Google reviews are the #1 platform to attract new clients for law firms – if you know how to use it.
Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth. And, the most prominent voice is Google Reviews. Your law firm can gain a sustainable competitive edge as the digital age transforms by ensuring that its Google My Business page and Facebook business page is up and running while staying on-trend with the latest algorithm developments.
These developments are targeted at elevating the voices of authentically satisfied clients. Since any law firm worth its salt is well seasoned with satisfied clients, this is good news. The hard part is finding out how to execute well on the constantly evolving platform. Doing so will keep you present at the top of google’s search query, instantly highlighting your firm’s quality services and testimonials to new prospective clients.
Let’s discuss how.
What’s in the article?
The Google Reviews platform is a technical beast and so our outline will follow suit. Here’s what we’ll be going through in this article:
- Why do google reviews matter so much?
- What are prospective legal clients looking for in reviews?
- Handling bad and fake reviews.
- New developments to look out for in 2021 and beyond.
- Steps to success.
1: WHY DO GOOGLE REVIEWS MATTER SO MUCH?
It’s no secret that Google’s search engine is the most used globally. Even considering other trailing competitors, people who use alternative search engines still come back to Google services when searching for business information.
As a legal professional, consider that 93% of paying clients will employ Google reviews as their first step in choosing a law firm. Your presence is paramount and the quality of the reviews matter. 87% of legal-client prospects will pass over (read: ignore) a law firm with low online ratings.
Low-quality ratings will send your firm down the search queue and out of sight with low action, whereas the top listings on Google receive around 50% of the total clicks. 98% of clicks are in the top 4 (depending on device size).
Why does Google care about reviews? Because they have one job – to produce the results the searcher WANTS to see.
2: WHAT ARE PROSPECTIVE LEGAL CLIENTS LOOKING FOR WHEN READING REVIEWS?
There are four main factors that a prospective legal client will be looking for when reading through reviews.
- STAR QUALITY
Star rating is the most important factor, and 5-star reviews are preferred.
- STAR QUANTITY
An abundance of reviews legitimizes your business and improves your firm’s conversion rate. Set the bar for a minimum of 50 reviews. Your placement in Google Search results is based on how many high-ranking reviews your company has- North of 150 reviews is ideal.
- REFRESH RATE
Are your reviews collecting dust? 73% of readers will ignore reviews that are older than 90 days. Keep the well fresh and running with current successes populating regularly, aiming for a minimum of 1 review per month.
- OWNER RESPONSE
Gratitude is a mutual virtue so in this case, you don’t want to leave anyone hanging. Google says that after review ratings, owner responses are the first thing people read.
3: HANDLING BAD OR FAKE GOOGLE REVIEWS
Bad reviews. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. No matter how successful and high-quality your firm’s offerings are, it will eventually see bad reviews populate into the mix. Although this may feel unjust, it’s best to respond with an olive branch; certainly do not try to remove them. It’s not that it’s impossible, but rather that it’s healthy to accept the reality of different strokes for different folks. Bad reviews are a matter of personal opinion and public discourse, ultimately serving as an opportunity for your firm to grow and learn. Besides, Google will only remove reviews that cross the line into harmful territory: threatening, harassing, racist etc.
- DO NOT offer compensation for people to take down bad reviews.
- DO reply tastefully to bad reviews.
Let’s not forget ‘bad review’s meddling cousin- Fake Reviews. Google does not have a process to verify that these reviews are, in fact, your client. There is an element of public trust in this platform, which should be celebrated, although this fact leaves room for exploitation. Your best option in the case of a fake review is pretty much the same as it is for a bad one- respond. Tastefully. Try something like, “It doesn’t appear that you were ever our client, but we’d love to work with you in the future.” Keep it short, to the point and open-ended.
