Google Reviews in 2022: Dos, Don’ts, and Best Practices
10 minutes to read
This guest article was written by Chris Dreyer, CEO & Founder of Rankings.io
Did you know that 60% of consumers use Google search to peruse a business’s reviews before ever visiting that business for the first time? Or that 85% of consumers are willing to leave a business a review, especially after a positive interaction or experience?
In this article, you will learn about how to avoid common missteps made in managing a law firm’s local Google presence in 2022, as well as what steps you can start taking today to improve your own.
However, before we begin, we should take a moment to quickly walk you through the process of creating and claiming your Google Business Profile, as it’s a fundamental and necessary step to all that follows in this article.
If you have already created your Google Business Profile, feel free to skip on down to the “Dos, Don’ts, and Best Practices” header below. If not, let’s get started setting up your Profile:
Step 1: Visit the Official Google Business Profile Website
Make sure you’re logged into a Gmail account you want to be associated with your business profile before starting, then visit the following web page: https://www.google.com/business/.
Click the Manage Now button in the upper right corner.
Step 2: Set the Name of Your Business
If this is your first time setting up your law firm’s business listing, you’ll be asked to enter the name of your business, so type that in.
If your business is already listed on Google (which is fairly common), you should see the name of your business appear in a dropdown field.
If your business doesn’t appear, click the result that has the text under your business name that says:
Create a business with this name (option 1 below).
Otherwise, if your business does pop up (option 2 below), go ahead and click on it.
Then click the next button.
Warning: Use the exact name of your business as registered with the Secretary of State (DBA is acceptable as well). Don’t spam your business name with keywords even if people have told you it will help you rank higher. If you want your firm’s name to include a keyword, it should be registered accordingly with the state. If you list a business name that is not accurate or considered spammy, your listing can get suspended and removed from the search results entirely, so trying to manipulate things isn’t worth the risk.
Step 3: Set Your Primary Business Category
Note: This step only applies for law firms who selected the option to “Create a business with this name” in the previous step. If you selected option 2 to claim an existing listing, skip to step 5.
This is an important step where you’ll want to set your primary business category. Our recommendation is to go narrow here and select the category that brings in the most revenue for your firm. For example, if you provide both family law services and personal injury services, you’ll want to type in “personal injury” and select personal injury attorney.
You’ll be able to adjust this and add additional secondary business categories later as well.
Click the Next button.
Step 4: Opt to Add a Physical Location
Note: This step only applies to law firms who selected the option to “Create a business with this name” in step 2. If you selected the option to claim an existing listing, skip to step 5.
Assuming your law firm has a physical office that clients can visit, you’ll want to select “Yes” during this step to add an address to your law firm’s Google Business Profile so searchers can find you and get directions. Don’t skip this step, as geographic proximity to searchers is a crucial Google rankings signal.
Step 5: Add Your Physical Address Information & Service Options
Enter your firm’s office address during this step. Click “Add Line” if you need to add information like a suite number.
Click the “Next” button.
Step 6: Setting Your Service Delivery Options as Brick & Mortar
Even if you do offer to visit clients at their homes, we’d still suggest you select “No” here.
Click the “Next” button.
Step 7: Add Your Law Firm’s Contact Info
This step is optional, but as far as we’re concerned, you must fill it out. Add your office’s phone number and website address in the fields provided.
Pay attention during this step and follow the instructions below carefully.
Website URL Consistency
Anywhere you list your website on the web (in a Google listing, Avvo, Yellow Pages, local Chambers of Commerce pages, etc.), make sure you use the exact same format for your website (same URL structure).
For example, if your website is https://johnsmithlaw.com don’t list it anywhere online as https://www.johnsmithlaw.com.
If you don’t have a www in front of your website’s URL, don’t list it anywhere online that way (and vice-versa) and be sure that you use the same http or https structure in front of your website’s name on all listings.
The easiest way to check this is to go to your website’s home page right now, then double click into the address bar and see what format is being used.
Click the “Next” button to continue on.
Step 8. Finish & Verify Your Business
If your business hasn’t been verified with Google already, you’ll be asked to enter a contact name at your firm so Google can mail you a verification postcard.
It may take a couple of days to receive the postcard. The typical timeframe is 5 business days in our experience.
However, you can still optimize your law firm’s listing in the meantime.
Note: Google may give you a different option to verify your business but for most business owners, you’ll have to wait for a postcard to be mailed to you from Google with a verification code on it. In our experience, verifying via postcard is the safest way to go and can dramatically reduce the odds your business gets flagged for quality issues and removed from search results in the future.
Click the “Mail” button to continue forward.
Click the “Continue” button and either skip to the section in this guide on how to optimize your Google Business Profile or wait until your postcard arrives in the mail to verify it.
