Online reviews have quickly established themselves as a prominent part of digital marketing. What people once did privately, discussing business experiences with their friends and family members, they can now do publicly online.
Online reviews hold considerable power for consumers. Eighty four percent of customers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 58 percent of customers say that a business’s star rating is the most important feature for them.
As online reviews have become an important component of the digital experience for firms and other organizations, they have also inserted themselves squarely into the modern buyer’s journey. Customers turn to reviews when evaluating different business options, and as many as 90 percent of customers say that their purchases have been influenced by online reviews.
Brands need to understand the value that these online reviews can offer them and how they can cultivate positive responses to boost their own reputation and leverage them to grow their business. Here is everything you need to know about online reviews.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of bad reviews that our clients receive are not legitimate. We have shared a few examples to drive home the point that bad reviews cannot be avoided. Your firm must be proactive in receiving good reviews to drown out the bad that are inevitable.
- Multimillion-Dollar Judgment – One of our clients received a multimillion-dollar probate judgement for their client, who refused to pay their bill and still left a bad review.
- Victim’s Family – A criminal defense client received a bad review from the family of the victim. This had nothing to do with his service but the victim’s family’s belief that the defendant did not deserve representation.
- Negative Marketing – Sometimes your competitors will leave bad reviews. This is not something we encourage, but it happens.
- Wrong Lawyer – Does another lawyer share your last name? That was the case with one of our clients who received a bad review meant for the lawyer across town.
Why are reviews so important for SEO?
Reviews have a powerful impact on local search. When customers type a local search query into Google, such as “Lawyer near me,” they receive a results page that features local lawyers. Below the ads is what is known as the Local 3-Pack and a map that pinpoints the location of the firms in the 3-pack. These are three organic results that Google has selected to appear in a special box above the rest of the organic sites. The results in the 3-pack feature the name, address, and phone number of each business. Prominently displayed in each box as well, however, is the Google rating, a one- to five-star cumulative assessment of the firm. These star ratings are one of the first things that customers see when they look at the local 3-pack for their query. These ratings, therefore, can impact your brand’s appeal to customers searching for legal help in your area.
It is also important to note that for many queries organic results do not begin until nearly halfway down the page. The brands that are featured in the 3-pack, therefore, attract attention from customers. When the new layout was first introduced back in 2015, studies looked at the impact of the local 3-pack on clicks and customer attention. They found that the three featured results typically received at least a third of all the clicks when the rich results appeared above all of the organic results. Interestingly, they also found that the brand with no star ratings in the featured results did not receive as many clicks compared to the other two options. In other words, optimizing sites to appear in the box is not enough: brands must also have the positive reviews to reap the benefits.
Google also uses the ratings of the different businesses as one of the several factors that determine which firms to feature in the local 3-pack. Brands that regularly cultivate high ratings increase their likelihood of being featured on more rich results for local search, boosting their visibility and reputation online.
How should businesses cultivate good reviews?
Once brands understand the value of good reviews, they then want to know how to cultivate these reviews from customers.
The first step is always to provide outstanding customer service. Although this might sound like common sense, thinking about each client as a potential brand ambassador can be valuable for building a positive reputation online.
Once your satisfied customers complete their business with you, however, do not be afraid to ask them to leave positive reviews for the business. Seventy percent of customers say that they would be willing to leave reviews for businesses if they were asked to do so. Let clients know that you appreciated their business and that it would be helpful if they would consider leaving you a review in return.
Finally, you can also consider placing links to your main review pages on your website and in correspondence with customers. For example, putting review links at the bottom of your emails or newsletters can serve as a helpful reminder for past customers that reviews are welcome.
Are there tools available to help brands cultivate reviews?
There are a few different tools online to help you cultivate reviews on the major sites. Platforms like BrightLocal will generate a badge for your site that promotes your selected review sites to encourage customers to click. Other tools will help you contact customers for reviews and publish the responses automatically. One such example is Get 5 Stars.
