Two years ago, the CDC confirmed the first known case of coronavirus in the U.S. in January of 2020. However, it wasn’t until a few months later that our day-to-day life was completely turned upside down. At that point, we immediately looked at the impact that COVID would have on consumer behavior in the legal field. We saw drastic changes across the board—from social validation and messaging to availability and intake. Some metrics we’ve followed the closest are business reviews, and if you’ve been following our content on these topics at all, you will know how often we conduct consumer surveys to map out the trends in this arena.

At Market My Market, we’ve established exhaustive data supporting the importance of reviews and we’ve concluded that it’s crucial to have goals in mind in terms of the quantitative aspects of review generation. One way of looking at how many reviews you should acquire on Google, for example, can be something as simple as its relativity to your competition. If you’re currently on Maps with two other law firms and they both have more reviews than you, your goal should be to consider those benchmarks. On the other hand, if you aren’t currently on Maps for your main keywords, consider those that are on Maps somewhat of a benchmark as well.

Looking at the 2022 Update of Market My Market’s Customer Review Survey

*Survey Results Updated as of January 24th, 2022*

How Important are Business Reviews to You and How Much Time Would You Spend Researching a Lawyer Before Contacting Them?

The first question we normally ask in our surveys is “How Important are Business Reviews to You?” On a scale of 1-10—1 being the least important and 10 being the most—survey results have been hovering around 8 for a year and a half. Another question that’s remained similar during this time period is “How Much Time Would You Spend Researching a Lawyer Before Contacting Them?” Since March of 2020, this has hovered between 30 and 40 minutes, with the last survey stating that consumers average 36 minutes. Both of these questions should remain consistent for a long time to come, so we’ll likely switch them out in the next survey we conduct.

The minimum review rating barely moved since the last time we conducted the survey. The average review rating people perceive as a threshold is 3.97. We’d advise on getting closer to 4.7-4.8, but it’s good to know that it’s unlikely you’ll deter business with a 4.0 rating.

So far, nothing is groundbreaking in our first update in roughly 9 months. The only exception is that the amount of reviews the average respondent expects in a Google My Business listing has come back down to earth. There was a meteoric ascent of Minimum Reviews respondents expected to see since March of 2020, with the peak in the last survey hitting a somewhat unreasonable 70 reviews. In the most recent survey in January of 2022, that number is now closer to 36 reviews, more in line with numbers seen back around September of 2020.

Where Would You Go to See More Reviews of a Business? 

In the last question, which asks “Where would you go to see more reviews of a business?” Google saw a steep decline. In June of 2021, 64% of respondents said Google was their go-to; this time around the number was hardly above 40%. This is interesting in relation to our most recent article about the average consumer’s level of trust when it comes to Google. People agreed slightly more in 2022 compared to 2021 that Google has the best search results for their inquiries relative to other search engines and social platforms. However, there’s a 21.6% increase in respondents who believe that Google has a bias for the social/political results that are provided. Likewise, there’s a 19.1% increase in those who believe Google is providing more results that are monetized/non-organic. 

This, I believe, is a “the lesser of two evils” trend that seems to be happening at the moment because, again, respondents still believe Google is the best platform regardless of these largely negative developments. That being said, 25% of consumers seem to believe that Yelp! is a reliable website to verify results – showing a mile-wide gap between consumers’ perception of Yelp! and businesses’ perception of Yelp. The 25% mark is almost exactly what it was, unfortunately, in July of 2021: 24.68%.

In the most recent survey, there are far more sources that respondents referred to to verify reviews than ever before. Now that the sources aren’t simply “Google” and “Yelp!” with TrustPilot and Glassdoor thrown in for good measure, here are the others that were mentioned that would be worth looking into for yourself, with the number of respondents that mentioned each (the total respondents in this survey was 250 for reference).

