If there's one thing that consistently ruffles a lawyer's feathers, it's the proliferation of 3rd party, algorithm driven, lawyer review and research websites like AVVO, HG.org, Lawyers.com, Justia and others that are competing for consumer attention. We can't begin to tell you how many seasoned attorneys we've talked to that want to obliterate these websites when they receive a bad review or substandard "rating" based off of a seemingly arbitrary algorithm. The horror stories of bad, fake and unfair reviews while being hamstrung by marketing ethics rules, professional standards and confidentiality are painful and threaten the livelihood of good attorneys.
The reality when it comes to online profile and review websites is this. They exist whether you want them to or not. You are listed on them and cannot be removed because they use public records. Reviews and ratings represent free speech and the website creator will not be held liable. Since they are on the internet many people will think them to be true. As an attorney you cannot stick your head in the sand and hope they go away.
Fortunately there is a flip-side to the negativity that often surrounds a lawyer's initial impression of profile and review websites. Here are three strong reasons and ways that you can use these sites to your advantage.
Some of the most important rankings factors for organic search, especially local search results, are based around citations. A citation is a listing of your Name, Address, & Phone on another website. The more citations you can get from high authority websites, the better your website will rank on Google and other search engines.
High authority is the caveat here. JoesAttorneyRankingzz.com, with their questionable pharmaceutical ads on the top of the page, would probably do more to hurt your site than to help. According to Moz.com, a highly respected SEO information source, here are the best sites that you can list your attorney profile and law firm contact information. You don't need a paid account with these places, just your firm contact information listed, which can usually be done for free.
Increasingly many lawyer profile sites like AVVO are showing up on the first page of results when searching for lawyers in a city. With Google's focus on giving high authority sites a nod over truly local sites, it can be extremely difficult to get your firm's website to a higher ranking for very broad searches.
In the example here for "Ann Arbor Plumber." 6 of the 10 organic rankings, including the first 3, are taken up by massive websites that have profiles driving their content. It's much easier to attach yourself (like a barnacle) to the success of their SEO and work on increasing your ranking on their platform to take advantage of these high rankings.
Recently, after raising over $70 million, Avvo has even begun running television ads to drive customers to their site, increasing their rankings even more.
It makes the choice simple — if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
A big part of the success of the profile aggregators like Yelp and Avvo is the ability for customers to leave reviews for future consumers to look at. With a decision as important as selecting a lawyer, customers want to go beyond your own marketing materials and get a sense of what other clients thought about your practice. How you conducted yourself in court, if you answered their calls, and if your fees were reasonable are all open game on these platforms.
An increased focus on consumer feedback can be positive news for reputable firms. Not only can these reviews increase rankings on Google, but customers' eyes are drawn to the review stars that are often shown on the search engine results pages. In addition, this type of social proof is a key to getting customers to take a look at your profile over your competitor's. With all of the noise being thrown at them in legal advertising, having your clients give you a vote of confidence publicly speaks volumes about your firm.
You can see how easy it can be to create a profile, and we've given you a list of 10 to get started. Don't stop there! There are hundreds of websites, both paid and free, that could potentially boost the organic rankings of your website.
If you'd like a hand with all of this, our local marketing fundamentals service can take local organic marketing, lawyer profile and review management off your plate for less than a hundred dollars a month. For more information, reach out to our Sales team here.