I am a Gold Rush junkie. I can’t get enough of watching their adventures looking for gold in the Yukon. One thing I have learned from this tv show is that the very first thing you do is test drill. You bring minimal equipment, take a sampling, and see if the ground has potential.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended for personal injury attorneys. I am singling you out so you don’t waste your time or money. PI is the most competitive ad area in law and your competitors are very well-funded. You risk a budget bleed-out. Also, for anyone reading this article, enter at your own risk ☠😱. You’re going to throw actual dollars at this. Pick an amount you are comfortable losing. I provide important resources at the end for you to cross check my suggestions.

Setting up a basic AdWords campaign is not difficult. Keep in mind, these campaigns can and sometimes should get very complex. You can choose from various types of campaigns, search phrases, extensions, negative keywords, conversion tracking, analytics integration, and many other variables. However, in this article, we are going to create a straightforward text ad solely for the purpose of creating a test drill. If you know where your clients typically come from, you should be able to determine if you get a stray inquiry or two from a small spend through AdWords without going through complex steps.

Make sure you or your staff ask where any new clients found you. If you do see an uptick in these inquiries, I strongly recommend that you consult with an expert before expanding your campaign efforts. I do not recommend you use this simple style campaign as your primary, long term effort.

Now let’s check to see if there is any gold out there for you.

Create an Account

Go to Google AdWords and create an account. If you have a gmail account, you can use the same login.

Create a Campaign

  1. Select ‘Website Traffic’
  2. Select ‘Search’
  3. Enter your website address
  4. Click ‘Continue’
  5. Name your campaign
  6. Leave ‘Search Network’ checked
  7. Uncheck ‘Display Network’
  8. Under ‘Targeting and Audiences’, check ‘Enter another location’ and then click ‘Advanced search’

It is easy to get lost in this control panel. If you do, start with the left and work your way to the right. On the left you will see your campaign. Click on it. You will then see ‘Recommendations’, ‘Ad Groups’, etc. To the right is everything you need. The guts of your campaign is in your ad groups. If you just have one ad group for now, it is much simpler.

The next several subjects are within ‘Settings’. Click on your campaign at the far left and then settings just to the right. Work your way down the list…

Setting Up Location

You have some options here and although this is a simple campaign, you need to be careful how you do this. If you do not restrict your geographic reach, your ad will show all over the United States by default.


You can enter a location a number of different ways. It is important that you narrow your location down to the area you serve. It is better for your geographic area to be too narrow than too broad.

Click ‘Advanced Search’. There are two options: Location and Radius.

If you choose ‘Location’, you can type in a city, a county, a state, or a zip code and the system will auto fill with suggestions. You can enter multiple locations. It will even give you population estimates. If you select multiple locations, try and avoid overlap. Your selected locations will appear on the map.

To the right of the area are three options: Target, Exclude, and Nearby. If you click ‘Target’, then your ad will appear in that targeted location.

Sometimes equally as important is selecting areas to exclude. For example, I am in St. Louis and I do not practice in Illinois which is just across the river, so I exclude the entire state of Illinois.


I prefer using ‘Radius’. Using this method, pick a central location and click the number of miles around that location where you want your ad to appear.

You should usually do either ‘Location’ or ‘Radius’, but not both, to avoid duplicating your coverage. I’m not sure if it hurts, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t help. The areas covered will appear on the map, so you can see if the locations you pick are overlapping. Keep it simple. For example, pick a radius around your office. The default is 20 miles.

Again, always make sure you have saved your location so your ad isn’t showing across the United States. Your location will appear next to ‘Locations’ in your campaign settings. If it says ‘United States’, you did not set it correctly.

Select ‘People in, or who show interest in, your targeted locations (recommended)’ This will allow your ad to show not only in your geographic region, but it will also show to out-of-towners who need an attorney in your area.

Select your language. Let’s not worry about audience in this campaign just yet.


Prepare to get uncomfortable. Take a deep breath. Let the anxiety wash over you. Now pull your shoulders up and let’s continue.

Most clicks for consumer-legal phrases are pretty expensive. Criminal phrases in a medium sized city will typically run $25-$80 per click. We are doing a test run, so give it a chance, but you are not committing long term. Consider setting your budget at around $200/day so you will get some clicks.

