Protecting and Managing an Attorney’s Online Reputation
It has always been important for an attorney to carefully guard their professional and personal reputation. In the modern electronic world, information flies quickly and freely and reputations can be damaged quickly (and in some cases permanently). Actively managing your online reputation is one of the most important aspects of marketing yourself and your firm.
Worst case example: A few years ago, an attorney in a major Midwestern town found themselves in the local TV and newspaper media after a local prison released a CD with several graphically personal phone calls between her and one of her detained clients, an alleged drug dealer. The damage to her online (and professional) reputation was significant and took years to repair. Repairing your online reputation won’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t have to take years.
Today it is possible to leave “reviews” or feedback about a lawyer or law firm in a variety of locations online, especially in a Google profile. While most reviews are positive, many attorneys are concerned about the nature of their work and what they perceive to be a high risk for negative publicity. What happens if someone leaves a bad review, or posts negative comments about you on the internet? What do you do to manage a wave of dirty laundry?
How much should you be concerned if there is a bad review in your Google + or Yelp profile?
Branded Searches and Reputation Management Strategies
Reputation Management goes hand-in-hand with strategies to lock in referrals. In most cases, Reputation Management issues surface when one is performing “branded searches” in a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo!. Branded searches are the types of inquiry a prospective client or opposing counsel would do when researching an attorney or law firm. A typical structure for a branded search would look something like:
(Attorney Name or Firm Name) (Practice Area) [Attorney(s) / Lawyers(s)] (City or Local Nickname)
John Smith Injury Attorney Los Angeles
Barbara White Divorce Lawyer North County
What action should you take if there is a negative review, or if something negative arises in these types of searches?
The first step is to look at the context of the negative comment or post. A client called recently extremely concerned about a negative review in his Google + account. Yes, one of the 7 reviews was pretty scathing, and resulted in a one star rating. Three of the seven had given the attorney 5 stars, two had given 4 stars, and one 3 stars. Negative reviews can actually have a positive effect on your online reputation. In this case, the text of the review showed the malice of the reviewer and it was obvious this person had an axe to grind, which makes it easy to dismiss. When every review is a glowing 5 stars and unanimous praise the typical human reaction is skeptical. A negative review actually increases the credibility of the other reviews, and validates the overall positive feedback contained within.
When there are online posts that you feel are genuinely damaging to your reputation it is important to take action. There are several tactics that we can employ to address the post and seek its removal. These tactics can include:
- Responding in the same forum
- Taking Steps to Challenge the Post and Have it Removed at the Source
- Crowding it Off of the First Page or Two of Search Engine Results
- Addressing it in a Property We Control (Such as on your own website or other profile)
- Pursuing Libel Actions in the Case of Defamatory Remarks
In some cases a response is warranted, in other instances this can actually work against you by adding weight to the credibility of the page in question, ultimately making it harder to move it out of the way. The strength of the site where the comments are contained will affect the ability to easily push it down on the page, and ultimately move it to page 2 or 3 of search engine results.
Why Does Yelp Only Display Negative Reviews for My Firm?
Yelp is an interesting example. This directory carries substantial credibility with the search engines, and is a critical component in the algorithm for “Siri”, a prominent feature on Apple branded mobile devices. We are often asked about Yelp, and the perception of this company in many corners of the legal community is not positive. There have been several past and on-going class action cases filed against Yelp, accusing them of forcing customers to purchase a $200/month package to open up positive reviews and obtain the ability to quash negative posts, and other poor business practices. Yelp has successfully fought most of them off (see recent victory U.S. District Court for the Central District of California case number: 2:13-cv-07805). This is a complex question, and the short answer is basically economic: Is the $200/month worth the perceived benefit? We can review this together.
Contact Experienced Online Reputation Management Consultants Focused on Serving Attorneys and Law Practices
Managing your online reputation is one of the most important aspects of marketing yourself and your law practice. We can work together to actively manage your reputation and when necessary repair the occasional bump in the road. If you are concerned about Reputation Management or are interested in increasing the effectiveness of your marketing strategy contact us or call 760-579-1635 to open the conversation. Constructing and managing your online reputation is an important ingredient in making it rain.
“No Rain, No Gain”