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How Responding to Negative Reviews Can Boost Your SEO

Written by Gary Honold on . Posted in .
Home > Blog > How Responding to Negative Reviews Can Boost Your SEO

In the legal profession, maintaining a positive reputation is crucial. With years dedicated to establishing trust and credibility, law firms can find their reputation at risk from just a few negative online reviews. Such feedback, whether justified or not, can create uncertainties among potential clients and partners.

The implications of these negative reviews can be severe if there are multiple. They can overshadow the positive feedback from satisfied clients, potentially leading to decreased client acquisition and strained business relationships. This is more than just a reputational concern; it directly affects operational success and revenue.

To address this, it is advisable for law firms to engage with our digital marketing team here at Array Digital or to continue reading to see how to handle these situations best to maintain and strengthen your law firm’s online reputation. Learn how to respond to negative reviews of your law firm in an effective and meaningful manner.

Why your law firm needs reviews

Local Google Business Profile Comparison

No law firm expects a bad review, but avoiding all reviews is not possible or beneficial. Online reviews are an essential component of your legal practice. These third-party reviews build trust amongst your prospective clients and other firm stakeholders. They also afford you the chance to communicate and build your community. A bad review can be a powerful tool in establishing your professionalism.

A person with a legal challenge is likely to turn to the internet to find help. No matter the gravity of the situation, people need to choose an attorney they feel they can trust. One of the most impactful components of the decision-making process is what other clients say. Former clients’ positive reviews provide reassurance and encouragement that they should move forward and reach out to your law firm.

Does responding to third-party online reviews help SEO?

A disgruntled client sharing a negative review on your Google Business Profile doesn’t seem like it could be beneficial. However, Google reviews can help with local SEO. That review could help to build trust in prospective clients and improve the user experience. A component of positive law firm marketing is establishing a strong level of trust not just with your clients but also with Google itself. The way you respond to poor reviews influences this level of trust.

Responding to a bad experience allows your firm to continuously work towards improvement. You can see what your clients are experiencing and make changes that ultimately improve your firm’s ability to meet client needs. That’s going to support your firm’s growth overall.

These reviews should never break the attorney-client protections or share confidential information. However, by responding to them, you’re engaging with clients, reinforcing relationships, and creating opportunities for prospective clients to understand your firm’s expectations, goals, and commitment to client satisfaction. In all of these ways, reviews support local SEO by creating highly valuable engagement opportunities.

What happens if I get a negative review?

Negative Google Business Profile Reviews

Your law firm is likely to receive a few negative reviews and perhaps even fake reviews. Receiving one is not the end of the world. These reviews should never be deleted or ignored, though. They are not going to fade away, and you don’t necessarily need them to just “go away.”

Rather, address the reasons the client has shared their experience with you and the public. Why did this review occur? By better understanding the client experience, you can try to tackle the underlying cause, bettering your firm as a direct result. For example, a bad review about poor communication demonstrates your need for better follow-up or improved clarity in client interactions. Addressing this supports your law firm’s ability to meet your next clients’ needs more effectively.

Responding to reviews is a core component of good reputation management, which is one component of your larger marketing strategy. When you respond to them properly, you show the community your firm’s willingness and commitment to changing and providing a better level of service to your clients.

What if they left one star but no commentary?

Responding to a negative Google Business Profile review

Star reviews can be challenging, especially when they lack any real context or insight into what went wrong. Responding to these types of reviews takes careful consideration. Do not share any personal or confidential information, and follow all rules of professional conduct.

If it is a fraudulent review, communicate some detail about this. You may say, “After reviewing our records, we cannot confirm that this person utilized our services.” It may be possible to remove fake reviews, but your initial priority should be to clarify your firm’s lack of connection with this party if that’s the case.

Why do people write bad reviews of your law firm?

Man on his phone

Client reviews occur for many reasons. A bad review could be left, for example, by your client’s soon-to-be-ex in a divorce case. This would be a fraudulent review since they are not directly your client. While fake reviews are possibilities, and some people will leave a review that’s unjustified, most often, that’s not the case.

The person leaving a review is likely to do so because they had a bad experience they wish to share with others. It could be that an undesirable outcome occurred in the case, and their natural reaction to this is to blame the attorney for it. They may use your reviews to warn others. Client reviews may stem from disappointment in the settlement they received, believing their attorney could have done more. Review sites are full of emotionally driven statements from clients.

