The Benefits of Client Testimonials (and How to Get Them)

There are many different kinds of client testimonials, and many different ways to include them in your web presence. Most lawyers don’t use client testimonials at all. Some just try to accumulate likes on Facebook, and others generate dozens of testimonials on their website or on review sites like Yelp.

Testimonials may seem like a trivial part of your overall web presence compared to content, blog posts, and social media accounts. But testimonials are powerful not only for marketing your practice to prospective clients, but also for search engine visibility.

Testimonials and Marketing

Testimonials are forms of validation from former clients that tell prospective clients to hire your firm. They build trust. Any law firm’s website can say “we care about our clients,” but not every attorney website can say, from a client’s perspective, “I really felt like this firm cared about me. They answered all of my calls and helped me resolve my case.”

Testimonials help ease prospective clients’ hesitations about reaching out to you. If someone finds your firm online, they will have no idea why they would hire you over the next lawyer in the search results. A testimonial validates your abilities and makes the proposition of hiring your firm seem less risky. It’s why people look up Yelp reviews before going to a restaurant — to make sure the food will be good. Getting feedback from other customers assures us we are making the right decision. Testimonials provide the same assurance to people looking for lawyers.

A Hubspot customer survey reported that 52% of consumers surveyed find that positive customer reviews make them more likely to use a local business. This is compared to just 28% that make their choice based on other factors like location and price. Moreover, 76% of consumers use online reviews to determine which local businesses to use.

43% of clients use online reviews to research lawyers. That’s a big-enough number that you should consider how to include testimonials in your firm’s web presence.

Even if all your clients come from referrals, some of your potential clients are still looking you up online. 8% of the people who search for a lawyer online do it to validate a tentative choice, and 9% it evaluate their existing attorney.

Testimonials and SEO

Google’s algorithm of the billion or so website ranking factors (which ultimately determine whether your website is the first or five millionth result for a particular search term) weighs testimonials on third-party websites like Google My Business and Yelp. More positive testimonials and reviews can boost your website’s search visibility.

In particular, reviews are given weight when it comes to local search. The search ranking factors include:

  • Quantity of Google reviews
  • Quantity of third-party traditional reviews (e.g. Yelp!)
  • Product / service keywords in reviews
  • Quantity of reviews by “authority” reviewers (e.g. Yelp! Elite)
  • Authority of third-party review websites
  • Negative sentiment in reviews

As an exercise, search for “[state] [practice area] law firm” in Google. It is likely you are going to see a list of law firms on a map. Some of the firms in the list may have starred reviews under their names. Potential clients are more likely to click on a firm with seven five-star reviews over a firm with zero reviews.

Though Google has yet to officially say that it promotes its homegrown platform over others, search engine marketers have noticed more visibility from My Business reviews than from any other review site.

Ethics Issues in Testimonials

Each jurisdiction varies in its rules regarding testimonials. In some, you must provide required disclosures. New York, for example, requires a disclaimer stating: “Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome” on the firm’s website. This disclaimer can be on a separate page or in the footer. Not every jurisdiction requires such a disclaimer, and some require precise wording. Definitely consult your state’s ethics rules before publishing testimonials.

Another ethical consideration is when you can get client testimonials. Some jurisdictions may require that, if you get a testimonial from a client when their matter is still pending, you must get the client’s informed consent in writing. In any case, you should get client testimonials once you conclude working on their matter.

It should go without saying, but do not create fake reviews. This is called astroturfing, and it is not only unethical, it is illegal in many jurisdictions. Additionally, do not hire a marketing firm that will “get” you reviews. You are ultimately responsible for anything that company does on your behalf.

You can ethically get former clients to write positive reviews about your practice.

Getting Testimonials

Attorneys have different styles when it comes to getting client testimonials. There are attorneys who, at the conclusion of a matter with a client, bring the client a laptop and ask them to write a testimonial immediately for Yelp, Google My Business, and the firm’s website. If that’s not your style, try sending an email after the matter concludes and ask for testimonials with links to the firm’s Yelp and Google My Business pages. While the aggressive testimonial-gathering approach is likely to get more results, it’s not necessarily the approach you want to take.

You should only ask people who you think will provide you with a good testimonial. The last thing you want to do is ask a disgruntled client for a review only to discover it later on Ripoff Report or another complaint-board website. Getting rid of negative reviews is a nightmare for any business (there is a whole industry around it, charging upwards of $10,000 to remove a negative review). Therefore, be overly cautious, and only ask for reviews from people you think will be able to give positive testimonials.

How to Ask for Testimonials

A great way to get a testimonial is by sending the client a survey. You may want to use Survey Money or Google Forms. Use a few questions that give the client an opportunity to provide you with feedback.

If you are going to ask for a testimonial once the matter is resolved, I found a tip on asking for a testimonial from a photographer’s blog and find it can be effective for lawyers too. Here’s a good way to ask for a testimonial via email.

Hello [Name],

I was wondering: I know it helps potential clients feel comfortable hiring our firm when they see that others have had positive experiences working with us. Would you mind answering two quick questions for me? It’ll take about two minutes.

  1. What was your biggest concern / worry before hiring me?  Did it come true, and if not, what happened instead?
  2. If you were to recommend me to your best friend, what would you say?

Breaking it down:

The intro paragraph is very straightforward in your motives. If the recipient liked your services, of course they would want others to hire you. The request is polite, and if the client was happy, they should be more than willing to oblige and help you out.

The first question allows you to tailor your marketing in the future to prospective clients to mitigate their fears and remove any hesitations they might have about reaching out to you. If you know what hesitations people have about hiring your firm, you can address those fears head-on by revising the copy on your website or social media profiles. The second question gets you a human-sounding testimonial. Asking for a testimonial outright will get you this response: “[Name] was very professional and served our needs.” This second question is open-ended and will get you a specific example of how you helped the client.

Once the client has submitted a response, ask for permission to use it on your website. Next, you can ask them to leave you feedback on one or two directory / social media sites.

Where You Should Get Testimonials

Here’s a list of places for you to get testimonials:

Lawyer Review Websites

Local search directories

Social Media

  • Facebook page
  • LinkedIn

As for where your effort should go, local search directories (in particular Google My Business) offer the most bang for your buck. You not only get the benefit of having very visible reviews of your law firm, but you also can get greater search engine visibility for your law firm.

Featured image: “businessman pressing client testimonials button on virtual screens” from Shutterstock.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Ralph Somma says:

    Great advice as usual Andrew. As you mention, dealing with negative reviews can create a dilemma. A recent ethics opinion warns New York attorneys not disclose confidential client information solely to respond to a former client’s criticism of the lawyer posted on a lawyer-rating website.
    So as the saying goes … be careful what you ask for …

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