Survey Says: Manage Your Reviews

A recent survey by BrightLocal has shined a light on how important reputation management is for businesses. 

 

The survey, which polled over 1,000 Americans of varying ages, looked at what percentage of consumer left reviews, read reviews, and let reviews influence them. While the results shouldn’t be surprising to anyone in the marketing industry, they certainly help to prove the point that reviews are vital for the success of a business, especially with Google My Business’ new carousel review feature.

 

How Consumers Read Reviews

Time

Over 80% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, with younger generations being more likely to consult online reviews. They spend an average of about 13 minutes reading reviews before making a decision, with 18-34 year-olds taking upwards of 18 minutes and 55+ year-olds taking under 10 minutes.

 

Trust

As expected, good reviews are good. 91% of consumers responded that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business. Similarly, 82% said that negative reviews make them less likely to use a business.

 

 

This is especially telling, considering 76% of total consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends. The level of trust increases with younger audiences, with 41% of 18-34 year olds saying they always trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

 

Review Legitimacy

Of course, consumers don’t always trust every review they see. Some factors they pay attention to beyond the content include:

 

  • Recency
  • Star rating
  • Number of reviews
  • Business responses

 

 

The general consensus is that reviews over three months old are no longer relevant.

 

Consumers are particularly worried about fake reviews, with 82% claiming to have read at least one fake review in the past year. The increased number from 2018 suggests that there are either more fake reviews online than before or consumers are simply becoming savvier to them. Either way, you want to keep them off your platforms.

 

 

Responding to Reviews

Responding as a business owner may seem unnecessary and time-consuming, but is worth it. 71% of consumers responded that they were more likely to use a business if they had seen that the business had responded to reviews. This is an easy way to maintain control of your reviews and your image while still allowing your customer’s voice to be heard.

 

Requesting Reviews

One of the best ways to control your online presence is by asking your clients to leave reviews. Of the 67% of consumers asked to leave a review, 76% left a review. 33% of consumers were never asked to leave a review. That 33% is a huge missed opportunity for businesses, especially with so many options for reaching out to consumers.  

 

Businesses reached out to customers in a number of ways, including:

 

  • During the sale;
  • In a follow-up email;
  • Over the phone;
  • On a receipt;
  • In an SMS message;
  • In exchange for a discount; and
  • On a business card

 

Managing Your Reviews

Reviews are your opportunity to build your community around your clients. By responding to their comments, asking them to write reviews, and making accounts on multiple platforms you are setting yourself up for success. 

If you feel like your law firm could use some help with your reviews, contact Mockingbird. Reputation management is just one of our specialized services.

Your Clients are Your Best Advertisers

For both local and multi-office firms, client reviews are some of the most important aspects of a revenue-generating online presence. Surveys show that most consumers read reviews prior to committing to a purchase and that most online businesses now have at least one online review. This trend isn’t new, and it isn’t going anywhere, so hop on this bandwagon and let’s go on a ride.

 

Utilizing Client Feedback

Getting feedback from your clients is always important; how else are you going to know how to improve? 

Beyond constructive advice, client feedback is often good (or at least it should be). When you get good feedback you need to know how to get your clients to post it online in their spare time. If you don’t think they will, you can ask if you can keep their comments on file and post them to your website under testimonials.

 

Testimonials vs Reviews

If you’re wondering what the difference is between testimonials and reviews, you’re probably not alone. Think of a testimonial as to the type of thing you would ask someone to say about you in a reference letter. A review is what someone would say about you before you arrive at a party. In an ideal world, the two won’t be too different. 

Your testimonials should go on your website. They are cultivated pieces of client feedback that make you sound great. The problem with only relying on the testimonials you choose as the client feedback potential clients might see is that they might not feel as real. Of course, you’re going to cherry-pick the best ones and not post the bad reviews.

Your reviews should come straight from your clients and should be posted from their personal computer (Google tends to flag reviews posted directly from the business being reviewed). They go on Google My Business, Yelp, and anywhere else people are able to leave reviews. Consumers tend to trust them more, as they come directly from the clients. 

 

When a Review Goes Bad

The risk you take with relying on the reviews is that some are going to be bad. Not everyone is going to be happy, and that’s ok. You just need to know how to handle a negative review. 

