These days an individual’s or law firm’s reputation can be enhanced or tarnished by what appears in search engine results. This is because so many people rely on online reviews. Check out these recent statistics from at 2013 ReviewTracker article:
- 85 percent of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses to determine whether these businesses are good or not. (This is up from last year’s 76 percent.)
- 67 percent of consumers read six reviews or less before they feel that they can trust the local business. Meanwhile, only 22 percent read more than seven reviews.
- 73 percent say that high ratings and positive online reviews make them trust a local business more, while only 12 percent said that they take no notice of online reviews.
- Asked if they trust online customer reviews as much as personal recommendations (from friends and family), 79 percent of the respondents said that reviews were as trustworthy as personal recommendations.
Your reputation is public.
Your reputation, and the reputation of your firm, is more public and more accessible than ever before. To stay competitive, attorneys need to act swiftly and positively to show they listen and care about what their clients think about them.
Whether someone is searching for a restaurant for a special occasion, a new desk for their office, or a doctor, dentist, or attorney, they read the reviews. By reading about the experiences that other customers or clients have had, people can judge a business before they ever set foot in the office or meet you.
Reviews are growing in importance.
There are so many places to read reviews. Google and Yahoo have integrated reviews into how they operate. And there are site devoted to ratings such as Angie’s List, Epinions, Yelp, Consumer Affairs, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable, not to mention legal websites like Avvo that offer their own reviews. Consumers have gotten into the habit of checking reviews before making a decision to purchase.
Since these reviews are live and public, anyone can see them. More importantly, everyone can see how a business responds to praise and complaints. I’m always impressed when I see that a business owner has taken the time to write a quick note of thanks for a pat on the back. And I steer clear of businesses that let negative reviews sit without a response, an apology, or a reply that they are trying to help an unhappy customer. Your prospects do the same.
Ignoring reviews is not an option.
This poses a challenge, particularly for attorneys. Anyone with a thorn in their side can write a review and criticize an attorney at any time. The nature of legal work puts you in the crosshairs, since, at the end of many cases, one side is going to be unhappy. But ignoring a negative review is no longer an option.
How to manage and protect your reputation.
You have to be aware of how you are perceived online and this means being proactive. Part of reputation management is monitoring review sites and your search engine ranking. You want to make sure that when someone “Googles” your name, you own or have access to the properties that come up on the first page and that the positive reviews prospects see outweigh any negative ones.
Here are five things you can do to manage and protect your online reputation.
1. Get ahead of it.
Don’t put your head in the sand. Be proactive and try to get at least five or six positive reviews first. It’s human nature that an unhappy client is more inclined to write a review than a happy client is. If you have one or two negative reviews and fifteen to twenty positive ones, your prospects will take the negative ones with a grain of salt. But if you have three or four negative reviews without a response and no positive ones, that will hurt your business. Worse yet, is simply not being aware of unfavorable reviews. Don’t get caught with unfavorable reviews that you’re not aware of.
2. Gather good reviews.
At the end of each engagement, ask happy clients if they would write a review of your service. Put a system in place that makes it easy for your clients to write positive reviews. Make it part of how you do business, in the disengagement letter or another routine visit. Set up a review form on your site or ask them to email you comments that you can quote from on your site.
3. Claim your profiles and publish original content.
Claim your online profiles such as LinkedIn and Avvo, and publish articles, blog posts, and other original content will keep your good name at the top of the search engines, and push any negative comments to the next page. Make sure you include a page of client reviews on your site and optimize it properly for higher rankings.
4. Respond to reviews.
A review is an opportunity to engage, respond or explain. Monitoring what prospects and clients are saying about you online and offering a reply shows that you are an engaged business owner who cares about your reputation. Sometimes responding to a review is an effective way to defuse the comment as you work to get the review removed entirely.
5. Remove bogus reviews.
A review that is not a legitimate complaint, is written by a competitor to undermine your business, or one that uses unnecessarily harsh or offensive language can be removed from most reputable review sites. You can submit a request to Yahoo, Google, Avvo, or Yelp to have this type of review removed. However, removal can sometimes take a very long time and take up to six months or even a year.
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 most important asset: your good name. To find out more about online reputation management, contact us at Bardorf Legal Marketing.