The above options have one fatal flaw: you might be encouraging a review by someone who will leave a poor review. That is why our personal favorite tool is WhiteSpark, because you give the instructions only to people that you know are happy with you. This website has two different tools that are valuable. The first will help you create a personalized set of instructions for reviews so that customers have a step-by-step guide to leave you a positive review for your business. This can be delivered either by hand or by email to clients that you would like to ask for a review. The second tool will generate a link that will direct a person to the review screen for your firm on Google.
For these tools to work well, you must find a way to insert their use into your firm’s routine processes. For instance, if you have an out-take folder that is given to the client, make it a habit to insert the WhiteSpark instructions. The best strategy is a proactive strategy.
What sites should businesses focus on for cultivating good reviews?
When it comes to gathering reviews, it can feel a bit overwhelming to consider the wide variety of directories and review sites available, and it is impossible for a brand to effectively manage their reputation across all available platforms. Instead, there are a few key websites where companies should focus their time.
Google reviews can impact your placement on local search. As already discussed, they are also prominently featured for users who search for lawyers in your area, making them an important review platform. Set up your Google business page and engage with others through Google. Encouraging people to leave you reviews on this platform should be your top priority for your online reputation.
For lawyers, AVVO is another important site. AVVO was developed to help those looking for attorneys. The site maintains strict standards to ensure that all the lawyers are treated equally and that customers can completely trust the ratings given. Your AVVO rating is calculated using a few different criteria, including your legal associations, publications, speaking engagements, awards, and experience. The rating is calculated automatically, so the best steps that lawyers can take to improve this rating are to:
- claim their profile
- complete the profile in its entirety
- keep it updated with their latest accomplishments
- upload content and answer questions
- ask for peer endorsements from other lawyers.
Among the customer review sites, Yelp is likely the most well-known. Like Google, users here can leave reviews for organizations with whom they have done business. Other prospective clients can use these sites when researching legal professionals in their area. You can update your profile with pictures and respond to the reviews, so focus on maintaining a professional presence to build authority and actively engage with clients.
Facebook remains the largest social media network available, with over one billion monthly active users. Building a Facebook business page is an excellent way to engage with your target audience. You can also cultivate reviews right on your Facebook page. Facebook provides you with a very public platform for promoting your ratings, but the social media platform does allow you the option to turn off your reviews if you need to. If your reviews are not as high as you would like, consider using this feature.
Google has implemented a change in which it will gather reviews from other reputable websites to show alongside the Google review. The effects from this are not fully known, but it is likely to have some effect on a firm’s review strategy. Previously, many firms would focus only on Google. This strategy may no longer be as safe as it once was.
What should brands do if they receive a bad review?
One of the biggest fears of many firms venturing into the online world is the threat of negative reviews. Opening yourself up to public criticism from past clients can cause many brands to want to avoid online reviews altogether. Facing negative reviews can feel even more daunting in the legal field, where firms have even fewer options to defend themselves since they are bound by confidentiality rules. As we explored earlier, however, customers today look for reviews and trust what others say. Many review sites can also function even without your claiming your business page, resulting in people leaving you reviews without your knowledge. Instead, it is far better to learn how to deal with potentially negative reviews.
Regardless of what people post on your pages, remaining professional and courteous at all times is a must. It can feel tempting to defend the business and how you handled this particular client, but casting blame will likely only weaken your position in the eyes of other prospective customers.
Instead, respond with empathy and personal attention. Let clients feel as though they have been heard and then ask to speak with them about rectifying their complaints. Respond publicly to these complaints on the review platform and let them know that you would like to alleviate their concerns. This is not just to rectify this single review, but to preserve the reputation of your firm. Other potential leads will see your response, and a good response can turn a bad review into a positive.
The best defense against negative reviews, however, is always to drown out the negative impressions with positive ones. Ask customers that you know are pleased with your services to leave reviews. When you have ten authentic great reviews for one poor one, customers naturally understand that the one is an anomaly. In fact, it looks more natural to have a few that aren’t 5-star reviews.
Online reviews now play an important role in online reputation management for brands across all industries, including those in the legal sector. The better your firm understands the challenges and benefits of online reviews, the easier it will be to manage them and use them for the growth of your organization.