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Answers to Vexing Questions about Online Reviews

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Lawyers know that 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.

Yet attorneys hestitate when dealing with ethics questions, reviews for multiple offices, anonymous reviews and elderly, tech-clumsy clients. Herewith are answers to the most vexing questions.

1. Have you come across any ethical hurdles in soliciting reviews? How have you overcome them? 

For more practical advice, see How to Get Good Online Reviews
There are no ethical issues if you play by each site's review guidelines. Yelp! has highly specific guidelines against making or requesting fake reviews, as well as against creating incentives for reviews. If you play by each platform’s guidelines, you will be on the correct side of the line.

Some attorneys feel very wary of asking for reviews from clients. They feel like it is "in bad taste" to ask for a review, or that a review is not genuine when it is solicited. The reality is that reviews are not top of mind for most people, nor is the importance of reviews for your firm likely on a client's radar.

If you feel awkward about asking for a review, then it would be good to insert the request somewhere along the process for another employee who knows the client by name. Be honest. "Jim doesn't like soliciting reviews, but it is an important part of some people's decision in hiring an attorney. It would mean the world to the firm if you would consider leaving us a review."

Resources:
Google Review Guidelines: https://support.google.com/business/answer/2622994?hl=en
Yelp Review Guidelines: http://www.yelp.com/guidelines
Avvo Review Guidelines: http://www.avvo.com/support/community_guidelinesuidelines  

image22. How should I handle reviews for multiple office locations? What about for multiple attorneys in my firm? 

In the case of a multi-location law firm, you would want reviews from clients who came through that specific location. Each physical office location for your firm should have its own Google+ business profile. You should initially focus on getting reviews for your main office location, then proceed getting reviews for the next most important location.

You do not want the same review from the same client on multiple Google+ office listings.

The majority of the time, the only place an attorney should have an individual listing is on Avvo. In some cases, an attorney may have their own Google+ listing. The idea is to build the firm’s presence first, then individual attorneys. It is more likely that the firm's Google+ listing will rank for keywords over that of an individual attorney listing. It is beneficial to get individual attorney reviews on sites that are built to list individual attorneys, like Avvo.

3. My clients want to leave reviews anonymously. How can they accomplish that? Can you leave anonymous Google+ reviews.

There is no way to post anonymous reviews on Google+. A person must have a public Google+ profile to leave a review on the platform. Certain sites allow anonymous reviews, Avvo being one of them. Yahoo Local and YP.com also allow anonymous reviews.

The best approach for Google+ reviews is to work with the clients who are willing to have their names publicly listed. Otherwise, have clients use Avvo, Yahoo Local or YP.com.

4. We have lots of elderly clients that are very happy with our services, but aren't the best with computers. Any recommendations for these types of clients and memorializing their reviews online somehow?

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this situation -- just some hard work and creative thinking to overcome it. One recommendation is to provide handouts with ample instructions and screenshots as to the process of leaving a review. You can encourage your clients to get assistance from a family member or friend, if they intend to leave the review at home.

Another, often more effective, option is to have them leave the review in your office before they leave. They will need a smartphone using 3G or 4G to do so. Do no use your office WiFi, as that will cause multiple reviews from the same IP address, causing the review(s) to get filtered out. By using a smartphone (either your client’s or an office phone), you can have a staff member in your office walk your client through the process of leaving the review from their smartphone.

5. If a client posts the same review on Google+, Avvo, and my firm's website, would Google penalize me for duplicate content?

The same review on multiple sites is fine, as long as you do not also publish that review on your website. If you are going to have a client leave a review specifically for your website, do not have them leave that same review on Google+, Avvo or any other review site.

Further Questions? Email marketing@consultwebs.com 

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