How to Handle 1-Star Reviews

what percentage of Yelp reviews are 1-star?
15% of Yelp reviews are 1-star. You’ll almost certainly get a few. (Data Source: Yelp)

That saying about not being able to please all the people all the time is 100% true. If your firm does any sort of volume—and even if it doesn’t—there’s a strong chance you’ll encounter the occasional 1-star review.

Fair or not, the rise of prominent user reviews on Google My Business, Avvo, Yelp, Facebook, and a large number of other platforms means you’ll be getting constructive feedback from people that may have been less than satisfied with their experience.

For convenience, let’s categorize 1-star reviews into these three buckets:

  • Legitimate negative reviews from actual clients
  • Misleading reviews from prospects that weren’t actually clients
  • Fake reviews from people you never worked with

In theory, you should be able to have items that fall into the latter two groups removed completely, since they’d be in violation of most site’s terms of service. However, in our experience that’s an uphill battle rarely worth fighting.

Options for Handling a Bad Review

Realistically, once a bad review is attached to your firm’s profile it’s probably there to stay. Now you’re faced with some options.

  • Let the negative review drown in a sea of positivity
  • Try to remedy the situation that led to the bad review
  • Respond politely and take the conversation offline

All three of these options have merits, and the idea of taking the conversation offline is always a best practice. Getting into a heated back and forth with a former client in a public forum isn’t going to be a good look regardless of whether you’re correcting false claims.

It may seem that all the power is in the hands of reviewers, and to a degree that’s true. Fortunately, shoppers are getting more sophisticated and increasingly view the occasional 1-star review as a signal that the 5-star reviews are more trustworthy.

Perfection is unrealistic, and a business with a massive amount of glowing reviews and a flawless 5-start rating can breed suspicion. Are they manipulating their reviews? Are all of them real? How can everyone be unanimously pleased with this magical business?

Having a few dissenters goes a long way toward validating praise from the majority. As long as you’re striving to deliver a 5-star experience every time, occasional negative reviews will only make your profile stronger.

Handling Negative Reviews from Non-Clients

This example is a fun one, and not entirely uncommon. Let’s take a 1-star review for the Las Vegas law firm De Castroverde Law Group. Along with their handful of glowing reviews, the firm also has this gem that questions the integrity of one of their attorneys:

1-star Yelp review from a non-client

Even ignoring the SNL Guy Fieri profile image, there are a few other red flags in the review itself. The reviewer doesn’t mention whether Carmen Amen was his attorney, but instead focuses on his overall displeasure with her presentation of facts. For a profession as adversarial as law, reviewing opposing counsel with a 1-star rating is actually a weird form of flattery.

Digging even deeper, you can see that this same person left a two-star review for a criminal defense attorney that, “ass kissed the very cowardly DA, William “Billy” Knowles after he continuously made up BS…and manufactured charges.” He posted a 1-star review for the Las Vegas Metro Police because, “you wonder what kind of IQ standards the police have in hiring.” And another 1-star review for Family Courts and Services Center, saying, “These assholes should change the name to Mommy Court because all they do is crush fathers.”

Is it possible everyone is conspiring to make Ben G’s life as miserable as possible? Sure, it’s possible. But the more likely scenario is that this is someone who needs to vent and is using Yelp as his venue.

Most consumers are savvy enough to make the distinction between reasonable and unreasonable complaints. This one doesn’t pass the eye test and shouldn’t cause the firm much (if any) concern.

Should You Respond Publicly to a Bad Review?

Whether or not to respond is at the discretion of each firm. There are pros and cons to both options, and there’s not always a clear right answer.

In the example above, it’s pretty evident that this reviewer seems to have a chip on his shoulder. And, given the overwhelmingly positive reviews sitting alongside this one, it’s not a bad decision to leave it be.

The other option would be responding with something along the lines of:

“We’re very sorry to hear that you had an unpleasant experience with one of our attorneys. Although Carmen was not representing you, we’d be happy to hear your feedback if you’d be willing to contact us directly. Thanks!”