Chances are, you will know the situation the reviewer is having a grievance with. If you don’t, find out. As the business owner, you are responsible for responding to the reviews, which you can do either publicly or privately, depending on the situation. In some cases, you’ll want to privately message the client to clear up the situation. In other cases, your best course of action will be to publicly respond. Knowing which situation calls for what is a matter of personal preference and over time you will learn what is best for you and your business.

If you would like to learn more about how to handle reviews or increase client feedback, contact Mockingbird.

Google My Business Q&A Becomes a Negative Review

When is that negative client review not technically a negative client review…yet your most public negative client review ever?

When your disgruntled ex-client chooses to use Google My Business’ recently launched Q&A functionality to bash your business IN ALL CAPS, instead of using the typical review stars. I ran across the example below while researching the firm as the winning plaintiff in the example of name bidding for my last post. Now, Kurgis has 44 reviews – with an average star rating of just 2.3 – that’s hard to do. But, even worse, there’s a scathing Q&A (which is frankly neither a Q nor an A) showing up prominently in the Knowledge Graph when searching for the lawyer by name.

Sidenote: there’s something hinky going on here – the A: for the Q&A points prospects to Scott Shiff…who was coincidentally Kurgis’ co-plaintiff in the lawsuit I was covering.

Q&A rolled out within the past 6 months or so…very few lawyers are using it for their marketing efforts (one obvious easy example would be asking a simple question like, “What is the initial consultation fee?”) BUT…Q&A holds a very prominent spot in the SERPS – well above editorial review content. So, bad or good, Q&A can have a significant impact on click through and conversion rates.

How To Create A Direct Link To Your Google Reviews

Reviews are a fantastic way to show potential clients the great work you do. Obtaining those reviews can be a difficult task in the legal world, but I’m here to make it one step easier.

Once you’ve found that wonderful client of yours who is willing to leave a review of your services, you probably want to make the process as easy as possible by sending links to your review sites. Small problem: how do I send a link to my most important review site, Google?

Step 1

Use Google Places API, and find your listing by entering your business information.

Google Place ID

Step 2

Take your Place ID, and add it to the following URL:

http://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=<place_id_here>

Example:
http://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=ChIJQUwKpR5pkFQR5ATGy9MswLc

Step 3

Since your URL might be long, you can use Google’s handy tool to shorten it.

Example:
goo.gl/C00mgT

When either the short or long link is clicked, your client will be taken to this window:

Google Review Link

You can now send this direct link to any participating clients, making the review process one step easier!

 

[Mockingbird Survey Results] – Online Reviews for Law Firms

About Our Law Firm Review Study

It’s widely accepted that reviews account for a significant portion of Google’s local search ranking factors (Moz Local Search Ranking Factors). Google My Business reviews are, and have been a vital piece of Local SEO. Once you’ve acquired at least 5 Google reviews for your business, you may start seeing the star indication in the coveted “local pack” of the search results page.

We recently sent out a simple 8 question survey to various law firms around the country with two goals in mind: 1) Gather insight on the review process for law firms and 2) Determine which outreach methods are most common and effective.

Here are the results…

Does your law firm actively request client reviews or testimonials?

Do You Request Reviews?
Note: links to review on the website, in email footers, etc. do not count as actively requesting.

How do you request reviews?

How Do You Request Reviews?

Who solicits reviews for your firm?

Who Solicits Reviews?

On average, how many times do you ask for a review before giving up?

How Many Requests For Review?

Which platform(s) do you ask clients to review you on?

Which Platforms Do You Request Reviews?

Do you use review management software?

Review Management Software?

How many reviews do you currently have on Google?

How Many Reviews On Google?

Note: for primary location only (if multiple offices). 

How many reviews do you currently have on Yelp?

Reviews On Yelp?

Note: for primary location only (if multiple offices).

