Did you know that over 80 per cent of potential clients will think twice about hiring a lawyer if they find a bad review of them online? These days, consumer reviews carry as much weight as a personal recommendation.
Thanks to the internet, a person can research lawyers online, long before they ever connect with one – 96 per cent of people seeking legal advice start online!
Customers can and will be selective when it comes to hiring an attorney. They’ll scour Google and view what others are saying about your law firm. If they can’t find you and/or you’re plagued by negative reviews, it will be extremely difficult to win them over or even retain existing clients.
Chances are that you already know about the importance of reviews. But do you know how to tactfully deal with negative ones and maximize your online presence?
The legal marketing experts at the Mike Agency have compiled this detailed guide expressly for this purpose. In it, we break down all the proactive steps of managing your law firm’s online presence, so that clients choose you over the competition. We explain how to:
- Control the narrative of client reviews
- Manage all your firm’s online listings
- Claim and optimize your Google My Business account
Controlling the narrative
So many law firms use their budgets on expensive marketing initiatives such as overhauling their website or paid advertisements, while overlooking online customer feedback on review sites.
When it comes to online reputation management, reviews carry a tremendous amount of weight. Bad online reviews can unravel a marketing campaign, making it that much harder to convince your target audience to engage with your law firm.
Buying decisions in the legal space are dictated by people’s emotions and their wallet (as legal costs can quickly add up). So, if there’s negative sentiment about your firm online, people will rarely wait till they have all of the information to make up their minds.
Do you have a great website, and SEO and online ads to attract customers, so it’s easier to find your law firm online? Maybe you even devoted a healthy budget to thought leadership through blogs, videos, webinars and a podcast.
But the moment that a potential client checks your online reviews and sees that you have very few reviews or God-forbid, several one-star reviews, none of that will matter. They will begin checking out your competitors to see how they stack up. You’ve essentially spent your marketing budget to drive potential clients to competing law firms.
Of course, it also works in the inverse. By collecting lots of great online reviews, you can actually make your competitor’s marketing budget work for you.
So, what can you do? Be proactive and manage online feedback. Take control of your online reputation and always respond to client reviews.
Optimizing your Google My Business
If you want your law firm to show up in as many local law-related searches in your area as possible, your Google My Business (GMB) listings need to be up to par.
These listings are very important because it is the first thing that comes up in search results for most locally-based searches with commercial intent – typically in the “[Niche Keyword] + your city” format (i.e., best divorce attorney Toronto). Suffice to say, it is one of the most crucial elements of your entire online reputation.
When you’re optimizing your GMB listings, you’ll want to do the following:
- Build out your GMB listings. It is vital that you establish the exact name, address and phone number profile (also known as “NAP”) and that these details are consistent throughout the online ecosystem. You’ll also want to add in your website address, business category and any relevant photos and videos that paint a complete picture of your business. For law firms, we also recommend filling out the “Additional Information” field with your “Areas of Practice.”
- Submit for verification. This can be done via phone, email or snail mail. In certain situations, only some of these options will be available, especially if it is a brand-new listing. We typically recommend clients verify by phone, as it is instantaneous.
- Add in offers. Once you’re verified, you can log back into your account and visit the Dashboard in the top right-hand corner, where you’ll find offers. For lawyers, feel free to add in something like “Free Consultation” – this is a great way to increase the attractiveness of your listing to searchers.
- Eliminate duplicates. This step is critical, as having just one or two duplicate listings can prevent your listing from ranking on page one. To identify and merge duplicate listings, you’ll need to run a search on Google for “Firm Name, City.” Locate the duplicate, click on it, select “Edit Business Details,” followed by “This is a duplicate” to notify Google that this listing should be merged with your primary listing.
- Increase your citations. You’ll want to add your business to as many online directories, especially ones relevant to your sector. Target ones with high Domain Authority since Google prioritizes these. Some citation sites require manual submissions for new listings, while others pull data from online data aggregators.
- Obtain legitimate reviews. Only solicit reviews from legitimate individuals who’ve utilized your services. If you need help effectively managing the review process, we offer a robust platform called RAMP. Visit our website or give us a call at 416-640-9768 to learn more.
Why do clients leave online reviews?
For clients, this is an opportunity to share their side of the buying story. The feedback process is especially important for legal matters, as these services tend to be high-cost and/or high-stress.
If you’re in contract law, for example, people want to know that you can provide sound advice on changes in regulations and help them reach the best possible outcome. If you’re in family law and handle divorce cases, they’ll be looking to see that you can reach a settlement with as little friction as possible.
