Over the last few years, reviews or testimonials, have become huge. People making purchasing decisions value what complete strangers have to say about the product or service. Lawyer services are no different.
Therefore, many internet marketing strategies rely in some part on reviews/testimonials. Many lawyers post reviews or snippets of reviews on their websites and with good reason. Truthful reviews help a website visitor assess the credibility and character of the attorney.
I encourage clients to ask for and post reviews, and I always encourage reviews which discuss the attorney’s character, honesty and skill. “He’s the best,” in my mind, doesn’t inform the viewer about the lawyer. “She always answered my calls and took the time to explain,” on the other hand, says something about how the lawyer treats her clients.
SEO & Internet Marketers – Posting Fake Reviews
So, it is no surprise that SEO companies have found a way to game the system, by posting fake reviews. Google caught on to this tactic several months ago. It realized that reviews posted from the same IP address were probably fake. As a result, Google can refuse to show a review it deems as fake or questionable. Here are Google’s Review Content Guidelines: https://support.google.com/plus/answer/2622994?hl=en&topic=2624941&ctx=topic.
There are of course, ways to game the system, such as using multiple IP addresses. This is precisely what many SEO marketers have done in the past and probably will continue to do, but not without a cost. The New York Attorney General caught on to this practice and investigated dozens of marketing companies and businesses which employed such tactics. Operation Clean Turf wrapped up this month and the result – 19 companies/businesses agreed to pay a total of $350,000 in fines. Click here to read the NY AG press release.
Of course, ethically, posting fake reviews is problematic. However, many SEO and internet marketing companies probably still employ such tactics on behalf of lawyers. Once Google Plus and authorship became huge last year, I saw many lawyers who, overnight it seemed, racked up dozens of reviews on their Google profiles.
Lawyers cannot hide behind their marketing companies. Ultimately and legally, lawyers are responsible for their marketing campaigns. Lawyers who do not keep up with their internet marketing companies are doing may face ethics inquiries from state bar associations. In a world where online reputations can make or break a business, a press release about an ethics complaint is the last thing any lawyer wants to deal with.
TIP: If you are a lawyer who employs a “set it and forget it” mentality with your law firm’s internet marketing/SEO company, wake up. Start asking for quarterly updates on what those companies are doing and how they are doing it. You have got to reign in unethical tactics before it is too late.