Traditionally, an individual in need of an attorney had to rely on referrals from friends and family – meaning that as long as a law firm provided excellent representation and a positive client experience, it could control its reputation as a successful, professional firm. To be sure, providing quality services will always be a firm’s first responsibility, and the resulting client referrals remain crucial to success even in the 21st century. However, the belief that referrals are all you need to establish the positive reputation necessary for firm growth is a mistake you just can’t afford to make in the digital age.
Consider the results of some recent surveys regarding the way people search for and choose an attorney: one survey of over 6,300 people revealed that, while 43% had received at least one referral from a friend or family member, an identical 43% had simply searched for a local attorney on Google. When asked specifically about online resources, 75% of respondents in the same survey said that online information was critical to their attorney search.
Why Are Online Reviews So Important for Law Firms?
From the information above, it’s clear that maintaining an online presence is crucial to ensure your firm’s visibility to potential clients. However, it isn’t enough to simply appear on a search results page or third-party review site – your listing must also communicate that your firm has earned the trust and respect of its clients. In fact, surveys indicate that 65% of people rely on the quantity and quality of online reviews to choose an attorney.
As the world’s most popular search engine, Google is the go-to source of review information for the vast majority of people. Perhaps even more importantly, Google draws information from other sites that feature reviews, like Facebook and Yelp. When you consider the fact that your firm’s star rating and text-based reviews are immediately accessible from the moment a potential client sees your result on Google’s SERP, the amount of influence your reviews hold is clear.
Negative Reviews Can Affect Your Firm’s Potential for Growth
As with any other business, people use Google’s star ratings and reviews to determine which law firm is the most trustworthy, client-focused, and likely to result in success. For most, that means identifying a firm with a large number of total reviews and evaluating the final star rating. In fact, as many as 84% of survey respondents indicated that they would not consider hiring a firm unless it had an average of 4 to 5 stars.
Negative reviews can harm your firm’s potential for growth in two ways. Garner enough of them, and you’ll see your rating slip. Meanwhile, negative text comments can leave potential clients with a poor impression of the representation you provide, altering your reputation and reducing the chances that potential clients will choose your firm over other options. As a result, it’s crucial to address negative reviews as soon as possible.
In most cases, this involves responding to the poor review professionally and offering to rectify the situation if possible. But, what happens if a negative review is falsified, fake, or otherwise unfair? In some cases, you can take steps to remove negative reviews from your Google listing.
Which Negative Reviews Can You Remove?
To preserve the integrity of online ratings, Google does not allow the removal of negative reviews in most cases – if a former client has left a review detailing an unfavorable experience with your firm, chances are, it’s there to stay. However, the search engine does make exceptions for blatant violations of its review policy. These are the types of reviews you may be able to remove:
Steps for Removal
If you believe one or more negative reviews appearing on your Google listing fall under one of the above categories, you may be able to remove them for violating Google’s terms of service. Begin by gathering as much evidence of spam, competitor fraud, accidental review, or a fake negative reviewer as possible – look for frequent negative reviews, identical reviews, duplicate accounts, and evidence that the reviewer may be linked to a competitor or employee.
With evidence in hand, flag the review using the following steps:
As the number one search engine in the world, Google will likely take some time to respond to your report. If it does not believe you have sufficient evidence that a violation occurred, the review may stay intact. In this case, it is important to address the review as you would any other negative review – professionally and politely request more information regarding the reviewer’s experience and clarify the situation if you don’t believe the review is relevant to your firm. Then, invite the reviewer to discuss the situation privately.
Unfortunately, even fraudulent and spam reviews are within Google’s hands. If it chooses not to remove a negative review, you will likely need to accept its presence on your firm’s listing. However, you retain many other tools to help you boost your firm’s online presence, manage your overall reputation, and create opportunities for growth. From SEO services to social media marketing and more, reach out online or call 866-806-8536 to learn how the RizeUp team can help you manage your firm’s online presence.
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