This helps maintain your professionalism while also pointing out to potential future clients that your attorney wasn’t actually representing the person that left a negative review.

Whether you choose to respond is up to you. The only thing you want to avoid is doing anything to escalate the situation and present your firm as combative or uncompassionate. As tempting as it is to say, “We didn’t even represent you. Our job was to protect your EX-wife’s interests, not yours!” That’s hardly a constructive path when dealing with someone willing to take the time to review his arresting officer in a public venue.

In Summary

As long as you’re delivering consistently exceptional service, the occasional bad review is nothing more than a minor annoyance. It’s a cost of doing business and most consumers are savvy enough to recognize that. Don’t stress about the one-off rant from someone you couldn’t help, never worked with, or don’t even know. If you’re at 4.5 stars or better you’ve got nothing to worry about.

What Marketers Say (and what they really mean)

I’m Google Specialist, Bill Smith….

I don’t work for Google.

I’m calling from Yelp.

I hope math scares you.

I was just disconnected from [insert attorney name], can you please transfer me to her.

Its 4:00 pm on a Friday, I’m cold calling and hoping I can get past the gatekeeper so I can fulfill this week’s “live fish” quota.

Are you familiar with Yahoo’s Gemini ad product that competes with Adwords?

Marissa – seriously you leave me to pick up the pieces of this stinking pile of garbage?

You need another website/blog

I sell websites or blogs.

You need more content to capture the long tail.

I don’t know why your site isn’t generating business, but I’m going to shift the blame to you.

We specialize in geofencing.

I hope you are easily impressed with jargon and shiny objects.

Join me on meerkat

I hope you are easily impressed with jargon and shiny objects.

We are content marketing specialists.

We will add plug-ins to your site to automagically repost the content to your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

We are Google Partners.

We sell Adwords.

I guarantee number one rankings.

I’ll burn your site within two months and then move on to the next sucker.

Would you like to guest post on our law firm’s blog?

I’m the in-house SEO person (well I’m a receptionist 95% of the time, but was told to handle some of this internet stuff in between calls).

 

[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

 

Yelp’s Grossly Inflated “Lead” Reporting

We spoke to a prospective client who was confused why his advertising on Yelp had yielded no clients, although Yelp’s reporting indicated a reasonable, steady flow of leads. Its commonplace for directories to stretch the concept of a “lead” in order to make themselves look as useful as possible.  I get it.  We all get it.  But if you look at exactly what Yelp is considers within their definition of a “lead” it just starts to feel, well, a little grossly overstated.

OK Yelp – let’s see what you’ve got for us:

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 12.44.02 PM

Now, I’d certain recognize calls, messages and sales as “leads”, but most others don’t even fall into my most generous concept of a lead.  Website traffic…. can you imagine Google suggesting all of your SEO traffic was a lead?  How about uploaded photos?  Any reason a diner in a restaurant uploading a shot of his spaghetti and meatballs should count as a “lead” for that restaurant?   And I’m not suggesting that some of activities aren’t helpful – looking at your location on a map, for example – but it’s a hell of a stretch to consider them new business opportunities.  In the legal realm, presumably if someone is looking up directions, they area bit warmer than just a lead – and its certainly difficult to attribute that prospective client as a Yelp lead.

So, I’m picking on Yelp here…. but remember the bigger picture is the importance of not trusting your vendors to tell you how well they are doing.  Understand – that for law firms, the definition of a lead is someone who contacts you with a prospective matter.  Everything else is just noise – noise frequently generated be vendors to camouflage the silence of your phone.

 

 

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.

Upcoming Google Algorithm Update – Say Goodbye to Doorway Pages

Google announced yesterday that they will soon be releasing a ranking adjustment to address the prevalence of doorway pages and warns “sites with large and well-established doorway campaigns might see a broad impact from this change.”

Brace yourself – big things are coming. Due to the pervasiveness of spam within legal, we’re predicting this may be a bigger shakeup than Pigeon (which really only hit spectacularly flagrant local spammers) or even the upcoming mobile change.

Wait, what’s a doorway page?

In the words of Google, “doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination.”