4: LATEST AND UPCOMING DEVELOPMENTS IN GOOGLE REVIEWS
Google is constantly optimizing its processes to look for the real and authentic amongst a swathe of misleading content. This means that their technology continues to become more intelligent, testing different variables month over month, year over year. This will impact what factors are more valuable in your Google My Business strategy. Here’s a timeline of what’s new this year and beyond, in the future.
- Google is testing a new local finder for service businesses including law firms.
- Google highlights businesses that post photos, replies, etc.
- Google will start highlighting new reviews, which are 30 days old or newer.
- Google has launched a new tool to help users more easily report fake or harmful review content.
- Google is testing ‘sentiment’ in Google My Business (GMB) listings based on PUNCTUALITY, QUALITY, and RESPONSIVENESS factors.
- Previously, featured reviews were apparently random, and not representative of more relative customer experiences. Now the reviews include the top terms mentioned by your reviewers. These top terms will shape the identity of your services on Google Reviews over time.
- Review averages now appear on Google Maps. This feature is debuted for restaurants and will soon roll out to all local businesses, including law firms.
- Google is now showing a new label called ‘areas served’. This feature will be instrumental as part of Google for Lawyers, moving forward, as it answers the fundamental question, “Does that attorney serve my area?”.
In your legal firm’s Google My Business, you can now merge location + business, which will help you to appear on the ‘areas served’ feature.
- Google rolls out a feature to include the number of ‘reviews from the web’.
- Google removes the ‘Site Manager’ role, to be replaced with the ‘Manager’ role instead.
- Google tests an entirely new layout for its reviews.
- Google will begin to emphasize video content included in the reviews platform, yet another algorithmic tip to get in front of.
- Generic and insincere is dead. Google will place prominence on thoughtful reviews that show depth and a base in reality.
Section #5: STEPS TO SUCCESS WITH GOOGLE REVIEWS
THE GRAND THEMES
- TAKE CONTROL
Don’t let angry clients determine your online reputation. Get your great clients to leave reviews.
- BUILD A REPEATABLE PROCESS
Find a point in your process where you can easily ask happy clients for reviews.
- USE TEXT MESSAGING – NOT EMAIL
It’s 35x more effective.
The chances of getting a review when requesting via email are peanuts at 1-2%, whereas those same chances increase to 35-45% when a client is prompted directly via text.
- RESPOND & START MARKETING
Priority is given to companies that post photos and reply to all reviews. Always respond to every review and use your 5-Star reviews on your website, in your ads and at your office.
THE GRANULAR DETAILS
Let’s recap these developments into quick bullet form so that your law firm can take action on the grand themes Google reviews success:
- Understand its value: In North America, most people who need law services turn to google reviews to inform the direction of their purchasing decision.
- Streamline the process: Know when and how to ask for client reviews.
- Review potency: Fresh, plentiful 5 star ratings from your most recent happy customers (that you engage with).
- Minimize the negative buzz by uplifting your happy and satisfied reviews instead- just never try to take down a fair criticism.
- Greater resources for mitigating false reviews are now available.
- Stay on top of your local listings and stay responsive to positive feedback. Top 4 listings get 98% of clicks.
- Multi-media is king: Reviews with photo and video elements are more likely to push to the top of google’s search results.
- Watch out for key internal GMB changes
- Google likes:
- Review type: New, thoughtful, positive & plentiful.
- Multimedia is rewarded: videos & pictures in your listing & as client review accompaniment.
- Engagement: Reply to all reviews! Emphasize longer responses on positive ones.
- “Punctuality, Quality, Responsiveness”
- Location, location, location: Your service area is now an available link to your business page as the ‘local finder’ feature.
Google reviews play an essential role in gaining new business online for your law firm – and now you know how to do it. It’s a well-timed season where these new developments are coming into effect. If you can execute these principles earlier than 2022, you will likely see your firm in the top search results, getting the most clicks from leads who feel most confident in your firm. Staying on top of these themes is a profession of its own, so if it’s not your wheelhouse, put your trust in a marketing agency like TEI, that can employ these principles to usher in the potential your firm has to become the top choice.