Online Reputation Management: Where to Focus Your Attorney Marketing Efforts
Online reputation management. If you’re like many an attorney, those words may cast a shadow upon your day. Who has time to search and pay attention to everything said about them and their firms online? Is that really the most important use of time? The reality is that the Internet rules today’s world, and failing to monitor and maintain your online reputation is a quick way to damage your brand—both individual and business.
Discover which platforms and places you need to pay attention to below. Then, start being proactive about your online reputation and attorney marketing efforts.
If you’re not sure where to begin with online reputation management, Google is a great jumping off point. Log out of your accounts, “Google” the name of yourself and your practice, and see what pops up on the web results page. Don’t forget to also check the Google Images tab to see what type of pictures you’re associated with.
Better yet, set up a Google Alert with your name and firm’s name so you’re automatically notified when either one appears online.
There are also several alternatives to Google Alerts such as Mention, a media monitoring application (available on app and desktop). Take advantage of Mention’s one free search and search your firm’s name, then establish your monitoring preferences. For instance, you can receive a daily email containing a search summary of your key term, which could cut down the time spent on law firm marketing.
Bing is nowhere near as popular as Google, but a solid group of Internet users still utilize it as their primary search engine. Don’t miss out on connecting with roughly 8% of your potential audience! Similar to Google above, log out of your accounts and search your name, as well as your firm’s name, on Bing to find what’s been written about your practice and where you’re getting the most attention.
For attorneys, LinkedIn provides one of the greatest opportunities for online reputation management. There, you can explain your background, specializations, and the history and values of your practice. LinkedIn also enables fellow professionals to endorse you for skills and provide recommendations, which is great on multiple fronts:
- It adds credibility to you and your services
- It makes your LinkedIn page stronger so you appear in more search results and more suggested connections
- Text on your LinkedIn page can boost your attorney SEO power.
This one is a lawyer marketing no-brainer but deserves a quick mention nonetheless. Obviously, your firm needs to keep an eye on its website—it is probably the first thing that will show up on a web results page when a potential client searches your firm’s name.
Therefore, awareness and diligence is key. If a visitor comments on a blog post, be sure to quickly respond; within 24 hours, if possible. Or, if someone takes the time to complete an online contact form, reply to his/her query as helpfully as possible.
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The Importance of Online Reviews To Attorney Marketing
Every lawyer knows the power of testimonials. The collection and proper usage of the testimonial is the oldest marketing tactic in the book, easily a precursor to websites, search engine optimization, and even newsletters. Potential legal clients can be swayed by positive (or negative) reviews of your firm, and why not? All of us utilize reviews to some degree or another during the purchase process.
However, many attorneys—even savvy ones who understand legal SEO and the benefits of social media, for example—are still missing a key component of their online reputation management: a process for accumulating online reviews outside of their own websites. During my time with James Attorney Marketing, I’ve seen and reviewed literally thousands of attorney sites, profiles, and social media accounts, and online reviews are still a major weak point in a vast majority of them.
If you fall into this category, you have some work to do.
Reviews Versus Testimonials
Most legal websites have a testimonial section in a highly visible area, which is a good start. Despite this, if you think that a few testimonials on your website are all you need to present in order to convince modern web users of your abilities, you would be wrong.
These days, potential legal clients are using the same research techniques as consumers searching for information on which television or lawnmower is the best. They will not only be checking the manufacturer’s website, but also looking for reviews of the product on Amazon or asking their friends for advice. If you were in the market for a new HDTV, would you be swayed simply by testimonials on Sony’s website, for instance, or would you try to verify those reviews by looking elsewhere?
For this reason, testimonials on your website are not going to cut it in the future. You have control over your website, so you can put whatever you want on there. Potential clients are well aware that you aren’t going to put any negative or damaging remarks on your own site, but you can be sure that they will go out and investigate elsewhere online to see if your services are as good as you claim on your site.
The Benefits of Consumer Trust
You may be thinking to yourself, “This guy is crazy. People don’t shop for legal services like electronics.” In the past, that may have been true, but in 2013, things are different. In a recent survey, it was discovered that up to 79% of consumers now trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member.
