For Professionals Such as Lawyers, What Would Happen if Your Reputation Online Was Damaged?
Clients rely on your experience and reputation, so if negative attacks and slanderous rumors appear online on websites, blogs and online forums, the damage may be significant in terms of lost prospects and a decrease in billable hours.
There are many ways for lawyers to recover their reputation online, however.
Why Fixing an Online Reputation is Important
Negative information online can discourage potential clients from initially contacting you or working with you again. Some lawyers may think that because much of their work comes from referrals, a bad reputation online is not harmful to them. While this may be true at the moment, this is rapidly changing as more and more clients are accustomed to searching for online information before they hire a professional, including lawyers.
Often, clients still value personal recommendations, but they look online before calling back a lawyer, and even more importantly, before signing a contract.
If negative information appears on the first page of Google, potential customers simply not make the call.
Bad Online Reputation Affects Ability to Practice
Law firms interact with the public and the legal system often. This can be judges, law clerks, administrative personnel, lawyers, and witnesses, jurors and potential clients. Bad online reputations might give the court, opposing counsel, or jury ammunition that could significantly affect the results of the case.
Here are some tips to help you repair or fix your online reputation for lawyers:
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Frequently review how your appear online by searching you or your firm in Google. If there is a problem, try and solve it immediately because it probably will not go away, and it can deteriorate quickly or move up the first page.
If Something Negative Happens
First, do not panic. Second, don’t take it personally. Third, address the problem.
Where does it appear now–on the first page or tenth of Google? Then start to formulate a plan on how best to move forward.
Think about what needs to be done now, next week, next month and two months. For example, if there is a litigation case coming up, try to reduce the negative reports during the next several months.
Repairing Online Reputation Takes Time
If an online reputation problem shows up, it may take some time to repair, so prepare yourself for the long term. Several months of active work may be necessary and, in extreme cases, it may take six months and hours of work or more to resolve the problem.
Try to Remove Negative Reports
Once something is online, it is extremely difficult and almost impossible to get rid of, but try to remove it as the first step.
Most web sites have a section on their posting policy, so the best place to start is to see if the message or comment violated their terms and conditions. You might be lucky and get it removed. Yahoo Answers, for example, has a set of guidelines limiting what members can post, and other sites have similar rules. However, note that many sites often ignore removal requests, such as RipoffReport.com-even though the posts can seem libelous.
Create Good Content
The best way to fix your online reputation is to write good information and post it frequently. Flooding the internet with quality content will eventually push the negative element off the first page.
As a lawyer, you may feel the need to be careful posting information on your blog, or my not want to write anything at all. Proceed with caution, but definitely proceed.
What to write? As a first step, see what other good things have been written about you and make sure that they show up online. Then think of the major events, conferences, awards, achievements and past cases and publish them on blogs and other sites.
How long will it take? It depends on the severity of the negative elements of how popular it is, your existing web presence and effort you put into fixing your reputation. In general, it can easily take several months. If necessary, consider working with a professional in order to expedite the process.
Share on Social Networks
Use social media to spread the word about blog content, news sites, articles and press releases. This should include your already optimized Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, and others. Tweet daily, post weekly on Facebook and LinkedIn, and add content to your blog every few weeks.
Get a Presence on Law-Specific Websites
Search engines such as Google loves sites related to your industry—law–and can rank can rank it higher than sites with more traffic. Be sure you have a presence on sites such as Avvo.com, and others.
Continue to Add Useful Information
Setting up a Twitter account or having an intern write one blog probably will not work. Because the process can take months, prepare to spend hours a week to repair your online reputation. An online reputation professional can spend 30 to 100 hours to over months to repair the problem so it can take you twice as long.
It is quite possible to repair or fix your legal online reputation, but be prepared for the long haul, keep at it and know fixing your online reputation quickly results in clients coming back.