We know you’re great at what you do. Naturally, your firm only gets glowing reviews. In the very, very off chance that someone did leave a bad review somewhere in the digital world, have you given any thought to the impact this negative review will have on your law firm’s SEO?
Aside from the fact that the legal industry relies so heavily on word-of-mouth – and in today’s online world, that partially means online reviews – your reviews can have an impact on your ability to be searched and found at all.
How negative reviews impede law firm SEO on Google
Google shares information about their algorithms with limited transparency so it is impossible to know exactly how negative reviews can hurt your firm – all we know is that it does. If clients leave negative reviews on third-party review sites, or leave low-star ratings in maps, or register complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) – all of those create problems for your online reputation. If more than one of those items happen to your firm, your search engine results could be affected to the same degree as if you had a penalty. What’s worse, unlike SEO components on your own site, there’s not much you can do about the consequences of negative reviews online.
What we do know about Google’s algorithms is that they have consistently defined three basic attributes that they look for to determine quality websites — expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T). The improvements in AI have allowed Google to monitor trust in new ways, one of those methods being sentiment measurement. There are several factors that Google monitors and likely takes into account when evaluating a law firm’s trust rating.
- For its Google Guaranteed program, the company uses Pinkerton investigators to background check local services participants.
- They pay attention to BBB ratings. In fact, for most Google Local Service entries, you can see the BBB rating and information right in the search results that appear.
- Particularly important for lawyers is the new screening program Google rolled out. “Google Screened” is a trust signal for searchers of professional services (such as lawyers or financial planners). It’s a certain designation that will show up in search results based on star ratings, background checks, and licensing confirmation.
- User ratings have played a role in ranking for years, and will continue to do so. Since 2014, Google has prioritized higher-ranking companies in the maps interface, and also positions companies with positive reviews higher in general search results.
Negative reviews are a lot easier to prevent than to fix
Creating a positive reputation for your firm online is something you need to take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to. First, strive to avoid negative reviews in any way possible. Offer outstanding support and attempt to satisfy irritated clients before they turn downright unhappy. If you do see a complaint or negative review online, contact the reviewer immediately and do what you can to remedy the situation. Encourage them to respond to their initial post with the resolution. Immediately fix any BBB issues. Claim your business listing on BBB.org and start monitoring the reviews. Finally, though you might be tempted to do so, never offer any incentive or reward to a client for changing their reviews. They can always update their review with more positive information, but trying to entice them to change their original review is banned by the FTC and you could be fined.
If you have been working diligently on your law firm’s SEO and still do not notice any improvements in ranking, it’s worth taking a look at Google’s trust signals to see if anything needs to be addressed. Google’s algorithm relies heavily on these trust signals to determine rankings which makes online reviews from current or former clients indisputably important. Since you now have a better understanding of the impact negative reviews can have on your law firm SEO, you can take a proactive approach to avoiding them altogether.
Contact us today if you need help executing an effective SEO strategy. Without one, prospects will not be able to find your firm on Google and may choose your competitors instead.