Whether you believe it or not, the Internet is a giant, review-generating machine, and consumers of every type of service are keenly aware of that fact. Let’s think of a potential situation that can illustrate why you would want to build consumer trust with positive online reviews:
Hypothetically, we’ll imagine that you and four other competing law firms rank very well in Google+ Local search results. One of your competitors has several positive star ratings on the system, whereas you and the other three lawyers do not. When a person looking for an attorney performs a Google search and sees your listings on the map, who will he or she choose? In all likelihood, that business is going to end up with your five-star competitor who has wisely taken the time to set up a few profiles that allow happy clients to review the firm. It’s common sense that a consumer would make such a decision.
Options Options Options
Now that we’ve established the benefits of building consumer trust with reviews that aren’t placed directly on your website, where should you go about setting up profiles to collect said reviews? This topic warrants its own post, to be sure, but in a nutshell, you can (and should) set up profiles on Google+, Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, and more. All of these extremely popular networks allow your clients to post reviews.
It is important to note that specifically soliciting reviews or having your clients add many at a single time may be a violation of some sites’ terms of service, so you should check before you go about asking for reviews. However, there are other tactics you can try. For instance, you could always list your Yelp address on your business card, which in and of itself might convince a very happy, motivated client to post a review on the site for you. There are plenty of other similar methods that work in much the same way.
3 Easy Ways To Take Stock of Your Firm’s Brand
You’ve undoubtedly done your fair share of tweeting, posting, and blogging to both build your firm’s brand, and maximize lead generation.
However, if you didn’t spend a lot of time checking in to see how your branding efforts were being received, now will be a pivotal time to do so. Why? Because brand-building is getting much more critical amid the onslaught of social media and digital marketing saturation.
Here are a few ways to help you take stock of your firm’s branding efforts to stay on the pulse of what your target audience wants, and needs, to see from their law firm.
1. Ask Client’s For Feedback—Directly
The best way to find out how clients feel about your firm is to ask them. Let your clients know that you’re serious about how your firm’s image is being conveyed through your branding efforts. This will help you gauge what isn’t working, and compound upon what is.
2. Use Opinion Surveys
Online services like Survey Monkey and Google Consumer Surveys offer great ways to create sets of questions that potential and actual clients can answer online. Surveys can provide valuable insight into how users regard your firm, your services, and your marketing efforts—which can translate into strategic brand-building ideas.
TIP: Be specific as possible with survey questions, such as “Did our firm name influence your decision to hire us?,” and “What do you think of our reputation, both on and offline?,” etc. Keep questions clear and direct. Vague questions can lead to misunderstandings, and result in inaccurate data.
DOUBLE TIP: No one really likes to do surveys, unless they’re super pumped about giving your firm stellar reviews, or not so stellar. For the average survey taker, make it worth their effort by providing giveaways, such as a free document upload that you’d usually charge for, or an extended phone consultation.
3. Research Other Firm Reviews
Spend quality time searching for and reading reviews of other firms online. This is a great way to not only recognize problems in your own customer service processes, but actions that you’re doing superbly well—and can build upon and market accordingly.
Would you like a free evaluation of your firm’s website to increase web traffic and lead conversion? You’ve got it! Contact us for more tips and tricks to help maximize your legal marketing efforts.
The Customer Experience: How and Why You Should Seek Client Feedback
The legal marketplace is becoming more competitive by the minute, and it is increasingly challenging for law firms to set themselves apart from the competition. Although having a souped-up website, an active blog, and engaging social media pages helps, what can really place your firm above the rest is client feedback in the form of website testimonials, online reviews, and of course, good old word-of-mouth.
Here are a few ways how to seek client feedback, why to seek client feedback, and what to do with it when you get it.
How To Ask For Client Feedback
The best way to ask for a client’s feedback is to simply ask for it. Let a client know that their experience with your firm really does matter, and what they have to say will be taken to heart and applied, as needed.
