Dan Couvrette – the Publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine, DivorceMag.com, and DivorcedMoms.com – interviews two industry experts about why Google Reviews are so crucial for family lawyers.
Guest Speakers: Jeffrey Spanier and Bob Levin, 800Commerce, LLC
The transcript of this podcast follows, below.
I’m Dan Couvrette, the Publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine, and in today’s podcast we will be talking with Jeffrey Spanier and Bob Levin of 800Commerce, LLC – a leading internet marketing firm that provides a range of online solutions including online reviews – about how Google reviews impact your family law practice. Thank you both for joining me today.
Jeff, please tell us, in case our listeners don’t know, what Google reviews are.
Jeffrey: A Google review is the rating or the comment that you would find on the Google business profile of any company that’s found online, you know, the comments that are left by the consumer on that little Google panel off to the right on any search.
Right. Just in case our listeners don’t know: whether you’ve claimed your Google My Business panel or not, it exists, so you should claim it and complete it to help bring it up to date. Bob, how important are online reviews?
Bob: I think online reviews are intrinsic in the way we do business now from picking a family law attorney, a surgeon, or even an auto mechanic and people that really depend on being found online. It’s critical that they have great online reviews because that is what online searchers are looking for.
It’s interesting. The other day, I was recommended to an oral surgeon because unfortunately, I had to have a tooth extracted. Even though my very close friend and dentist gave me the referral, I still went online to look for the oral surgeon that he had recommended. So it’s critical to have these great five-star reviews on their Google page.
I’ve worked with family lawyers for 25 years and some of them have established themselves in their community and they do not believe that they need reviews, that they don’t matter. They don’t try to collect them. They feel they have a good reputation in the family law community. So why should they worry about reviews?
Bob: I think that attitude was good probably 10, maybe 15 years ago before the internet is what it is. Right now, we depend on these online reviews. Traditionally attorneys get their business from referrals but at the same time, these people are more astute. They go online to look at the reputation of these particular attorneys to make sure that they:
(a) Have integrity.
(b) Charge the right price.
(c) Get back in a timely manner.
Online reviews only reinforce that referral they are getting from a former client, friend, or family.
Jeffrey: Dan, just to really kind of cut the corner on that one, why a lawyer might think that they don’t need to is because they’re well established. The not so well-established attorney who doesn’t have that reputation is doing everything they can to make their reputation look positive online, while the established attorney is not. So, the attorney that is not established tries to falsely put one out there and the established attorney that really deserves it and earns it is not doing it.
Clients have said to me if I’ve got the reviews on my website, isn’t that good enough? Is there more that they need to do Jeff?
Jeffrey: Well, a lot of folks like to post reviews on their websites. But based on Google, other search engines, and reports we’ve read, having reviews on third-party websites that are not controlled by the actual benefactor of those reviews is more believable and much better than actually having it on your own website. It’s good to have feedback on your own website in case someone might not make it to a citation site. But obviously, it’s considered to be more believable coming from a third party like Google reviews.
Are Google reviews more important than any other online reviews? You mentioned citation websites for example. How do we rank these things?
Jeffrey: There are different citation sites. We all know a number of them: Google, Yelp, and of course, FindLaw, have reviews on them. I think the reality is that someone is actually doing due diligence on a referral and they’re searching in Google, Google’s panel is always going to be the first and primary. Having reviews elsewhere is good, but the fact is that most people will see Google reviews. So you focus on that first, and once you’ve got enough, you can always redirect reviews to other places at other times. But to me, that’s home base.
What is the most important: quality, quantity, or recency of the reviews?
Jeffrey: All three of them and in no specific order. Obviously having something that’s recent is always good. It lets them know that you’re still out there, it lets Google know that you’re still out there. The quality and the quantity of reviews are always important. It’s a weird thing to look at. If you have five reviews and another lawyer has 25 reviews Google will look at it as you have five clients, and they have 25. It’s not an exact thought where Google specifically said those words, but there is a multitude of algorithms that Google looks at when trying to rank and rate folks and part of it is the number of reviews. Reviews don’t all have to be positive but the number of reviews helps show Google how big they are compared to another. It’s a culmination of a variety of algorithms.
Do consumers believe what they read on the Google reviews?
Jeffrey: Since consumers trust opinions that are posted online, and they take the time to read through those written comments, they’ll actually be able to tell the honest ones from the not so honest ones. It’s even important to make sure that you properly address these reviews as well.
What are the challenges a family law firm may face when asking clients to leave a review?
