In the past, prospective clients seeking legal services would simply call a local law firm, inquire about the assistance they needed, and make a hiring decision based on that interaction.
However, modern clients rarely, if ever, do business this way. Instead, they take to the internet in search of online reviews about nearby law firms. Approximately 90% of consumers base their purchasing decisions on these online reviews.
If your law firm's name is associated with negative reviews, clients are much less likely to do business with your organization. Conversely, if a client researches your law firm online and finds you flush with five-star reviews, they will be confident that your organization can assist with their legal needs.
Therefore, it is critical that your law firm proactively manages its online reputation. Reputation management is an oft-overlooked aspect of digital marketing for lawyers. However, it is just as important as legal search engine optimization management, pay-per-click advertising for lawyers, and other outreach efforts.
Start Reputation Attorney Research
Before you can begin managing your law firm's online reputation, you must first determine where you are starting from.
If your law firm has an online presence, it can begin accumulating reviews, even if you have not established your own formal review mechanism on your website. These reviews will most likely be posted on your Google Business Profile page or listed on third-party review sites.
When conducting research about your law firm, make sure to check popular review sites like Yelp and Lawyers.com. In addition to searching these review sites, conduct inquiries on the Better Business Bureau database, Avvo, and Martindale-Hubbell.
During your search, pay special attention to negative reviews, as these will provide insights into client perception of your law firm. Negative reviews are of particular concern because they can diminish the efficacy of your search engine optimization and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing efforts, but more on that topic in a later section.
Google as Your Investigative Resource
As you might imagine, conducting queries on all of the aforementioned review sites can be quite time-consuming. Fortunately, you do not need to perform an independent search on every website. The majority of your online review research can be conducted exclusively through Google.
When using Google as your primary investigative resource, we suggest putting your browser into "incognito mode" by pressing CTRL+N+Shift simultaneously.
Otherwise, Google will display tailored results to you if it determines that you are affiliated with your law firm. This affiliation matching is done to prevent individuals from engaging in unscrupulous reputation management tactics, such as falsifying reviews.
After you have put your browser in incognito mode, there are several different tactics that you can use to conduct reputation management research.
The simplest approach involves querying the name of your law firm. The search engine results pages should contain your Google Business Profile page, your company website, and any reviews from past clients. If any past clients have reviewed your law firm on third-party review sites, those web pages should appear in your results as well.
In addition to querying the name of your law firm, you can also search for the names of individual attorneys who work with your organization. Another tactic involves searching for competitors in your area so that you can gain insights into their online reputations.
Establish Your Brand Assets
Acquiring positive reviews is an integral component of reputation management for lawyers. In order to accomplish this goal, you must ensure that your law firm has a broad online presence and is listed on as many websites as possible. We refer to this process as "establishing and managing your brand assets."
The natural starting point is to confirm that you have claimed your business on Google. If you have, then you will be able to leverage your Google Business Profile to monitor client reviews. You will also be able to provide some information about your business on the Google Business Profile, including your phone number, email address, practice areas, and business hours.
After you have set up your Google Business Profile, turn your attention to some of those third-party review sites that we discussed earlier. Lawyers.com, Avvo, and FindLaw are great resources for making your law firm more visible on the world wide web.
When setting up each account, ensure that your law firm information is consistent across every platform. Inconsistencies will negatively impact your online reputation and make it challenging for you to acquire new clients.
While you are in the process of setting up these lawyer directories, be on the lookout for negative reviews. Many of these platforms allow past or existing clients to leave reviews, even if you have not officially claimed your business or created a profile.
You should also ensure that the feedback on these sites only contains legitimate reviews. Scammers and other malicious individuals sometimes use review platforms to damage businesses' reputations indiscriminately.
If you uncover any falsified reviews, report them to the platform manager immediately. The longer they are publicly viewable, the greater the chance that they could be influencing the opinions of potential clients.
Virtually all review platforms have a formal process for vetting reviews if you lodge a complaint about their legitimacy. However, if you do not take action, the reviews will remain on the platforms indefinitely.