TIP: The best time to ask a client for feedback is during or after an in-person engagement, followed by a phone call, and lastly an email. In-person feedback works best, as it allows eye contact with a client, and a personal connection that isn’t as strong through digital communication.
Constructive Criticism Can Retain Clients
No one likes to hear when they’re doing a lousy job, but if you pay attention to the details of a complaint, it can work wonders for future client service. Adverse feedback can spark new ways of operating that may have never have occurred to you, and save a critical client that was on his/her way out the door.
Client Feedback Can Lead To Client Generation
Potential clients love to hear about an actual client’s experience with an attorney, as they’re looking for a law firm they can trust with their private, legal matters. Client feedback such as testimonials on your website, or reviews posted on sites such as Google My Business and Yelp, can convey that your firm is trustworthy, professional, and credible.
Client Feedback Can Boost SEO
Each time a client’s feedback is added to your website or blog, this updates that page’s content—and client feedback often contains long-tail keywords that search engines love.
For example, if you’re a criminal defense attorney who specializes in DUI defense, “drunk driving defense” is just one short key phrase. A client’s testimonial is likely to include longer phrases, such as “Attorney John Smith helped defend my son against underage DUI charges.” Search engines are now crawling “defend underage DUI charges,” and ranking your pages accordingly.
Online Reviews Are Marketing Gold
Client reviews posted on sites such as Yelp, AVVO, and Martindale-Hubbell can boost your firm’s search rank and generate leads in a way little else can—all for free.
TIP: Positive feedback is great for marketing, but negative feedback can be just as advantageous in regard to how you respond to it. Review sites such as Yelp allows your firm to publicly respond to negative reviews. This can show viewers that you’re responsive, attentive, and truly care about the satisfaction of your clients by addressing their concerns, and trying to right the wrong, right away.
How to Garner More Positive Online Reviews
When someone is searching for an attorney, the first thing they’ll do is search for a reputable law firm on Google. If your practice appears on their search engine results page associated with positive reviews from satisfied clients, your chances of receiving a consultation skyrocket.
Take the Law Offices of Loren S. Etengoff in Vancouver, Washington as an example. The law firm boosted its positive online reviews and increased its caseload from 62 to 141, year-over-year. When asked about their purchasing decision, 90% of the firm’s clients mention the presence of positive online reviews.
If your practice is looking to accrue more business from search engines and your law firm website, use the following attorney internet marketing strategies to focus on garnering more positive online reviews.
Online Reviews: The Make Or Break Point
The higher your law firm website ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs), the more visible your website becomes to potential visitors. However, creating a beautiful legal website with great SEO performance doesn’t accomplish much if visitors see a slew of negative reviews on the same SERP.
The bottom line: building a cache of glowing online reviews while limiting the visibility of negative ones ensures that potential clients only see the best of your firm. This could mean the difference between attracting or scaring off new business, especially considering that potential clients looking through online reviews are already very close to the “buying” stage. A good online reputation nudges looky-loos into making the decision to consult your firm over your competition.
5 Strategies to Gather More Positive Reviews
- Implement an automated system
In the case of the Law Offices of Loren S. Etengoff, which more than doubled its caseload in one year using online reviews, the firm’s attorney internet marketing secret to gathering more positive reviews was simple: implement a capable automated system to constantly gather online feedback.
Through the James Online Reputation Management (ORM) system (one feature of the James Legal CRM), the law firm automatically sent out a steady stream of automatic mobile, SMS text, and email campaigns to consistently accrue favorable reviews. Whenever they received negative reviews, the team could immediately address the problem.
Having a system in place like the James ORM used by the Law Offices of Loren S. Etengoff can enable your team to gather reviews on a consistent basis, without having to micromanage the process.
- Be available on multiple platforms
Enabling customers to leave a review on their review site of choice not only increases the chances that they will provide feedback, but also ensures review diversity—one element of building a good local SEO strategy.
- Make it easy
Clients won’t leave reviews if the process is difficult or takes more than a few minutes. Make it easy for clients to leave your firm a positive review—link to your Yelp page from your website, include a simple feedback form in the body of any emails that ask for reviews so recipients don’t have to route to an outside website, and create attorney internet marketing materials that explain where clients can leave reviews and how to do so.
