Whether you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, deciding which hotel to stay in, or even trying to find a new mechanic to work on your car, the odds are pretty good that you took a look at an online review site to help you make your decision. Even though online reviews can sometimes be questionable, they do represent crowdsourced opinions regarding specific businesses, and people often find reviews more reliable than how a company markets itself. In short, people often trust other people more than they do the business.
For lawyers, obtaining client reviews can be difficult, but the potential benefits are huge! Not only do online reviews help differentiate you from your competition, but they can also provide valuable insight that can have a big impact on conversion and signing new cases. Let’s take a look at some specific review sites and how law firms should strategize for each one.
What are the most important online review sites for lawyers?
Generally speaking, Google is king when it comes to all things Internet-related. While Google reviews probably aren’t top of mind when you think of review sites (Yelp is still king in that regard), they’re still extremely important when it comes to attorney marketing campaigns.
Yelp is also a major player in the review game simply because of how synonymous it has become with all things online-review-related. Avvo, an attorney-specific rating site, is also a major player in the world of legal marketing. While there are definitely a lot of legal directory websites out there where people can leave reviews, such as Justia, Lawyers.com, and Martindale-Hubbell, Avvo tends to be more dominant in search results (and even ran a national television commercial campaign a few years back, so you could consider it more of a household name than some of the other lawyer-specific websites out there).
Finally, Facebook is an obvious choice here simply because it’s such a big part of the average person’s online activity. Granted, it’s not incredibly likely that people are using Facebook recommendations (formerly labeled as “reviews”) to help inform their decision when hiring a lawyer (there are probably other aspects of Facebook they would consider more valuable), but recommendations on Facebook do result in an overall rating, and that rating does often display itself within search results (which can definitely have an impact on conversion).
How can lawyers easily get reviews?
This is a bit of a loaded question. Generally speaking, lawyers can obtain positive reviews by delivering excellent customer service. Seeing that reviews are intrinsically tied to the type of service a person received from a law firm, it would stand to reason that delivering impeccable, attentive service would result in more online reviews. This isn’t necessarily the case though, and it still doesn’t answer the question as to how lawyers can “easily” get reviews.
When it comes to effective legal marketing, it’s dangerous to label any given task as “easy” because that often implies that very little work is involved. To reiterate the above, top-notch customer service leads to positive reviews. However, the opposite is also true. Delivering a bad customer experience can also lead to more reviews…but these are not the kind of reviews you want. In fact, one could argue that a negative experience is more likely to lead to a review being written than a positive experience. Think about the last time you had a really great experience with a business versus a time when you had a not-so-great experience. Chances are good that you told a lot more people about the negative experience simply because we have a tendency to want to warn other people about something bad to protect them from experiencing it themselves. Because we don’t have to warn other people about a positive experience, these details often fade away quicker and aren’t talked about as much. There’s no real hard data on this, but just think of your own experience, and how you would approach a bad experience versus a good one, and you’ll see what we mean.
So, to more directly answer the original question, the best way to easily get reviews is to provide your clients with a great experience first, and then ask them (often more than once) to leave online feedback. That’s the best approach a law firm can take in terms of protecting itself against unfounded (sometimes fake) online reviews.
Let’s take a look at specific review sites now and what the best approach should be in each instance.
Everything You Need to Know About Google My Business Reviews
As mentioned above, Google My Business reviews are the most important simply because they’re a part of Google search. If a person needs a lawyer, the first step they’re often going to take is to go to Google and search for a lawyer. At this step in the process, they’re researching and evaluating firms, and trying to determine which one is going to suit their needs most effectively. Seeing that reviews are front and center in localized search results, they can definitely be a determining factor in the conversion process.
So what’s the best approach to obtaining more Google reviews? Well, aside from delivering excellent customer service (we really can’t stress that enough), the answer is simple – just ask. Google is fine with soliciting reviews from clients; just make sure that you don’t violate any of the guidelines they lay out regarding “Prohibited and Restricted Content.”
We recommend sending users to a branded search of your firm name and making sure to point out the “Write a review” button located in the Knowledge Panel that appears on the right-hand side of search. The only requirement that the reviewer must meet is having a Gmail account.
Unlike on Yelp, where it does matter how active the user is and whether they’ve written other reviews before, a review from a first-time reviewer will most likely appear in search results as long as it hasn’t violated any specific Google guidelines (linked to above).
From a search placement standpoint, Google reviews definitely play a factor in local search results, which means they likely play a role in organic placement as well (note: while organic search results and local search results are two separate entities, it is very likely that they share ranking factors, and reviews are likely a shared ranking factor). The more reviews you have, the higher your composite rating is, and the frequency in which your listing obtains new reviews all play a vital role in your firm’s reputation management.
