Everyone knows that favorable online reviews are important for law firms. Given the importance of reviews, it should come as no surprise that some firms are willing to do almost anything in order to gain good reviews.
Some firms, like one unlucky firm in Louisville, Kentucky, were even willing to offer rewards to gain good reviews. But this strategy backfired bigtime in the end.
Upon learning that the law firm was using contests and giveaways as incentives for people to review their firm, Google removed most of the reviews the firm gained in February 2018. At the time of removal, the firm had around 100 five-star reviews.
After the purge, they were left with one measly review. This number has since rebounded to 52 five-star reviews.
Reports show that the incentive the law firm gave reviewers was family passes to the zoo.
Per Google’s guidelines, businesses are prohibited from providing incentives for reviews. The guidelines state:
- Businesses should not solicit in bulk for reviews
- Reviews shouldn’t be used as advertisement
- Don’t accept or offer any sort of financial payment for reviews
Last checked, the Kentucky law firm also had 1,000 five-star reviews on Facebook.
It has been debated whether passes to a zoo directed toward a group rather than an individual qualifies as “compensation” for a review. Whether or not this constitutes a violation is speculative; however, it’s more likely that the law firm violated the rule against solicitation in bulk, which is explicitly stated in the guidelines as a violation.
Regardless, the law firm received a dreaded penalty.
Google isn’t alone in its policy against websites that incentivize reviews. Yelp has even stricter guidelines and will publicly shame and identify businesses in violation. Likewise, there are federal regulations and state laws against improper solicitation of reviews.
What does all of this boil down to? While it might be tempting in the short term to incentivize favorable reviews for your law firm, it really isn’t worth being caught and penalized by Google in the long run.