Displaying Reviews with Schema

If you are following the proper guidelines for managing your web presence – providing excellent customer service, killing it in the courtroom, and asking clients for reviews – you should be able to build up a small wealth of reviews across the major portals. These reviews help build trust in prospective clients who visit your profiles on Avvo / Facebook / Yelp, and trust leads to conversions, which means the phone rings.

But that’s not where the uses of reviews end. Another benefit to multiple reviews is that you can mark them up, essentially putting little signs & labels around the content so that Google and other search engines can add rich snippets to their search results. Here’s an example:

Four and a half stars? Sounds like a good place to eat.
Four and a half stars? Looks like a good place to eat. Maybe I’ll check it out.

Rich snippets give a tremendous boost to click-through rates (the percentage of people who click a clink when it shows up in their search results). If you’re interested in some examples, an article of Search Engine Land compiled compiled several cases of rich snippets at work. A tactic we currently use at Mockingbird involves consolidating many reviews together and marking them up on our website in order to let visitors (and search engines!) know what the opinions of our work are. These reviews are marked up according to the instructions on Schema.org and Google’s review rich snippet guidelines. By following the instructions on those sites, you can turn a review or testimonial page into a signal that Google can use.

How to Mark Up Your Reviews

Hopefully by now I have convinced you to start gathering reviews and marking them up with Schema. Actually following through on this process can be a time-consuming exercise of copy and paste, but we have a tool that should be able to help. Check out our review markup generator to get started.

An exceedingly high-quality image of the review markup generator.
A beautiful screenshot of the review markup generator.

The review markup generator has several blank fields that you fill out with information from reviews. Technically, the only required field is an author name, but posting a long list of author names with no other information would be useless for website users and search engines alike.

Most of what you need to fill out is straight-forward:

  • Add the title of the review to “Review Title” (or leave it blank for no title)
  • Add the author’s name to “Review Author”
  • Choose whether or not to include a rating. Specify the maximum and minimum possible ratings (usually 5 and 1), and then what the author rated your service.
  • Add the date of the review to “Date Published” (or leave it blank for no date)
  • Add the body of the review to “Review Body” (or leave it blank for no body)
  • Add the URL that you got the review from to “Review Source”. You can leave this blank, but a URL source is the best way to prove your reviews are legitimate.
  • Add the review website (i.e. Facebook, Avvo) that you got the review from to “Publisher” (or leave it blank for no publisher).

The “Hide?” option allows you to choose whether or not that information shows up in a review. If you choose to hide your review source, for example, users will not be able to see the URL that a review came from. Google and other search engines still could. This can help keep your reviews informative for search engines even if you want to cut out some information to make the review aesthetically pleasing. Be wary of doing this with too much information, because hiding text or links can be seen as a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

After you finish filling out the review markup generator, click “Create Schema!” and a block of code will show up below, containing the complete Schema markup for your review. Copy and paste this to another page, rinse (Reset Fields), and repeat. When you are happy with the quantity & spread of your reviews, copy the second code block from the bottom of the page over to your website, and fill in the information about your law firm & reviews. Check your results using Google’s Structured Data testing tool.

If you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns about the markup process, let us know in the comments!

A Beginner’s Guide to URL Redirects

Picture this hypothetical website disaster: You are completely overhauling the website for your law firm. You switch domains, implement a beautiful redesign, and migrate all the content from the old site to the new one. One week after launching your new site and pulling the plug on the old one, you notice your traffic has dropped off a cliff and you’re not getting any calls.

The decrease in traffic is probably because some of your old pages no longer load. This causes 2 significant problems for your website.

  1. When a page is removed, all the authority it has built up is wasted. On the other hand, new pages don’t have any authority, even if you intend for them to replace old ones. If you don’t let search engines know which of your pages are replacements, they’ll treat those pages like strangers, giving low rankings and little traffic.
  2. Prospective clients who visit your site by following a link somewhere on the web won’t want to pick up the phone if that link leads to an error page (or nothing at all). Even if you’re getting a significant amount of traffic, broken pages will prevent that from turning into leads because users are more likely to bounce off your site when they land on a page that doesn’t tell them anything.

Thankfully there is a way to avoid these kinds of traffic-killing disasters. We do this by using URL redirects.

Example of a 404 page
This is what a 404 page looks like on our website. If you landed here while browsing or clicking a search result, would you want to pick up the phone right now? Probably not.

What are URL Redirects?

A URL redirect is an instruction for computers that tell them a webpage has been moved from its old address to a new one. When a computer (such as a prospective client’s PC, or Google’s web crawler, etc.) visits a page with a redirect, it will be automatically sent to the new destination instead of their old page.