Just remember that some review sites, like Yelp, will punish your firm for asking for reviews. Be sure to check the rules of your most common online review sites and act within guidelines.
- Follow up afterward
Every review, positive or negative, gets you a little closer to providing better service and making the client experience more enjoyable. Therefore, reach out and thank everyone who takes the time to leave a review and provide feedback.
In the case of negative reviews, go further and determine how your attorney team can salvage the situation. For instance, if a client heads to Yelp to complain that your office was slow to respond to emails and phone calls, you could respond back with a comment like the one below.
“Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention, Mary. We welcome your feedback and sincerely apologize for your negative experience. Feel free to reach us at 800-999-9999 so we can discuss how to best amend the situation.”
- Promote existing reviews
Don’t let hard-earned reviews go to waste! Once you’ve gathered comments for your attorney internet marketing strategy, be sure to best use them to your advantage for branding and to encourage clients to leave even more positive reviews.
Feature them as testimonials on your website (with permission), create a custom review site, and publish them on your social media profiles. (With the James ORM, you can do all that—and more—in the blink of an eye.)
How Client Testimonials Can Boost Your Attorney Website
Having a good client testimonial is one of the most effective marketing tools. Consumers love to read about the experience other consumers have had with a product or service they’re considering—legal service being no exception.
Testimonials can show potential clients that your services are recommendable, your firm is trustworthy, and customers would be in good hands if they sought you out—all for free. If that wasn’t enough, having testimonials on your website can help with SEO, and boost site traffic.
Client testimonials are great for legal marketing, and if they’re not on your website yet, here is more detail why they should be.
Testimonials Build Trust.
Client testimonials convey that you were enlisted to help someone with a legal matter, and you successfully provided that help. Testimonials build trust and credibility in your firm. You are a reliable resource who is now a documented problem-solver.
Testimonials Improve Conversions.
A good testimonial can persuade a person to do business with you. If a previous client had a great experience with you and you helped them secure a favorable verdict, chances are you can do it again, and consumers know this.
Written testimonials work just fine, but if you can get a satisfied client to take part in a video testimonial, this is legal marketing gold.
Testimonials Are Great For Social Media.
Just a few testimonials posted on your social media pages is a great way to show your friends and followers that you’re good at what you do, and some happy clients took the time to write about it. Use the shortest ones you have (or condense them as needed) and post these to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.
Do this sparingly, however. Don’t be the lawyer that just drowns your pages in client praise—this will bore your readers and you’ll come off as too showy.
Testimonials Add Value To Your Website.
Testimonials can add an interesting graphical element to your website, much like photos or videos. You can get creative with your Testimonial page, and provide a space that draws readers in and keeps them there.
Note: Testimonials really should have their own page and not be mixed in with the rest of your site’s content. This is good for law firm SEO reasons, and for website navigation.
Testimonials Are Great For SEO.
Each time a new testimonial is added to your Testimonials page, it updates that page’s content—which alerts the search engine spiders. In addition, testimonials often include long-tail keywords that search engines love.
For example, if you’re a personal injury attorney who specializes in premises liability, “premises liability” is just one short key phrase. A testimonial is likely to include longer phrases, such as “Attorney Jack White helped me get compensation for my slip and fall injury at the mall.” Search engines are now crawling “compensation for slip and fall injury at the mall,” and ranking your page accordingly.
Client testimonials are great marketing tools, but do you know how to get them? Get a hold of us, and we’ll give you tips to help!
Use Attorney Marketing Surveys to Gather This Essential Feedback
Marketing never stands still. Real-time data can transform your firm’s marketing goals on a monthly basis, audience demographics change over time, and consumer preferences consistently evolve. Marketing surveys are an opportunity to source audience feedback on a regular basis to ensure that your marketing efforts aren’t going stale.
Here’s the kind of feedback you should be gathering from your audience, and how to act upon it to improve your attorney marketing.
