By Diana Shepherd, Marketing Expert for Family Lawyers
Online reviews about you and your practice have become increasingly important for family lawyers. We all use online reviews when shopping for a car, finding a new dentist, choosing a restaurant, etc. So it should not come as a surprise that your prospective clients are checking you out online – even if someone they know referred you to them. Your online reviews – or the lack of them – can influence whether you will win the case or not.
Approximately 92% of all searches on the Internet are done through Google, making Google the most important (even though it is not the only) place where you need to have great reviews.
Google Reviews: the Next Frontier of Online Reputation
Our firm, Divorce Marketing Group, has been helping family lawyers effectively market their practice for 26 years. We have witnessed the steady growth of the need – now an absolute necessity – for family lawyers to have a great online presence and reputation.
Over the years, our family law clients accepted the need for a user-friendly website, search engine optimization (“SEO”), directory listings and profiles, podcasts, videos, online advertising, and an active social media presence. Anecdotally, family lawyers’ attitudes have changed from “Why would I need a website?” and “I would not be caught dead on Facebook!” to “It used to be enough to have an AV rating from Martindale Hubbel to get new cases,” and “How did I lose a case to that third-rate lawyer?!”
Having Satisfied Clients is No Longer Good Enough
You need to make sure the world knows your clients are satisfied if you want to get new clients or grow your practice. In general, we find our younger clients embrace online marketing and Google reviews at a much faster pace. They have happily told us, “I just got a client with $X million in assets who found me online!” while some family lawyers are just starting to pay more attention to their outdated websites. Even if you fall into the latter group, you can gain a great deal of ground by actively obtaining good online reviews – especially Google reviews.
What is Most Important: Quality, Quantity, or Recency?
The answer to this question is simple: they are all equally important. Take a look at the two examples of Google ratings for actual family law firms (left). Which firm do you think is more likely to get a click to their website?
Let’s take a closer look at these three factors.
1. The Quality of Your Google Reviews.
Google reviews have three components: the star rating by a person, comments by the person, and the average star rating from all reviews. The average star rating is most prominently displayed. You need an overall review rating of four to five stars. If your rating is deemed high enough by your prospective clients, they will then read the comments and decide whether to contact you or not.
2. The Quantity of Your Google Reviews.
Quantity says you have a lot of satisfied clients who have taken the time to give you a review. You may receive some poor reviews because it is not possible to satisfy every client. However, if you have 30 good reviews, the one bad review will be watered down, leaving your average rating more or less intact. Also, you will likely have a better chance of showing up on the Google Map Pack if you have more positive client reviews than your competitors.
3. The Recency of Your Google Reviews.
How do you feel about a law firm whose most recent review was three years ago, even if it was a 5-star rating? You may wonder if they are still in business, or if the lawyer who received the 5-star rating is still working there.
To summarize: the more reviews you have, the higher the ratings, and the more recent they are, the better. That provides potential clients with evidence that you have done a great job and are still doing a great job.
Google Reviews are More Trustworthy than Website Testimonials
Most family lawyers have testimonials on their websites. That is great; keep them and add more. However, those are for people who have already found your website. Good Google reviews can influence potential clients who do not know you to visit your website – and a great website will keep them there.
Reviews on Google carry a lot more weight than website testimonials in most people’s minds for good reasons. During our research for this article, we came upon the review section on a website of a family law firm with fewer than 10 attorneys. What do you think about these stats: the firm has 3000+ reviews; an average 4.4 stars rating; the last reviews were in March 2021 with 30 reviews on that one day; and only one was a Google review (from 6 years ago).
There are many, many PR and marketing guns-for-hire who will fabricate glowing reviews and place them on a variety of websites (including your own, of course). If you are approached by a company offering this service, we highly advise you to decline the offer. Google has algorithms that will detect fake reviews, and they will penalize your website for this practice.
How Many Google Reviews Do You Need?
Short answer: as many as possible. Google doesn’t share the exact details of its algorithm that determines your website ranking, but there is some evidence that the more positive reviews you have the higher your website will rank on Google. We recommend that you have a minimum of 20 4+ star reviews. Follow the plan outlined below to obtain fresh reviews on a regular basis.
6 Steps to Secure Ongoing Google Reviews
- Start at the First Meeting.
At your initial consultation, let your potential clients know how important their 5-star review is to your firm as a validation for the work you are about to do for them.
- Keep Track of Positive Feedback from Clients.
Make a note of all positive feedback your firm receives from clients on the client’s file (everybody in the firm should be contributing to this “Client Applause” folder).
- Request Feedback Before the Case Is Closed.