Step 9: Verify Your Law Firm’s Google Business Profile
Once your postcard arrives, sign back into google.com/mybusiness, click Verify Location from the menu or the Verify Now button if it’s available, then enter the 5 digit code from your postcard.
Once you’ve verified your law firm’s business profile, you’re ready to begin optimizing it and really begin getting the most value possible from your Google Business Profile.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the meat and potatoes of this article:
Google Reviews in 2022: Dos, Don’ts, and Best Practices
Google reviews are essential in competing for consumer attention. Times have changed and consumers have a mobile device near at (or literally in) hand at nearly all times. Previously, consumers had to make uninformed decisions in order to purchase a product or service; now, reading reviews is a common practice (and 60% of consumers check reviews before visiting a business).
Because reviews are so accessible, it’s imperative to make them a focus for your business: they are not only the first step in social proof as it relates to a conversion, but also very important as they relate to organic visibility in rankings on Google. The top three ways to improve your local search visibility (as stated by Google) are relevance, distance, and prominence. Under prominence, Google specifically calls out that review count and score affect your visibility in local rankings.
What’s talked about less often is how your review rating impacts your ability to show up for superlative phrases (such as “best lawyer,” “top attorney,” etc.). Typically these types of phrases are associated with high intent, in terms of making a hiring decision. Not only that, these phrases are often equated to better cases for consumers looking to maximize their compensation.
In addition to superlatives, Google recently updated their platform to allow search by highest rating, so it’s more imperative that you achieve the highest possible rating. It’s no longer something to put as an afterthought for your law firm. It impacts every channel that you’re utilizing, whether it’s TV, video, paid social: most consumers travel to Google and eventually convert on your website.
So what are the dos and don’ts to set you up for 2022?
Don’t reply only to negative reviews. We get it: you got a 1-star review and it triggered you…but replying to reviews is not about rebuttal; it’s about other consumers and their perception of you.
Don’t have clients jam keywords into the review. This is specifically against Google guidelines. We understand that you want to manipulate relevancy, but let consumers do that naturally.
Don’t pay for reviews. These are very easy for Google to identify and could get your account suspended. It’s simply not worth the risk.
Don’t set up a remote workstation at your office. While the intent is laudable and the approach seems common sense, there’s a technical element that needs to be considered: if the IP address where individuals are leaving the review is the same as your own (and it will be, if it’s all on the same network), it looks manipulative.
Don’t have a client leave a review on multiple Google profiles. According to Google’s guidelines, the reviewer has to have an experience at the client location. It’s unlikely that a client had experiences at all of your locations, so if they leave reviews for each of them, you jeopardize having all of the reviews taken down.
Don’t ask for reviews more than a week after your business has concluded. They’re less likely to convert when it’s no longer top of mind, so you’ll need to strike while the iron is still hot.
We’ve talked about the don’ts; let’s talk about the dos:
Do set expectations early in the engagement. Let the client know that you are going to ask for a review if they’ve had a good experience. That way, they’ll be prepared for the request and will hopefully mentally catalog the qualities of their experience that will produce a positive review.
Do create a repeatable process to improve the consumer’s client experience. This, in turn, creates client evangelists who will WANT to leave a review. Reviews are oftentimes based on customer service, not the tactical legal representation.
Do reply to every single review. Whether it’s 1 or 5 stars, you should respond to every. Single. Review. It shows that you are empathetic and of good character, that you care not only about individuals that had a poor experience, but also those who had a good one.
Do incentivize your staff with bonus programs and/or SPIFs to acquire reviews. Note: I’m not saying that you pay for reviews. I’m saying to pay to incentivize your individual staff members to get reviews. You’re incentivizing an action from your employees, not purchasing a review from your client.
Do utilize reviews as a feedback loop to improve your law firm. For those individuals who’ve had a poor experience, use the negative review as a learning experience to improve your processes so that doesn’t occur in the future.
Do ask for in-person Google reviews, if possible. As we’ve already highlighted, nearly every individual has a device on them at all times that is capable of posting a Google review. Unlike a dedicated workstation in your office for reviews, one written and posted on a mobile device will come from a unique IP address and consequently not raise any flags over manipulative practices.
Do report false or spam reviews. If you think a review is in violation of a Google policy, you should report it to Google and try to get it removed. Typically, these spam reviews are going to be a low rating, so you don’t want to drop your overall ratings score.
Do utilize technology to make obtaining reviews easier. Consider using software to aid in your Google review acquisition and management processes. Some of the best Google review platforms are Birdeye, Podium, Gatherup, and Yext, to name but a few.
Do utilize SMS text messaging requests. If it’s not possible to ask a consumer for a review in person, the best method is through text messaging, with a significantly higher percentage chance that the consumer will receive it vs. traditional email.
Do ask for reviews when a client is at a peak state of satisfaction. They’re more willing to reciprocate when they’re still riding the “high” from a successful and positive interaction than they are later, when life returns to its normal level.