I realize this is a lot of money for a small/solo law firm. However, think in terms of ROI. If you land a client for every $100-$200 spent, is it worthwhile? Having helped hundreds of attorneys with their marketing over the years, I can attest to how pointless it can be to dabble. In the world of advertising, you’re either visible or invisible, but invisible can still cost you money.

Have a total amount in mind that you are willing to throw at this. The $200 is just your rate of burn, but you can set your sites at $500, $700, etc that you are willing to spend on this test campaign. If at any time you want to pause the campaign, you can do so. You can also end the campaign by setting a date in the ‘start and end dates’ section.


Select ‘or, select a different bid strategy’ and select ‘manual CPC’. You will determine manually what you are willing to spend per click so you can get used to how it works. Later you can change to automate your bid adjustments. Keep in mind that you are paying for actual clicks, not impressions. Your wallet isn’t dinged until someone actually clicks on your ad.

Ad Schedule

This is pretty important. You do not want expensive clicks happening when you are not available. Run the ad only when you are available to take a call. Make sure you have a rollover answering service like Answering Legal in case you cannot take a call. These calls can get expensive and you do not want to miss an opportunity. You also want to concentrate the time your ad will run to get better exposure.

Ad Rotation

This only matters if you are running multiple ads which you might want to do. Try starting with two ads using different ad copy. If you select ‘Optimize: Prefer best performing ads’, the ad with the better click through rate will get shown more.

That ends the campaign level settings.

Now we need to create at least one ad group, create an ad, and select your keywords.

It’s important to know that you do not need to create the next steps in any particular sequence once you have an ad group created, but it helps to understand how they are connected. Again, if you get lost, start at the the left by selecting your campaign and work your way to the right.

Ad Groups

Ad groups are a subset of a campaign. Think of the campaign as the umbrella and the groups as holding the pieces of the campaign. The campaign has universal rules, but the ad groups are where the keywords and ads live.

I usually have separate ad groups for ‘lawyer’ and ‘attorney’ phrases, but you might want to just create one ad group for now to keep this very simple. This does not affect your keywords, but you get more control if you do create multiple ad groups to separate out groups of keywords and ads.

Just pick a keyword or two, but don’t worry about selecting them yet. We will do that later.

Save and continue.

Ads and Keywords

‘Ads’ are connected to ‘ad groups’. So you need to create at least one ad group and at least one ad. Your ad is what people will actually see.

Create Ads

Click on your campaign on the far left and then your ad group. Click on ‘Ads and Extensions’ and click the + sign. This is what your potential clients will actually see in the Google search results.

There are several types of ads. For now, we are going to create a text ad.

As you create your text ad, you will see exactly how it will look to the right. Click the arrow to see it on desktop and mobile.

The fields are self explanatory, but creating good ad copy can be tough. Many ads look exactly the same. Instead of using generic language, especially in the title, personalize the ad. Use your name, for example, instead of ‘bankruptcy lawyer’. Avoid clichés like the plague.

‘Final URL’ is the actual page that a visitor will land on if they click the ad. ‘Display URL’ is just cosmetic. It can be whatever you want, but what matters is that the Final URL will land in the right place.

For this simple test campaign, let’s use your home page URL as your Final URL. People use the Display URL to squeeze in words into the ad to catch the eye. So even if your ‘Final URL’ is your home page, your ‘Destination URL’ might be www.yourwebsite.com/bankruptcy

Make sure you use up all of your character allowance if possible. Google will not let you put your phone number in the ad text, by the way.

Click ‘Save and Create Extensions’. Extensions are optional. For simplicity, you might want to skip this for now.

Callout & Sitelink Extensions

We’re getting into the weeds a bit for a simple test campaign with extensions. They are considered no brainers because they add real estate to your text ad, but they need to be configured properly for particular devices.

If you decide to dive into extensions, I’m going to cheat a little and link to other articles that fully explain what they are.

Both types of extensions can greatly improve your ads performance, but are completely optional.

Here is a good explanation from Google about sitelink extensions.

Here is another sitelink extension article.

