At DRIVE Law Firm Marketing, the attorneys we talk with ask us a lot of questions about Google reviews for their law firms.
We agree with them that reviews matter — they are central to their business’ reputation, indicators of client satisfaction, and key ranking factors for local SEO. And for those who disagree believing that reviews aren’t important, well… This guide’s advice on how to cultivate a high quantity of high-quality reviews might not be for them.
We’ve answered our most frequently asked questions about managing your law firm’s reviews by clients.
Why does my law firm need positive reviews?
You’ll hear it straight from Google’s mouth: a high quantity of positive reviews can increase your local ranking, and you’re encouraged to interact with reviews.
Clients are consumers, and chances are they’re doing their research. They’ll look elsewhere for a better-reviewed firm if they get the wrong impression of yours.
You can’t let your business’ rating drop low enough to start being left out of results altogether. When searching businesses on Google, clients can filter results by those with 4.5 stars and up.
How many reviews does a law firm need to appear in the local map pack?
You could easily run a search for “(your practice area) (your city)” and take a look at the metrics of the top 3 business profiles that appear.
Sometimes, you’ll find that even firms with perfect 5.0 ratings and the most reviews in the sample are only #2 or #3. That’s because there are other factors like its distance from the searcher’s location, its years in business, whether the business is open right now, and overall positions in organic SEO that impact the local three-pack.
So, while we’d recommend getting more reviews than the competitors you see and having a higher star rating than them, there’s no surefire number. But you could always have more reviews, and a steady stream of recent, positive feedback which signals you’re a reputable business, and continue to keep clients satisfied.
Why am I losing reviews?
It’s most likely Google’s doing.
Their system automatically processes reviews looking for inappropriate content and spam. There’s a chance a perfectly fine review was taken down in a wave of pruning seemingly low-quality postings. What’s worse, Google won’t tell you why ten, twenty, or thirty reviews were removed.
Let’s take a moment to summarize Google’s review policy. The following content is prohibited on Google reviews:
- Speech promoting violence or criminal activity
- Fraudulent or incentivized engagement
- Impersonating an individual or organization
- Off-topic content that doesn’t relate to the business
- Personally identifiable or confidential information
Basically, Google wants its users to see only genuine content. They also want harmless content, which unfortunately means if a client posts about how a defense attorney helped get a specific charge dropped, or about the medical issues they faced in the wake of an accident, Google’s filter may *potentially* label those inappropriate or sensitive.
What if I’m getting reviews, and they just aren’t showing up?
It could be for any number of reasons. Here are a few we’ve found:
- Your business is newly listed on Google. Make sure you have a verified listing compliant with Google’s policies.
- You have a duplicate listing for your business. It may be possible to merge the listings and transfer reviews.
- Your business changed locations and the reviews are associated with the old address. Again, you may be able to merge the old listing.
- You recently merged or had a suspended listing. Google says some reviews take time to appear on their correct profile.
- Your Google Business Profile is inactive, or the reviewer’s account is.
- Google reviews were temporarily disabled. There may be a quality control issue with your profile or with an influx of reviews that triggered their filters.
- Google marked the review as a fake experience or spam.
- The review didn’t meet their format-specific guidelines.
- A user decided to delete their review, or edited it and introduced content flagged by the filter.
- Someone tried to embed a link in their Google review.
Can you restore my lost reviews?
It’s likely possible.
If you’re our client, and you indicate that a portion of your reviews are missing, we can usually get started contacting Google right away about showing those reviews again. (We actually have a way to go around the usual opaque Google customer service options.)
If you’re going through normal means, it’s still a toss-up whether Google even responds. Our advice is to not get too hung up on waiting. If you instead go get more reviews to offset the ones that you currently aren’t getting credit for, you’ll have even more if the hidden reviews get restored. If Google decides they can’t help, you’ve acted wisely getting replacements. If they can help, however, then you’ve gotten more reviews – a win either way.
