Masterclass: The New Changes Google Made to Reviews in January and February

Mar 15
min Read
Legal Webinars

[Webinar Transcript, February 2022]

McKay Allen:

Thanks for jumping on the webinar today. We're excited you're here. My name's McKay Allen, I'm on the marketing team at Kenect. Today, we're going to do a pretty urgent masterclass we feel like one that is actually focused on some of the changes is that Google is making to their reviews platform and how it's specifically going to impact law firms. So what we'll do, is we'll do about five minutes of introducing you to Kenect, about five minutes of some background of Google My Business pages and Google reviews. And then, we'll actually dive in for the majority of the time on the changes Google has made in the fall, and then some of the significant changes they made in the last two and a half months, which we haven't done before.

We'll start to do these webinars once a month with the changes that they've made that month for the previous month rather, but we really haven't done one of these since November, so this will be changes that impacted users in December, January and February. We also encourage you to ask questions, so go to that little question drop down and type in any questions you have. We'd love to address those as we go. All right.

Who is Kenect?

Kenect is a text messaging platform built for law firms throughout North America. Basically what we do is we allow you to keep your main business phone number, but we make that number textable. So that number becomes textable and you can send and receive text messages to and from your clients with the Kenect texting inbox. This allows you to communicate really efficiently to generate new leads, to conduct video consultations and to drive online reviews as well.

We were recently listed as one of the fastest growing companies in the world on the Inc. 5000 list. We're integrated with the leading case management systems in the legal industry, which is really powerful and really cool. You don't have to use one of these case management systems to use Kenect, but you can. And, I think that's really important to note. You certainly don't have to use these, but you are able to use them and integrate beautifully with Kenect. How do we do it? 2-way text messaging for your law firm without giving out your personal cell number, web leads straight from your website with a little text desk button on that site, video chat for virtual consultations, and then online review generation and reputation management as well.

Your clients do prefer text messaging. Some people say, "Why are you so obsessed with it? Why are we so worried about it?" And the reason is simple, because your clients would prefer to interact with the business via texting, rather than a phone call. 98% of all text messages are opened within three minutes, 96% of clients say, They find phone calls to be disruptive. And most people say that, "Receiving a text is the fastest way to reach them." I'll put it this way, if you are still not texting your clients, they are annoyed. They want to text, they don't want to receive a phone call, they don't want you to call them when they're at work or they're at a dinner. They don't want to call you and have to wait through your phone tree and talk to four people before they talk to the right person and explain their problem three times.

They don't want to have to step out of a meeting to answer a call or try to figure out when to make a call when they're between meetings. What they really want to do is ensure that you're talking to them consistently, constantly and immediately. And, the only way to do that is with texting.

Top eight ways firms use Kenect, scheduling consultations, sending appointment reminders is massive. You can read these, I'll highlight three of them. First is streamlining intake process and validating cases. Most firms use for intake really effectively. It really speeds up their intake process. Also sending and receiving photos, videos, PDFs and attachments. So personal injury firms, this is great. You can have photos sent to you, you can send back things. You can send PDFs, and then generating reviews is massive, which is what we're discussing today.

Adding ‘text us’ buttons to your website is huge, you can get more leads by doing that. And then this is how it all looks, the ability to send and receive text messages to and from the Kenect texting inbox, looks and functions like an email inbox, but it's for texting. You also have the Kenect mobile app that you can use. Anybody at your firm can download this now. Some people ask questions about access, who can have access to this? Who can send text messages? It's totally up to you at your firm. However, you want to determine who does this is great. And on the mobile app too, you can request payments, schedule messages, request reviews, send photos, videos, PDFs, attachments, quick replies as well. Okay, let's talk Google reviews 101 before we dive into the updates. First, you have to understand Google My Business.

Getting to know Google My Business

Google My Business allows you to put basic and verified information about your business on the web. It is basically the central location for verified information about your business. And the ironic and interesting part about this is it actually receives far more views than your website does. So generally, your website is going to receive a few thousand reviews a month. You're probably paying a few hundred dollars a month for somebody to host it, keep it updated. When you do a big website update, you're spending tens of thousands of dollars. Your Google My Business page actually gets more views than your website, but some law firms go years without even logging into it. Very few are logging into it regularly. It's the location where reviews are left and housed. It allows your business to show up in Google results and on Google Maps.

