When was the last time you purchased something online?
From Amazon, Argos or John Lewis before the festive period perhaps?
Before you added the item to your basket, I bet that you looked at the reviews - or at the very least the number of stars the product had for its rating.
Was it 4.5, or perhaps even just 4 out of 5?
It probably wouldn’t have been 3 or less.
And it probably wouldn’t have had no reviews at all.
And even after you added it to your basket did you check the ratings on other similar items just in case there was a better rated one?
This is the thought process of most online shoppers before they come to a decision on what to buy. And certainly of millennials and Gen Z.
So when such people are looking for a legal service, do your online reviews count?
Having spoken with many lawyers and law firm leaders about their online presence and online reputation in recent years, it’s surprising the number who don’t think these reviews count for much.
And then again there are those who value such reviews very highly. Indeed some of our clients have hundreds of 5 star reviews on Google My Business (which we’ll be calling “Google Reviews” throughout this post) that allow them to win new business they wouldn’t otherwise have won.
Online Reviews - The Stats in 2020 / 2021
So why should your firm care about its online reviews? Here are the facts about the importance of online reviews across all types of businesses:-
- 93%+ of consumers use the internet to find a local business for them
- 87%+ of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
- 31% of consumers say they read more reviews in 2020 because of Covid-19, while 34% read fewer
- The most important review factors are 1) Star rating, 2) Legitimacy, 3) Recency, 4) Sentiment, and 5) Quantity
- Only 48% of consumers would hire a business with fewer than 4 stars - the closer to 5 stars the better - indeed the sweet-spot is between 4.2 and 4.7
- When writing a review, 20% of consumers expect to receive a response from the business within one day. It’s worth noting that most law firms do not respond to their Google My Business reviews and this is a missed opportunity both to nurture and cross-sell to existing clients and respond to negative reviews also
- Consumers are most likely to look at Google My Business for local business reviews
- 72% of people won’t hire a firm until they read reviews
- 15% of users don’t trust businesses without any online reviews
- Google accounts for 57.5% of all reviews worldwide.
- Local businesses have an average of 39 Google reviews. For UK law firms this number is smaller and it’s an opportunity for those firms looking to succeed online
- A 5-star rating boosts search click-through rate by over 25% (i.e. the number of people who will click through to your firm’s website from search results)
- Quality, quantity and ‘velocity’ of online reviews are a search engine ranking factor
Google Reviews for Law Firms
From all online reviews channels for law firms, reviews on Google My Business are, at the moment, by far the most important. There are other platforms where your firm may be reviewed by your clients, for which see below.
For Google My Business, the following screenshots of a search for ‘divorce lawyer los angeles’ (in the more competitive US online space) shows where online reviews for UK solicitors are headed and indeed demonstrates the importance of having a good, healthy number of 5 star reviews from your clients:-
The ‘lawyers nearby’ section in the ads at the very top of the LA search hasn’t quite hit the UK yet (as at Jan 2021) but it will likely be in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the ‘snackpack’ of the top 3 local firms appears for most local searches online for a lawyer. See for instance this search for the best divorce lawyer in London:-
The more 5 star Google Reviews your firm can acquire, ideally with relevant text from the client saying what your firm did especially well, the better for your online reputation, your search rankings, and for increasing your conversion rates i.e. increasing the number of people who will make an online enquiry and indeed then hire your firm.
Google’s Commitment to Local Firms in 2021
During the pandemic, Google has also been keen to help local firms succeed, as evidenced by their local business campaign which has been heavily promoted by them on TV and online channels. Google’s commitment is to help one million small British businesses (including local law firms) to stay open by the end of 2021 and to encourage the public to provide a review on Google. You may indeed have seen some of their TV ads on this already, including this one:-
Other Online Reviews Platforms and Channels for Solicitors and Law Firms
it’s worth noting there are other platforms where your firm and your solicitors may be reviewed online, such as TrustPilot, ReviewSolicitors, Yell, and Facebook. You could also have your firm rated and reviewed on the traditional legal directories of Legal 500 and Chambers which could also showcase key client reviews - particularly for B2B legal work. Although that’s an entirely different ball game and there are specialists who can help you there.