Mockingbird’s Takeaways From Our Law Firm Review Survey Research

  • 9/10 law firms actively request reviews from past clients, but only 4/10 will reach out more than once. Persistence is key in obtaining online reviews — we suggest you send at least 2 review requests before giving up on that lead.
  • 6/10 law firms will request reviews on Avvo, Yelp, and Google. We recommend this approach as well to give the client options, however, we emphasize Google reviews as they have the most direct impact on local SEO results. (Don’t sleep on Facebook either!)
  • 5/10 law firms surveyed have 6+ Google reviews. In the hyper-competitive legal market, it’s increasingly important to obtain a high number of quality reviews.
  • 9/10 law firms do not use review outreach software. We’ve tried our hand with automated software before (shout out to Get Five Stars), but have had better luck doing it the old fashioned way. Requesting reviews manually requires much more leg work, but yields a better conversion rate in the end. Here’s a cool free tool from Whitespark that will actually create a print out template for you: whitespark.ca/review-handout-generator/
  • 5/10 law firms have the primary attorney who handled the case make the review request. We advise our clients to adopt this strategy as well since the personal relationship is already established and the client is more likely to take action.

A good bonus from our survey’s comment section…

“…I’d be interested in hearing about the fake reviews it looks like a few firms are getting (60+ five star reviews)” – Anonymous Attorney

My two cents: Google is not perfect. Unfortunately we still see an egregious amount of spam in Google Maps and the local 3-pack. However, I believe the big G will catch up with spammy reviews in the same way they eventually caught up with spammy backlinks (thank you Penguin). Keep your white hat on and don’t give up the good fight yet my friend.

If you are interested in the specifics of the study, want help generating reviews for your firm, or just want to say hi please feel free to drop me an email: dustin[at]mockingbirdmarketing.com

 

The Decline of Reviews in Google SERPs?

stars

Those lovely stars showing up in the SERPS…. just might be fading  away…. starting on February 15, the number of queries that returned results with review snippets has dropped by roughly one third.  Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land posits that this may  just a bug, not a feature change and Google hasn’t responded to questions about it.  Furthermore, I can’t imagine reviews are going to decline in impact for local results AND asking your customers to crow about you online is still a best (marketing) practice – so I wouldn’t change anything at the moment.

Here’s the drop-off visually from Moz’s SERP feature tracker:  Moz Stars

UPDATE:  Looks like this was indeed a bug over at Google:

 

recovery

 

Moz’s Local Ranking Factors Report

Every year, I get an email from Moz asking for input into their Local Ranking Factors survey.  The survey is conducted amongst a small group of SEO nerds. Due to the competitiveness of legal marketing, be glad to know our niche is especially well represented- I’m joined by legal marketing geeks, Mike Ramsey, Gyi Tsakalakis and Casey Meraz.  This year, the study came out shortly after Google launched the snack pack (catch up here), so the results are particularly interesting.

If you want to geek out, you can read the full Moz study here.

Overall Ranking Factors

Ranking Factors continue to diversify – meaning there are a wide array of things you need to get right.  Vendors who provide just one piece of the puzzle are rarely going to be enough to drive success (and yes – I fully acknowledge this is a self-serving comment.)  The factor consistently gaining in significance is behavioral performance (i.e. click through rates, time on site etc.) – this has been backed up by numerous studies.  In legal, this emphasizes issues like brand, meta descriptions, a site’s look and feel/user interface and accessibility of information.

And despite the ongoing assertions of social media pundits – Social is entirely immaterial to local performance – coming in dead last among all ranking categories.  Joy Hawkins (who is our secret go-to person when we get utterly stuck on a complex Google My Business issues) explains social and search:

I gave social signals 1% for organic impact because I do think it’s possible that they could impact ranking – I have just never seen a single case where they did. I always quote Matt Cutts where he indicated that when it comes to social signals it’s a correlation and not causation. Businesses that are active on Facebook also usually care about their ranking on Google and are actively trying to improve it. One doesn’t cause the other.

David Mihm, the author of the survey, offers his take on the waning (if not entirely dead) impact of Google+ in ranking:

At this point, I view Google My Business essentially as a UI for structured data* and a conduit to AdWords. While Google’s original “business builder” vision may still come to fruition, it clearly won’t be under the social umbrella of Google+.

Top 10 Ranking Factors for Local (now Snack Pack)

  1. Physical Address in City of Search
  2. NAP Consistency in Structured Citations
  3. Proper Google My Business Categories
  4. Proximity of Address to the Point of Search (i.e. physically where is the searcher)
  5. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  6. Domain Authority of Website
  7. Product/Service Keyword in Google My Business Business Title
  8. City, State in Google My Business Landing Page Title
  9. HTML NAP matching Google My Business Location NAP
  10. Click Through Rate from Search Results

Of particular note is the focus on quality including the prevalence of accuracy in Google My Business information (note David’s comment above).

