The curiously positive impact of negative reviews

reviews

We all know that good online reviews are good for business. It’s only natural, then, that attorneys fear negative reviews. But what if negative reviews weren’t always so bad? What if their presence actually brought an air of authenticity to your online reputation and ultimately drove more clients to your practice? As it turns out, they can.

The assumption most of us make is that a 5-star review wins every time. After surviving law school, making partner, and achieving countless other milestones that required being the “best,” lawyers often see top reviews as indicative of success. But is it this accurate? If the purpose of attorney reviews is to drive more business to your practice, wouldn’t it be good to know more about how reviews actually influence purchase decisions? In 2015, PowerReviews commissioned a study from Northwestern University Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center to find out.

What researchers discovered is that the sweet spot for ratings peaks between 4.2 and 4.5. Ratings between 1 and 3 generally have the same impact on purchase decisions, and—even more surprising—purchase likeliness actually begins to drop off after 4.5. From these findings, researchers concluded that negative reviews help to establish a certain sense of trust and authenticity with the consumer. This is, of course, not without context: the content, quality, and number of written reviews play a significant role as well.

Researchers also found that the ideal number of reviews is heavily influenced by the length of those reviews. If the reviews are longer, the total number is less important, but if the reviews are shorter, it’s beneficial to have more. In this case, why not play it safe and solicit more reviews from your clients? You can send review requests to clients directly from your Avvo dashboard. And you can amplify your favorite responses by asking individual reviewers if you can add their feedback to your firm’s website.

So what does this all mean? It’s undeniable that reviews matter. Nearly 50% of consumers ask friends and family for recommendations when they need an attorney, and guess what? Most of their relatives don’t have a solid recommendation, so reviews are all they’ve got. And this is where things get interesting: negative reviews matter just as much as the positive ones—maybe even more. In fact, a previous PowerReviews study indicated that 82% of consumers intentionally seek out negative reviews when researching online. We simply can’t underestimate the curiously positive impact of having a few blemishes on your online reputation.

What now?

Embrace the negative reviews. They only make the great ones stand out.