Online reviews have never been as important for law firms than they are today. Client voices travel faster, are more trusted and more valuable than traditional advertising. Prospective clients look for a source they trust—former clients—when deciding which law firm to hire.
To succeed in this new landscape, law firms need to develop a deep understanding of their clients’ wants and needs. Law firms must also be more responsive to customer service issues. Lastly, law firms must ensure that positive client reviews are seen and read.
A guide recently released by BirdEye, a platform that allows companies to monitor and respond to online reviews, reveals why online reviews are important and how law firms can harness online reviews to get new business.
Online reviews are typically written by current or past clients and posted publicly on sites such as Google, Facebook and Yelp. Typically, reviews will include a comment from the client as well as a star rating.
Once the review is posted, it is visible to the public and tied to the firm’s profile. This means that prospective clients can see all of the reviews posted for that business; both positive and negative.
Online reviews pop up in search engine results and can have a huge impact on local Search Engine Optimization. Why is this important? According to Search Engine Watch, 90 percent of customers choose a business on the first page of search results.
Having a high number of positive online reviews for your law firm will boost your law firm’s SEO. About 13 percent of the more than 200 factor used in Google’s search engine algorithm include review signals such as the number of reviews, the frequency with which reviews are posted and the number of sites where reviews are posted.
According to WebRepublic, products and services with positive reviews are 200 percent more likely to sell than those with no reviews. Moreover, just a handful of bad reviews can dissuade the majority of shoppers from choosing your services. One Cornell University survey revealed that 92 percent of customers will use a business if it has at least a 4-star rating.
But perhaps most important is what positive reviews reveal about your services. According to the Clio 2017 Legal Trends Report, 62 percent of legal services consumers get a referral from a friend, family member or another lawyers. Interestingly, a BrightLocal Consumer Survey revealed that 88 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
As you can see, positive online reviews can be a powerful marketing tool. They can propel your firm to the fist page of Google, fuel up your referral engine and validate a prospective client’s decision to hire your law firm. Moreover, online reviews give prospective clients a peek into the quality of your services, as well as the overall customer experience.
For law firms, online reviews on Google and Facebook will carry a lot of authority. When people encounter legal issues, their first inclination will likely be to turn to a search engine. Positive Google reviews can put your business at the top of the search and Maps results, making sure your firm is positioned to grab their attention. Likewise, Facebook has 1.4 billion active monthly users. Positive online reviews on Facebook positions your law firm in front of a massive number of potential clients.
In addition to Google and Facebook, lawyers should consider requesting reviews for their individual Avvo accounts. Avvo is like Yelp for lawyers, where former clients can leave reviews about their customer experiences. When people Google for “lawyers near me,” for example, Avvo will be a top result. You can learn more about Avvo and what it can do for your firm here.
Asking your current or former clients for an honest online review can be daunting. You don’t want to seem pushy. And, understandably, you also don’t want a negative review.
The key is to ask your clients for a review of your services soon after representation has completed. Your service will be fresh on your clients’ minds. If they had a positive experience, they will be more receptive to the favor you are asking. One simple way to do this is to send a follow up email once representation has terminated.
You should also make it as easy as possible for your former clients to leave an online review. For example, you can provide links to sites where they can review your services in a follow up email. Or, if you text with your clients, you can send a link by text. Helping you former clients jump straight to the webpage where they can leave a review will make the process simple and painless.
Lastly, your firm should be reaching out consistently to former clients for reviews. For reviews to be effective, they need to be current. A good rule of thumb: if the review is more than three months old, it will begin to lose its relevance. A consistent flow of fresh reviews is critical to your online review campaign.
Perhaps most importantly, online reviews should be authentic. Law firms should never offer clients an incentive for a positive review. Exchanging services for positive reviews is unethical and forbidden by many review sites. Moreover, reviews that are “bought” often come across as insincere.
Online reviews are powerful tools that can generate referrals, validate your firm’s credibility and provide invaluable feedback regarding your services. By promptly requesting online reviews and focusing on a few select platforms, you can add an online review strategy into your business development efforts with minimal time and cost.