Monday 16 August 2021

Why are some law firms using Trustpilot over Google for reviews?


This article highlights a major issue for law firms when it comes to reviews; if they use Trustpilot they will simply be joining a 'club' of similar firms whose scores are as close to the 'perfect 5' as makes no difference. There is also the question of businesses using Trustpilot - or a similar solution - to illegally gate reviews to Google (the practice of inviting every client to write a review on the former and then only those that rate the business 5* there to copy it to the latter - it's also against Google's terms of service to do so and runs the risk of having every one of the business's Google reviews deleted, without recourse to appeal).

Here is just one example of a legal firm that has gone down the Trustpilot route:

And here are their locations in Google search:

Why, we ask ourselves, did Setfords - and many firms besides (and not only law firms) - choose Trustpilot over Google? Google reviews are visible to everyone searching on the web, whether on their business name or for a local solicitor. Trustpilot reviews? The potential client has to specifically search for them.

By choosing Trustpilot, Setfords have, as well as making themselves look relatively insignificant from the point-of-view of anyone looking for or at their Google reviews (worse, in one or two locations), put themselves in a position where they are forced to invest heavily in Google PPC to ensure the visibility of their Trustpilot reviews. It is only by buying the advertisement you see below that their Trustpilot reviews are exposed to view in search:

How much better off, from every point-of-view, would Setfords have been today, and for the foreseeable future, if they had chosen to invest their energies into inviting their clients to post - free - Google reviews rather than Trustpilot?

With nearly 2,000 Google reviews and a great Google score, visible whenever anyone searched for them, at no cost whatsoever.

Maybe there is a reason?

When we spoke to Setfords they listed, quite reasonably, the 'opportunity to challenge a review they suspected of being written by someone who had no direct experience of their services' as one of the factors they found attractive about Trustpilot's offering.

What sensible business would not want such a mechanism? 

To mine down further into this, let's see exactly how many times Setfords have used this facility - called 'quarantine' by Trustpilot - and examine just how it operates.

If you look at this screenshot you will see that Setfords have had occasion to challenge just 5 reviews - out of a total of just over 4,500. 0.1 percent. Negligible, with two of the five challenged reviews remaining on the site (as the reviewers provided proof of their dealings with the firm to Trustpilot). But that does not mean that one of the other three might not have done significant damage if it had remained on the site; a quick look at what happened to another firm - Summerfield Browne - will dispel any illusions on that account.

It also makes clear the nature of Trustpilot's offering. They allow businesses to flag any reviews at all (Setfords have been sparing in their use of this facility - challenging the validity of less than two percent of their negative reviews). Trustpilot then contacts the reviewer and asks for 'proof of purchase' which, as you can see, has not been forthcoming from two of the cases.

We have concerns about the legality of such a mechanism under UK law, which explicitly states that reviewers have the right to have their opinions published, no matter what. It probably works pretty well where the subject of the review is a product, but to insist that 'proof of purchase' of a service is provided would deny many classes of reviewer - the person on the other side of a legal issue, for just one instance - their right to have a review published. It also goes to the issue of confidentiality; someone who wishes to warn others - rightly or wrongly (remember the business has right of reply) may, in some instances, reasonably be excused from revealing their identity to the business under review.

One of the authors of a deleted review has seen fit to post this - unchallenged - review:

Which makes the point about Trustpilot's requirement that personal details - how much more 'personal' do details get than a name? - not being disclosed in reviews an interesting one-way street. To listen to all their marketing one would think that reviewers would be encouraged to be specific about issues raised with individual members of staff - the injunction to 'not mention personal details' would seem to go against this.

What do we think is happening here?

First: Trustpilot has a very proactive and motivated salesforce; after all, with all that lovely money raised by their previous VC rounds and now their IPO they can afford it! One of our Plc clients has been approached by them countless times over the last four years, the last time this spring with an offer to undercut our rates by over 50% - and at a huge discount to Trustpilot's advertised fee scale.

So why has this business remained with HelpHound?

Not out of any misplaced sense of loyalty, we can assure you. Here are the hard and fast reasons.

1.  Our primary focus for them is, and always has been since they joined five years ago, Google.

Google reviews are far more visible than Trustpilot reviews (Trustpilot clients are lucky if their reviews show on page one of specific or local search). Google reviews show prominently in every search, and always will. This often involves Trustpilot clients in expensive ongoing commitments to PPC in order to have their Trustpilot reviews show in search.

Google reviews also have far more credibility, partly as a result of exposure, partly because the Google brand is so well known and also, increasingly, partly because    consumers are coming to realise that Google reviewers leave a paper trail that Google can follow if needs be: in other words, Google reviews are more trusted by consumers.

2.  Of their 100 plus locations, almost all feature in the top three in competitive local search; most at No. 1

Local search is a service business's lifeblood these days, even if the search is initiated by another factor (personal recommendation or the business's PR/marketing, for instance). Service businesses and the professions recognise that consumers are far more likely to click through to their website - or call - if a business appears high up in search.

When someone is searching for medical, financial or legal advice there will almost always be a dozen businesses thrown up by such a search (often more, especially for professions such as estate agency, where a search in a metropolitan area such as London or Manchester will throw up twenty-five to fifty alternatives).

We don't take all the credit for this: the business in qustion has an excellent website that is properly optimised, but when you consider Google score businesses 15% for SEO based on whether or not they host independently verified reviews, then what other major differentiator can there be? Especially when you consider many of the business in question's competitors have similarly excellent websites, but no reviews hosted there.

3.  HelpHound moderates every single review

Inaccurate, potentially misleading or even downright fake or malicious reviews can do serious harm to a business and they can equally mislead a potential customer - often away from the business. Our moderators make as sure as is compliantly possible that no such reviews see the light of day, at least not before the reviewer and the business have had the opportunity to correct them. This is an aspect of our srvice that businesses find it hard to put a monetary value on; that is: until they have such a review moderated successfully.

For an example of the kind of harm a single review can do to a service - as opposed to online retail - business, please read this sorry, and ongoing, saga.

4.  HelpHound acts as an honest broker

Our interest is our clients best interest; our advice is always 'best advice'. If Trustpilot - or Feefo or Yelp or any other solution - were in a client's best interest we would have no hesitation in recommending them. As a matter of fact we have just finished an exercise in rebalancing the impression created on Trustpilot for the above-mentioned client. 


Law firms - as well as many other professional services - have struggled to find a solution to online reviews; they are quite understandably wary of embarking on any strategy that has the potential to do long-term harm to their reputations, in most cases unfairly.

This has led to some looking at the most high-profile solutions and picking the one of them. Unfortunately that, for the overwhelming majority, is not a reviews site; it's Google, but Google plus independent moderation.

No comments:

Post a Comment

HelpHound is all about feedback, so please feel free to comment here...