With that being said, it’s important to realize that there’s no end point for obtaining new reviews. Just because you have more reviews than your competitors or your overall rating is higher doesn’t mean that you should stop soliciting reviews. The impact reviews have on search placement is affected by a variety of factors, with consistency being the most important one. Think of reviews as having a shelf life. After a while, the review won’t necessarily become outdated, but Google will begin to value it less than it did when the review was new. Think of it this way: if you’re running a business, it stands to reason that you have a (hopefully) steady stream of clients, and it therefore stands to reason that you should be obtaining client feedback (reviews) on a fairly regular, consistent basis. If you aren’t continually getting new reviews, Google could very well take the stance that your law firm isn’t as active as other local firms, and therefore shouldn’t be ranked as highly in search. In order to prevent Google from devaluing your old reviews, make sure you’re constantly getting new reviews.
Everything You Need to Know About Yelp Reviews
Yelp has become synonymous with online reviews, and its reviews show up outside of yelp.com thanks to partnerships with other companies such as Bing and Apple. In the same way that Google reviews have an impact on local search results on google.com, Yelp reviews have an impact on placement within Yelp search. However, seeing as most people don’t necessarily use Yelp as a search engine the way they do Google, Bing, or Yahoo, Yelp search placement doesn’t necessarily have a very big impact on conversions in the world of attorney marketing (provided you don’t have negative reviews).
So what’s the best approach to obtaining more Yelp reviews? Don’t ask! Seriously, don’t ask for reviews on Yelp. Yelp’s policy is very specific in that business owners are not permitted to solicit reviews, and businesses that are caught doing so are penalized accordingly.
So if you can’t ask for Yelp reviews, how are you supposed to get Yelp reviews?
If you were to ask Yelp this, they would instruct you to offer great service and encourage people to check out your Yelp page (assuming that by doing so, they will naturally take it upon themselves to leave a review). Like we mentioned above, though, people are a lot more likely to leave a review when they feel they’ve been wronged, and less likely to even visit your Yelp page if they’re satisfied and their case has been settled. So what’s the workaround?
Yelp check-ins are a great way to indirectly encourage Yelp reviews. If you encourage your clients to “check-in” via the Yelp mobile app, Yelp will actually do the solicitation for you. That is, following your client’s check-in, Yelp will send them an email asking them to write a review about their experience with your firm. Depending on how you go about this, it could be a really good thing, or potentially a not-so-good thing. Let’s explain a couple of different approaches here.
Scenario #1 – You Ask Your Happy Clients to Check-In on Yelp
The benefit here is that you’re minimizing the likelihood that a client will leave a negative review if you’re specifically only asking clients you’ve deemed as being satisfied with your service. While this approach might seem the most obvious, you need to consider how Yelp might view this practice. The whole reason that Yelp does not allow companies to solicit reviews is that the solicitation process is inherently biased, at least in Yelp’s opinion. Specifically, Yelp reasons that asking someone for a review will inadvertently (or maybe intentionally) influence that person to leave a review that’s more positive. A company taking the time to ask someone to leave a review is essentially telling the reviewer that they value their opinion and would like other people to also have access to this valued opinion. Consequently, the reviewer might take it upon him or herself to leave a more positive review, and therefore the review isn’t as authentic as it would be if the reviewer wasn’t solicited to leave one in the first place.
With the above being stated, there is nothing in Yelp’s guidelines that disallows a business to ask people (specifically, satisfied clients) from checking in via the mobile app. The biggest drawback you would have to worry about here is whether or not your client already has the Yelp app on their phone, and how active a “Yelper” they currently are. The latter point can have a definite impact whether or not their review gets filtered/not recommended, but more on that in a bit.
Scenario #2 – You Ask All of Your Visiting Clients to Check-In on Yelp
The main drawback here is that you aren’t minimizing the risk of an unsatisfied client leaving a review, but you can more or less curb that risk if you always deliver excellent customer service. Asking everyone to check-in might seem laborious, but it will actually benefit your listing in a couple of different ways. For starters, the increase in activity via the Yelp app can only help your search placement within Yelp. While the details of their ranking algorithm aren’t public, it’s fair to assume that businesses with more foot traffic are given some sort of preferential treatment over businesses with little to no foot traffic. Secondly, you’re creating an opportunity to increase brand awareness with each and every check-in if your client chooses to share their check-in across other social media platforms.
Aside from what’s mentioned above, check-in activity makes for a more active Yelp user. Therefore, we can assume that this increase in activity will minimize the chance that the user’s review gets labeled as “not currently recommended,” particularly since Yelp can see that the reviewer was physically present at the law firm’s location at least one time. The practice of checking in will therefore not only result in Yelp soliciting a review on behalf of your business, but it will likely prevent the review from getting filtered off of the main part of your listing.
So to recap, remember two very important things when it comes to Yelp – 1) you can’t ask for reviews; 2) you can ask for check-ins. If you manage to secure check-ins, the reviews will undoubtedly follow and your search placement within Yelp will benefit as a result. This increase in positive reviews and placement could have a definite positive impact on conversions as well, provided someone is conducting a Yelp search (instead of the more common Google search) to research and choose a lawyer.
