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If Your Firm Solicits Google Reviews, You Might Get a Surprise

By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 23, 2018 12:58 PM

Do a Google review, get tickets to the zoo.

It was a law firm contest that almost worked. The Kentucky lawyers thought it would be a good way to generate positive Google reviews, and it did.

A lot of people bought in to the idea and the firm generated close to 100 reviews. But when the firm got called out by an online review vigilante, Google investigated the solicited reviews, and within a couple weeks, the reviews vanished.

Really? Zoo Passes for Reviews?

Seriously, the law firm lost all but one of its positive reviews because Google removed the zoo-pass reviews. It started with a complaint on a Google My Business forum.

"A business that is well known for getting poor reviews is purchasing positive reviews," Howard W. posted. "On their Facebook page they offer free zoo tickets in exchange for a positive 5 star review." 

After the complaint, Google took down all the reviews except one. Company guidelines advise:

  • Don't use reviews for advertising purposes.
  • Don't include promotional or commercial content.
  • Don't offer or accept money in exchange for reviews.

The rules don't prohibit contests, but offering prizes for reviews apparently crossed the line.

Social Media Backlash

The firm still has 1,000 five-star reviews on its Facebook page, but the social media backlash is out there. "It may well be that a high percentage of these are the byproduct of contests and incentives," Search Engine Land said.

For lawyers, part of the problem is that they don't know how to use social media profitably. According to a survey by Attorney at Work, 96 percent of them use social media but only seven percent believe it brings in new clients.

Mark Jacobsen, senior director of Strategic Development and Thought Leadership at FindLaw, says consumers are increasingly using social media to find lawyers. Social media has become an important part of the fabric of our daily lives, he said.

That includes online reviews, for better or for worse.

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