How do you respond to a hostile review?

Responding to negative reviews

When responding to a review on social media or in a search engine, the details you share are publicly accessible. The public will read what you write. Ensure you follow all state guidelines for reviews and American Bar Association (ABA) marketing guidelines for responding to reviews. It is your responsibility and obligation not to violate any compliance and confidentiality rules here.

Attorneys can be penalized by the ABA for the way they handle these reviews. When you encounter one, then, pause and create a proper response. These steps will help.

Think before you write

Before communicating anything or even acknowledging the review, take a moment to think about what you wish to communicate to the public about this review. Once you write that review, let it sit for several hours or a day before you post anything. Allow your own emotions to pass before you react.

Address the concerns of the review

Try to look at the reviewer’s concerns. Did they receive poor support? Did they have unrealistic expectations of the outcome of their case? The key here is not in the star rating they gave you but in what areas you could have performed better – did your firm drop the ball, or did you do what you stated and promised?

Remember your audience

This is not a private phone call. This is an open forum. When communicating a response to a bad review, recognize that what you are saying will be interpreted by prospective clients and the community as a whole in various ways. Be clear, concise, and confidential.

Get a second set of eyes on the review

Discuss the review with your legal team. Again, avoid breaking any confidentiality rules here, but ensure you are gathering facts about what occurred and getting a better, more authentic understanding of what this client’s experience was. You may stumble upon a mistake made in the lines of communication or a fact you didn’t know about the client’s expectations.

Respond to both good and bad reviews

With this information in hand, you can respond to the review. Share your appreciation for their use of your legal services and offer clarity to the public as appropriate and within the rules of the ABA.

Example responses

While it is important to always craft personalized responses that speak to the reviewer’s concerns, here are some examples of what you could post.

“I’m sorry to hear your experience did not meet your expectations. At our law firm, we take client communication and experience seriously, as can be seen in our over 200 positive reviews. I would like to discuss this matter with you. Please call our offices (provide phone number) and ask for me directly.”

“Thank you so much for your review. At our law firm, it is important that we address all of our clients’ concerns properly. We would love to contact you directly to resolve this issue. When convenient, please call our firm at (provide phone number).

Stay compliant with ABA Rule 7.2 when asking for reviews

Reviews are a valuable component of your online reputation, and you should seek out positive reviews. The more positive reviews you have, the more confident a prospective searcher can be when contacting you for legal help. However, there are rules you must follow to remain ABA-compliant in how you request reviews. You can ask clients to leave a review, and you can use an email campaign to do so.

ABA Rule 7.2 provides very specific limitations and requirements for requesting reviews from your clients. This applies to most reviews and testimonials you obtain. Some of those rules include:

  • You cannot compensate, give, or promise anything of any type of value to a person in exchange for a review.
  • You cannot create false or misleading communication with prospective or existing clients.
  • You cannot defend yourself in a client review by sharing any confidential information, even if the client has already done so.

The rules of ethical responsibilities remain here. When requesting or responding to reviews, always pay close attention to the latest guidance provided by ABA.

The importance of removing fraudulent reviews

There are times when fake or drastically misleading reviews will occur on review sites like Yelp and AVVO or your Google reviews. You should not attempt to remove bad reviews that are accurate. However, you should work to remove fraudulent reviews.

Review the policies of the review site to determine what steps you can take to have the review removed. For example, Google will remove reviews that violate its policies, including those that are harassing, include hate speech, provide deceptive content, or are offensive.

AVVO allows attorneys to dispute negative reviews. The site will contact the reviewer to determine if the party was an actual client and then remove fraudulent posts.

Transform feedback into growth

Google review imagery

As a component of good law firm SEO, online reviews are paramount for your digital marketing strategy. Array Digital can provide you with guidance on how to handle negative reviews and how to build positive reviews without providing any legal advice or violating ABA rules.

We have experience within a variety of legal sectors, including personal injury, family law, criminal law, business law, and more. That means we have the experience to understand why bad reviews occur in each situation and how to deal with them properly.

Contact Array Digital now to learn how we can use your negative law firm reviews to improve your local SEO. Call 757-333-3021 or fill out our contact form now to learn how.

Written By Gary Honold
I am a digital marketer and SEO manager with 30+ years’ experience driving web traffic, leads, and conversions for clients in highly competitive markets.

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