If you do not have a verified GMB listing, you will not be seen as reputable and that's a big deal. This is the primary method for clients to share feedback about your business. Anyone using Google can review your business and leave a star rating. Now that scares some law firms, because they're like, "Gosh, why would I do this?" "How would I do this?" "Why would I want random people who've never used me to leave me a review?" And it's also frustrating, because these reviews can be just star ratings. They might just leave you one star, and then not say why they left you that. So keep that in mind, there are some frustrations here.

So with that in mind, why would you do this? First reason is because they matter to clients. 93% of people use reviews as the first step in using the firm, 91% trust online reviews as much as they would trust personal recommendations.

Now, if we would've done this webinar three or four years ago, these numbers would've been in the 58% range, but they are in the 90% range because that's where people care and that's where they go first. Most people will not take action until they read reviews, they need validation for their decisions. So if you do not have reviews, you will not be seen as reliable. The second reason that it matters and that you should focus on reviews is because they matter to Google. Their rankings are completely determined by ratings and reviews. And the top listing receives around 50% of the total click, 98% of the clicks are in the top four. Some people get frustrated because they're like, "Gosh, Google lists these results differently every time," and you will see different results listed. You're going to see one of the updates we share for, I think January or December. This is even another way Google's testing.

You will see instances where they list the map first. Well, guess what? Why do some businesses have a big red dot and others don't? The reason is because those businesses have verified Google My Business pages. You will also see instances where they have paid listings first, then the map, then organic listings. And, I've heard some law firms get frustrated about out the paid listings being first. Keep two things in mind, number one, these firms paid handsomely to get where they are. The second is they don't get clicked as much as the organic, even though they're higher, you see Burger Law down here, they're getting clicked more than The Bruning Law Firm or Morgan & Morgan. Why? Because, they're organic and people know that. You'll also see paid listings, then paid ads, then the map. Again, people paid to be up here at the top. They are going to get clicked less than the Combs Law Group is.

Why does Google care about reviews? Google cares about reviews, because they have one job and that job is to produce the result. The searcher would like to see. That is the one job they have, to produce the result the searcher would like to see. And they believe the best way for them to do that is to produce results that highlight reviews, that highlight businesses that are Google verified and that have feedback from consumers. So if you're in Google shoes, you'd probably do the same thing. It makes sense, but it is at times frustrating. Okay, let's talk about these reviews updates.

Updates to Google Reviews

Now, before we dive into these specific updates, I want to make two points. First point, some of these are things that they're just testing, others of them are things that have already been changed permanently. Second point, the testing that they do, and so some of the screenshots you're going to see are generally for really high throughput businesses like restaurants. And so, you will see Google run a lot of their tests with restaurants, and then decide if they want to roll these change that they're testing out to other businesses as well.

So some changes that took place in fall of 2021, the review averages are going to start appearing on maps. So instead of just the red dot, like you just saw, you will actually start to see the actual averages of the reviews appear on the map next to the business. Now, the reason this matters and the reason it's important is because it's going to smack in the face your users, the people searching with your Google review average. So, there's no place to hide. This is going to highlight it. It's like a billboard that lists your Google review listing. That's a big deal. Google's also now showing a new label called areas served. The rumor is that this is going to be a big part of Google going forward, a significant part of Google going forward. And it really answered a fundamental question, does that attorney serve my area? Now it's good, I think for both the business, as well as the consumer, because the last thing you want are people calling or texting you, that are in another geographic area. And the last thing the consumer wants is to call or text a law firm when they're not in their geographic area. So this, I think helps both.

They're also now allowing you to easily merge location and business reviews into one spot. So we hear all the time from firms who have multiple locations that say, "What do I do?" "Do I generate reviews for each of them?" "Do I merge them to one?" "What do I do?" Google's now allowing you to either merge them into one single location or collect individually for each one. What they won't allow you to do is to use the reviews gathered at one location across multiple. In other words, duplicate the same review over and over. They won't let you do that, but they will allow you to merge them or treat them as separate.

Google's also testing an estimated cost near you in the local pack. Now, you're seeing the example here for like plumbers, and it seems to be a pretty obvious use case, but we're now starting to see them for law firms. That it will actually show an estimated cost for your services and that number is based on what you charge your customers. Google's also doubling down on responses from businesses. This will alert you to leads that you have, leads that need responding to, new reviews. So I think what they're trying to do is spark businesses to be more involved, and to engage more with the Google My Business pages and with the reviews, because they're now actually alerting you when something happens.

