Review Quality vs. Quantity

As Jeff discussed over at AttorneySync’s lawyer marketing blog, a recent embarrassment for Google has prompted an algorithm change that may have consequences to your law firm’s local positions and your local web strategy.

On Mihmorandum, David Mihm talks about how this incident may impact Google’s use of reviews in its algorithm:

Thing is, Local Search experts have long speculated that the valence of reviews has had an extremely low, if any, impact on rankings, whereas the volume of reviews has always been considered one of the strongest factors. Many of us have noted how puzzled we were that this was the case but this bias (or lack thereof, I suppose) has been pretty obvious for awhile.

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Google announced it has updated its algorithm as a result of all this negative publicity, to take into account some of its sentiment analysis capabilities, prompting outcry from various corners of the web that Google was becoming a further moral arbiter of how to do business, rather than returning relevant results. It’s a fine line, but frankly as a searcher in this case, I’d side with Google on this update.

I would agree that the importance of volume of reviews is on a steady decline and that the quality of reviews is increasing. However, Google has a problem here. Aren’t bad reviews something that consumers should know about?

By burying businesses listings that receive negative reviews, Google may effectively create a chilling effect on the voices of dissenting reviewers.

To me, the problem of serving “the best” results to users is far more complicated than simply deciding between local businesses that have positive and negative reviews. While review quantity and quality are undoubtedly signals, more advanced algorithmic factors are necessary to provide quality results for local searches.

Nonetheless, law firms that provide an easy way for their clients to post reviews will have more success with local search engine visibility. If you’re looking for ways to increase your reviews online, be sure to check with your state bar’s rules on this subject.