Are Google reviews valuable? In a word, yes, they are extremely valuable. Potential clients look for them and expect to see them and they affect your search rankings. But how do you obtain Google reviews, how many reviews does your law firm need and why are they important?
According to a 2018 survey on reviews by Review Trackers, 63.6 percent of consumers say they will check a business’ reviews on Google before contacting it. 94 percent of consumers said that a negative review has convinced them not to contact a business. So, consumers use online reviews to vet businesses before they call the business and consumers are swayed by what is in Google reviews.
So, where are Google reviews located and how does your law firm get more of them?
GOOGLE BUSINESS LISTING
Google reviews are located on your law firm’s Google Business Listing (aka Google My Business). Using your Google Business Listing makes Google happy (and my job as an attorney marketer is to “make Google happy.” Claim and complete your Google business listing.
In addition to your name, address, phone number (NAP) and link to your website, you are able to promote content such as blog articles and/or videos through posts on your listing.
DO CHICAGO LAW FIRMS USE THEIR GOOGLE BUSINESS LISTING?
I did an analysis of whether 100 Chicago law firms were utilizing their Google Listing (ten law firms in each of ten different practice areas).
98 of 100 Chicago law firms have a Google Business Listing
This was not a surprise in that most law firms’ business listings are created for them by Google itself – the law firm simply has to claim the listing. The real question is whether law firms have claimed their business listing and are using them to obtain reviews.
So, are law firms obtaining Google reviews? The answer is – it depends on the practice area. Law firms in B2C practice areas like personal injury, traffic tickets and bankruptcy generally have obtained the most reviews. Whereas B2B law firms that practice business law or intellectual property obtained the fewest reviews.
For some practice areas, few reviews make sense. For example, an employment attorney might struggle to obtain Google reviews. When giving a review on Google the reviewer has to use his or her own name to give the review. Someone who hired an employment law attorney might not want that fact known.
The most curious result was the failure of real estate attorneys to obtain many reviews. Real estate attorneys handle multiple closings per month and as such should have numerous ‘happy’ clients willing to give a review. However, by and large the real estate firms I surveyed are not using this very effective marketing tool.
WHY ARE GOOGLE REVIEWS IMPORTANT?
Consumers rely heavily on reviews from websites such as Google, Amazon, Yelp, Avvo, and Facebook. The same concept that applies to consumer goods on Amazon applies to services industries as well. Go on Angie’s List and see how many reviews your local plumber or electrician has. Consumers expect to see reviews for all businesses today.
Google reviews can impact your Google search results! Listings with multiple Google reviews are preferred by Google and as such, those with multiple positive reviews may rank higher in search queries. According to Moz.com, “review signals” account for 15.44% of local pack and 6.47% of localized organic ranking factors.
HOW MANY GOOGLE REVIEWS DOES YOUR LAW FIRM NEED?
Having positive reviews is critical. But how many Google reviews does your law firm need? Many people feel the more the better. Certainly, if you can organically obtain multiple five-star reviews on Google, you’ve done your job. But the job doesn’t end there.
It’s also important to keep your reviews fresh. Meaning, someone who looks at your reviews can see when it was posted. So, if your last review was two years ago, you should consider getting some new reviews. If you work to obtain a single review per month moving forward, the numbers will ultimately speak for themselves.
Bottom line is that your competition is obtaining reviews. If you were searching for an auto mechanic and shop ‘A’ had 50 five star reviews and shop ‘B’ had only 2 positive reviews, who would you call?
HOW TO MANUALLY OBTAIN A GOOGLE REVIEW – ‘THE ASK’
The simplest way to obtain reviews is to make ‘the ask’ a part of your case-closing process. Normally when I speak to one of our clients about this process, ‘the ask’ makes them cringe a little bit. There’s often a hesitance to ask clients to review work publicly and many clients will not do so.
If you do decide to ask for a Google Review, here’s how you do it:
- Claim your Google Business Listing (you must establish a Gmail account first)
- Create a short email template to send to clients asking for the review – the template should include a link to your Google Business Listing*
- When a client engagement ends, if you feel they were happy with your services, ask for a review
- After the client leaves a review, always respond to it online with a thank you
* In order to obtain the link to give to your client, go to your Google Business Listing and click on “write a review.” Copy the link. Then go to bit.ly. There you can ‘shorten’ the link. The shortened link is the link you can insert in your email template to use moving forward.
AUTOMATION OF GOOGLE REVIEWS
In recent years the process of obtaining reviews has become automated. There are many tech companies who have developed tools to help you obtain reviews. Two of these companies were at the 2019 ABA Legal Technology Show including Podium and BirdEye. In short, with these tools you have the ability to send a text message from a web-based dashboard to your client to ask for a review. That person clicks the link which provides them access to your Google Business Listing. This helped one client of mine go from 10 reviews to 35 reviews in a very short period of time.
The price of this automated service hovers around $250 to $300 a month on a one-year contract. It may also come with other features such as a texting functionality you can add to your website.
THE ‘COMMODITIZATION’ OF GOOGLE REVIEWS
Is the automation and/or ‘commercialization’ of Google Reviews necessary in the legal industry? Do law firms really need 100+ Google Reviews? And do law firm clients want to be treated as though they just ate at a Chipotle?
The automation of Google reviews may actually delude their effectiveness. If your law firm has 100 Google reviews and they’re all five stars, it might actually be a red flag to a consumer that the reviews are inherently not trustworthy.
Further, just because one firm uses Google reviews effectively does not necessarily mean that it provides better service than a law firm that does not use Google reviews. However, the impression of ‘more’ positive reviews may lead to that perception by the consumer.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET A BAD GOOGLE REVIEW
As mentioned above, often I’ve worked with clients who had bad Google reviews and did nothing about them. This is a mistake.
Do Not Ignore a Bad Review
If you receive a bad Google review, respond to it immediately. I always advise clients to respond to a negative review with empathy. The ‘complainer’ is likely more frustrated with his or her situation than with the actual service your law firm provided. If you empathize with the person rather than attacking him or her, you will come out ahead. Importantly, never discuss the complainer’s case or current situation. This will avoid the potential for ARDC issues.
If you feel a review is inaccurate and/or you do not know who the person is that left the review, you can flag the review with Google. However, that is not a guarantee the review will be removed. Only reviews that violate the Google review policies will be removed.
If Google preliminarily refuses to remove the negative review, there are still alternatives. I had a law firm client who hired a Chicago attorney to represent it against Google and ultimately was successful in getting a negative review removed.
NOW CLAIM YOUR GOOGLE BUSINESS LISTING AND GET REVIEWS
If you’ve made it this far, I hope I’ve convinced you how important it is to claim your Google Business Listing, fill it out completely, promote your content on it and obtain Google reviews.