Before someone puts their legal fate in your hands, they need to feel secure. An online review provides that reassurance. It allows people to leave a real, unfiltered take, socially and emotionally validating a law firm’s abilities to other potential clients.
There’s a trickle-down effect – the more people that share positive impressions on online review sites, the more likely others will too.
On the flip side, a negative review can change a consumer’s mind in a heartbeat, even if they’re on the verge of choosing a firm. Too many of these can cannibalize your efforts and make it that much harder to attract new business.
Handling negative reviews
Did you know that 94 per cent of consumers will avoid a business with negative reviews?
Even the most professional, attentive, and empathetic attorney will sometimes receive a negative review. After all, despite your best efforts, you may not be able to achieve the best possible outcome for your client.
One of the most important parts of online reputation management is to effectively manage online feedback. There is no easy remedy for a negative review, but the worst thing you can do as a law firm is ignore it – the implications extend far beyond the affected person(s) to your online reputation.
It is critical today to develop a process within your business to solicit reviews from satisfied clients. There are several different strategies that we have developed that will greatly increase the number of reviews your firm captures. If your law firm needs extra help with this, the team at Mike Agency is standing by. We’ll use our RAMP platform to manage, track and bury any negative reviews, so you can focus on your clients’ needs.
How you respond to a negative review may convince the reviewer to edit their review or write a positive review of how the law firm reacted to the negative review.
Follow these steps when replying to an unsatisfied client:
- Empathise. Acknowledge the problem. Regardless of what happened, apologize if necessary and show empathy for your client’s experience.
- Promote. Stay positive and reiterate the value your firm normally brings. Counteract that one negative review by encouraging past clients to leave positive reviews. In other words, bury the negative review with multiple positive ones
- Move the conversation offline. Contain the situation and don’t add fuel to the negative comments. Offer the reviewer the opportunity to reach out via phone, email or both to discuss the situation.
- Keep it professional. Don’t ask questions and avoid addressing specific factual allegations as they could potentially violate client confidentiality. These sorts of conversations are much better served in private.
Responding to positive reviews
While negative reviews often get the most attention, positive reviews should not be neglected! This can be crucial to raising a law firm’s reputation and encourages potential clients to reach out. When clients leave positive reviews, it is important to respond and to thank them. You can also use this opportunity to encourage others to do the same.
An effective response ensures that a happy customer keeps coming back. Follow these steps when responding:
- Say thank you and be specific. Everyone likes compliments, so use that to your advantage in your response. Don’t forget to reiterate your customer’s compliment. This shows the client that a real person took the time to acknowledge them.
- Use the business name and keywords. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to drive your firm up in search results — positive reviews are key in searches. Referring to your firm’s name, location and category helps index that review online.
- Promote. A review response is a great place to spread the word. Highlight the positive qualities of your firm. It is a good idea to highlight these sorts of online reviews by adding them to the client testimonial section of your website. Some review tracking platforms (including RAMP), have a widget that streams reviews directly onto your site.
Managing your online listings
Beyond reviews, you’ll need to have a handle on your listings, if you want to truly maximize your online presence.
While most searches are done on Google, it is important to have your law firm’s name listed in as many places possible. Just having your information on a few sites is no longer enough, especially in a highly competitive vertical like the legal industry. As a lawyer, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the following – Find Law, SuperLawyers.com, Avvo and Martindale. But there are dozens of listing sites beyond the legal niche that play a critical role.
Having accurate and consistent information and a link to your website from dozens of listings sites can be a simple and impactful way to improve your online reputation and improve your SEO. The more accurate and consistent the information about your law firm, the more search engines will trust its authority. The higher the trust, the higher your law firm will rank in search results. The higher you rank, the more likely a potential client will find you and reach out to you about their legal issues.
To keep the information accurate and updated, you need a way to manage these listings. From unapproved customer edits to scammers creating fake reviews, there’s no shortage of things that can undo your hard work. If you’re not on top of the situation, this incorrect information can seep its way into other business listing sites, leading to missed opportunities, frustrated clients and lower search rankings.
To do this, you’ll need a listings management tool. It allows any business to create, manage and update all its listings across the internet. You can:
- Share information everywhere
- Save time
- Deliver seamless updates
- Access Google Insights
- View executive reports
As with managing reviews, RAMP has a highly effective tool for managing your listings across dozens of authoritative websites.
Fleshing out the narrative
Each review is an opportunity to sell your business! Think about it. What does an absence of reviews make you think? More than likely not something positive.
