Should Your Law Firm Fear Yelp or Embrace It?

When most people think of Yelp, they think of finding local restaurants and shops with a long list of reviews from past costumers. While the retail and food industries have embraced this online directory, you might be surprised to learn that co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman developed the concept because he was frustrated trying to find a local doctor on the web. That’s right, Yelp wasn’t just designed for shopkeepers or restaurateurs, it was developed to spread the word about professional services too.

Many professionals in the legal industry have been slow to embrace Yelp out of fear that they might receive unmoderated reviews from disgruntled clients, adversaries or even opposing counsel. If you are an attorney that has been reluctant to claim your free business listing, you might just be missing out on a big opportunity to gain visibility in local searches. In this article, we explore the good and the bad aspects of Yelp.

Why Should You Care?

Launched in 2004, Yelp has seen explosive growth over the past nine years. As of September 2013, the site boasts nearly 108 million monthly visitors.

If you’ve done a local search for just about any type of business, you’ve likely come across Yelp in the search results. Why, you ask? Well, Yelp does a lot right in terms of on-page SEO and with millions of incoming links, it has great off-site optimization strategies in place too; with these prevailing factors, it’s no wonder that Google tends to rank Yelp’s listings high on the SERPS.

The Bad

Yes, Yelp is known for its reviews and once you have a listing set up for your firm, you can receive reviews on your work. Reviews are always a double edged sword in the world of marketing; having a long list of great ones exponentially increases your chances of being contacted, but just a handful of bad ones can have a damaging effect, especially if the testimonial is exaggerated or fabricated. Luckily, Yelp has a pretty sophisticated system of filtering out “spammy” reviews; this helps prevent against a competitor or disgruntled opposing party creating a fake profile and posting a negative review to ruin your online reputation.

In addition to their advanced filtering system, Yelp allows the verified business owner to respond to online reviews so you can always publically address any negative, or positive, remarks. Web users know that people are quick to post bad reviews but much slower to post positive ones, and consumers tend to overlook the bad when the owner is respectfully responsive to criticism. And of course, the best way to combat a few bad reviews, is to encourage your happy clients to leave positive ones by sharing the link to your Yelp page at the conclusion of their legal matters and asking clients to honestly share their thoughts on your services.


The Good

 The benefits of having a Yelp profile are plentiful, especially when it comes to increasing your firm’s visibility in local searches. Once you have verified that you are the owner of the business, you can add business information (address, phone number, hours and website address), categories, specialties, history, a note about the attorneys (or any notable staff member for that matter) and photos. As with any marketing copy, you should write for the visitor, and not the search engines, so don’t go overboard with keyword stuffing. The more complete your profile, the more likely your listing will show up in top results of local searches for an attorney in your area.

Unlike the social networks that require regular engagement, your Yelp listing will likely only require a semi-annual review to ensure accuracy. While you may encounter a negative review or two, you will likely find that the reward of increased visibility and positive reviews outweigh the risks. Setting up your listing is free and only takes a few minutes.  You can learn more by visiting

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Dolores Obrien

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