Online reviews on Yelp, Avvo, PersonalInjury.com and especially Google+ have become more important than ever. Not only do they affect search engine rankings, but good reviews will favorably influence consumers to retain your firm.
"Year over year, people are taking more notice of online reviews," said Tanner Jones, Marketing Director for Consultwebs. "People are trusting online reviews from complete strangers."
Online reviews are today's word of mouth marketing. Law firm have traditionally built their practice on word of mouth. "Today if you have a happy client, they may tell one or two people about your law firm over the coming year. When you compare it to a review on Google+, literally hundreds if not thousands of people will come across that review. That’s exponentially larger than any word of mouth marketing that you’ve done," Jones said.
The more reviews you have on Google, generally the higher your law firm webiste will come up in local search. "Just type in a practice area, and the firms that are showing up at the top of the search results have online reviews. These reviews are making a big difference in local search visibility."
- 75% of people that leave a review online will leave a positive review.
- 90% of people say their hiring decision is influenced by an online review.
- 88% of people say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendations. They are trusting that complete stranger’s online review as much as their mother. "That’s powerful."
- SEO experts encourage businesses to get one to five reviews per month. It may take a lot more attempts than that, but if you are getting one to two reviews every month, over the course of a year you can have up to 24 positive reviews
Morris King & Hodge encourages reviews right on its website. "If you have been happy with the service and results you experienced with our firm, we would greatly appreciate it if you would give us a 5 star rating (click the stars so they appear gold) and a brief positive comment that explains your experience with our firm for our Google Plus page," the site says.
At the Joye Law Firm in South Carolina, the marketing director personally follows up with clients. First, she sends a short survey to ask clients about their experience. Names of people who respond with a high rating are forwarded to the marketing director. Then she personally follows up with them to thank them for their feedback.
While she is on the phone, she mentions that the firm is trying to build up its online presence and asks the client to help out by leaving a review on Google.
Jones recommended that law firms ask clients to leave a positive review before they leave the office. A smart move is to identify clients ahead of time who already have Google+ accounts, making it easy for them to leave a review.
Blunting negative reviews
Negative reviews are inevitable. "You will never keep 100% of your clients happy 100% of the time. An awareness of this allows you to be proactive to handle these reviews when they do come," Jones said.
"A lot of law firms have the response that they don’t want to open the door to negative reviews. The truth is, that door is already open on Facebook, Yelp and Avvo. You absolutely have to have a system in place where you are encouraging reviews on an ongoing basis, so when you do get that negative review, it’s diluted by positive reviews," Jones said.
Jones recommended that law firms build a process:
- Have a reviews manual that everyone can reference. Find the person who is good at conflict resolution to handle the bad reviews.
- Apologize, responding to their review, even if you completely disagree with it, saying you regret that their experience wasn’t consistent with the service you provide. Encourage them to call your office so that you can resolve the issue -- this pulls the conversation offline and out of the public. Then ask them to remove the review. "It won’t happen every time, but it never hurts to try."
- Follow up.