Learn How to Deal with Reviews
Once you have conducted your initial online reputation management research, you will have a much better understanding of the public perception of your law firm. The next step is learning how to respond to both negative and positive reviews.
During this learning process, you must avoid falling victim to two common online reputation management misconceptions. The first is that negative reviews are the client's fault. The second misconception is that you do not have to respond to positive reviews.
Below, we outline the proper way to respond to both positive reviews and negative reviews.
Positive Reviews Approach
When a past or current client takes the time to leave your law firm positive feedback, you should return the favor by responding to the message. Specifically, we recommend that you do things like:
- Say "thank you"
- Drop the name of your law firm in your response
- Engage in some mild self-promotion
Let's say that you come across a set of reviews from satisfied clients during your weekly Google Business Profile monitoring. When composing a response to each client's feedback, make sure to avoid "cookie-cutter" responses.
Remember, other potential clients will see these reviews and your responses. If you post the same generic reply to every client, your law firm may come off as impersonal.
An example of a generic response is "Thanks for choosing our law firm." Instead of using vague verbiage, your reply should look something like this "Thank you for the positive feedback. [Your law firm's name] was glad to provide expert legal services to assist with your need."
The above example includes the name of your law firm and describes your legal services as "expert." While these small details may seem insignificant, they will influence public perception of your law firm.
Negative Reviews Approach
Dealing with positive reviews is a very straightforward process. It is also enjoyable because every professional loves receiving positive feedback from clients. Handling negative reviews requires much more finesse.
The way you respond to these types of reviews will have a significant impact on your brand reputation. A measured, nuanced response can help your law firm turn a negative situation into a great PR opportunity.
When responding to negative reviews, we suggest that you:
- Move the conversation offline
- Keep it professional
Showing empathy is by far the most important aspect of managing negative reviews.
If you browse business review boards, there are plenty of examples of business leaders failing to show empathy. These exchanges are cringe-worthy, and they make the companies look terrible, even if the client review was unnecessarily harsh. Examples of what not to do include:
- Placing blame on the reviewer
- Arguing online in a public forum
- Making snide or sarcastic comments
- Engaging in multiple exchanges with the reviewer
When responding to negative reviews, start by apologizing for the inconvenience or issue. Phrase your apology in a way that does not necessarily accept responsibility for the issue but still demonstrates that you would like to remedy the problem. For instance, you could inform a disgruntled client that you are "sorry that you are experiencing these concerns."
After you have demonstrated empathy, you should engage in some light promotion and then attempt to move the conversation out of the public forum. While this may not seem like the ideal time to promote your law firm, it is actually critical to do so. You could follow up your show of empathy by reaffirming your firm's commitment to providing exceptional services.
You could use phrasing such as "We strive to provide our clients with expert legal guidance and would like to discuss your concerns in greater detail. Please contact our office at your earliest convenience so that we can gather additional information about the issues that you experienced."
If the disgruntled reviewer never contacts your firm or leaves a malicious reply, do not pursue the matter further. The exception is if they make libelous statements intended to damage your online reputation. In this scenario, file a grievance with the review platform.
Collect More Reviews for Attorney Reputation Management
When it comes to reputation management for lawyers, review volume matters — a lot. Ideally, you want to acquire as many positive reviews as possible. However, this can be quite challenging for several reasons.
The two biggest hurdles that you will encounter when it comes to obtaining reviews are time and effort. If leaving a review is unnecessarily tedious or time-consuming, the majority of your clients will not be willing to provide your firm with feedback.
Therefore, you must strive to make the review process as seamless and efficient as possible. Additionally, you need to proactively solicit reviews from satisfied clients.
Below, we examine how you can more effectively solicit reviews in a manner that does not negatively impact the client experience.
It's Just the Time
When it comes to soliciting online reviews, it is critical that you make these requests at the right time. For example, you probably should not ask for online reviews immediately after discussing topics like your fee schedule and retainer amount. Discussions about financial topics already have a high likelihood of causing friction, so why add to the tension?