1. How often and in which medium they prefer to be communicated with
Take the guess work out of communication by asking people how often they’d like to receive your attorney marketing communications. Would they like to get all their information from one source such as your firm’s monthly personal injury newsletter or would they prefer a weekly email containing links to the most recent blog content? How about phone calls or print pieces like thank you cards?
Aside from consistent marketing surveys, another occasion to survey your audience and find out how often contacts want to hear from you is during unsubscription. When people unsubscribe from your email list, pop up an optional survey to ask them why they are leaving. It may be that they were receiving emails too often, in which case, you know to potentially ease up on emailing your remaining contacts.
2. What you could do better
To ensure that your marketing efforts—such as your communication via social media and the content that you’re providing online and in print—is exceeding expectations and reminding clients why they decided to work with you, probe your audience to find what you could be doing better. An open form field on a survey can bring in helpful suggestions that you hadn’t thought of.
3. How likely they would be to recommend your firm to others
Set this question up for clients to answer on a scale from one to ten. If clients love your brand and their experience, they’ll be happy to recommend your legal services to others and rank you highly—a true sign of a loyal client. You could use this opportunity to ask what they love about your firm and whether you could use their words as testimonials to feature on your website and other attorney marketing pieces.
If they rank your practice on the lower end—let’s say, anything lower than a six—you can route them to another question that asks what you could be doing better (see #2 above).
Authority, Reputation and Influence
Any lawyer knows that reputation, authority and influence are essential attributes for attracting and retaining clients. In the world of SEO these terms have specific meaning and it will greatly enhance your digital marketing effort if you can harness these concepts for your law firm’s website. “Authority” pertains to the relevance and subject importance of a site, which helps boost the rankings of other pages that link to them. In digital marketing, “reputation” usually alludes to the opinion of ordinary Internet users as expressed in online comments and reviews. “Influence” refers to the number of followers an individual has on social media and the ability to direct opinion. Search Engine Journal provides some interesting guidance on these issues this week. We will also investigate news from Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land to find out more on these subjects.
The third section of this report relates to this week’s SEO Trends theme, because it explains “authority.” This idea has become a ranking factor for Google, so it is important to be selective about whom you associate your website with. When you seek out links into your law firm’s Web pages from other sites, you need to check that the site and the page the link will appear on contains keywords related to the law and your areas of specialization. Not only that, but you should investigate which sites have links into your potential link provider, because if that site has links from unrelated sites, it will have low authority for your keywords and won’t provide you with much link juice.
It stands to reason that good reviews and on-site testimonials will attract customers to your law firm and bad reviews will lose you potential clients. However, this factor of digital marketing, which is termed “reputation management,” is even more important in the online world. Google keeps enhancing reputation as a ranking factor, so you need to keep track of what people are writing about your firm in order to get up Google’s results pages. As this article explains, good reputation management can also improve your chances of getting quality links from sites with authority, thus boosting your rankings even further. Poor reputation management will doubly harm your rankings because it will also damage the authority of your site.
This article appeared in Search Engine Journal last month, but it is well worth reading because its advice hasn’t aged. The piece breaks down the issue of reputation management into five digestible chunks. If you are starting to consider a reputation management strategy for your law firm’s site, this is a good guide to get you on the runway.
Now we move on to the topic of “influence.” Google has announced that it will index tweets on Twitter and count mentions in social media towards rankings. However, it seems they haven’t got very far yet with the task of tracking all tweets. Given Google’s growing interest in social signals as ranking factors, it would be a useful exercise for you, or one of your law firm’s leading lawyers, to gather a following on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Having a large following on one of these sites makes you an “influencer.” However, the article doesn’t explain how many followers you need in order to qualify for that title.
Brittany Berger works for a company called Mention, so this article she wrote for Search Engine Journal contains a plug for that company’s tools. However, it is worth clicking through the link about influencer scores at the Mention site and also explore some of the tools for analyzing influence that are described in the article.
Don’t forget to incentivize surveys in order to increase participation. Enter each survey taker into a raffle for a gift card or cash prize, for instance, and always mention the purpose behind the survey: you want to ensure that your firm continues to provide value to its clients.
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