Welcome to the trust economy, where potential customers rely more on online customer reviews than they do on personal referrals. At least, that’s what recent data indicates. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Survey, “Ninety-one percent of 18 to 34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” Across all surveyed age groups, eighty-six percent of potential customers read local online reviews prior to making a purchase decision.
Are you regularly getting positive online reviews from your clients? If not, you’re ignoring an important means of generating new business through building brand trust and boosting search engine optimization.
Brand awareness from the search engine’s point-of-view
You want your potential clients to associate your firm with a particular niche, OUI defense or car accident injury for example. If your concentration is Massachusetts family law, there’s little point in targeting your Google ads in content optimized for real estate or estate planning. Likewise, search engines want to make sure your website and business have a legitimate claim to the content and keywords you’re using. In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), bona fides come in the form of citations.
A citation is a mention of your firm’s identifying information—name, address, phone number, website, or industry, for example—on another active site with related content. Citations validate your business’ relevancy to associated search engine queries, especially when they can anchor you to your specialty and locale. Review platforms like Google, Avvo, and the Better Business Bureau that are location-based, are excellent resources for leaving your mark. Others include your firm’s business page on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media, your local Bar Association’s online directory, and recent articles spotlighting or quoting your firm’s attorneys.
Reviewer behavior legitimizes your firm’s online presence
Google encourages you to “claim” your listings on Google My Business (GMB) and provide as much information as possible so that your customers can more easily find you. Google also uses this data to determine how to map your physical location, but ultimately, your reviewers decide where you stand in local search rankings. The following factors influence your firm’s GMB visibility and success:
- Total number of client reviews
- Average rating score
- Frequency of reviews
- Most recent review
Thorough, detailed customer reviews allow other visitors to relate to your brand, even if the review is mixed. Potential customers will gain a sense of familiarity when they get a glimpse of who your current and past clients are, what you actually do, and what to expect from a visit to your offices.
If you respond to reviews, you’ll have the opportunity to add a personal dimension to your online presence, building brand character while demonstrating your ability to professionally yet authentically connect with your customers.
“Bad press is better than no press”
Perhaps that’s painting with too broad a brush, but in the SEO landscape as well as the customer’s decision-making process, unfavorable reviews open the door to positive interaction, and any recent activity on your third-party review listing signals that your doors are open for business. Of course we don’t want unfavorable reviews, however even single-star reviews on multiple third-party sites improve your visibility on GMB as well as in Google’s general search engine results, because the activity confirms to their algorithms that your firm is active and doing business. As bleak as this may sound, you’ll likely rank higher with one star ratings than a listing with no reviews at all.
When you appropriately and respectfully respond to negative comments—rather than ignoring them, or becoming defensive—you generate trust. And while they can be deleted, negative reviews let your audience know that your positive feedback is genuine: after all, who bothers paying for fake glowing reviews if they’re just going to leave the old ones behind?
Marketing solutions tailored for legal brands
Online karma, gold stars, and thumbs-up symbols may seem incongruous to the legal profession, and those whose business relies upon discretion might understandably balk at soliciting reviews from clients. At Bardorf Legal Marketing, we will help you manage your firm’s digital marketing strategy by listing your firm with the most relevant attorney review platforms, monitoring feedback, and protecting your brand. We’ll even help collect client reviews, facilitating more objective (and therefore genuine) feedback.
Reputation management for legal professionals is only one segment of our online marketing services; we can step in to build and optimize your website, evaluate and reinvigorate your SEO strategy, manage your social media presence, and develop engaging blog content that positions you and your firm as industry influencers. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you succeed in the trust economy.