This is valuable for users who are attempting to visit a page that has been moved or deleted. Normally a page that doesn’t exist would show an error such as “404 File Not Found”. However, with a redirect you can instruct computers to automatically load the new location of your page, or a related page instead. Now instead of losing a prospective client because you sent them to a blank page, you increase the chance that someone will engage with your site and subsequently contact your firm.

Redirects can also help your performance with search engines. If an old page has built up authority with search engines (in English: a lot of people link to it) but then one day it disappears, you’ll lose all the “link juice” that page provided to your site. Setting up a URL redirect will point search engines to a real page, preserving most of the authority you garnered with Google and keeping your traffic healthy.

Results of URL redirects
When you use redirects, any computer that visits your old page will get directed to your new page instead.

Building Blocks of a URL Redirect

While the concept of a URL redirect is constant, the tactical implementation changes for different websites. You might have to declare your redirects on every page individually, put them into a single file, or work with your host’s custom system. Because there is a vast number of ways to set up URL redirects, a comprehensive guide on the topic is outside the scope of this article.

However, there is some common ground for redirect implementation. No matter where or how you implement a redirect, you will always use 3 key pieces of information. Those pieces are:

  • Source
  • Destination
  • Type
Basic redirects: source, type, destination
The building blocks of a redirect. It’s like legos, except on the internet.


The source is the page you don’t want users to see. To write out the source, take the web address that you no longer users to visit, and remove the domain along with everything that comes before it. For example, if we were implementing a redirect with the source:


The domain of our site is mockingbird.marketing, so we remove it and are left with this:


This would be our source, and we would write that down.


The destination is the (live and working) page you want to send users towards. Declaring this is as simple as writing down the web address of the desired page. If we were implementing a redirect with the destination


Then we would just write that.


Redirects come in 8 or 9 types and each one has a different technical reason why it will be used. However, you can learn 2 redirects and use them essentially 100% of the time. These have status codes and nicknames, both of which are good to know:

  • 301 – “Permanent”: This is the ‘normal’ redirect, and it should be your go-to option. A 301 redirect does everything we talked about above.
  • 302 – “Moved Temporarily” or “Found”: A 302 redirect is very rarely used. It works as expected most of the time, but search engines ignore 302 redirects for the purposes of assigning authority. Use 302 redirects only if you plan on using them temporarily, like if you need to do website maintenance.

Regular Expressions?

Sometimes you may have to redirect a lot of pages at once. Instead of writing every redirect separately, you can make a “bulk” redirect. For example, if we were migrating from an old website:


To our current one (“mockingbird.marketing”), and every single page on the old site was the same except for that domain. We might write a source like this:


And our destination would be:


Regular expressions are technical, and using them incorrectly can break your site. They’re beyond the scope of this article, but if you want to learn more about regular expressions then you should check out the Resources section below.

In this post we talked about how URL redirects can save you from a possible disasters by engaging viewers and preserving traffic from search engines. We looked at redirects on a basic level, and what information to start gathering when you want to create your own redirects. Proper use of URL redirects can keep your web traffic (and your bottom line) safe.


If you want to learn more about regular expression and URL redirects, here are some resources that we’ve found useful.

  • webconfs.com has a list of ways to declare 301 redirects in different languages or by using htaccess files. These are some of the different tactics we mentioned earlier.
  • Moz has another good description of redirects, along with instructions for implementing 301 redirects in Apache.
  • Dave Clements of DoItWithWP has a simple introduction to regular expressions (about as simple as it can get).
  • WPEngine has a list of common syntax used in regular expressions, along with examples.
  • RegexPal lets you test if your regular expressions work. In order to use it properly, you will also have to treat all forward slashes (looks like this: “/”) as special symbols like “^“, “$“, “.“, and “?“.

Basic Schema for Attorneys

Have you ever seen a search result that comes with a little extra?

Sitelinks and knowledge graph rich snippets
The first result for “Mockingbird Marketing” has 6 other links in addition to the homepage. On the right are our address, phone number, and business hours.
Post date rich snippet
Blog posts show the date they were posted on the left-hand side before the text in the search result.

These “extra” pieces of information are called rich snippets, and appear when Google decides information is important enough to display directly in the SERPs. When rich snippets from your site appear in search results, they take up more space (blocking out competing search results) and increase the likelihood that a user will click to your site.

Google gets the information for this by looking at your site and identifying the important pieces. While it has been pretty successful, it’s best to help Google notice your website as much as you can. We do that using structured data, essentially a way of flagging information as important (“LOOK AT ME! I AM THE ADDRESS!”).