Don’t confuse doorway pages with landing pages. Landing pages provide useful, relevant information to the user whose purpose is to get users to do a certain action. Doorway pages contain irrelevant information whose only purpose is to get users to the site.

If you’re not sure if your site is full of doorway pages, Google created this handy dandy list of questions you can ask yourself (or your SEO):

  • Is the purpose to optimize for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?
  • Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms yet the content presented on the page is very specific?
  • Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?
  • Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?
  • Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?

What does this mean for the legal industry?

Our guess? Big things. Although the most typical culprits of doorways are large brands and franchises, the legal industry is not only notorious for spammy SEO tactics, but also for trying to act like large brands and franchises.  Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide summed it up nicely when he said: “This update may be no big deal, but when I see Google use the phrase “broad impact”, I tend to get a bit paranoid.”

Our guesstimates of what might be coming:

  • Legal is rife with low quality spammy directories with nothing but doorway pages – highly possible that this adjustment negatively impacts law firm sites that rely heavily on doorways for links. (And there are tons of these sites.)
  • Lots of law firms have successfully implemented doorway pages across multiple domains. They are going to get hit – expect a reshuffling of website traffic at a rate legal hasn’t seen in a very long time.
  • Possible changes in the structure of the two remaining large legal directories directories, Avvo and FindLaw.

This may also be the long awaited fulfillment of Google’s move away from the directories and towards the small businesses that populate those directories. Of course, this has been our prognostication ~2 years and we’ve been wrong so far, but, fingers crossed.  (Think we’re crazy? We’re not alone in this sentiment — in his coverage of the doorway update, Shotland goes so far as to suggest shorting Yelp.)

Hasn’t Google been rather busy lately?

Yep. If you’re wondering if there’s something in the water at Google lately, you’re not alone. They’re penalizing doorway pages, implementing mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in mobile search, putting everything in the knowledge graph, releasing all sorts of new tools, and more.

However, doorways aren’t a new thing, so it’s about time Google addressed the issue. Matt Cutts, infamous head of Web Spam at Google currently on leave, wrote about crappy doorway pages back in 2005. As in, the 2005 that was 10 years ago. (Note: its a good read if you’d like to see the primary spokesperson of a billion dollar company perfect the implementation of the word “asshat.”) Plus, all of Google’s actions have been consistent with their mission to provide more helpful, user-friendly search results.

Regardless of the impact of the update, we’ll keep you posted on the fallout. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got high hopes this one will be nicknamed Platypus.

Citations – Overlooked Boon for Legal Industry

What is a citation?

Citations are a key determinate of your firm’s success in local search engine optimization.

Definition – mention of your business name, address, and (ideally) your phone number on webpages across the Internet. The distinguishing factor of a citation: a link to your website is not required.

Citations come in different forms. It could be a mention of your business name all by itself; a mention of your name and phone number; name, phone number and physical address; or name, phone number, physical address and website link.

The two main types of citations are structured and unstructured.

Unstructured citations are exactly how they sound – they are less formal and may only mention one of the NAP (name, address, phone number) components for your business. You will see this type of citation on blogs, in job descriptions, online news articles, etc.

Structured citations are what you see most commonly on the web. These are listings found in directories like Yelp, Citysearch, Manta, etc. We spend a lot of time at Mockingbird ensuring structured citations are listed consistently. They are the most complete representation of your business and, for the most part, the easiest to update (with some noted headaches).

Why citations are vital to your firm’s local SEO

The legal industry is arguably one of the most competitive verticals on the web. Lawyers need to utilize every tactic available, and acquiring citations is seldom done correctly if at all.

Citations are a critical component to major search engine ranking algorithms. Moz explains the different ranking components in their 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors study. Screen shot from this study below.

Local Search Ranking Factors Pie

In English: search engines pull basic business information from your website and a multitude of directories across the web in order to integrate that information into a single listing to show users. Google and Bing only want to present results that they trust are accurate. Why? Their success depends on it – sending a user to an incorrect address is the easiest way for a search engine to lose trust with that user.

So how can you build trust that your physical location is actually where you say it is? Consistent citations.

