Where Should You Focus Your Online Review Efforts?
One of our law firm clients recently approached us to find out the answer to a simple yet important question; where should we be placing our efforts when it comes to gaining reviews online? Do customers trust certain review sources over others? Inspired by this post from Mike Blumenthal, we headed over to Google Surveys and collected responses from nearly 1000 respondents. You can find the complete survey data here.
Here’s our breakdown:
The Question: When you need to find a specialty lawyer, what online review source do you trust most?
a) Google Local
b) Yahoo! Local
f) Other Site
The question: We were careful to specify in our question that we were interested in determining what sites people trusted when searching for a specialty lawyer. The choice of legal representation is obviously far more critical than, say, where to have to have lunch, and so this specification matters here.
The choices: The next deliberate action was the choices we provided. We chose these sites because they are commonly seen as among the most popular in the local search ecosystem. We thought that survey takers would be familiar with each of these sites to a degree that would allow for an accurate response.
Variables worth mentioning
The choices: Because we were only focused on determining where individuals would turn online to obtain the information they needed to make their choice, we provided no choices which lay outside of the online realm such as “ask a friend” or “ask your current attorney”. These were shown to be the most popular search methods in Mike’s similar survey, and this fact may well be reflected in our “Other Site” options, as respondents may have thought “I wouldn’t trust a website, I’d ask a friend, or seek another outside referral” and so chose the “Other Site” option as the best reflection of the opinion.
When looking a little deeper into the data that this survey provides, some valuable insight is gained. Of the people who participated in this survey, those who fell in the 18-24 age range turned to Google local more. As the age of those surveyed increases, that trust seemingly deteriorates. What does this mean? The younger the crowd, the more trust has been placed in the Google brand. Or, perhaps the importance of seeking other opinions gains importance as one gets older. Meaning that word of mouth (i.e. asking a friend or trusted colleague) holds more value than ranking well on search engines.
Taking that a step further, of those who do not seek ‘other sites’ Google has established enough trust, through their ability to provide relevant searches, that ignoring their ability to drive fresh traffic would be foolish. They are still the number one way to gain a foothold in the referral world as well (assuming the services rendered are up-to-par) by converting people who previously didn’t know who to turn to in a specialty lawyer search into active applause for a firm. As always, providing a quality service/product is the best way to get more business. Managing the reviews on all of the sites has validity, but none more so than Google local.
Play around with the settings on the toolbar in the left sidebar of the complete survey data. Draw your own conclusions while analyzing the different age groups’ answers to this telling question.
What to take away?
The data speaks for itself to some degree. Here’s what I would take away:
1. As far as the major review sites, Google is trusted above the other most popular options, at least for people searching for lawyers. This may be different if we were looking at restaurant or auto shop reviews.
Reviews here are valuable not just for this reason, but also because, starting at 10, the reviews on a Google Local page actually have a positive impact on local search rankings.
2. Yahoo! Local is still important, and may only increase in relevance with their (kind of) new leadership.
3. As a lawyer/law firm, while the online space is certainly important, offline referrals are still critical and should be a substantial part of your marketing efforts.
4. Because all of the options in our survey received at least some percentage of the votes, it’s important to obtain reviews on each of these top sites. Failing to do so could very possibly have a negative impact on case sign-ups.