In the US, the landscape is more mature. Avvo, Super Lawyers, FindLaw, Yelp, Martindale-Hubbell and Justia are some of the biggest players in the online review space but most of these haven’t made any significant dent in the UK legal sector in respect of lawyer reviews - yet. Watch this space in the coming years.
But for now, Google My Business online reviews should be the main focus for most B2C law firms in the UK.
Gathering Online Reviews – How to Acquire More Great 5 Star Reviews for Your Law Firm?
So how do you acquire more great 5 star reviews for your firm on Google Reviews? We’ve spoken with many lawyers and inhouse legal marketers about building the perfect process for putting your Google Reviews acquisition strategy on auto-pilot. There are always slight nuances and tailored approaches per firm, but one of the most effective approaches we’ve seen is as follows, which not only helps acquire more, better online reviews, but also allows firms to improve their client service standards:-
- At the end of each matter, ask for client feedback via an online questionnaire form
- If the client feedback is negative, have an email sent automatically to the client care partner or other manager in the firm to deal with
- Choose which clients to ask for an online review following such feedback - again this could be automated depending on their feedback from the online questionnaire form. For smaller firms, a more selective process can work better
- Send such selected clients a template Google Reviews email. Note that we have a template email that has been adapted over the years that we send to our clients to ask
Download our Google Reviews Template
No spam ever. We promise.
Google Reviews - Asking a client to set up a gmail address or a Google account
But how do clients actually provide a Google Review? Don’t they need a Gmail or Google account? We’ve been asked this countless times. Yes, unfortunately they do. And that’s what limits your ability to acquire many reviews.
The better you can communicate this to your clients, letting them know how they can access or set up such an account (if they don’t have one) the better your chances of acquiring a review will be.
But does this work for all types of legal practice? Are some more prone to acquiring more Google Reviews than others?
One of the best examples we’ve seen is with conveyancing. When a client receives the keys to their new house, they are at their most likely for submitting an online review. Indeed, we’ve heard of some of our most savvy law firm partner clients asking for the review in person at that point.
On the contrary, achieving a great outcome for a divorce client or a criminal client probably won’t do anything to sway their decision to leave an online review - their privacy needs will mean they are much less likely to post anything online about their transaction, except for perhaps an anonymous testimonial.
Incentivising clients to give you a good online review and associated ethical considerations
Best practice is to remain neutral and impartial when it comes to acquiring online reviews. Clients sometimes ask us if it’s possible to offer vouchers or rewards for online reviews. Our advice is not to, particularly given ethical considerations and obligations, from the points of view of both the legal profession and the online platform where the reviews are being housed.
Negative reviews about your Solicitors – How to deal with them? Should you reply?
As the stats above show, an increasing number of people who provide an online review expect to hear back, even for their positive reviews. It’s good practice to reply to all positive and negative reviews with a tailored and sincere message. Negative reviews are best answered without going into the substance of the complaint but certainly to acknowledge the message and to try to take the discussion about it offline, for instance onto a call with the client care partner involved in the matter.
Can you delete negative online reviews?
This is another of our most frequently asked questions we hear in respect of online reviews about solicitors. And rightly so, given the impact on your online reputation. But here it’s largely up to the online platform whether or not the review stands. For negative online reviews on Google My Business you can flag it to Google, but ultimately it’s up to Google whether or not to remove. Their policies can be read here.
Fake online reviews from non-clients
We are also seeing an increasing number of fake online reviews being given to law firms on multiple online reviews channels, but not to such a damaging extent as this business owner here suffered.
And it’s worth noting that such fake reviews can happen to your firm online whether you are active in seeking online reviews or not. It’s always better to take a proactive approach to managing your online presence.
How best to publish and promote good online reviews on your law firm’s website
Once you acquire a healthy number of Google Reviews, you can promote these further on your website, for instance through writing a new post highlighting some of the best ones, or showcasing a number count and star rating. At a more advanced level there are ways of having such star rating automatically update.
Dedicated to Your Law Firm’s Success
If you would like to discuss your law firm’s approach to online reviews and indeed your growth ambitions generally, we’d be delighted to speak with you. If you’d like to be emailed a copy of our Google Reviews template email or indeed to discuss how we can help you achieve your goals with our new Your Law Firm Success™ product, please contact Chris on 03333 442 722 or email .