those values to the SEO ROI formula.

SEO ROI = (Net Profit from SEO – Cost of SEO) / Cost of SEO

To break it down further:

Net Profit from SEO: This is the revenue generated from SEO signed cases minus any associated costs such as case acquisition costs, legal fees, and operational expenses directly related to those cases. Let’s say your revenue from SEO signed cases is $1.3M, and your associated costs for these signed cases are $150,000. Your Net Profit from SEO would be $1.3M – $150,000, which equals $1.15M.

Cost of SEO: This includes all expenses incurred in implementing and maintaining SEO strategies, such as website optimization, content creation, link building, SEO tools or software subscriptions, and agency fees, if applicable. Let’s say your expenses incurred in implementing SEO are $135,000.

Once you have calculated both the net profit from SEO and the cost of SEO, you can plug these values into the formula to determine your SEO ROI. The result will indicate the return on investment as a percentage, representing the efficiency and profitability of the SEO efforts for the law firm.

SEO ROI = ($1.15M – $135,000) / $135,000

SEO ROI = 751%

Understanding SEO cost per case by case type

Once the reporting and analytic loop is closed, or when your online conversions from organic calls, chats, or forms are connected to Matters in your CRM, you now also have the foundation in place to calculate cost per signed case from SEO.

In this calculation, take the total SEO investment and divide it by the number of cases generated from SEO.

SEO Cost per Signed Case = Total SEO Investment / Number of SEO Cases Generated

This will provide an overview of the cost per signed case from SEO; different case types will have different acceptable cost per signed case goals. When the data is properly collected, case types can also be broken out and analyzed by market, providing a cost per signed case by market and also by case type.

This data will help you understand which markets are most efficiently driving signed cases from organic search traffic and which types of cases your SEO efforts are generating for the firm.

But that’s not the whole story.

We think it’s critical for PIL firms to understand the essential nature of SEO in helping to sign new cases. However, there are a few important things to understand when considering the above approach. First, the only real way to assess the ROI of any medium, including SEO (like above), is to invest only in that medium and no other. So, while the exercise above is theoretically possible and real ROI calculations for SEO are achievable, we don’t recommend turning off your PPC, TV or outdoor ads.

Top funnel marketing feeds SEO.

Why? We’re glad you asked. In the “marketing funnel” that feeds prospects to your firm, organic search is what we call a “mid-funnel” action. The “top” of the funnel is where basic prospect awareness of your firm (and others) happens. Firm names, what you and others do (nursing homes? motorcycle accidents? Mesothelioma?), and the value that a PIL firm can bring to the prospect (on your side, large settlements, etc.) These awareness media often expose prospects to your firm name long before they actually need an attorney. This top-funnel awareness helps drive organic, “branded search,” where prospects search for attorneys by the firm name rather than more generic terms like “injury lawyer.” In fact, according to Moz, between 20% to 30% of law firm organic search website traffic is branded search and branded organic search has a conversion rate that is twice that of paid search. Firms that overperform for branded organic search get the opportunity to skim some of the best cases off the top, and with a higher conversion rate, they do this at a lower cost per case. This is a GREAT reason to keep running top funnel awareness media like outdoor, radio or TV to feed organic branded search.

SEM’s role in staying competitive

In addition to top funnel awareness media, there is, of course, paid search or search engine marketing (SEM). This online standard paid media channel is mid-funnel, like organic search. While SEM may have a lower conversion rate, the advantage of SEM is your ability to get better positioning on the page while exercising greater control of how and when you appear for specific keywords. For example, the firm below, Smith & Hassler, does an excellent job as the first organic search result for “car accident lawyer,” but paid search ads for the same terms push the organic result to fourth position.

Houston Car accident lawyer SERP

So, if you are interested in driving more new clients for a specific case type, paid search gives you the ability to grab a top position, pushing organic results further down the page to where they may not get noticed. Some studies show that more than 58% of PIL website traffic is driven by paid search. That means the combination of branded organic search fed by traditional media and SEM can be responsible for roughly 80% of site traffic. That’s a good case for an integrated paid and organic media plan that will help you maximize the overall return for your marketing spend and get those case costs low.

The bottom part of your marketing funnel, conversion, includes every experience you offer to prospects once they have clicked, called or completed a form fill with your firm. Conversion customer experience is an entirely different beast and is where leads come to live or die. We’ll spend our entire installment of Plain Talk on that last mile of your prospect marketing plan.

It’s time to start thinking holistically about ROI and cost per case.

Whenever you invest in marketing, you should have transparency into what is working to drive new cases and firm revenue. If you’d like to learn more about understanding what you are getting from your SEO and media efforts, drop us a note or give us a call at 502-499-4209. We’re always happy to help.

Jacob Butko, Account Director PriceWeber Marketing, Louisville KY
Jacob Butko Account Director