Here is a good explanation from Google about callout extensions.

Here is another callout extension article.


Your ad will appear based on several criteria:

  1. Your keywords and the rules associated with it
  2. Your geographic area that you defined in your campaign settings
  3. Your bid (your max CPC set separately for each keyword)
  4. Your schedule (set in campaign settings)
  5. Your audience (optional, also set in campaign settings)

As you type keywords, you will see some data on the right. Keywords are critical. They determine when your ad will be shown in response to particular searches.

For simplicity, let’s use some very basic phrases. If you are a bankruptcy attorney, let’s use:

  1. Bankruptcy
  2. Bankruptcy attorney
  3. Bankruptcy lawyer
  4. Bankruptcy law firm

There are quite a few ways to set rules for your keywords, but we are going to use ‘exact match’. This means your ad will only appear if someone searches for one of the above four phrases exactly. There are many other options that you can try out later to expand your reach, but I’m not going to address them here. Again, we are just testing the waters.

Of the above phrases, the first one is far broader than the rest and might generate irrelevant traffic. The other three are much more specific, so if a person were to search for ‘bankruptcy attorney’, it is highly likely they are searching for a bankruptcy attorney. If they just search ‘bankruptcy’, they might not be. To make matters worse, a general word like ‘bankruptcy’ will likely have far greater traffic than your specific phrases, so you can spend your budget without generating relevant traffic.

If you do not set your keywords to exact match, you are inviting a large amount of garbage traffic. I cannot emphasize this enough. You need to know what you are doing before you stray into other types of rules.

When you are done entering your keywords, click on ‘keywords’ and you will see a list of those keywords. Hover to the right of each and click the pencil. The default setting is ‘broad match’. Change this to ‘exact match’ and click save. The keywords will now be in brackets. If it is not, it was not saved properly. So, bankruptcy will now be [bankruptcy].

Set your max CPC. This is how much you are willing to pay per click. This is a matter of trial and error, but after the ad has run for a few days, you will get data that will tell you what your bid needs to be in order to rank at the top.

I don’t think there’s much point in being #2 in these campaigns. You are better off getting to the top spot even if it only buys you a handful of clicks a day.

To the far right is more data that lets you know what you will need to bid to get on the first page and at the #1 position. You might need to let the campaign run for a day before this data is available. You can start a little light to gather data.

Remember, your daily budget is in your campaign settings. Click on your campaign at the far left, then settings, then budget.

Your daily budget is what you are willing to spend per day (based on a 30 day month). If your clicks are averaging $25 per click, you should set your budget to get you at least 6-8 clicks per day. It sounds like a lot, but what if it lands you one or two cases?

If you need personal help, Google will provide free consultations to help you get set up, but frankly, my experience with them has been very hit and miss and a miss can cost you a lot of money. Their phone number is at the top right.

Here is an overview of keyword match types from Google.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords can prevent your ad from appearing if a search contains one of your negative keywords. I have many negative keywords including ‘free’, ‘cheap’, ‘pro bono’, etc. However, if you are using exact match keywords, negative keywords should not be necessary since your ad should only appear in response to an exact search for your keywords.

Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking helps you understand where your traffic is coming from. However, it can be complex to set up and is outside of the scope of this test drill campaign. To learn more about how to set up conversion tracking, see this article from Google.

Approval Process

Google’s algorithm checks each ad, keywords, etc. and then approves or disapproves. If it disapproves, you will be notified. They are not always great and giving you suggestive corrective action.

This is the simplest possible AdWords campaign. If you strike a little gold, you should consult with an expert on creating a bad-to-the-bone campaign that will really turn on the pipeline.


The campaign should be activated by default. But to make sure, click on the campaign and make sure there is a green circle at the top indicating it is active. Do the same for your ad group. Next, click on Ads and Extensions and make sure there is also a green circle next to your ad(s).

Finally, click on ‘keywords’ and make sure each keyword is activated.

When your campaign, ad group, ads, and each keywords have a green circle next to it, your campaign should be live. Give it 10-15 minutes and start searching for one of your phrases. You should start seeing your ad. If you click on it, you will be charged money.

Good luck!


Adwords Resources from Google

Google AdWords help

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