  • Better Business Bureau (3)
  • ConsumerAffairs (5)
  • Reddit (4)
  • Social Media (5)
  • Trustpilot (6)
  • Twitter (3)

*Survey Results Below Represent Survey Results as of June 17th, 2021*

Reviews and User Behavior: Analyzing a Market My Market Study

Of course, people researching your firm are going to expect certain minimums no matter the case, so here are some numbers from research we conducted in June of 2021:

Minimum Review Rating: 3.96
Minimum Number of Reviews: 69.61

In the graphs below, we can see the importance of reviews and minimum review ratings are almost identical now to what they were just over a year ago, with only a marginal uptick. The biggest difference we see is the number of reviews consumers are expecting. A year ago, there was already a big leap from roughly 20 to 50 reviews being the ideal number for those researching lawyers. Today, that number has increased by another 40% to 70.

The average amount of time respondents claimed they would spend researching a lawyer also increased from an average of 30 minutes to an average of 40 minutes, an increase of 33%. We can conclude from these factors that because of the increase in time allotted to doing research, the respondent will also take more time reading through reviews.

(Green line shows an increase from March of 2020 to June 2021)
(Green line shows an increase from March of 2020 to June 2021)

Breaking Down the Market for Review Platforms

Google still dominates the review market, with about 64% of respondents stating that it’s their go-to source for reviews. Social media has lost nearly all significance as a source of valid reviews as consumer confidence is nearly at an all-time low in trust for these platforms, with a combined 3.8% of respondents across all social media platforms.

Trustpilot, which normally rates companies other than professional services, made an appearance for the first time in this survey, along with Glassdoor. Glassdoor is an interesting source for reviews as consumers are often interested in how a law firm treats its employees when choosing the right option for them.

Looking at the Emergence of Yelp as a Platform for Reviews

What I didn’t expect to see in this survey is the long-time-coming and unfortunate ascent of Yelp. With 24.68% of respondents claiming they’d do research for a lawyer on Yelp, one of my biggest fears came to fruition considering the widespread abhorrence of Yelp in the legal industry. I haven’t heard anything positive about Yelp from lawyers during the past decade, which is an unpleasant truth that may need to be addressed.

On the bright side, the majority of respondents who claimed they would use Yelp for research were looking for somewhere between 3 and 10 reviews, which is altogether more manageable than the 70 that are required for Google reviews. Yelp users aren’t especially demanding for the average rating (3.99), but they most commonly say they’d research a lawyer for up to an hour.

Although lawyers have long dreaded the emergence of Yelp, it’s crucial today for your firm to have a game plan for tackling Yelp reviews. Though direct solicitation of reviews on Yelp is against their terms and conditions, it’s rare for a law firm to naturally acquire a positive review on Yelp that sticks and isn’t filtered. Even 5 reviews would go an exceedingly long way, according to the study. Yelp usage and adoption likely took off dramatically during the past year with more limited dining and entertainment options and has now stuck as a tool for researching all service-based businesses.

In my experience, Yelp has been an overwhelmingly frustrating company, with many practices hinging on highly unethical. I’ve heard numerous accounts of sales reps suggesting that negative reviews can be suppressed and positive reviews can be approved with some sort of ongoing campaign or advertising with Yelp, though the details are never clear and certainly not laid out in written language.

It’s perhaps a “wink wink” notion for business owners to engage them in some sort of marketing to have more control over their profile and reputation. At the end of the day, it seems to be hearsay, but I wouldn’t put it past a company that finds itself with the vitriol of literally thousands of law firms, yet no class action lawsuit (which I’m either unaware of or if it hasn’t happened, is totally baffling).

Making Review Generation a Part of Your Marketing Mix

At Market My Market, we’ve developed plenty of articles and guides over the years that have addressed the importance, processes, and best practices for effective review generation. While I have no true method for addressing Yelp reviews besides trying out some sort of basic engagement (avoid the litigious route – evidently, they are armed and ready for that), these articles are another piece of the puzzle in securing high-quality reviews and ensuring that anyone researching your firm ahead of time loves what they see:

Managing Your Online Reputation Is Essential in Today’s Digital World

Now is as good a time as any to contemplate the recent progress your business has made and strategize how you want it to develop in the year ahead. By refining your online reputation and better managing the number and quality of your reviews, you can work toward growing your business and becoming the go-to source in your industry.

For assistance in refining your online reputation and reviews, consider the experienced professionals at Market My Market. Our knowledgeable team is committed to helping you apply creative strategies and gaining top reviews. To learn about how we can help improve your digital reputation, contact us for a free consultation by completing our contact form.