Schema Starter Pack

Google has documentation on what kinds of structured data it supports, but most categories aren’t applicable to attorneys (such as recipes and software apps). Three of these apply to lawyers, and we’ve included templates for them as part of a Schema “starter pack” that you can copy over to your website and fill in.

Legal Service

This displays your business information to Google and identifies you as a legal service. This is the most important piece of Schema to use. If you get anything from this blog post, it is that you should use Schema for your business information.

Previously this was the “Attorney” category, but now the official name is “LegalService”.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LegalService">
   <span itemprop="name">YOUR LAW FIRM NAME</span>
   <div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
      <span itemprop="streetAddress">YOUR ADDRESS</span>
      <span itemprop="addressLocality">YOUR CITY</span>,
      <span itemprop="addressRegion">YOUR STATE</span>
      <span itemprop="postalCode">YOUR ZIP CODE</span>
   <span itemprop="telephone">YOUR PHONE NUMBER</span>


If you are attending, speaking at, or hosting an event.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Event">
   <span itemprop="name">EVENT NAME</span>
   <span itemprop="image">EVENT IMAGE</span>
   <span itemprop="url">WEBPAGE FOR YOUR EVENT</span>
   <span itemprop="description">EVENT DESCRIPTION</span>
   <span itemprop="startDate">EVENT START DATE</span>
   <span itemprop="endDate">EVENT END DATE</span>


Marking up videos helps Google understand what information is associated with a video, and can help your videos show up in search results.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/VideoObject">
   <span itemprop="name">VIDEO NAME</span>
   <span itemprop="about">VIDEO SUMMARY</span>
   <span itemprop="embedUrl">VIDEO URL</span>
   <span itemprop="dateCreated">DATE CREATED</span>

Resources and Further Reading

If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge of Schema, you should look into some other categories and check out some of the tools we’ve found useful.



How do you use Schema? Have any success stories? Let us know in the comments!

Online Reputation Management: Dealing with Bad Reviews

We previously wrote about how to build up good reviews for your firm or practice. If you’re on this page and you haven’t read that post, take a moment to do so. It sets the backdrop for the information here.

Unhappy customers are a part every practice area, and you can get negative reviews even if you do everything you can to keep your clients successful and happy. But negative reviews can hurt. It only takes one client in a particularly foul mood to rank you 1/5 on Yelp, tanking your rating and likely hurting the success of your firm.

There are a lot of tools and tactics at your disposal for dealing with reviews that cast you in a bad light, but you need to be familiar with them so you don’t inadvertantly hurt your business further.

Building a Safety Net

One of the most important ways to combat the effects of a bad review is to build up a safety net of positive reviews. Smart consumers also know that you can’t please everyone all of the time and psychologically, one negative mark lends legitimacy to the positive reviews.

The most direct part of creating your safety net is building up a strong review base, which you can read about in the previous article “How to Do Reviews”. A larger number of reviews means your average rating is more resistant to big outliers. Let’s look at an example. If you have a 5-star rating, but it’s only from one reviewer, just one 1-star rating can cut that almost in half.

A 5-star average can drop to a 3-star average with 1 bad review.

That’s looks awful. You just went from looking like the top of the pack all the way down to looking mediocre. Now let’s compare this to a 5-star average from three reviews, or from seven.

A 5-star average from more reviews drops less in response to one 1-star review.

As we can see, there is a marked improvement that comes from having a large number of reviews. If you’re curious, you can see the same pattern for a 4-star average.

A 4-star average from more reviews drops less in response to one 1-star review.

Bear in mind that these are averages are determined using conventional wisdom for reviews – add up the total number of stars and divide it by the number of reviewers to get your average. Most sites, including Avvo and Yelp, round your rating to the nearest half. However there are exceptions like Google+, which uses an algorithm to estimate your true rating and could lead to a result slightly lower or higher than the average shown here.

Also worth mentioning is the spread of your reviews. We’ve talked before about not putting all your eggs in one basket, but it also tends to look suspicious if multiple sites have significantly different averages. If your reviews are stellar on Google+ but much worse on Yelp, it will look like you’re doing something artificial to boost your ratings. For this reason, you need to make sure you look good in many places. That will take a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

In addition, your safety net should also involve making sure your website ranks highly for branded searches. If you are “Jane Doe, Attorney at Law”, anyone googling that phrase should see your website ranked first, before review sites or online profiles. Having a strong search engine presence means bad reviews that grow legs (more on that later) won’t rank higher than pages you control. On a similar note, you should make sure you have control over your profiles on the 3rd-party review sites around the web. Make sure that you have access to your social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), your Yelp page, Avvo profile, and so on.

