In last month’s edition, I wrote about the importance of Google reviews. Research conducted for that article demonstrated that most PILMMA members understood the importance of reviews and a robust Google My Business profile. On average, our members are ahead of the rest of the legal community in this regard. As a group, PILMMA members are 41% more likely than other lawyers to have claimed and built out their GMB profiles. As I said last month, that’s both excellent news and a testament to the prowess of our members. GOOGLE REVIEWS … REVIEWED I also mentioned, however, that there remains a consider-able opportunity for improved search rankings for nearly half our membership (45% to be exact) through increasing the quantity and quality of their Google reviews. Why? Because the quantity and quality of your Google reviews as part of a robust GMB profile is widely believed among people who study this type of thing, to be the third most important ranking factor for appearing in the “map pack” and the seventh most important contributor to your organic ranking. A related fun fact: reviews (all reviews, not just those on Google, but those coming from Facebook Yelp!, etc.) are believed to account for 9% of your Google ranking. Anyway, you’ll remember that a study of thousands of law firms nationwide (cited in last month’s article) demonstrated that firms ranking in the top three Google search results positions had, on average, 48 reviews. Of course, the competitiveness of search results is different for every market. But given the importance, Google is believed to be putting on reviews, and this average of 48 reviews for top-ranking firms, nearly half our membership has a place to begin if they’d like to go about improving their search rankings. While you’re paying attention to the number of reviews, also be mindful of the quality of those reviews – not only what is said within the review itself, but the star ranking you’re given. STAR RATINGS Did you know that, on average, law firms in this country enjoy a star rating of 4.42 and that, on average, PILMMA members enjoy a star rating (4.62) that is 4.5% higher than the national average? Of course, you didn’t know that. Readers of this mag-azine have interesting and productive lives as attorneys while outsourcing this type of propeller-hat geekiness to those of us at PILMMA. Nevertheless, 18.3% of PILMMA members have star ratings less than the national average. Obviously, there is an opportunity for improvement there as none of our members are simply average. As you might expect, there is a correlation between the number of reviews and a fi rm’s star ranking. In fact, it’s more than a correlation. There is causation. Those firms that have undertaken aggressive review gathering initiatives naturally solicit reviews from clients more likely to leave them good marks and are, at the same time, less affected by unsolicited reviews left by un-happy or (as is sometimes the case) fake clients. For this reason, I’d encourage those of you with multiple offices – many of which have their own GMB pro-fi le – to increase the quantity and quality of reviews for outlying offices. As for what makes an acceptable star rating? Never settle for less than a four-star average. It’s widely demonstrated that star ratings in the threes or lower are crippling to attracting prospective clients. I would suggest conducting a survey of your competitors. Make a plan to surpass both their number of reviews and their star rating average. Simple math surrounding averages will tell you the number of reviews and the average rating you need to overtake your closest competitor. Aim for each of those new reviews to be five-star ratings (as there are no half-star options available to reviewers), and the decimal point average will take care of itself. As for how to go about collecting favorable reviews: · Train everyone in your office to recognize an opportunity for collecting a review; · Train everyone in your office on how to direct happy customers to your google review page; · Even though everyone in your office should be empowered to collect reviews, put one person in charge of the ongoing project of growing the quantity and quality of reviews; · Set a modest and steady weekly goal (one or two per week) for obtaining a review from current and past clients Useful Links: · A free tool that generates a link directly to the review page of your GMB profi le: https://whitespark.ca/google-review-link-generator/ · A free tool that creates a short and somewhat customizable version of the link created above: http://bitly.com · Use any number of free 301 Redirect plugins for your WordPress site (such as https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/) to create a page on your website (for example yoursite.com/google-reviews) that redirects visitors to the GMB review page; Better yet, have a page created on your site that coaches clients how to leave a review. Explain, without going into unnecessary detail about how Google works, why reviews are important to your business. Provide sample texts as example emails to get them started – in natural language, of course – using keywords important to your practice. Let them know you much you appreciate 5-star reviews. Provide a button on the page linking to your GMB review page. By providing you a review, your clients are doing you a rather big favor. Be sure to thank them. An old-fashioned, hand-written thank you note delivered by mail is a nice touch. Next time we’ll go deeper on methods you and your staff can use to collect reviews, the reasons for consistency, the anatomy of effective review text, and what to do after you’ve received a review. ◆