Changes in December, this is a massive one. Google is rolling out new map and local interface. So you saw before on the examples we showed, the results were below the map, now the results are to the side of the map. So this is a quote from Google, now this is really rare, Google generally does not say anything, they just start changing stuff. This is direct quote from Google, "We're constantly exploring ways to connect people with helpful information about businesses they're seeking. We're currently rolling out an update to the search interface on desktops. When people search for places or businesses nearby, they'll see the local results on the left and a map on the right. We expect this to be broadly available in the coming weeks and months." So this is a change you will see, I love this change because instead of having the map take so much real estate at the top and having people have to scroll down, they're actually going to see results. If anything, this means reviews matter more than ever, because those businesses that have great reviews are going to be highlighted more. The results simply put are now higher on the screen.

Another change in December was two ads showing up in the mobile results area. Now in the past, this was always one ad or sometimes even no ads, but they're now showing two ads. Now don't fret and here's the reason, Lawn Love, which is the organic listing on the screen there, is still going to get clicked more than the ads above it. And Timberscapes and Nutri-Lawn on are paying handsomely probably $12 to $40 per click, not per lead, per click to be there, but they are highlighting ads more.

January changes. This is a massive change if this rolls out to everybody. As you mouse over the map, what we're seeing is that customer interactions will appear as map overlays. When you mouse over the map, you'll see pictures or reviews from customers. So currently, if you mouse over a map, it just shows you the name of the business. If you mouse over Hava Java here, it's going to just show you the name of the business. In the future, what you're going to see are updates from customers, reviews and pictures show when someone mouses over or clicks on an actual business. This is rolling out to restaurants now, and then Google says, "It will roll out to other businesses as well."

Another change that was made in January is that it is now impossible to schedule an appointment with your business through Google My Business. This is a huge strategy change and shift for Google because in the past, they tried to encourage you to allow users to schedule appointments with you via Google My Business. They now aren't even allowing you to do it. The reason is because they're prioritizing your clients texting or calling the business directly. So, its good news for companies like Kenect. It's also good news, I think for your team who can conduct intake a little bit better when someone and texts or calls directly.

Upcoming changes that we predict, we predict more focus on video in 2022, we've been saying this, we still believe it. Increased prominence placed on thoughtful reviews, longer reviews and longer responses as well.

Text Google review requests to customers

Okay. I want to just highlight a couple of things, and then I'll take your questions. We've got some questions coming in, keep them coming. I want to highlight two more things, and then I'll be done. To have effective review gathering, you have to have a process for effective review gathering. You have to have an internal process. You have to know who's gathering them, how they're gathering them. You also have to have an internal owner, make sure someone is in charge of getting reviews. And then finally, use texting, not email. If you use email to get reviews, which is what most law firms do. And I want to be clear about this, most law firms who try to get reviews, some don't even really try. But most who try, send an email that says, "Hey, leave us a review." The problem is that is going to be responded to between one and 2% of the time.

If you send a text asking for a review, that will be responded to between 38 and 58% of the time. That's why we recommend using texting. So, how does it works? Send a text, it's got your logo. It's got a templatized message here. Your user selects the review site. They then post the review. If you do that, you will get reviews between 28 and 58% of the time.

Steps of success, I want to focus on number one. You have to take control. You have to take control of your review process. You cannot let angry clients determine your online reputation.

It is really important to note what Google's highlighting with some of these changes in December and January. They're highlighting the importance of reviews themselves. Businesses who have a lot of reviews and good reviews are going to rank highly. They're going to be above the fold. They're also going to have, to have reviews to compete with the businesses that are building ads and putting them on mobile. Okay. If you're interested about in learning more about Kenect, you can text us or call us at this number, we'd love to work with you. You can also go to and engage with this there.

Okay. Type in your questions here, we'd love to go through them and address them. All right. I see questions coming in. All right, Sydney, "In regards to LSA click less in the Google review section, what are the, of each that are clicked?" What portion of the consumer funnel are each in?"

Great question. So basically, the question Sydney is if you look at the ads versus the organic listings, what's the click-through rate for each one, and then where are those buyers in the funnel, is kind of what you're asking? So first question, it depends wildly, click-through rates on ads generally are between one and 2%, click-through rates on organic listings for the top three can be between 40 and 60%. So, you're talking like not even in the same ballpark.