Ranking Differentiators for Competitive Markets (i.e. legal)

My favorite facet of the survey is the focus on competitive markets – essentially almost all of the legal marketing space.  After getting the fundamentals right, this becomes the tactical focus of our engagements and frankly, these are often the hardest components of search – the stuff that can’t be automated, simplified or easily copied.

  1. Consistency of Structured Citations
  2. Domain Authority of Website
  3. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  4. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  5. Proper Google My Business Category Associations
  6. Physical Address in City of Search (in the past month, we have been consulted twice on helping law firms decide what building to move in to.)
  7. Quantity of Native Google Reviews
  8. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Google My Business Landing Page URL
  9. CTR from search results pages
  10. Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (i.e. Newspaper articles)

Note the heavy heavy focus on quality above.  You don’t achieve these tactics through $10 for 1,000 twitter followers or a paid citation campaign.

Non Local Local Results

Heh?  This is really localized natural search – i.e. results for local queries (even those without a geo-modifier) that return typical SEO results.  I don’t want dwell on this, as this is a post about Local (i.e. mapped) results, but for natural search with a local component (which represents at least 95% of legal searches – the focus is on providing accurate location signals through Google My Business and a heavy focus on site authority (i.e. high quality links).  In fact the top 2 signals according to the survey are link related.

Negative Ranking Factors

Of course, no SEO conversation would be complete without a discussion of penalties.

  1. Incorrect business category
  2. Listing at false business address
  3. Mis-Match NAP or Tracking Phone Numbers
  4. Presence of malware
  5. Reports of Violations in your Google My Business location
  6. Mis-matched NAP/tracking phone numbers on Google My Business page
  7. Mis-matched Address on Google My Business page
  8. Multiple Google My Business locations with Same Phone Number
  9. Absence of NAP on website
  10. Address includes suite number similar to UPS Mail Store or other false address.

The negative ranking factors center around incorrect NAP as well and inconsistent information in…. here it is again…. Google My Business.  Given the prevalence of geo spam among lawyers (i.e. “virtual offices” or fake offices shoehorned into your friends insurance office), I expect we will continue to see a greater focus on reporting of non-real offices.   Frankly, the only impact we saw among law firms with the Pigeon roll out was severe penalties on some significant local spammers; so none of this really surprises me.

Snack Pack

Acknowledging that the Snack Pack launched just prior to the survey (and so the following is probably more intuitive rather than based on any studies, Moz asked about change in tactical focus given the snack pack.  Across the board, the increased focus was on quality signals (NAP, Authority, Citations).  The only quantity factor was Google specific reviews (i.e. the more the better but note the focus on Google, NOT reviews across the web – Avvo, Yelp etc.).   Tactical losers focused on quantity (which I read to mean low cost, low value, low authority – easily replicable) links, citations and…. my favorite punching bag…. social shares.

Introducing the Echo Legal Marketing Platform

Echo is our amazing new marketing platform. We take the tools that we use every day as an agency for our clients who are paying us $5,000-10,000 a month and we bring them into your law firm. We use video tutorials to provide step by step instructions on how to use them.

  • Analytics. How do we use Google Analytics? What do you need to keep an eye on and what metrics matter? How do we use tools like Moz Local and Yext to bolster our local performance?
  • Review Management. How do we make sure that when we’re reviewed on Yelp, Avvo or Findlaw that we get an email that day telling us about that review?
  • Call Tracking. How do we implement call tracking? What is call tracking and how does it work, and what can it tell you?
  • WordPress. We use WordPress websites to power our legal-centric and responsive designs hosting on the amazing WPEngine.
  • How do you use Google Webmaster Tools to track the real performance of your site at the keyword level, instead of relying on ranking reports?

All of this is wrapped around business reporting infrastructure with a final goal of helping you calculate exactly how your marketing investment is performing.

Marketing Tools: $300/month
Legal Centric WordPress site: $300/month
(or both for $500)Learn more at echo.mockingbird.marketing or sign up for our Webinar where we’ll tour all of this awesome functionality.

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