As more people turn to the Internet for information prior to making any major decision online reviews have become far more important. An estimated 83 percent of perspective clients search online for reviews of an attorney prior to scheduling a consultation and 70 percent of potential clients admit that they are willing to travel out of their way to meet with an attorney who has constantly high reviews. Yelp is currently the most popular review site used by those who are searching for an attorney leading to some firm owners taking steps to encourage clients to leave reviews. However, it is important to understand Yelp review solicitation penalties before appropriating third-parties regarding leaving positive reviews even if those people are past clients.
What is Review Solicitation?
Yelp defines review solicitation as a business owner asking anyone for reviews or making any organized effort to obtain reviews for their business. This includes, but is not limited to:
· Asking your staff to collect reviews from clients;
· Running surveys that ask customers to leave reviews about positive experiences;
· Requesting friends, family members, or customers to leave reviews on Yelp for your business;
· Contacting your mailing list requesting reviews;
· Offer any form of payment or incentive in return for posting a review.
In the past most business owners were aware of the ethical problems associated with offering any form of compensation or reward for a review, but the concept of being penalized for asking actual clients to post feedback is a shock to many. Yelp’s stringent policy makes it difficult for law firms to reach out to actual customers for real feedback.
What are the Penalties?
The “don’t ask” review policy being enforced on Yelp threatens business owners with extreme penalties if they are found to be participating in any form of review solicitation. Initially, Yelp will apply a search ranking penalty that reduces a business’s Yelp visibility making it harder to attract new clients or benefit from possibly solicited reviews. Should the attempts to boost ranking through feedback manipulation be extreme or continue Yelp will place a consumer alert on the businesses page to warn viewers that the reviews may be purchased, solicited, or otherwise incentivized. The message is highly visible and requires users to manually close the alert leading to a potential loss in business.
How Do I Avoid These Penalties?
The best way to avoid these potentially harmful penalties is by making sure your business complies with Yelp’s rules. Currently Yelp provides business owners with free stickers that can be used at your location to reference your business’s presence on Yelp encouraging clients to leave reviews without directly asking for reviews.
If you have previously encouraged clients to leave feedback on Yelp and are now not sure where to direct them consider starting or expanding upon a blog that utilizes client feedback. The team at Law Blog Writers, LLC can work with you to create quality content that incorporates legitimate client testimonial in a way that benefits your law firm. Contact us today so that we can begin discussing your business needs and the best way to use your client reviews.