The third component of your safety net is good customer service that follows your clients and keeps them happy… or as happy as is feasible.  By providing clients the opportunity – even encouraging them – to rant at you, in your office, on the phone anywhere other than online, you both provide much greater customer service and avoid a negative review.

Bad Safety Nets
Building up a large base of reviews that reflect positively on your brand takes significant time and effort. You might be tempted to turn to the dark side of SEO in order to ensure your ratings stay high, but stay strong in your resolve. Unethical practices won’t guarantee your rankings, and they can backfire spectacularly.

A picture of Darth Vader. Text reads "Luke I will pay you for a review of my services."

Writing fake reviews to pad out your popularity is dangerous and has serious ethical implications. In addition, threatening action against people who have written (or might write) bad reviews is also bad form. At best you will temporarily, quietly cover up a problem that’s arising somewhere else along the pipeline without addressing it. At worst, you could face public outrage and get stuck on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Monitoring Your Web Presence

In order to manage bad publicity, you will need to be aware of it. This means monitoring new reviews wherever they come in, and keeping an eye out for uncontrolled pages that rank in searches for your brand. Even news that isn’t necessarily related to you is something you might want to watch out for.

Instead of going by hand through every review website, you can use certain automated review management software to stay apprised. ReviewTrackers is an online review monitoring service that has a specialized section for lawyers – tracking the major legal specific directories that offer reviews. To keep updated on potential news that ranks in a search for your brand, consider using Google Alerts. Google Alerts allows you to input a search query (such as your brand) and gives you updates when that page is mentioned online.

Responding to Reviews

Now that you’ve built your safety net and you have a process in place for monitoring reviews as they occur, the next line of defense is actually dealing with bad reviews themselves. The most common way to handle reviews is by responding to them. Any online review site worth its salt will let owners issue both public and private responses to reviews from their clients, which is an opportunity to correct obvious inaccuracies and make a good impression.

A public response can have a greater impact on your business, because the audience changes from one unsatisfied client to any potential client who reads your response. This makes it vital that you are professional and polite in your response. In a public response, make sure to own up to the issue and explain how it won’t happen for future clients. A public response is more for prospective customers than anyone else, so you should show that your customer service is on point.

Your response to a negative review should showcase your professionalism, caring and commitment to customer service to all of the other people who read the review.  It’s important to NOT get involved in a factual tit-for-tat with the reviewer and NEVER call them out as lying, irrational, crazy, or stupid. Nasty responses will make you look worse than if you hadn’t said anything in the first place.

Remember to use common sense. Every time you look over a response draft, consider what it looks like to a potential client with no outside information. Would that potential client be more motivated to pick up the phone and call? If not, you have some work to do.


But the best to get glowing customer reviews? Deliver exceptional customer service.

Online Reputation Management: How to do Reviews

Reputation management is yet another candidate in a long list of considerations you need to take into account when managing your online presence. In addition to proactively keeping your citations correct, building links, posting fresh content, structuring your site, and on and on, it can be tiring to know there’s one more thing that threatens to undermine your hard work and past successes. But anyone who tells you marketing is easy is a liar. There’s a reason this is our job.


What is reputation management? Why is it important?

The concept of reputation management is as simple as it sounds. If you want to be found (and subsequently hired), you need to put your information out on the internet. Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factor survey listed review signals as having 10% of total influence on search rankings. In addition, online reviews are trusted more than ads in almost every medium, and 35% of clients say they use online reviews to research new attorneys (thanks to the legal technology team at Software Advice for going out of their way to provide the raw info from that study). Having profile pages on sites like Avvo, Yelp, Google+, etc., makes you more likely to be found when someone searches for your practice. But getting clients isn’t just about whether your online presence is big or small, it’s also about whether that presence is good or bad. It doesn’t matter if you’re the top of the local pack for “personal injury lawyer New York” – if you show a 1-star average from 10 reviews, people will skip over you and go to the next attorney in line.

Managing your reputation means getting high-quality reviews from clients across multiple platforms, making sure those ratings are glowing and natural (no spam!), and dealing with bad reviews as they occur. It also means ranking well for search results directly related to your business, so that your results stand above any bad PR pieces that show up in the SERPs. But that’s a lot of moving pieces, so this post is just going to focus on one of the most obvious parts: getting good reviews. Let’s look into what you can do to have a great online reputation.


Getting clients to review you

The most important step towards getting good reviews is providing excellent service. You will find it very hard to get praise if you don’t deserve it. But once you’ve jumped over that minor hurdle, the next the best catalyst for reviews is asking. If you don’t ask for reviews, the only people who will give you any are the ones who seek out opportunities to do so. This usually lends to you looking worse online than in real life because angry clients are far more likely to go out of their way to review than happy ones.

