Legal Search Marketing – How to Protect Your Online Reputation

By Ian Bardorf

What do prospects find when they look for you online? They may find your firm’s website, your LinkedIn and Avvo profiles, blog posts or videos, your Facebook business page, and glowing reviews of your services. But what if your website is listed last or, even worse, not listed at all on the first page of results? Instead the top links lead to a client’s bad review, a disgruntled employee’s comments, or a competitor’s website.

This situation is becoming all too common on the results pages of Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. Attorneys who have spent years growing their businesses can find their work tarnished by lackluster search results or bad reviews. Many are turning to online reputation management to protect, strengthen and occasionally repair their standing on the Internet. Online reputation management can fortify and preserve an attorney’s reputation in the search results and repair any damage that may have been caused by negative results.

For many attorneys, it’s the nature of their business to be caught in the crossfire between clients and the opposing party. You are there to represent your client, not to make both sides happy. This means attorneys have a greater risk of receiving unfavorable reviews online, possibly from an unhappy client, but more likely from the other side’s client. Unfortunately, these negative reviews may appear first when someone searches for an attorney with your area of expertise.

Having a presence online is one of the most important ways to grow your business and it is vital to make sure that presence is accurate and positive. Online reputation management uses the tools and techniques of search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure that your firm is getting good rankings and that favorable results outrank any unfavorable ones. Here are three steps you can take to maintain a good reputation online.

1. Ask for client reviews.
Reviews are paramount for any local business to gain visibility on search engines and social directories like Yelp. 70 percent of consumers say reviews and ratings are important to them. Positive reviews have many benefits: verifying your authenticity, confirming your expertise and credibility, differentiating your firm from the competition, and improving your rankings on the search engine results pages.

Reviews are especially important for attorneys, who depend on referrals from other attorneys and from clients to generate new business. Someone who got your name from a friend will most likely conduct due diligence on Google before contacting you. A negative review, especially if it’s the only review of your services, will decrease the likelihood that they’ll trust you with their issue.

Tip: Encourage your current clients to write about your firm as soon as possible. Once reviews have been submitted, you may post them on your website with a link back to the original source – Google Review, LinkedIn, Avvo, etc.

2. Respond to legitimate reviews, remove bogus ones.
There are two types of reviews — legitimate and bogus – and there is something you can do about each. A client who is unhappy with your services and writes an unfavorable review is an opportunity for you to respond and to try to resolve the situation. It’s important that this review not be the first or only one that comes up in a search. Try to have four or five positive reviews to balance a bad one.

There is another type of review that is not a legitimate complaint. Considered a “bogus” review, this is one that is written by a competitor to undermine your business or one that uses unnecessarily harsh or offensive language. You can submit a request to Yahoo, Google or Yelp to have this type of review removed. Unfortunately, the review has to have certain characteristics and it can take months to have it taken down.

Tip: Because the nature of your business is that, in the end, someone’s not going to be happy, be proactive now and make sure you’re not hurt by negative reviews.

3. Monitor your site’s visibility.
Online reputation management can also protect against the misuse of your site or your name. Recently I was reviewing the analytics for a client’s website when I realized that someone had copied the entire site and posted it under their firm’s domain. Everything was exactly the same except for the logo and the name. The imposter site was being used to solicit personal injury inquiries to sell to attorneys. After being notified, Google blacklisted the false site and domain name within 48 hours.

Tip: Regularly search for your name and firm name to see how they appear, or set up Google and/or Yahoo alerts to get email updates any time one of these terms is mentioned online.

Online reputation management is an essential part of business today for attorneys in all areas. With a dedicated strategy and consistent effort, it is an invaluable investment that will protect your firm’s most important asset: its good name. To find out more about online reputation management, contact Ian Bardorf at www.BardorfMarketing.com.

Ian M. Bardorf is an Internet marketing and social media advisor to attorneys and law firms seeking to grow and advance their business via the web. This article is copyrighted as original content by Ian M. Bardorf and Bardorf Legal Marketing. This article may be reproduced or republished with appropriate attribution and credit.