Stephanie says, "You went through this quickly, can we receive a copy of the presentation?" Yes. "Can we repeat the February changes?" Yes. Let's go through those. So I'll go through December, January and February. So December again, and they kind of made these changes in early January. I just chose the month based on when the change first started to appear. But this one, I think is massive. For Google to actually place the information on the left hand side of the screen, instead of it being below the map, that's huge. They're also putting two ads in the mobile results, which makes getting reviews even more important because you have to be that top one, you have to be. If you're not, you're going to be pushed to the second page because they're putting more ads on there. And then actually, being able to see pictures and reviews when you mouse over the little red dot is a big deal. Those are the three, I think that are probably the most vital. And then also, I think the steps for review gathering are really important.

We've done webinars and we'll do them in the future around exact steps to get more reviews, as this is a high-level view here, but you've got to have an internal process. You've got to have a process that lays out when you ask, who you ask, how you ask, and then you've got to have an owner. A lot of law firms say, "We're going to go get reviews," and they don't actually put anybody in charge of going and getting reviews. You've got to have somebody who's in charge of those reviews, if not, then you won't have any success. You've also got to use texting, not email. This is vitally important as well. Use texting, not email. If you use email, you're going to get reviews between one and 2% of the time. If you use texting, you'll get between 38 and 58% of the time. And here's how it works. You send a text, it's got your logo. They click on that, they click on the button, they leave the review.

"How important is it to respond to Google reviews?" Really important. You should respond to every single review for two reasons. Number one is there's evidence that Google actually prioritizes businesses that respond to reviews. That's number one. Number two, it makes you look really good when you respond to reviews.

Now, we get a lot of questions about how do I respond to negative reviews. The thing you do not want to do is start online argument. I think the last two years have shown us that's pretty ineffective, but you should respond and make sure that you want to say something like, "I understand your frustration, I can understand why you left this review. My name is McKay, I'm one of the partners at the firm, I'd love to handle this personally. Text us at our main number and I'll respond directly." That's all you got to do. And for the positive ones, that's pretty easy to respond to. Thomas says, "How does Google know our hourly rates to share those costs with the potential clients?" Good question. They are asking your current clients when they leave reviews. So, your current clients now have the ability to put in what the services cost them and that's how Google then extrapolates that data.

Ali asks, "Any advice on removing a negative review from someone who wasn't a client?" So this happens, there's two answers to this. First, if they're not a client, but there may be client of an opposing council or just somebody you don't know, report it to Google and then say something like you should reply to the review and say something like, "Ah, you know what? It doesn't look like this person was actually ever a client, but I'd love to speak with you and see if we can help in some way." So, don't be afraid to point out something if it's true or not true. If it was an opposing firm that left you a review, which does happen, you can report that to your state bar association. That is generally a violation of ethics rules, if you want.

All right. Carrie says, "I had a review from a client more than a week ago that is not..." Let's see, "It has not been approved and there's no evidence of the review at all. How do I rectify what's the current approval time? Is there a contact for Google My Business? My clients have been putting efforts in reaching past clients for reviews. I'll rethink timing.” Okay. So this is a common question and Google's really never provided a good answer, Carrie, unfortunately. Google has generally just said, "It shows up when it shows up." What we have seen is that the process is usually one to two weeks, so I'd give it another week or so, and see if it shows up. If you still don't go to Google and say, "Hey, this didn't show up." You can actually report that in your Google My Business page listing. And then if still doesn't or you don't hear back from Google, have the client leave it again.

Laura says, "Vague or comment-less reviews, what should we do with those?" So someone leaves you a star rating, but they don't actually write anything, how much you can do, other than reply to the review and say, "Thank you for the wonderful star rating, we really appreciate it and love work." That's all you got to do. There's no real way to get them to put something in there, unless you know who it is and can reach out, but that's pretty rare and uncommon for someone to go back and edit a review. So, not much you can do there other than reply.

Frank says, "Can a business preview a less than stellar review before it's posted to Google My Business?" No Google does not allow you to do that. So they will just show up or they won't. So Google does not allow you to preview them. Now, in terms of using Kenect to get reviews, here's what I would suggest, you have no moral, or ethical or legal obligation to ask everybody for a review. You can just ask those that you know like you and that's what I strongly suggest that you do. Just ask those that you know like you. If you ask more than that, you'll be, I think disappointed by the negative reviews that you solicit, so don't go ask everybody for a review, just ask those that like you for a review.

Great questions. All right, everybody. Thanks for the feedback. Hope this was useful. Have a wonderful Tuesday and have a great week.

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