At Mockingbird, we find that the best way to ask for reviews is in person after the case is over, then letting clients fill out the review in their own time afterwards. Strike up a conversation when the client comes by to fill out paperwork or make a payment, and tell them how much a review means to your business. Getting a verbal agreement from your client is one of the most effective means of guaranteeing they will review you afterwards. Look them in the eye, and gain their approval with a handshake. After that meeting, make the process is easy as possible by following up with an email linking them to your relevant profile(s) – except for Yelp, more on that in a bit. Another benefit of asking for reviews individually is that you can pick and choose who you want to represent you online. If you won a case but you don’t think the client will be receptive, consider not reaching out for a review.

Some people just don’t have the time to watch all their review sites and check in with each individual client, so they turn to automated review management tools like GetFiveStars or other automatic review solicitors. The usual trick with these is to send an initial email asking for feedback. If the reviewer gives a low score, they are thanked for their opinion and nothing else is done. If the review gives a high score, they are instead prompted to voice their opinions on one of several sites. We’ve tried this before, but our conversion rates were almost non-existent. The major problem is that this tactic is used for business with large client volumes, like restaurants or hair salons. Law firms and attorneys don’t deal with nearly as many clients, so you end up with a pretty bad return on investment. If you’re still interested in watching for reviews, consider a tracking software like ReviewTrackers so you don’t have to constantly visit your Justia and Avvo profiles.


Optimizing your impact

The strength of reviews is dependent on a lot of factors beyond your average ranking. Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors survey emphasizes the following:

  • Quantity of reviews
  • Authority of sites hosting those reviews
  • Diversity of sites hosting those reviews
  • Freshness of reviews, and the rate those reviews were added
  • Whether your rating shows up next to your search result (need 5 or more Google+ reviews)

The first on that list is quantity, which has become more important over the past year. Only about 8% of potential customers consider a business trustworthy if there is 1 review. For 85% of potential clients to consider you trustworthy, it’s good to have at least 10 reviews. Now these should be quality reviews so you can’t expect this to be done in a few days or even a few months. Like everything in SEO, good reputation management takes time.

In addition, you should be aware of what sites your reviews show up on, because there are a lot of options. A surprisingly large amount of users go through Yelp, along with Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, and Avvo. You can get reviews on Google+, Avvo, Justia, Yelp, and other directories, but ask your clients where they found your business so you what to focus on.

Yelp is a unique beast in that they don’t want you to ask your clients for reviews, something we’ve discussed in one of our LMQ videos. However, Yelp’s suggested ways to “remind customers”, such as profile links in your e-mail signature or stickers on your business door, aren’t effective for attorneys (and can be very tacky). We firmly believe that you should still proactively ask your clients for reviews, but avoid invoking Yelp’s ire by not explicitly stating where to go. A softer approach is more appropriate: “We really appreciate reviews because it helps our web presence, several places you can go are: [your top 3 targeted directories]”. In a follow-up email, don’t send them a direct link to your Yelp page, but ask them to search for your name.

Important Note: Even though you won’t be regarded as trustworthy if you have no reviews, potential clients will find you even less trustworthy if you have mostly bad reviews. Do not ask for a review unless you’re confident it will be a positive one.


The evils of astroturfing

It’s common to want an easy way out of this problem. Despite your best efforts, clients may not be likely to review you and not every review will be a raving 5 stars. At these times it may be tempting to look for another way to get your ratings up. But fight the urge. In addition to be less than fair to potential clients, it’s also dangerous for you.

Yelp is big on keeping reviews legitimate. They’ve sued attorneys for faking reviews before (we blogged about that incident), and they go over reviews to make sure nothing looks spammy or forced. Avvo will investigate reviews by hand multiple times, even to the point of asking reviewers to provide evidence that they worked with given attorneys. Remember that these sites make their livelihood off of consumers’ trust, so they are just as willing to crack down on scummy review practices as potential clients are. Even state governments have taken action against fake reviewing companies.

There are other tactics out there from attorneys and firms trying to slip under the radar. But this is the same story with so much of SEO – people try to game the system, and sometimes succeed for a short time, then get smacked once the system improves. Remember that if you want a good reputation, the best thing you can do is provide excellent service. Once people are willing to talk about how great you are, just nudge them in the right direction.


We’d love to hear your feedback in the field of review management. Have you used review management software? What do you think is the best way to get reviews? What do you think of Yelp’s opinion on review solicitation? Let us know in the comments.

You can find the sequel to this post here: Dealing With Bad reviews