We recently spoke to a large personal injury firm in Chicago currently spending thousands of dollars per month on TV and radio ads, but with a number of one- and two-star reviews online.
They felt as though they were likely losing perspective clients who searched for them online after seeing or hearing one of their ads and, upon seeing the negative reviews, decided to take their cases elsewhere.
Their question for us was, “Do online reviews and reputation management make a difference in your law firm’s online presence?”
The short answer to this question is that yes, online reviews can make a difference in how people view your law firm online, and they factor into the decision making process when it comes to choosing a lawyer that is the best fit for a particular client.
But the world of online search is vast, and understanding how people find your law firm online is a bit more complex than simply searching for your firm name.
In order to better understand how reviews impact your presence on the web, it is first necessary to understand how people conduct searches online. There are three main methods as to how we consistently see people use search engines (such as Google) to find what they are looking for:
- Branded Searches – These are the types of searches that are most specific to your law firm. These may include direct searches of your law firm, as well as searches that directly include the name of an attorney or paralegal at your firm. Including your brand as a keyword on your website will ensure that all searches related to your brand link back to your website.
- “Yellow Page” Searches – Like yesterday’s Yellow Pages, Google and other search engines can be used to help prospective clients find lawyers in their area who suit their specific needs. These types of searchers will often google things such as “Chicago personal injury lawyer” or “car accident attorney Austin” in order to find results in their local pack.
These are searches that have a lot of high intent and high value and are often the most competitive types of searches from a marketing perspective. In order to convert prospective clients with yellow page searches, an investment of time and money is often required.
- Research Oriented Searches – Some prospective clients may approach Google as a research tool. They may use natural language to ask Google specific questions related to their case and read through the websites that appear in the results to make any service-related decisions based on who can best answer their questions.
A solid content strategy can help to grow the footprint of your site and to best answer any questions that a prospective client might have for you related to legal matters or questions specific to their case. By providing useful, relevant information to new clients visiting your website for the first time, you have the best chance at conversion.
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Reviews and Reputation Management
Now that we’ve established the three main methods that people use to find your law firm’s website, how do client reviews and reputation management factor in?
Often, your firm’s reviews are among the first things people see when they search for a law firm. This is especially true for branded searches (where, ideally, you are the only result to appear), but can also significantly impact “Yellow Page” searches in your local pack as well.
Your reputation can also have an impact on the level of visibility you have in your area both online and off. Firms that spend money on offline advertising (such as commercials or billboards) may drive traffic to their website if prospective clients search for their firm or attorney directly in a branded search. These “lifts,” coupled with a positive reputation, can drastically improve your rankings in Google.
So, it’s important to think about what happens when those types of searches are performed. What do potential clients see about you online? You reputation management and reviews across various profiles can make a big impact on conversion.
During the overarching conversion of someone who is first hearing about you from offline advertising, who then searches your name online (or the name of the firm online), consider this: Are you losing those types of people based on what they see when they search your brand? Are the offline ad dollars as effective as they could be?
- If the answer to the first question is “Yes,” then it might be worth exploring you strategy and seeing what is working—and more importantly, what isn’t working—and finding ways to improve the services you are providing to your target audience.
If you are a personal injury lawyer whose website is full of content related to tax law, then you may be alienating your target audience by portraying a brand image contrary to your actual practice.
- If the answer to the second question is “No,” then identifying opportunities to improve client experience would be a fair next step. In order to enhance your clients’ experience (and increase the likelihood of a positive review), you must give them what they are looking for.
Providing answers to their questions—especially for users who are using Google as a research machine—is a surefire way to retain and convert new clients over time. This also allows you to get your money’s worth from offline advertising and improve your rankings in the process.
Even if you are not at the top of the pack in a local search, having consistently positive reviews and testimonials from past and current clients can be a big factor in generating leads and conversions through your website. This is especially true if competitors in your area (who may have a strong on/offline presence) have negative reviews themselves. Clients are more likely to entrust their cases to a law firm with glowing reviews than a law firm with negative reviews.
How to Get Reviews
With all of this information in mind, what is the best way to get reviews from past and current clients?
The simplest way is to ask.
Helping to reduce friction for your client and making it easy to leave a review is important. Instead of asking them to search online and find your firm’s profiles on their own, providing them with a link to a reputation management service (such as Grade.us) can help make the process more seamless. This results in a better experience for your client and a higher likelihood that they actually leave a review. In addition, this type of service will allow you the convenience of monitoring the web for new reviews so you can respond appropriately.
Another method of getting reviews (often used in combination with a reputation management service) is to develop and work in a process in which the firm is consistently asking for reviews without being overbearing. This could include methods such as providing links in email signatures, amplifying positive reviews on their website, and to consistently ask for ways their services can be improved (both internally and externally).
By implementing these processes and getting everyone at your law firm onboard with creating a positive client experience, positive reviews will come over time—and your presence will grow because of it.