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You Are Liable For Your Online Reputation

online reputation

By MaryPat Kavanagh

Are you ignoring the online world? It’s time to stop. Wake up to what is happening online. Between the opportunity to build referrals and the liability of wrong information online, you can’t afford to ignore it any longer.

In The Denver Post, columnist Andy Vuong, recently wrote, “Harris Interactive recently conducted a survey on behalf of BrandYourself.com asking 2,570 American adults about their search habits…. ‘Despite the importance of having a positive presence in search engines, most U.S. adults are not accurately represented online, with no clear idea what to do about it,’ the report states.”

If you are wondering where the liability is, wonder no more. Here are a few of the top reasons why you can’t afford to ignore this any longer. The following scenarios are based on real-life examples.

Scenario One
A past client, let’s call him Sam, refers his friend, Dave, to you, claiming that you – Don Johnson – are the best business law attorney and you helped him when he was starting out. He gives you a stellar review, but it has been a few years since he hired you. Dave pulls out his smartphone and plugs your name into a search engine. Most of the Don Johnson’s that show up are personal listings for other people. But two listings do show up – Yelp and Lawyers.com. Yelp.com had pulled your information from a database and thinks that you are a personal injury attorney. Lawyers.com has no information about you. Neither site has a photo, a bio or any reviews; plus, the limited information they do have, is wrong. You website is on the second page, but Dave didn’t look that far. You just lost the referral before you knew you had it.

Scenario Two
You have a great conversation with a prospect who needs legal services. It seems like this job might total upward of $30,000 this upcoming year. This is the perfect type of client you want. Before he hires you, he does his own due diligence; he discovers a few strongly negative reviews about you on Yelp, Avvo and Google Reviews and only one good review from a fellow peer not a past client. Your star rating is only two on these sites. He decides that he can’t afford to take a chance on you, and you lose the sale.

Scenario Three
Your firm has been 100 percent referral-based since you started 25 years ago. Five years ago, your firm had a change in named partners, changing the firm’s name. In the last two years, it seems that your referrals are drying up. You have dabbled in LinkedIn and claimed your Avvo profile, but haven’t been active online. In a quick online assessment, it seems that while there are three pages of results for your name (it’s really you), the contact information is wrong on almost every site listing. And almost all the listings include the old firm’s name with the previous partner’s name. Your prospects can’t find you even though they are trying!

You may not relate to these exact scenarios, but if there is wrong information about you online, it is probably impacting your bottom line.

So let’s talk about what to do about it. As an attorney, there is a greater responsibility to have correct information about yourself online. I admit, it can be overwhelming, but it is not difficult. Here are five steps that you can take now to start cleaning up your online reputation (or at least, take control before someone else does).

  1. Google yourself. This is a simple step, but most people do not do this. You should do a search on yourself and your practice areas monthly to give you insight into the marketplace, your online presence and your competition.
  2. Click through the links on the first two-three pages. You want to know what is on the other side of each of those links. A prospect looking to spend $20-30,000 with you will review all the links on the first page and enough information on back pages until they make a buying decision (average is 17 points of contact, according to Google experts).
  3. Review your website. Is your site optimized for the search engines? Is it even showing up? Your site should be listed at least two-three times on the first page of a search for you. If not, it’s not working for you.
  4. Review sites and listings. Many of the listings in a search are sites that were auto-generated by list servers. They have your name, but it is your job to claim your listings and update the information with current photo, bio and other requested information. Make sure to complete all profiles as this simple task can impact a search about you greatly.
  5. Share good content. Content is king. And for the search engines, your prospects, your peers and your complete online presence, content is the easiest way to impact the search engines. My recommendation is to repurpose other content. Have you been featured in a magazine, interviewed by the media or published articles for your state bar? Take this content and share it in your LinkedIn and Avvo profiles and on your website article archives, and then repurpose it on your blog and in your social media updates.

By following these five steps, you will be able to take control of your online presence. With a little forethought and strategy, you can even begin a new stream of referrals to your business.

Whether your motivation is to reduce your online liability or to build an online reputation that supports your offline reputation, now is the time to take control.


MaryPat Kavanagh is the chief strategist and owner of LawMAX Marketing Agency. She works with attorneys and law firms to get more clients with a proactive approach to marketing. For more information, visit www.lawmaxmarketing.com.