Everything You Need To Know About Avvo Reviews
Avvo might not be as well-known as a site like Yelp, but it’s still a critical component of any lawyer digital marketing campaign. Avvo is a lawyer directory that is like LinkedIn in the sense that it serves as a digital resume, but specifically caters only to lawyers. A lawyer need not necessarily create a profile on Avvo since profiles are built based on state bar records, but they must claim and populate their profile in order to fully take advantage of the benefits. The more active the lawyer is within the legal community, the more likely the lawyer will be able to obtain a higher Avvo score (up to a 10.0 rating). Seeing that Avvo pulls information from public record, an Avvo profile cannot typically be deleted. However, lawyers in good standing with their state bar may request to have their Avvo rating not displayed on their profile. For more information about how to increase an Avvo rating, check out this other article we wrote earlier this year.
So, what’s the best approach to obtaining Avvo reviews? If you’re soliciting a review from a client, you’ll want to send them directly to your Avvo review page. A link to this page can be found about halfway down your profile page in the “Reviews” section (and a link to that page will look something like this: https://www.avvo.com/ [attorney specific information] /write_review.html. If you’re soliciting a peer endorsement from another lawyer, you’ll want to send them directly to your Avvo peer review section that can be accessed via the “Are you an attorney? Endorse this lawyer” link found in the “Attorney Endorsements” section of the profile. Note: for peer endorsements, the attorney reviewer must have already claimed his or her Avvo listing.
Unlike Google or Yelp, Avvo reviews belong to an individual attorney, not the firm. Therefore, in order for these reviews to have a similar impact on conversion as Google and Yelp reviews do, the searcher would have to specifically search the lawyer by name for the profile to show up in a web search, or already be on Avvo.com searching for that specific lawyer. While these individual reviews definitely don’t have as great of an impact on search as other online reviews might, they’re still important from an individual attorney standpoint. While a law firm should focus its overall marketing efforts on obtaining online reviews from clients, attorneys should focus their efforts on obtaining reviews and endorsements in order to better their own reputations (which indirectly have an overall positive impact on the law firm’s reputation).
If you have a system in place for encouraging Google reviews and Yelp check-ins, efforts should definitely shift towards Avvo reviews. If not, though, focusing on Google and Yelp first will have a much bigger impact on your law firm’s overall reputation.
Everything You Need to Know About Facebook Reviews Recommendations
Facebook is one of the most popular sites on the web. With billions of users across the globe, Facebook is the ideal place to help build your brand image and expand your digital reach. But do you think of Facebook as an online review site? Probably not. Do you go to Facebook to check out brand pages and learn a little more about a company before you buy from them? You might. At the end of the day, though, you’re probably using Facebook to see what your friends are up to. You want to see the pictures they post and check out the articles they comment on. Essentially, you want to see what they’re up to and are interested in things that your friends recommend, which is probably a big reason why Facebook retired its star rating system and adopted a recommend/not recommend approach for business pages.
So what’s the best approach to obtaining Facebook recommendations?
Like we’ve touted since the beginning, deliver excellent customer service and your customers will love you for it. They’ll write reviews for you for the general public to see, and they’ll probably even recommend you to friends and family on Facebook. Whereas Google and Yelp (more so, Yelp) have very strict guidelines about reviews reflecting an actual client experience, Facebook is not as strict about who is able to recommend a company. Granted, it’s obviously much more useful (and credible) if you’ve had some sort of interaction with the company you’re recommending, but the only criteria you need to meet to leave a Facebook recommendation is to write a post that’s at least 25 characters long.
So, in the same way you’ve probably already asked your friends and family to like your Facebook page, you should also ask people to recommend your business. If you’re going to ask a client to leave a recommendation for you on Facebook, encourage them to share details about their experience that they think others would find useful in choosing an attorney. If you know for a fact that a client appreciated how responsive you were while working with them, remind them of that:
Remember, Facebook recommendations are a much lower priority than reviews on Google, Yelp, or even Avvo. Recommendations will definitely help increase brand awareness, which may indirectly create additional brand advocates who in turn recommend you to their friends and family. If your concern is about converting leads into clients, however, you should save the Facebook recommendation requests for a later time.
Your priorities should be pretty clear now when it comes to online reviews. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here are some key takeaways to keep in mind.
- Google My Business reviews have a direct impact on search placement and conversion. Prioritizing GMB reviews over other sites is a sound strategy.
- Don’t ask for Yelp reviews, but do encourage Yelp check-ins! If you get people to check-in, Yelp will solicit the review on your behalf.
- Avvo reviews and endorsements are tied to individual attorneys, not law firms. Reviews won’t have an impact on Avvo rating, but they can make a difference when it comes to setting one lawyer apart from a competitor.
- Facebook Recommendations can help expand your brand presence, and anyone who’s familiar with your company can leave one. While branding is an important part of a marketing campaign, it won’t impact search placement the way Google reviews do.
Getting online reviews takes a lot of hard work and effort, and the process starts the minute a lead signs as a client. Terrific customer service will almost always lead to positive online reviews, so make it a point to consistently be attentive to client needs. And remember, if you ask a client for a review and they fail to write one, don’t stress out! Most people need to be reminded a few times before they’ll actually sit down and write a review, so be persistent and a steady stream of reviews will start rolling in before you know it.
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