In an age of technology and instant information at one’s fingertips, it comes as no surprise that law firms are shifting their advertising focus to the online marketplace. A 2019 survey of 2,000 participants found that while personal referrals were still the top method for choosing an attorney at just over 30%, the firm’s website and use of online search engines also bore a significant influence on the decision-making process. 17% of respondents rely on popular platforms like Google and lawyer rating sites similar to Super Lawyers to research lawyers for their legal issues. An additional 17% said they would rely on a firm’s webpage to make conclusions on their ability and experience.
These statistics raise even more crucial questions for legal teams across the United States when it comes to online marketing and advertising of service offerings. Specifically, many firms are trying to determine what perceptions consumers have about those that come in at the top of search engine result pages (SERPs) and if ranking higher on such platforms, including lawyer rating sites like Avvo, makes them appear at a premium. Further, does this appearance give the impression of higher cost and quality, which might make an attorney appear inaccessible to potential clients? Or, do consumers believe firms that rank higher are simply “paying to play”?
What the Numbers Say About Consumer Perception of Lawyer Rankings and Cost
To find out how a law firm’s positioning on SERPs or their status on legal ranking sites like Super Lawyers and Avvo affects consumer perception, one has to look at a few statistics first.
A recent local consumer review survey put out by Bright Local in December of 2019 revealed that a whopping 90% of consumers use the web to research local business services that they need. Couple this with the Bureau of Statistics’s finding that over 90% of these same consumers also rely on reviews to decide if they will utilize these businesses, and it becomes clear that online brand positioning is vital to create a successful marketing strategy.
What these studies don’t reveal is how using these rankings to advertise as a top-ranked law firm affects consumer perceptions. Without a doubt, the majority of clients want an unfiltered and genuine snapshot of an attorney’s customer experience, ability, and pricing.
Further, a recent review conducted by Market My Market shows that SERPs and aggregated lawyer ranking sites can impact consumer perceptions about law firms in a variety of ways, thus affecting the decision-making process. The purpose of the survey of 300 participants was to determine if high SERP placement—or “sponsored”/high-ranking denotations on sites like Super Lawyers—gave the impression a firm was more expensive compared to others.
Additionally, participants also shared whether they felt that special statuses, such as Avvo’s “Clients’ Choice,” are simply “pay to play” schemes that cast doubt on a firm’s actual ability and experience.
Consumer Attitudes Toward Firms on Google SERPs and Aggregated Lawyer Sites
Of the 300 survey participants, when asked if they thought that attorneys or firms in a top Google result were possibly a “premium” firm and may cost more than average, 52.11% said yes. This question included the use of Google Ads and paid advertisements that would prominently display legal service providers above organically ranked results.
When asked the same question, but instead referring to aggregated lawyer ranking sites like SuperLawyers and Justia, a significant increase in participant agreement was apparent. 63.14% said yes, they believe firms using sites dedicated to ranking lawyers and firms do come at a premium cost to consumers.
The question then becomes, is this a positive or negative finding? It turns out that it’s a mixed bag of answers.
What Consumer Misperceptions Influence These Findings?
To better understand how these first two findings may impact a firm’s usage of paid advertisement of their firms, whether through search platform services like Google or via dedicated legal marketing sites like Avvo or Findlaw.com, Market My Market asked another important question: Why would someone not choose a top result?
The answers ranged widely, but the majority had a common theme: distrust of ads. Top ranking law firms were perceived as paid advertisements by 38.6% of the survey’s participants. Additionally, 26.7% of those believing that top result ranking indicated paid advertisement also felt that such placement was not a reliable indicator of the firm’s abilities.
Reasons used to describe this lack of confidence included:
- No trust in ads
- Bought-and-paid-for positioning
These findings come to the root of the dilemma attorneys face when using advertising services and ranking sites to increase their online market visibility. How can they use these marketing tools in a manner that breeds consumer confidence?
How to Use SERP Ranking and Law Firm Rating Sites Effectively
The bottom line to effective use of online ranking and even paid advertisement services will rely heavily on marketing language. Strategic use of meta descriptions is an important starting point in dispelling consumer’s misperceptions when firms make use of online advertising tools. Communicating that a firm is both financially accessible to most consumers and possesses the needed skills and experience consumers desire is critical.
Market My Market asked survey participants what language a top-ranking firm needed to use to deter consumers from choosing a different firm that was lower on SERPs. The overwhelming answer was transparency and flexibility of service costs.
Specific terms surveyed individuals used that reflected this attitude included:
- Payment plans
- Cost comparison
- Average cost
This data proves that firms do have control over consumer perception when ranking high in Google and aggregate lawyer sites. It also shows the same control over opinion when using paid advertising solutions. Using engaging language that directly addresses preconceived ideas regarding the use of the marketing tools can not only make digital marketing initiatives more lucrative but also increase conversions.
Using the right approach to SERP ranking and advertising sites like Super Lawyers will ensure that the information consumers consult to evaluate your services will bring leads. At Market My Market, we’ve got the tools to develop your online presence and the data to back it up. Contact us for a free consultation.