There was a time when more than a few attorneys tried the ostrich approach to online reviews. They just refused to recognize the comments made by clients on Avvo, Google and a number of other websites. That may have been passable years ago, but today no professional can afford to overlook online reviews. They are simply too important to your client’s decision making process.
Online reviews have become part of our culture. We rely on reviews to schedule vacations (TripAdvisor), hire a plumber (Angie’s List), check out a doctor (Consumer Reports), and make a reservation for dinner (Yelp). People have their favorite sources, and they count on reviews despite a plethora of information (found online, of course) that loudly proclaims that most online reviews are either paid for or not valid.
Whether you believe in the authenticity or accuracy of online reviews or not, they are not going away anytime soon, so the best strategy is to make them work to your advantage.
Avvo is one of the best known attorney review sites. If you are a practicing attorney, you have an Avvo page whether you have added information to it or not. Some attorneys purchase ads on Avvo to keep their listings above other attorneys. In a highly competitive market like estate planning and elder law, this can be productive.
Yelp may not be the first place you would look at for a professional, but many people do. And many law firms run paid ads on Yelp. Lawyers.com is from Martindale-Hubbell® and well regarded by attorneys and clients alike. Be aware that there is a company at the website “lawyer.com.” It is NOT the same website as the Martindale website.
And of course the 800 pound gorilla in the room is a five-star Google review, which can pack a lot of power for your law firm, as can great reviews on Facebook.
Attorneys ask us whether or not they should place paid ads on these types of websites. The answer: it depends. The most reliable way to know if placing ads on online review sites will work is to try it. Don’t commit to an extended period of time, but do commit to enough time to get a sense of whether or not this might drive calls or website visits. Be as methodical with online review site ads as you are with any other marketing effort: measure hard data, not anecdotal events, to determine effectiveness.