Instead, consider soliciting online reviews after informing clients of a favorable outcome. Clients are much more willing to spend time and energy reviewing your law firm after you have successfully helped them navigate a significant legal issue.
You could also request online reviews after receiving positive verbal feedback from your clients. Anytime a client praises you or your attorneys, make sure to subtly request that they leave you an online review to codify that praise.
Remember, in-person requests are far more effective, so ask when you are face-to-face if possible. However, there is nothing wrong with sending online review requests via digital channels, especially if this has been your primary method of communicating with the client throughout the relationship.
Check Clients' Contentment
Before soliciting an online review from a client, take the time to "check the temperature" of the relationship. It is typically quite obvious when a client is dissatisfied with your firm and the services you provided.
This discontent can be especially obvious when providing criminal defense services or managing a civil suit. Obviously, you should not ask for online reviews when a criminal defense client is found guilty, or the petitioner in a civil suit loses their case.
However, a client's satisfaction levels can be much less clear when providing general legal services such as document preparation. While you definitely do not want to request online reviews from disgruntled clients, you may not want to solicit them from clients who are "lukewarm" towards your law firm.
When preparing to ask for a review, gauge the client's contentment. You can ask something like, "are you satisfied with the services that our law firm has provided?" Their answer will reveal whether you should request a review — and possibly areas in your practice that you can improve upon.
Use Email to Request Reviews
Email review requests can be an effective tool for online reputation management. Sending review requests via email is fast and efficient. More importantly, it provides clients with the opportunity to leave positive reviews immediately.
When you request a review in person, you have to hope that clients will not forget about your request by the time they leave your office. Conversely, sending review requests via email allows you to include the link to your review page or Google Business Profile directly in the body of the message.
Remember, the more convenient you make this process for your clients, the better the chances that they will actually review your law firm.
Make a Proper Fill-In Form
While there are many review sites out there, you should still include a review or testimonials page directly on your website. In order for this tactic to be effective, you will need to create a custom review form and publish it on your site.
When creating your fillable form, make sure to provide spaces for the following information:
- Identifying client information
- The type of services rendered
- The results
- What the client liked about your law firm
Keep in mind that some clients only want to provide basic information about the review. Therefore, most of the fields on your form should be optional. This setup will give clients the freedom to leave as many — or as few — details about their experience as they would like.
The goal is to create a universal form that applies to all clients. Users should be able to leave a review whether you provided extensive legal services or simply assisted with document preparation.
Simplify the Review Process
If you want to accumulate as many positive reviews as possible, then you must make the process extremely simple.
When clients visit your review page, the form should be easy to find and user-friendly. While it is important to leave enough space on the form for clients to provide detailed feedback, the form should not take more than two to three minutes to complete.
By creating a simplified review process, you can demonstrate that you value your clients' time. You will also increase your ability to acquire reviews. In turn, this will improve the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts and help you optimize your online reputation management capabilities.
Falsified Testimonials Damage Your Reputation, So Don't Do It
When engaging in online reputation management, some businesses elect to create fictitious reviews to bolster their brand images. Not only is this approach immoral, but it can absolutely ruin your law firm's credibility for the foreseeable future. As if that were not bad enough, Google and other search engines have taken a hard stance against falsifying testimonials.
As noted above, you can actively solicit reviews from customers. You can even offer them incentives for leaving your law firm a review. However, these incentives must be reasonable and cannot be contingent on them leaving a positive review.
If you elect to use these incentivization tactics, make sure that you carefully craft your terms and conditions in a manner that does not pressure your clients to provide particular types of reviews.
While incentive programs can certainly help you acquire more reviews, the best approach is to provide exemplary legal services. Highly satisfied clients will be glad to take a few moments of their day to help you build your online reputation.
Top Tips for Managing Your Attorney Reputation Strategy
If you want to create an effective reputation management strategy for your law firm, we recommend that you:
Optimize Your Google Business Profile
An optimized Google Business Profile will lay the foundation for all other reputation management efforts. Formerly referred to as "Google My Business," Google Business Profile is a platform designed specifically for local companies in specified industries, including the legal sector.
