Think people don't trust online reviews? Don't be so sure.
Last week, I had the honor of sharing a stage with Nifty Law President Mike Ramsey.
Mike is one of a very few people I would trust to market my own law practice online.
The image at the top of this post comes from the deck we presented at Avvo's Lawyernomics conference.
The slide references BrightLocal's 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey.
If you market a law practice online, you should spend some time reviewing their findings.
A lot of attorneys I speak with dismiss online reviews. The typical objections tend to go something like this:
“When people make important decisions, like hiring a lawyer, they don’t use things like search; they rely on people they trust.”
I have seen plenty of analytics and CRM data that demonstrates this to be false for a lot of people. Nonetheless, I'm sure there are many people in many legal contexts for which it is at least partially true.
In fact, I would encourage anyone who is looking for an attorney to turn to people they trust. However, I'd also encourage them to research the attorney online and assign what they find its proper weight in making their decision.
I anticipate that some of you are thinking:
"Well that might be true for consumer electronics and plumbers, but attorneys are different."
And in many ways, you would be right. The search for attorneys is (should be) different.
But if you think that what people say about you online doesn't matter to anyone, well then, you are a fool.
Now look, if BrightLocal were to conduct this same study solely of legal services consumers, it's quite likely that online reviews wouldn't be assigned the same level of trust as personal recommendations.
But it's even more likely that they would be assigned at least some level of trust.
Also, notice how steeply the number of people who answered "no" has dropped. I would expect this number to continue to decline.
Still not convinced that people are using online directories, communities, ratings and reviews in legal? Take a look at some of these numbers from Avvo:
So, what's the takeaway?
Provide great service to your clients. Build a strong word of mouth referral network.
But also encourage the people who would personally recommend you to review online.
Make encouraging reviews a regular part of your client communication process.
Remember, reviews don't have to include superlatives about the outcomes you get for clients.
Sure, people want to feel that you are competent to handle their situation. But reviews can also speak to your compassion, patience and understanding. These are also things that people who are considering hiring you care about.
Don't know where to send happy folks who want to sing your praises? Start with these:
- Google Places (Google Plus Local Pages)
Looking to spread the love around? Check out Nifty's Local Search Directories and Moz Local's Top Citation Sources for Attorneys.
Finally, if permissible in your state, use reviews on your own pages. Don't forget to include structured data markup for reviews.