The general answer, of course, is as many as possible. However, for many businesses, especially law firms, obtaining as many reviews as possible is often too broad of a goal that often leads to less than ideal results. Hence, many lawyers want to simply know how many reviews they need to rank better, or to outrank their competition.
Q: How many Google reviews do I need to attract customers?
A: You may assume that if your competitor has a dozen reviews, then the number to beat is 12. However, there’s one extremely important factor that almost all law firms tend to disregard – reviews have an expiration date. To clarify, your reviews aren’t going to disappear one day because they’ve hit their expiration date, but they are going to provide diminished returns over time, and that could lead to a drop in rankings, particularly when it comes to local. Let’s take a look at the following scenario to help drive the point home a bit more…
Law Firm A has 30 Google reviews and is currently sitting in position one in the local pack. While not all of their reviews are five-stars, they do have a lot of them, and their overall rating is 4.5. They aggressively sought out new reviews a few years ago, which helped propel them into the top of local search rankings. It’s been a couple of years since they’ve obtained a new review, but they have a solid review foundation and enjoy top rankings each month.
Law Firm B is currently sitting in position two in the local pack. While they only have 10 reviews at the moment, they’ve consistently been obtaining reviews on close to a monthly basis for almost a year now. They provide excellent customer service, just like Law Firm A, and their overall rating is similar as well.
Taking a look at these two firms, you might assume that Law Firm A is going to continue to dominate local search until Law Firm B obtains in excess of 30 reviews. However, this is a surface level approach that’s neglecting review expiration dates. That is, Law Firm A may continue to outrank Law Firm B for the short term, but Law Firm B will likely surpass Law Firm A in the local pack even before Law Firm B is able to obtain 30 matching reviews. Instead, Google will look at the relevance of all reviews involved, and will determine that Law Firm B has a more steady review stream, which would be most in line with real world, best practices when it comes to running a business, and is therefore currently a better firm to rank well than Law Firm A is.
Think of it the same way you would if you were perpetually trying to sell two houses at the same time. If you decorate the first house in a certain style, but that style eventually starts to fall out of fashion, you’re going to attract fewer and fewer potential buyers as time passes. Even though the first house isn’t selling/getting much attention, you refuse to change anything up, and hold out for the hope that just the right person will come along to purchase it one day. However, if you have a second house that isn’t selling, yet you’re continually updating the look to appeal to a more and more people, particularly as styles change over time, you’re casting a wider net and potentially going to find a buyer much quicker than you would with the first house.
While you won’t find much documentation specifically discussing this stagnation of local reviews, we can definitely relay our own experience and paraphrase our conversations with Google My Business customer service reps.
Online reviews, specifically Google online reviews, have a shelf life. We’re not exactly sure of when that shelf life is, but from the very vague details we’ve been able to assemble from Google, an online review’s value begins to diminish the older it gets. Therefore, if your reviews are older, chances are good that your local search rankings aren’t benefiting as much from them as they once did.
While it may seem a bit unfair on Google’s part to depreciate reviews over time, it stands to reason that a business delivering exceptional customer service on a regular basis should therefore be able to obtain customer reviews on a regular basis as well. So, while the content of the reviews will always remain visible, the back-end impact these reviews will have on rankings will definitely wane over time. Fortunately, by establishing a protocol where reviews are regularly sought after as a permanent part of your practice, the likelihood that you’ll obtain new reviews on a regular basis is much greater than if you relegate the task to a less frequent basis.
So, while you’re making that New Year’s checklist this year, don’t forget that obtaining new reviews isn’t a project with an end date. If you want to position your law firm so that it’s set up for long term success, keep getting reviews even after you think you have enough. We advise our clients to continually seek out new reviews. The more user-generated content you have on the web about your brand, the better. For law firms especially, positive word of mouth via online reviews can lead not only to potential cases at the moment, but can help impact referrals in the future.
So, to recap briefly:
- Reviews on Google My Business are important because they help brand your firm in a positive light.
- Reviews on Google My Business have a direct impact on local search rankings and should be an ongoing part of your marketing strategy.
- Reviews on Google My Business have a shelf life, so never stop trying to get more reviews because the impact of older reviews diminishes over time.
- Make the review solicitation process a part of your customer service tactics and always deliver the type of service that will result in an amazing, user-generated online review.