Are you worried about what potential customers discover about you online? Wondering what the ways to manage the reputation of your law firm are?
Let’s face it; when it comes to professional services, a great online reputation means more to a firm’s success than all its other marketing efforts combined.
Your reputation – online reviews, star ratings, and more – creates customer trust and convinces prospective clients to engage with you (or not!)
But that’s not all – A good online reputation can also help boost your search engine rankings. Reviews, both the amount and their content, affect how your law firm ranks in the local search results, making it more or less visible to clients.
But I’m sure you’ve known about it already. What you don’t know is how to manage a law firm’s reputation online, and that’s exactly what I’m going to show you in this post.
In this guide, you’ll learn what reputation management is, why reviews are at its very core, and how to increase the number of reviews your law firm has online.
So, without any further ado…
What is Online Reputation Management?
Before I answer the question, let’s do a quick test, shall we?
Google yourself or your law firm. What do you see?
Well, here’s what I see when I Google Envoca, my digital marketing agency.
There’s our website, our profiles on social media platforms – Facebook and LinkedIn. There’s our BBB profile and even a 5-star employee rating on Glassdoor. And in the right side column, you see even more information about us, including reviews and star ratings.
That’s just a snapshot of our online reputation, of course. But what’s important about it is that we work tirelessly to achieve such results.
All that work is online reputation management.
To explain it in the simplest terms – Online reputation management is all about taking control of the online conversations about your brand. The practice includes various techniques and strategies designed with a single goal in mind – To ensure that potential customers find the right information when they research you online.
But why should you care in the first place?
Well, you see, these days, most clients begin their buying journey on Google. Of course, some will also ask around. However, for most clients, Google is the first stop shop when they need to find a professional services firm.
But most clients do not stop at finding the firm’s address or a phone number. They go deeper. They research potential vendors thoroughly. They look at their online reviews, ratings, and feedback from existing customers.
And what’s interesting is that the majority – 84% – of customers trust online reviews as much as a word-of-mouth recommendations.
The above means that whatever information and opinions they find about you online will affect their likelihood of contacting your firm.
This, however, isn’t the only benefit of managing online reputation.
Benefits of Managing Law Firm’s Online Reputation
Online reputation builds trust
There is a challenge every professional services provider faces when trying to win more business. That challenge is getting potential clients to trust them. Since the law is beyond more clients’ expertise, a firm must make them believe that it can represent clients well and will deliver the outcome the person’s looking for.
Having good reviews helps customers see your law firm as experts and professionals worth considering for their case.
Good online reputation gets you more leads
Here’s another interesting fact about the impact of good online reviews on the company’s bottom line 90% of clients will read a company’s reviews before reaching out.
Now, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? But think about it, almost every potential client who chooses your company will dig out your reviews and read them first. And needless to say, what they find will determine whether they’ll dial your number or not.
So, this goes without saying – Having plenty of good reviews will convince more leads to get in touch and inquire about your services.
Online reputation also helps with SEO
Finally, reviews – the number of them, their content, and whether you respond to reviews – will also affect how well your firm ranks in local search results.
Note that it’s not just the sheer volume of reviews that gets you higher rankings but their content and your responsiveness to customers that ensure your SEO success.
Typical Elements of Law Firm’s Online Reputation
So, what makes your complete online reputation?
Well, there are several elements, actually.
- Your website. The content, company’s description, associations, memberships, and more will make the first impression about you.
- Online reviews on Google, Yelp, and other platforms will immediately tell customers whether your firm is worth considering.
- Star ratings in your local search listing will work in the same manner.
- Brand profiles on Google Maps, Yelp, and others will tell clients whether your firm specializes in practice areas they seek.
- Profiles and lawyer reviews on platforms like Lawyers.com, Lawyerratingz.com, Justia (which also includes peer reviews,) or Avvo will help clients learn more about your firm by reading what others have to say about it.
But are all of those elements equally important? Do some carry more weight than others?
Yes, they do.
I might argue that customer service is the core of lawyer reputation.
If you provide a clear process for clients to reach out to a customer service team, raise a dispute, escalate issues, your clients will feel heard.
And if your staff has the authority to resolve small issues, all this can greatly eliminate any potential negative reviews online.
How does that help you? Negative reviews will, naturally, affect the person’s attitude towards you as a potential vendor. And being able to resolve issues before they escalate to the point where client posts about it online will maintain a much better profile of your law firm and lead to more inquiries.
How to Collect Reviews: A Guide for a Law Firm
Let me begin this section by dispelling a common myth – Most clients will not review your firm on their own accord. I’m not saying that it never happens, of course. However, as part of managing your online reputation, you need to solicit reviews and feedback from customers.