Bob: The issue is always how does the lawyer go about asking their client for review? Some people feel it isn’t tasteful to ask, but here’s the real truth: we really want to get feedback from our clients. Even if reviews didn’t exist, feedback is critical. Remember, the attorney is not the only one dealing with the client: it could be the paralegal; it could be an assistant at the law firm. One of the things we suggest to our clients when we sign them up for our review program is to ask for feedback. Ask your client how you did and that is the way you really build trust in a client – because at the end of the day it’s critical to build a business on having wonderful customer service. The more you do that, the more business and great reviews you will get.
Jeffrey: Dan, you asked the question, what are some of the challenges attorneys face? Some attorneys think that asking for a review might be crass. Some are unsure of their client’s opinion of their practice, and they worry they’ll receive a bad review, so they don’t ask at all. Some are also hesitant to drive clients to review sites where they might be able to read the comments of others that may not be so perfect. The biggest one is they ask their client for a review and the client says they’ll do it, but the client never actually takes the action to leave a review, so it just doesn’t occur. So, there are solutions to that, but these are the typical feelings that family lawyers encounter.
I’ve been working with family lawyers for 25 years and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in a couple of ways. Most of the time they don’t ask for reviews. Number two, they don’t have a system for consistently asking for reviews, and then it just is not top-of-mind. They can get a review from a client midway through a case or at the beginning of the case or at the end of a case. They don’t have to wait until the end of the case to get a review. The client knows how they feel and how they’re being taken care of, and that’s the sort of information you can have in the review.
Jeff, I know lawyers are busy so asking for reviews may seem to be too time-consuming. How can your service help them make this process easier?
Jeffrey: Back in 2016, we built a platform that over the years has evolved in such a way that helps our clients, including attorneys, garner good feedback easily. It was focused around attorneys when we started, to help them ask for feedback. It has truly morphed over the years as the client’s needs, requests, and thoughts evolved, and as Google has evolved.
We’ve made the process easy by using a simple “request for feedback” email which is not asking for a review, but for actual feedback, and is crafted with the client’s blessing. It’s then programmed into our software, our clients’ provide the email addresses, which we enter into the system. The system then sends out these communications, tracks whether they’ve been opened, whether they’ve read it, and whether they’ve taken action, etc. The system is designed to do a number of things in the coming days, like a follow-up email if their client has opened the email but they didn’t participate. Really more than anything it’s an opportunity for our clients to get some organic feedback and I think that’s really what’s most important.
Are there ways to ensure that lawyers get a high rating on their Google reviews?
Jeffrey: Our system is designed to push the positive reviews forward to Google through an automated option. As soon as the person submits their review, our system takes that person directly to that attorney’s Google review page for them to paste their review on Google. Also, reviews that are not so favorable get redirected back to the company to deal with internally, which I think is really important because feedback is important, good or bad. At least you have an idea of what’s happening and how to keep your clients as your clients or potential referral sources because they ARE yours.
Is there anything that a family lawyer can do about an unfair review that might be out there?
Bob: Google has a system set in place to actually flag inappropriate reviews. Their guidelines are fairly strict. If it’s a disgruntled client unfortunately you’re going to pretty much have to live with that; however, best practices are (again, they would probably need to check with the state bar to make sure it’s in compliance) that you should respond to the poor review and try to resolve [your client’s issue]. That is the best way, the best practices of handling an unfair or negative review.
Again, if it’s inappropriate, there’s a way to flag it and also report it to Google. For example, it may be coming from somebody that has no relationship to your business. We had an anecdotal experience where an attorney’s wife upset a person that had nothing to do with his law practice and put a negative review on his Google business listing. Of course, we immediately filed an inappropriate review complaint with Google.
Jeffrey: The reality though is that you’re going to get all sorts of feedback and believe it or not, with the negative feedback, the people who are looking at these reviews want to see the way in which you respond to this negative review. The reality is how many negatives does someone really get? The truth of the matter is there’s always a negative that gets thrown in there but there should be enough positive ones that surround it. When you have that kind of a mixture, that negative review, if you respond to it, gets buried under all the positive comments. As a result, people say: “Hey, that seems kind of normal.” So, it’s really important to address negative reviews. But if you keep the positive ones coming in, it’ll always overshadow the negative ones unless it’s the opposite where you have nothing but negative reviews.
I want to thank the two of you for taking time today to talk about reviews. Jeffrey Spanier is 800Commerce’s Director of Business Development; he works with clients and knows their pain points and concerns regarding online reviews and managing their online reputation. Bob Levin is the developer of their products and the technology expert. I encourage the people who are listening to this podcast to visit their website: 800commerce.net.
Bob: Thank you so much for having us.
Jeffrey: Nice to meet you and appreciate it. Thank you.