Google+ Is No Longer Optional For Law Firm Marketing; Reviews Are Increasingly Important
Google has once again changed the rules for law firm marketers. What does that mean for your Web strategy? Google+ and Google profiles are a must for collecting positive reviews that show up in Google’s local listings.
In the latest change from the online search engine giant, Google accounts and reviews from clients are now firmly linked. Anyone who wants to leave a review for your law firm must have a Google+ account. Google+ Local FAQ number 14 states: “Reviewers need to be logged in to Google+ to leave a review. The review will be public and attributed to their Google+ name.”
Reviews are an integral part of Google+ Local, and you’ll want your firm listed there – with positive comments from satisfied clients — for search engine visibility. Positive reviews can increase your law firm’s business while negative online reviews can cause significant harm.
According to one study, an increasing number of people (69%) trust the opinions of online strangers as much as recommendations from people they know. The percentage increases among younger consumers — 79% of 16-34 year olds trust online reviews. If two law firms appear to be equal, a Web visitor is likely to choose the firm with the best reviews.
A word to the wise: avoid shortcuts and underhanded tactics when collecting reviews. As online ratings become more important, companies are selling services to provide ratings for websites and “Likes” for social media. An April 4, 2012 Wall Street Journal article stated bogus reviews have begun to show up on hotel review sites:
Thus the temptation for hotels to submit fake reviews to pump up their scores, or even trash competitors to improve their own sales. TripAdvisor says it knows of review ‘mills’ and ‘reputation management’ firms offering to stuff the ballot box for hotels willing to pay. Websites like Fiverr.com are full of people offering to post batches of fake reviews for $5 and up. Some hotels have been offering incentives to guests for writing good reviews.
Our advice is to avoid review sellers and gimmicks. Google catches on quickly to attempts to manipulate its rankings, continuously developing techniques to discover manipulative techniques.
We frequently advise law firms on the proper way to obtain law firm testimonials and client reviews. Techniques that work well include:
- Ask for the review at the time of the successful case result. The client is happiest at that time and inclined to thank you with a review. If the client has a Google+ account, provide the link to Google’s review section.
- Advise your clients to join Google+ if they have not. Doing so will allow them to leave reviews and will provide several benefits including free access to Zagat’s review section. Informative Google+ Local videos and FAQ’s by Google are available.
- If you do not have a database of your clients, set one up ASAP. We can provide recommendations if you do not have one.
- If you have not obtained reviews from prior clients, contact them and request a review.
- Encourage and make it easy to provide reviews on your website.
An unrelated (to reviews) reason law firms and lawyers should have a Google+ page is the Google Authorship feature. Google uses this feature to identify the author of the content. This feature is a way for Google to gauge the trust and authority of an author by, in effect, examining the online credentials of the writer and the links to additional and similar articles he/she has written. Google checks for a connection between the content page (such as an article), an author page, and a Google Profile. This feature is likely to become an important rankings’ factor. Writers should link their content to their Google+ Profile. Another benefit to this feature is that it establishes the writer as the author and prevents others from copying the content and taking credit for it.