Here are some ideas on how to do it:
Ask for a review in person, if possible
When wrapping up a case, ask whether the person would be willing to leave a review for your firm. Explain the importance of those reviews for you, and promise to follow up with a link to a site to leave the feedback.
TIP: Time the request well and make the request when clients are the most likely to act on it. In marketing, we refer to this moment as a “peak of delight,” and in the legal industry, it will differ between various practice areas.
For example, in a family law case, people are often optimistic after the consultation. However, clients may be more likely to leave a review after they’ve received the settlement check when it comes to personal injury law.
To increase your chances of getting more reviews, make the request as close to the “peak of delight” moment as possible. For example, ask personal injury clients for reviews when they come to pick up the settlement check rather than after they leave. For family law clients, mention reviews as you’re wrapping up the consultation, and so on.
Email clients links to places where you’d like them to leave reviews
Once again, don’t leave getting reviews to chance. Tell clients exactly where you’d like them to review you by sending direct links to those places.
By doing so, you’ll also minimize the amount of work and effort a person will have to do to leave their feedback. Instead of finding the right site and locating your profile, you’ll send them right to the review form.
Emphasize urgency to get reviews faster
Another problem you might encounter when soliciting reviews is getting clients to act on their promises.
A person might have agreed to provide feedback. You sent them links to platforms where you’d like to add their review too. But they might procrastinate or never leave the review at all.
One way to entice them to act is to instill a sense of urgency by explaining why you’d need the review to go live right now.
Your reasons could vary, of course. For example, you could say that you try to increase reviews to expose more potential clients to your brand. Or that you’ve only started building your online reputation and need help to get things started.
Managing Online Reviews
Another major aspect of managing the online reputation is responding and managing online reviews as they appear. The process falls into two categories: contesting reviews and responding to customer feedback.
Not all reviews posted are accurate or correctly depict the person’s engagement with your firm.
In fact, at times, you might receive reviews that are openly wrong or malicious. As part of the reputation management process, you should contest and get those opinions removed from your account.
Which reviews should you contest? Google, for example, has policies for reviews. These policies define spam or fake comments, what are offtopic or illegal reviews, and more.
On top of that, Google provides complete guidelines for flagging erroneous reviews and getting them removed.
As a result, if a review violates Google policies, you can have it removed from your account.
At Envoca, we regularly review and flag customer reviews, if necessary, and we’ve had some great successes with this strategy:
- We got reviews, including racial insults removed from a client’s account.
- We removed reviews from Yelp where the reviewer used the staff members’ name.
- We managed to remove a review when the client got negative press – The negative review was at the same time.
- We also once had to contest a review where the person left similar negative comments on our clients’ and other law firms’ profiles. However, since the person left feedback regarding a family law case, we went to the community. We made the case that they, most likely, did not have several divorces in the same one-year period and got the reviews removed.
Responding to reviews
When hearing about the need to respond to reviews, most of us think of only reacting to the negative ones. And, of course, it’s beyond critical to do that.
But you should also respond and acknowledge positive reviews.
- First, responding to all reviews shows that your firm cares about customers and not just maintaining a positive reputation.
- It also allows you to learn more about what customers value when working with you.
- Finally, responding to all reviews will boost your local SEO too. Responsiveness is a local ranking factor. Why? Because companies responding to reviews come across as more customer-oriented and caring about the people they serve. As a result, it’s only logical that Google chooses to promote them over competitors who do not display such a trait.
Online Reputation and SEO
I mentioned the impact of reviews and online reputation on SEO a couple of times in this guide, and I believe that the topic requires a deeper explanation.
As you know already, reviews and star ratings affect local rankings. Both are serious local ranking factors and affect both whether your firm appears high in Maps and local listings and whether customers select your listing to the competition.
Here’s how it works.
The number of reviews, their content, and your responsiveness to customer feedback (both positive and negative) ensures that the local search algorithm picks up your listing and ranks it well.
On the other hand, the quality of reviews and star ratings convince users to click on your listing rather than someone else’s.
Reviews also inform Local Search Ads (LSAs), and the review rating is a ranking factor in these ads.
Good reviews also have a strong correlation with the conversion rate on branded terms. For example, we often see that people search for attorney or firm names in the search results, and reviews from Google/yelp/avvo/lawyers.com impact their decision to get in touch.
For a professional services firm, online reputation means more than all of its other marketing efforts combined. Because, no matter how many people will see your local listing or ads, it’s what they find out about you online that will affect their likelihood of getting in touch.
In this guide, you’ve learned what reputation management is, and how to solicit and manage reviews to drive more sales for your firm.
All that’s left to do is to start implementing this advice in practice.