Here are some tips for law firms in getting reviews restored:
- Collect all the evidence you can about your new reviews not being displayed. This can include screenshots of the email that notified you a new review had been posted to your Google Business Profile. Names and dates can help.
- If you recently reinstated your Google Business Profile, contact Google support and provide your case number and reinstatement details to request a review transfer.
- If your Google Business Profile wasn’t recently suspended, you need to contact support for assistance with your missing reviews.
- If you’re not satisfied with Google’s help, you can post your issue on the Google Business Profile Community to try to get a sympathetic Google employee’s attention.
Should I respond to a negative Google review of my law firm?
It’s a good idea.
Respond calmly to someone airing out their grievances. Maybe you’ve investigated their complaints and now you can say you’ve dealt with the situation. Perhaps the reviewer is mistaken that they interacted with you.
Don’t just wall them off when you have the opportunity to fix things — ask the reviewer if they can get in touch with you again to discuss their concerns. Reviewers do get an email notification that your law firm replied to their feedback, and people viewing your business do value seeing you acting diplomatically.
Can you get rid of my law firm’s negative reviews?
It’s possible that you can take care of things by reporting each negative review manually, but if it’s a real review of an actual negative experience — you probably won’t be able to get it removed. In that case, you need to look internally at what you can do to turn that reviewer’s situation around, or to prevent the issue they had from occurring again.
If the reviewer goes on a rant, you might report it as ‘Off topic’ or ‘Not helpful’. If they’re being exceptionally cruel to a named staff member, you could frame it as ‘Bullying or harassment’. If you know the individual leaving the review is the receptionist of the firm up the street, you might claim it as a ‘Conflict of interest’.
But just because a review is critical doesn’t mean it’s against the rules. And just because you reported it, however many times, means Google will take it down.
Our client strategists and local SEO specialists monitor your Google Business Profile for unreasonable reviews coming in, and we do our best to report postings quickly on your behalf. We still recommend you try to engage with the user in the meantime like in the section above.
Can you get me fake reviews?
NO! Sorry — we’re adamant that this is worse than having no reviews at all. It’ll have severe consequences to your Google Business Profile that you won’t recover from.
Any agency claiming they can rocket you to the top of local SEO rankings with purchased, incentivized, or auto-generated reviews isn’t thinking about your results long-term. Google figures out deceptive content and penalizes it.
It’s even worse than that – last year, New York doctor Mark Mohrmann was fined $100,000.00 and forced to take down all his reviews after the New York Attorney General’s office discovered he and his wife were posting hundreds of fake reviews on his online profiles.
Now, when you google his name, the NY Attorney General’s blog post about his case is the #1 search result – above the maps.
How do I get more authentic reviews from clients?
Hopefully, your firm asks each client about their experience as part of your case closing process. It never hurts to remind them that you would really appreciate their recommendation on Google.
You can create and share a link with users. Google has advice to get more reviews here. You might try adding a link to review on your website or on your social media pages, too.
Encourage clients to share more than just a star rating — let them talk about their experience as a whole. Try prompting them about what legal issue they had, who amongst your staff played the biggest part, and how effectively your firm provided personalized attention.
Something you should also know: Google tries to “categorize” feedback by singling out words or phrases that appear across multiple reviews.
Descriptive reviews that talk about your area of expertise are much more valuable than those that just call you “good”. We believe mentions of legal services can cement your business’ identity to Google and help it rank higher in the practice areas you’re optimizing for. So, especially follow up with clients who had success in your bread-and-butter cases.
Finally, when a positive review is posted, try to make it a habit to respond.
Ask About Review and Local SEO Management With DRIVE Law Firm Marketing
Our approach to law firm SEO works on your website and the Google Business Profile that interfaces with it. Your business’ image undoubtedly affects your case volume, and we care about the impression it offers to potential clients and search engine algorithms.
That’s what drives us.
Reach out to learn more about working with us.