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October 01, 2020 #LRIS2Know

What to Do When Clients Post Negative Reviews?

Ken Matejka, J.D., LL.M

No matter how hard you try, eventually a client is going to be disappointed enough with an interaction with your LRIS to voice it on a review site like Yelp or Google My Business (GMB).

A bad review that ranks high in search engine results is going to have a negative impact on drawing in potential clients in the future. Therefore, you need to do everything you can to minimize the potential damage.

The following is what is possible to do in the eventuality of this happening to you.

Respond to the client

If you know the person who put the review on the website, you may want to respond to the reviewer to see if there is anything that can be done to make things better.

In the case of Yelp, you have an opportunity to reply privately through the Yelp website itself to see if there is any hope of improving the reviewer’s attitude toward your lawyer referral program.

If you tried this and it was unsuccessful or if you think it would be pointless to try, you may want to post a public reply.

Posting a public reply

It’s recommended that you post a public reply to every review, positive or negative, because it personalizes your LRIS and lets visitors to the review site know that real people who care are on the other side. We are not just another computer-driven directory without humans monitoring things.

However, while Yelp and GMB gives you an opportunity to give your side of the story in the case of a negative review, to be effective, it needs to be handled artfully. If the negative reviewer wants to post a reply to your public reply, it could make matters worse.  More importantly, you also want to make sure that the content of your response is permissible within the rules of professional conduct applicable to your jurisdiction.

Bury the review

In the case of GMB, encourage people to give a “thumbs up” to existing positive reviews.

Your supporters can give a "thumbs up" to positive reviews

Your supporters can give a "thumbs up" to positive reviews

Google does not sort the reviews chronologically and it’s been found in at least one study that there’s a correlation between the number of “thumbs up” and the sort order of the reviews.

Bury the search result

If none of the above has helped and the negative review is still showing prominently in the search results for your LRS’s name, the next best thing would be to bury the search result by crowding it off the first page of Google's search results with more positive information about your LRS.

Your active social media platforms can be effective in appearing higher in the search results for your name than in a Yelp listing. In addition, soliciting additional positive reviews for GMB and giving a “thumbs up” to existing positive reviews will bolster your positive presence.

Google has an apparent fondness for certain press release websites like PRWeb. By putting up press releases at PR websites (often for a small fee - PRWeb as of this writing charges $149 per press release), you should be able to get your handcrafted positive content to rank well.

YouTube can also be helpful in displacing a negative search result.

If you find yourself in the situation of having too many negative reviews (under 4-stars), be proactive in minimizing the negative impact on your program.

Challenge the review

Lastly, whether the review is at Yelp, GMB or on some other review site, you can write to the editors to have it removed.

You may find a review where you do not recognize the author or the circumstances he or she is describing, leading you to a conclusion that it may have been posted by a competitor , former employee, or by someone who is mistaking you for someone else.

Or you may recognize the client, but the review is filled with mischaracterizations, falsehoods and vilifying opinions.

Both Yelp and GMB offer automated ways to challenge a review. In the case of GMB, you “flag” the review as “inappropriate,” then choose among several options as to the inappropriateness.

Flagged business review

Flagged business review

In the same way, Yelp allows you to challenge a review by clicking on the three dots to the upper right of a review and clicking “Report Review.”

Reporting a business review

Reporting a business review

It will give you several options as to why the review should be taken down and a text box to describe your situation.

I’ve found GMB to be responsive to “flags” but you should keep your expectations low for Yelp.

Best of luck, my friends. See you soon at the online Workshop.

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Ken Matejka, J.D., LL.M


Ken Matejka, J.D., LL.M, is a California-licensed attorney and best-selling author of "The Lawyer's Ultimate Guide to Online Leads." To receive a complimentary copy of his book, please write to [email protected].