The Google Business Profile platform allows your law firm to increase its visibility in the local market and connect with relevant traffic in your area.
Google Business Profiles are positioned at the very top of search engine results pages when users conduct a query using location-specific terminology. If a potential client is located in your area and conducts a local search for the type of services you provide, they will see your Google Business Profile on the results page.
The first step to optimizing your Google Business Profile page is to claim your business. In order to do this, visit the Google Business Profile site and select "Manage Now."
From there, you will be prompted to input the name of your law firm. Follow the subsequent on-screen prompts and provide the requested information about your business. If your law firm has multiple locations in different cities, you will need to repeat this process for each address.
Make sure that all business name, address, and phone number information is consistent across all listings. If the information on your Google Business Profile does not match what is on your firm's website or third-party review sites, managing your reputation will be more challenging.
When creating your Google Business Profile account, make sure to complete the "Additional Information" section. While this section is not necessarily required, it does give you the opportunity to provide some critical information about your services, including your areas of practice.
Once you are done providing the requested information, you will need to complete the verification process. You can do this via phone or email. Phone-based verification is the most expedient, which is why we generally recommend this approach.
Next, you will need to add some offers to your profile in order to make your services more appealing to prospective clients. For example, you can advertise free case reviews or consultations.
You will also need to ensure that you do not have any duplicate listings. If you or another member of the firm has previously created a listing on Google and you later create a new Google Business Profile account, a duplicate will exist.
To check for duplicates, search your firm name and the city where you are located. If more than one profile listing appears, notify Google that one of them is a duplicate by selecting the "Edit Business Details" option from the menu.
The final step is to start acquiring reviews. When your firm has accumulated many positive reviews, Google's algorithm will make your profile more visible to users.
Use Review Manager
Review management software does much more than just managing your client reviews. The best solutions will help you locate duplicate listings on Google and third-party websites. This approach gives you the opportunity to report duplicates and improve your online visibility.
Modern review management solutions increase transparency as well. These platforms make it easy to track, sort, and respond to reviews about your business. Although managing your online reputation will still require you to dedicate considerable time and resources, review management technology can make the entire endeavor less tedious.
Monitor Reviews Data
One of the biggest challenges associated with managing your online reputation is keeping up with all of your various business listings. While listing your business on a multitude of platforms is critical to maximizing visibility, it is all too easy to overlook some of these listings when monitoring review data.
Review management software can simplify this process by categorizing reviews by provider. These technologies also allow you to monitor trends and see how your firm's online reputation stacks up with that of the competition.
However, you are still responsible for performing the review monitoring; these technologies just make the process less tedious. With that in mind, it may be more pragmatic to obtain professional reputation management services from a digital marketing firm.
Such a firm will use review management software while also leveraging other proven digital marketing tactics to protect your firm's reputation.
Renovate Your Reputation Management Plan
Whether you choose to use reputation management software or partner with a dedicated firm, you will still need a cohesive plan. If you choose the former approach, you will have to create this plan yourself. Once you have created your plan, you will need to routinely revisit it to ensure that it is producing the desired results.
If you elect to partner with an experienced reputation management firm, they will create the plan for you. This approach is particularly appealing to many legal professionals because it gives them the freedom to focus on the day-to-day operations of the firm.
Final Thoughts on Online Reputation Management
When searching for the best lawyer to address their legal issues, potential clients conduct extensive research before contacting an attorney. Online reputation management is critical to the success of your law firm.
However, managing your law firm's reputation can be an incredibly challenging undertaking, especially if you are relatively new to digital marketing. With that in mind, partnering with an experienced legal marketing team like Grow Law Firm is a much more practical solution.
Grow Law Firm's marketing professionals understand the nuances of lawyer reputation management. As such, we are uniquely suited to nurture and protect your firm's reputation so that you can attract new clients. To learn more about our online reputation management services, contact Grow Law Firm today.