Google will trust that you are in fact a local business if your basic information, also known as NAP (name, address, phone number), is exactly the same across multiple authoritative sites and directories (think Yelp, Yellowpages, Avvo…). This helps separate the real businesses from the fake, spammy ones trying to game the system.

Let’s talk about something we all know; lawyers long for the coveted number one spot in the local pack. We can’t blame them. If you’re unfamiliar with the term local pack, it’s the group of local business listings that appears directly above the actual search results.

For example the local pack for the search term “Seattle marketing firm” looks like this:

Google Search Seattle Marketing Firm

Moz explains in their local search ranking report that external location signals (or citations) are the third most important factor used to rank businesses. If you’re wondering, the first two are on-page and link signals. Your name, address, and phone number should show up exactly the same across the web if you hope to show in local searches.

It’s an important task and something that every law firm must do.

Where to start

Starting is hard. It’s long, tedious, and frustrating work. Trust me I deal with this dirt every day.

Your first step is to choose a name, an address, and a single phone number that represents your business. Then find and edit every inaccurate listing out on the web. Tip: Keep an excel file that documents all of this information as you go. You can use this simple template we’ve created. Here are the top-tier directories and data aggregators you need to get right:

  • Acxiom
  • Factual – can’t edit
  • Infogroup
  • Localeze (Neustar)

Google trusts these sources because they are not easily polluted. Learn more about updating these main data aggregators, and the level of difficulty for each.

Top tier directories/citation opportunities

  • D&B
  • Bing Places for Business
  • Facebook
  • Foursquare
  • Google+ Local
  • LinkedIn
  • Yelp for Business

Google and people alike trust these sources and actually use them.

Low-hanging fruit (not included in Moz Local or Yext subscriptions)

  • Thumbtack
  • Yellow Pages
  • Manta
  • Angies List
  • Yellowbook
  • Kudzu
  • BBB.org
  • InsiderPages

Not the SEO savior you are searching for…

4 Citations Local Pack

Citations are not the be-all and end-all SEO solution that everyone is searching for (in case your hopes were rising). However, they could be your demise. Solid NAP consistency may be taken for granted if you have it, but if you don’t have it, you may never find yourself in that local pack.

Obligatory lawyer example

You are a personal injury attorney in NYC. Competition is cutthroat because of your practice area and geographic location.

Here’s the case. While crossing the street, an unfortunate New Yorker is struck by a taxi. Upon release from the hospital, the victim takes the obvious next step and searches for an experienced PI lawyer. He searches for “New York Personal Injury Attorney” and lands on your law firm’s listing in Google’s local pack. BOOM. All your hard work to improve your local visibility has paid off. All you have to do is pick up the phone and turn that lead into a lucrative client.

Local Pack Show Me Money

But that doesn’t happen. Instead of getting your firm’s front desk, the disgruntled New Yorker has called your old number, which is now the local UPS office. I highly doubt the victim wants legal representation from the men in brown. This is annoying, but only a slight inconvenience for him because he calls another listing from the local pack. Now your qualified lead is a client for your most loathed competitor, Joe-from-down-the-block. Don’t send clients to your competitors. That’s not good business.

The Facts

  1. Citations help your local SEO.
  2. You need proactively monitor citations for consistency.
  3. There’s a partial citation, and a complete citation – aim for the complete.
  4. It’s not easy work but it pays off.

Parting notes:

  • Evaluate the situation – https://moz.com/local/overview is a great place to start.
  • Start with your Google+ profile – fixing this is easy and will have the maximum ROI (or really ROTI).
  • Consistency over quantity – get it right before you run wild with building citations.

Go forth and take citations into your own hands. Or call us for help… that works too.

Latest Google Algo Change Hits Local: Pigeon

Pigeon UpdateGoogle local results have long been a mess; complicated by semi-annual rebranding.  Frankly, local results have been a hodgepodge of mistakes and spam, so I’m not surprised to see an algo update – pushed out quietly late Thursday night.