Client reviews are the lifeblood of successful law firms. More content and more positive reviews, in particular, can increase your firm’s online visibility, add credibility and encourage more people use your services.
The stats don’t lie – customers are willing to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews.
However, sometimes it can be difficult to source reviews. Here is everything that you should do as well as the number one thing you should never do.
- 1. Timing is everything
The key to getting more reviews is sending out your requests at the right time. You need to factor in the time and the customer’s emotional state. It’s important to send your request when recipients are at their happiest – after they refer another client or after they’ve tagged your firm in a social media post.
Ideally, throughout each case, you should be obtaining regular feedback through a systematic process too. After a successful conclusion, include a request for positive comments in your closing communications. The longer you wait to reach out, the lower the likelihood of clients actually leaving a review.
- Choose the right method
When sending out a request, you have several different methods at your disposal: email, SMS, landing page. The most common way by far is email. According to research, as much as 70 percent of reviews come from post-transactional review request emails.
Whatever channel you choose to use, make sure it is optimized. If you’re asking a person to take this extra step, you need to make things as user-friendly and convenient as possible. Doing so increases the odds that they will complete your request. Let them know how long it will take, give them multiple options for leaving a review and start things off with an open-ended question to facilitate a dialogue.
- Create the right incentive
Everyone’s time is valuable, so it’s good practice to give your customers a reason to leave a review. However, it is important that you don’t try and sway their opinion beforehand – you want their honest feedback.
- Keep things short, simple and personal
When sending out your review requests, you’ll want to keep things brief, easy to understand and personalized to each recipient. If the review or survey takes too long to finish, it likely won’t be completed. To avoid this, you’ll need to know your goals ahead of time (i.e., measuring loyalty or gaining feedback on your customer service). This will help you tailor your approach and ensure that you get the right info.
Keep in mind, if you’re using a rating scale in your review/survey, provide middle categories or a neutral option, as this will provide more accurate data. If you’re not using ratings, then stick to “Yes” or “No,” or pre-selected multiple-choice answers.
- Test, measure and adjust
Even after your firm launches a successful review request campaign, you can’t just sit back and let things run. To get the best response rates and useful feedback from your customers, you’ll need to constantly tweak and calibrate. People’s interactions and experiences aren’t static but constantly changing over time. If you get negative feedback while asking for reviews, respond and make the necessary adjustments.
The number one thing you don’t want to do as a business is buy or elicit positive reviews. For one, there are rules about false or misleading advertising.
While you can offer customers incentives for completing a review, you don’t want to pressure them to leave a specific type of review, as this can destroy your credibility. Reviews/surveys are supposed to be honest and authentic. If they’re not, you’re betraying your clients’ and potential clients’ trust – an absolute necessity in the legal industry.
And to be honest, would you really want all your reviews to look the same? To improve your legal services, you need to hear what your customers really have to say. Keep in mind, even if you push them for a favourable review, they can go back and change it later anyways.
The best way to get positive reviews is to make your clients happy. Since they’re likely spending a considerable amount of money, they’ll want to get as much out of the experience as possible. The more satisfied they are with your customer service as well as how you resolve their concerns, the more likely they are to post something favourable.
►What is online reputation management for lawyers and attorneys?
Reputation management for lawyers and attorneys involves managing your listings as well as monitoring and management of reviews logged on various online review sites and social media channels. Part of the monitoring process involves responding appropriately to both positive and negative reviews. It is a good practice to collect authentic positive reviews from satisfied clients and promote them on the firm’s website or shared on social media.
►Why are reviews important for attorneys?
83 per cent of people check lawyer reviews when they begin finding an attorney. No matter if you’re a lawyer referring a client or a consumer or business researching their own legal needs, everyone uses online ratings and reviews to choose the best lawyer. Considering that legal services are often very costly and emotionally taxing, legal consumers want to make sure they are making the best possible decision.
►What is the importance of attorney online reputation management services?
With online competition intensifying, maintaining a good online reputation is more important than ever. People are researching lawyers online and combing through online review sites. If you don’t find yourself on the first page of Google results and are plagued by negative reviews, it’s difficult to stand out to them. Lawyer reputation management helps attorneys gain visibility on Google’s first page, improves their online reputation, boosts their ability to win new clients and retain existing ones.
Need more help? Consider hiring a professional.
The experts at the Mike Agency have helped numerous law firms over the years with their online reputation and legal marketing needs. Contact the Mike Agency today to speak to our team of qualified experts and schedule a free consultation, so you can focus on what matters – winning cases and running your law firm!