You do not have to wait till the case is over to ask for a review. Our company received great feedback from a family lawyer who had not even signed her marketing agreement to become our client. We even have an endorsement from a family lawyer whose firm decided not to hire us (because their firm was not ready to embrace marketing at that time).
- Ask for a Review at the Optimal Time.
When is the best time? When your client is really happy about something you’ve done for them. According to lawyer and author Jay Foonberg’s “Client’s Curve of Gratitude” (right), the longer a family lawyer waits to send out their bill, the less likely it is to be paid. The same is true for reviews, so strike while the iron is hot! Ask for that review when they think you walk on water – not weeks or even months later.
- Review the Case and the Client’s Feedback at the Exit Interview.
If you remind your client of their goals, what you have gone through together to accomplish them, and the positive feedback they gave you along the way, then they will have a framework for their review.
- Take Advantage of Technology.
When you have a system to generate reviews regularly, you will get more reviews. Make it easy for a client to leave a great online review for you by taking advantage of technology and outsourcing this task for greater results. Here are two examples:
- Texting. These days, there is a much greater chance that somebody will respond to a text than an email. The response rate to text requests to provide a client review is extremely high: on average, 35% of the requests will be fulfilled, according to Kenect.com, a provider we like so much that we’ve created webinars for family lawyers with them.
- Automated Programs. 800Commerce.com offers a service that will email your request for feedback to clients, follow up with those who did not respond, and automatically post feedback from those who gave you a 4+ star rating on Google. We recently did a podcast with them on this topic.
Respond to All Reviews – Especially the Bad Ones
Potential clients read bad reviews as well as good, so you should respond to bad reviews professionally and politely. Bad reviews may come from a competitor and/or your client’s ex-spouse – especially if you did a superb job for your client. Always take the high road in your response. “Thank you for your feedback. Your name is not familiar to us and we cannot find it in our database. May we ask when you were our client? We take pride in providing excellent service, but if there’s room for improvement, we want to know about it.” If the bad review truly comes from a client, respond by inviting them to have a personal conversation with you. You should be interested in hearing them out to determine whether there is something you can do (e.g., new policies, new systems, new software, more training for your staff) to avoid irritating or upsetting a future client.
Do not be discouraged by one bad review from an unhappy client; no matter how great a job you did, there will always be dissatisfied clients. If you only have one or two reviews, the good news is that once you get a few five 5-star reviews, your average rating will improve greatly.
The most important thing you can do is to take action today. If you already have plenty of great Google reviews, congratulations! Keep up the good work!
FAQs about Google Reviews
Why are Google Reviews Important?
We live in an age of reputation supersedes anything else. People today don’t just pick up a phone book and find a lawyer. They go online, they research and they pick and choose based on the satisfaction of past clients and your reputation.
What Are the 3 Most Important Aspects of a Google Review?
Quality, quantity, and recency are the 3 more important aspects of any Google review. With quality you want 4 and 5 star ratings. With quantity you want good reviews that show people you have satisfied customers singing your praises online. Recent reviews are more valuable to you as a law firm than reviews from 3 or 5 years ago. That’s why it is important to encourage clients to leave reviews.
How do I Get my Clients to Leave a Google Review?
You want to encourage clients to leave a review. You do this by starting very early in the client/attorney relationship. If you respond to EVERY Google review you receive this shows appreciation for the time clients took to leave the review and will foster a desire in others to do the same.
Make it easy for a client to leave a review by taking advantage of technology. Texting a reminder with a link to where they can leave the review has a 35% rate of return for customers leaving reviews.
Why Should I Respond to All Google Reviews?
You want to show your appreciation for the good reviews. And, you want to be gracious, civil, and in problem-solving mode when responding to bad reviews. The most important thing you can do with a bad review is to take action! Show your willingness to hear the client out who leaves a bad review. Offer to sit down and have a conversation to determine if there is anything you can do to solve the problem they have.
Diana Shepherd (CDFA®) is the Editorial Director of Family Lawyer Magazine and a marketing expert for family lawyers. The co-founder of DivorceMag.com and Divorce Marketing Group – a one-stop marketing agency dedicated to promoting family lawyers and divorce professionals – she has been marketing family lawyers and divorce financial professionals since 1995. www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com
WATCH: How Family Law Firms Can Double Their Online Reviews
Marketing experts Dan Couvrette & McKay Allen discuss the three-step process family law firms can use to increase positive online reviews & cases.
PODCAST: The Importance of Google Reviews for Family Lawyers
Family lawyers must have great Google reviews if they want to attract the right kind of clients. Personal referrals are good – but Google is King when you need new clients. Learn why here.