What exactly changed?  It’s very hard to say, as the announcement was phrased as the lovechild of geek and marketing speak that even I can’t decipher anything substantive:

the new local search algorithm ties deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with search features such as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more.”

They also announced improved signals around distance and location – which seems strange as that doesn’t seem like a very difficult factor to measure.  The update is currently rolling out across the US – so you may see some variability within local search results in the upcoming week.

The Results so Far?

Early results indicate improved performance for major local directories which I find both surprising and disappointing, as it seems counterintuitive to the entire concept of local search. You’ll remember that the results of the Panda 4.0 update were large improvements for Avvo.  Given some of Cutt’s comments, I’ve long believed that Google will back off the directories in favor of smaller businesses.  The directory angle may be a response to Yelp’s recently leaked anti-trust whinings pointing out that even branded searches were failing to reach Yelp.

The Important Takeaways

  1. Pigeon impacts both local AND natural search results – so for law firms, the overall impact may be fairly significant.  Cross your fingers and watch your natural search traffic over the next two weeks.
  2. Google remains in the middle of an anti-SPAM rampage.  Combine that with the rampant spamming of localized results and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pigeon may also have teeth – negatively impacting those of you (and yes there are lots of you) who are faking your office locations – to the detriment of your actual office location.  (This is 100% conjecture.)
  3. Care about your Yelp profile . . . . I hate to say it (and never advertise with them) but customers vetting lawyers may increasingly be led to Yelp.

Yelp Releases Nielsen Survey Data and Declares Itself King of Local Directories

A few days ago, Yelp released parts of a new Nielsen survey on their blog. The results, as stated by Yelp, were as follows:

“When compared to TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and other local directories, people name Yelp as the review site most frequently used when searching for local businesses because they see it as the most influential, most trustworthy and with the highest quality reviews.”

This news was picked up and commented on by many, such as Greg Sterling over in Search Engine Land. His response article voiced a few concerns about the study…

First and foremost, why weren’t Google and Facebook included? According to Yelp, Google and Facebook aren’t “solely focused on local business directory,” and therefore were not eligible. Though technically correct, it’s important to keep in mind that there is certainly a person or two (or millions) who used Google and Facebook when searching for a local businesses.

Another concern Sterling brought up is that 668 out of the 1000 respondents were Yelp users. Yelp’s response? They didn’t pre-screen users based on which review sites they used, so the skew merely shows dominance in the market. Again, a technically sound defense. Whether or not that affects the integrity of the survey is another issue.

So, what does this mean for me (a lawyer, SEO enthusiast, or general internet dweller)?

Well, uhm, er, basically… a whole lot of nothing.

At first glance, Yelp declaring itself the fairest of them all may send you into a panic chasing after more Yelp reviews. And that, my friends, is not necessary. Don’t get me wrong, Yelp is a strong player and is very influential, especially in certain industries. But you, the Internet savant you are, already knew that. What may have slipped your mind is the following:

  1. This survey compares Yelp as a general local directory to a handful of competitors as general local directories. It was not (as far as we know) divided up into sub-categories for each industry. So, yes, Yelp apparently beats out Trip Advisor for the review site more frequently used when searching for local businesses. This does not mean that Yelp would beat out Trip Advisor in a similar survey that solely focused on the travel industry. Additionally, Yelp being a good general local directory doesn’t take away from efforts you may be putting in to a more specialized directory.
  2. Two thirds of the respondents were already Yelp users. Generally speaking, if people are using a service, they probably like it (read: it’s not exactly a scientific discovery that people who use Yelp like Yelp and rated it highly). If we surveyed a bunch of Avvo users on whether or not they thought Avvo was influential and trustworthy, chances are they would say it was.
  3. Just because Yelp has officially decreed themselves King of Local Directories doesn’t mean anything has actually changed. Yelp is equally as important to your SEO efforts today as it was a week ago. So while the Neilson study was without a doubt helpful in boosting Yelp’s collective ego, it wasn’t necessarily helpful for a business owner.

 

Moral of this story: keep on keepin’ on. Don’t let Yelp, or anyone else for that matter, convince you they’re the reason the sun rises.