This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
As an attorney, you likely rely on your reputation to find business more than almost any other type of professional. If you’re working in private practice, this is especially true, as your name tends to perform double duty as both your personal moniker and your professional brand. Across all fields of law, much of litigation is highly emotional, and in emotional circumstances, your clients will be looking for an attorney worthy of their trust, time, and money.
For this reason, online reputation management (ORM) is an especially important part of business strategy for today’s attorneys.
To make sure that you’re making the best possible decisions for your firm’s reputation in the digital age, listed below is a helpful attorney guide to ORM: what it is, why it matters, and what you can do to take control of it.
Think of ORM as a modern defense strategy
Online reputation management is best described as a means of controlling the conversation surrounding your brand on the Internet. When performed correctly, ORM can offer your firm a number of benefits that drive success in an increasingly digital world. As a general overview, these benefits include:
- Influence over the way that the public perceives your firm
- A tool for counteracting negative content that is beyond your ability to control
- A way to draw attention to the most positive aspects of your business
In terms of building your law practice, ORM can also help you improve your online visibility, establish yourself as an authority in your field, and persuade prospective clients to choose your firm over the local competition through carefully curated online content.
ORM isn’t just a benefit for your firm, but also for your clients
Apart from allowing you some control over public opinion of your firm, using ORM makes it easier for your clients to 1) find your services and 2) trust that you have the talent to handle their legal matters skillfully. A number of statistics demonstrate the importance of a strong online reputation generated through ORM, including:
- Research conducted by TRiG, The Research Intelligence Group, noted that more than 75 percent of adults who looked to hire an attorney in the past year went online at some point in the process
- Data from the site www.ilawyermarketing.com showed almost 60 percent of people surveyed indicated that a law practice would need to have at least a four-star rating on sites like Google or Yelp for a client to hire them
- Over 20 percent in this same survey indicated that they would accept nothing less than a five-star review for the attorneys they chose to do business with
- www.ilawyermarketing.com also showed that potential clients are willing to travel further to meet with an attorney at his or her office if his or her reviews are higher than other attorneys located closer
Research from the firm Convergys Corp suggests that a single negative review may cost you as many as 30 customers.
These statistics demonstrate two important lessons for lawyers about the value of ORM.
1. Clients are increasingly turning to the Internet to locate law services that meet their needs
Without a well-developed ORM strategy, clients are less likely to find your services when they need them. ORM acts as a marketing tool for your boosting your discoverability on popular search engines like Google. Per the site Net Marketshare, Google itself is by far the most widely-used search engine in the world, encompassing over 70 percent of all Internet searches.
2. ORM work gives clients confidence in the decision to use your services
The strong, positive online reputation established as a result of ORM work can help give clients confidence in your abilities as an attorney when they first encounter your firm on the Internet before they even contact you for the first time. The more focus you put on showing your clients what kind of professional you are and what your firm stands for via the Internet, the more comfortable they will feel during a time in their lives that is an undoubtedly difficult process.
When it comes to marketing, every strategy you use is bound to have a different return on investment, and ORM work provides you with a number of excellent benefits for comparatively little effort. Choosing to engage in ORM work can both increase your chances of broadening your client base while also putting protections in place that can shield you against negative professional blowback in the event of the worst-case scenario.
ORM can help you accomplish things that defamation lawsuits can’t
In the event that false or misleading information is posted about you or your firm on the Internet (as can occur naturally in the course of doing business in the Information Age), there may be instances where you consider how to approach the situation using defamation law. In many circumstances, however, ORM may be the better answer to your problem, as it can pose a solution to certain issues that defamation law cannot.
1. ORM can provide support when content is negative, but not necessarily illegal
There are limits to what defamation law can and cannot help you accomplish when attempting to counteract negative information posted about you on the Internet. This can include situations where a person paints you in a poor light, but the statement is not a provable fact, or if the negative statement made about you happens to be true. Investing in ORM work over the long term can create a buffer between your overall online reputation and negative information that cannot legally be removed from the Internet. The stronger your online reputation is to begin with, the less impact that bad press will have on your search results and what prospective clients discover about you when they encounter your information on the Internet.
2. Your investment in ORM won’t show up as bad press like a defamation suit can
In some cases, even if you are legally in the right, your fight against online defamation may itself turn into bad press that dominates your firm’s search results, drawing more attention to the original negative content than it would have otherwise received. Using the services of a reputation management firm to secure your reputation is an easy way to quietly take control of what people are likely to discover about you online without turning it into a public fight more damaging than the original content itself.
You can get started on your own ORM work right away
ORM issues commonly experienced by law firms include negative feedback from clients on review sites and articles about attorneys or their cases published in major periodicals. Overcoming the reputation damage caused by these events requires significant time, effort, and experience, and in many instances is best handled by a firm professionally equipped to do so. However, there are several simple steps that any attorney can take toward strengthening his or her online reputation immediately.
1. Claim your profiles on legal review sites
Google ranks consumer review sites very highly. Unfortunately, one bad review—especially if it’s the only review—can cause significant problems for your online reputation. As the Web has become more niche-driven, many profession-specific review sites have appeared. For attorneys, there are many, and to manage your online reputation, you want to be aware of what these sources advertise about you.
Some of the best-known attorney review sites include Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and LawyerRatingz.com. Avvo and Martindale both allow attorneys to claim their profiles and add content to help demonstrate their expertise and experience. Though it’s possible for unscrupulous reviewers to game the system and skew ratings, joining a review website allows you to more effectively manage the impact of negative reviews, should they appear.
2. Publish your own content on law topics
Setting up a personal blog or contributing to other blogs focused on your legal specialty is a good way to both demonstrate your expertise and take up another position in Google’s search results. If you can turn your blogging into a go-to resource for other legal professionals and consultants, you vastly increase your odds of landing new clients by cultivating an online image as an authority in your field. Statistics presented by the marketing website www.impactbnd.com show that B2C companies like law firms which maintain a blog generate almost 90 percent more leads than competing firms without a blog. Additionally, consider posting links to content you’ve authored to any social media sites set up for your firm as a way to generate more traffic to your site, which can strengthen your search results.
3. Ask your clients for reviews
Encouraging your clients to leave reviews after they’ve used your services is a small action that can yield big results. While it’s common for customers of businesses in the food and hospitality industry to give online reviews of their own accord, patrons of businesses in other industries typically must be asked. In fact, according to a survey conducted by BrightLocal, about 70 percent of clients will review a business online if requested. Unless the experience with your firm was expressly negative, many clients are likely to leave reviews that lean toward the positive. In the event that a reviewer does express dissatisfaction with your services, it provides an opportunity for you to address the issue and publicly demonstrate your willingness to find solutions to problems in the business.
If you need immediate ORM help, there is an answer
Ultimately, the best way to reap the benefits of ORM is to take action early and cultivate a strong, positive online presence before any less-than-flattering content has the opportunity to gain traction. However, if you’ve missed the window to do so and are currently struggling with defamatory posts or other negative content on the Internet, you may benefit most from the assistance of reliable, professional ORM services, like those provided by ReputationDefender.
The approach that ORM firms take to this process usually consists of crafting finely-tuned biographical materials on websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Profiles, and Twitter. A professional ORM firm blogs and posts proactively on forums related to your interests and profession in an informed way, demonstrating knowledge and experience to your customers and colleagues. The firm will continue this regularly for months. Eventually, references to an isolated incident should be nudged down from the top of Google’s search results, allowing you to rinse the stain from your online reputation. This is ORM remediation in action.