law firm content marketing

How to Build an Attorney Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Strategy for 2023

by Kevin Vermeulen • February 14th, 2023 • SEO | Blog

Ideally, you’ve already firmed up your marketing strategies and budget for 2023. If not, you still have time! With that in mind, let’s take a look at what 2023 has in store. What should you be doing to move your attorney Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategy forward for the coming year? 

Forecasting an Annual Budget

The traditional method for forecasting search budgets is “determine impression share (IS) lost due to ranking and add a 3-5% increase in CPC”. This is assuming your strategy is staying the same and you’re not introducing any new tactics that should substantially move the needle. 

However, things have been a bit more complex ever since the pandemic. While the approach above is still fine, you may want to adjust for a growing CPC (particularly around branded terms). These terms experienced significant growth last year, and you should plan for a higher CPC. Now, we recommend using the formula above but with a 10-15% increase around brand CPC growth. Non-branded terms are likely to see an increase of 4-7%. These are just general guidelines, you’ll want to do your own research to see what’s happening with the terms that are important to your firm. 

Content Planning and Scheduling

You should plot out everything you want to do creatively and budget-wise. Make sure you take seasonality, traditional peaks and lows, and other marketing campaigns into account as you plan out your content. Having everything planned in advance will ensure you can get a head start – you should be able to get at least some content completed during slower periods to prepare for future campaigns. It also helps with budgeting, since you can aim to get all of your assets developed, approved, and scheduled for publishing. 

A good way to go about planning is to perform research on the general topics you want your content to cover. Make sure to research your audience, what your competitors are doing, and which content has performed well in the past. Focus on 5-10 broader topics, and then break those down into a “cluster” of content. Consider a variety of content assets like blogs, infographics, white papers, webinars, etc., and then see which topic aligns best with which medium. Try to get at least the first two quarters plotted and then go through your process for budget approvals. 

Understanding What You Didn’t Do

Digital marketers are some of the busiest folks around. Chances are you had several things that you hoped to complete in 2022 that never came to fruition. Take some time to debrief with your team and evaluate why those things didn’t happen, and how that affected your overall strategy. Your goal is to determine whether they should be reprioritized for 2023 or let go. 

If you see some items that were necessities (and not just a “nice to have”), and they didn’t get done, take a close look at the reason why. If it was something that could have made a bigger impact, then you should figure out how to incorporate that tactic into this year’s strategy. If something was not a priority, but an idea that you were excited about, see where it might fit in this year. 

You also need to assess SEM in totality. Pull reporting so that you can review all of your SEM statistics and activity – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Process what happened with your campaigns and why. What learnings can you take away from last year’s performance? 

Trends to Keep an Eye On

As you go through this process, there are a few things that you should be aware of. It’s always a good idea to stay up to date on things that might affect your firm, and in particular, your SEM marketing. Here are a few things that experts say to consider: 

  • As mentioned, CPCs are likely to be higher. This is particularly true for branded terms, especially in Q1. Marketers should do some research in order to document the reasons for a bigger budget. Make note of this for budget approvals, as you’re likely to get questions about why this number should be higher than last year. 
  • There is not likely to be a decline in demand and search volume until there is an increase in unemployment. This was a correlation that we noticed during the recession in 2008. 
  • Bing is likely to follow suit with Google. As we see new innovations from Google, it’s likely only a matter of time until Bing is doing the same things. 
  • Likely most important in this list is the concept of using first-party data for as long as you can. At the same time, you need to create strategies for building out market audience segments and client profiles. With every new privacy and security measure taken, we face new challenges in obtaining data. It’s essential that you focus part of your search strategy on generating first-party contact data. 


An important part of building out an effective attorney search engine marketing strategy is understanding what happened in the past. Make sure to thoroughly review and assess last year’s performance and any activity that made a significant impact, either positive or negative. 

If you’d like help building out a successful strategy for your firm, contact us today for a free consultation. We can help you build an effective SEM strategy for 2023.


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