Every lawyer knows the power of testimonials. The collection and proper usage of the testimonial is the oldest marketing tactic in the book, easily a precursor to websites, search engine optimization, and even newsletters. Potential legal clients can be swayed by positive (or negative) reviews of your firm, and why not? All of us utilize reviews to some degree or another during the purchase process.

However, many attorneys—even savvy ones who understand SEO and the benefits of social media, for example—are still missing a key component of their online reputation management: a process for accumulating online reviews outside of their own websites. During my time with James Publishing, I’ve seen and reviewed literally thousands of attorney sites, profiles, and social media accounts, and online reviews are still a major weak point in a vast majority of them.

If you fall into this category, you have some work to do.

Reviews Versus Testimonials

Most legal websites have a testimonial section in a highly visible area, which is a good start. Despite this, if you think that a few testimonials on your website are all you need to present in order to convince modern web users of your abilities, you would be wrong.

These days, potential legal clients are using the same research techniques as consumers searching for information on which television or lawnmower is the best. They will not only be checking the manufacturer’s website, but also looking for reviews of the product on Amazon or asking their friends for advice. If you were in the market for a new HDTV, would you be swayed simply by testimonials on Sony’s website, for instance, or would you try to verify those reviews by looking elsewhere?

For this reason, testimonials on your website are not going to cut it in the future. You have control over your website, so you can put whatever you want on there. Potential clients are well aware that you aren’t going to put any negative or damaging remarks on your own site, but you can be sure that they will go out and investigate elsewhere online to see if your services are as good as you claim on your site.

The Benefits of Consumer Trust

You may be thinking to yourself, “This guy is crazy. People don’t shop for legal services like electronics.” In the past, that may have been true, but in 2013, things are different. In a recent survey, it was discovered that up to 79% of consumers now trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member.

Whether you believe it or not, the Internet is a giant, review-generating machine, and consumers of every type of service are keenly aware of that fact. Let’s think of a potential situation that can illustrate why you would want to build consumer trust with positive online reviews:

Hypothetically, we’ll imagine that you and four other competing law firms rank very well in Google+ Local search results. One of your competitors has several positive star ratings on the system, whereas you and the other three lawyers do not. When a person looking for an attorney performs a Google search and sees your listings on the map, who will he or she choose? In all likelihood, that business is going to end up with your five-star competitor who has wisely taken the time to set up a few profiles that allow happy clients to review the firm. It’s common sense that a consumer would make such a decision.

Options Options Options

Now that we’ve established the benefits of building consumer trust with reviews that aren’t placed directly on your website, where should you go about setting up profiles to collect said reviews? This topic warrants its own post, to be sure, but in a nutshell, you can (and should) set up profiles on Google+, Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, and more. All of these extremely popular networks allow your clients to post reviews.

It is important to note that specifically soliciting reviews or having your clients add many at a single time may be a violation of some sites’ terms of service, so you should check before you go about asking for reviews. However, there are other tactics you can try. For instance, you could always list your Yelp address on your business card, which in and of itself might convince a very happy, motivated client to post a review on the site for you. There are plenty of other similar methods that work in much the same way.

Make It Happen

In future posts, I will discuss the topic of online reviews from different angles, including the best places to sign up. That said, your best bet is to start on this project now. Every day, your competitors might be gaining new reviews that have the potential to increase their business. Don’t let them get a head start on you!

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