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LaBret: Demystifying online reputation defense

January 30, 2013
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

By Jabez LeBret
 

labret-jabez-mug LeBret

Often, we have clients that come to us completely unaware of what is being said about them online. In a few alarming cases, an online search for the attorney’s name included results for people of the same name who had been arrested for DUI, larceny and, in two cases, sexual assault.

Managing your online reputation does not have to keep you up at night. The best reputation defense is a good offense.

We are going to walk step-by-step through how you can easily manage your professional image online. This article will not hide anything. If you follow these simple steps, you will quickly be in control of your online image without ever having to hire a reputation management company.

The great news is that less than 1.8 percent of people searching on Google ever click on the second page. The first logical step in online reputation management is assessing what is said about you on page one.

When you or a potential client searches for your name or your firm name, this is called a “branded keyword search.” The proper way to conduct a branded search to check your online reputation is to log out of all your email accounts and social media profiles. Then, clear your search history and cache in the tools section of your browser (e.g. Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer). Now you are searching on a clean browser that is not being influenced by your search history, social media connections or email. Skipping this step may cause the search engine to show you skewed, personalized results that differ from what a potential client would see.

To get the most accurate search results for your firm, type your firm name surrounded by quotation marks in a Google search. If I were to search for my company, the search term would be “Get Noticed Get Found.” You can also search for yourself and your fellow partners separately by name, each with quotation marks around the search term.

Your goal is to control the information about your firm name and every attorney’s name in your office on page one of Google and page two, if possible. If you find something negative, do not get upset. Follow the exact steps below, and in a month or two, you will start to gain more control of page one.

Clean up your citations: Anywhere your firm appears online with its name, address and phone number is called a citation or directory listing. Make sure that every one of your firm’s citations has an identical firm name, address, website and phone number. These citation websites include Google+ Local, Yelp, Merchant Circle, AVVO, etc. When you Google your firm name in quotes, you will likely find that several citations have already been created. If this is the case, find the “claim this listing” or similar button on the page, and follow the instructions to manage and edit that listing.

Do not use a forwarding phone number: It was great advice about nine months ago to use a forwarding phone number on your citation listings and even your firm’s website; however, this is no longer a good practice. The search engines have indicated that you will fall in the search rankings if you are caught using forwarding numbers. Immediately take down a forwarding number that appears anywhere online.

Set up a blog on your website: A blog is a great tool for controlling information on page one of search engines while also helping your website get a better ranking. You should be blogging once a week at the minimum. The key to good blogging is consistency, so avoid posting four blogs in one week and none the rest of the month.

Link your firm’s social media profiles to your blog: You do not need to post on Twitter about the coffee you drank this morning. You should, however, have profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Linkedin where you can post links to your firm’s blogs.

Create one press release per month: These press releases do not have to be about breaking news. Topics like hiring a new employee or someone in your firm participating in a local 5K race all make for easy press releases. Note that you get what you pay for: submitting your press release to free online syndication sites gets you almost no credit in search results.

Update your website: Your firm’s website is not a static object. You should be updating it often with new content, images and blog posts. This helps your search ranking and really pushes that website to page one of Google.

Create a video series: Forget a lengthy $30,000 production. One option is to hire a film crew from Craigslist to shoot a simple series of question and answers. You and the other attorneys at your firm can answer common questions that clients ask you about your practice areas. Break the video into multiple video snippets, and then syndicate those videos on as many free video syndication websites as you can find, including YouTube, MetaCafe and others.

Following all of the above steps will allow you to easily command the first page of Google’s search results for your name and firm name. With numerous search results for your firm’s website, directory listings, blog, videos, social media accounts and press releases showing up on the first page, any objectionable results relating to your name or your firm’s name will be pushed to the second or even third page – where nearly no one will see them.•

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Jabez LeBret is co-author of Online Law Practice Strategies and a partner at Get Noticed Get Found Inc. His agency provides custom digital marketing solutions exclusively for attorneys. For more information, visit http://www.GetNoticedGetFound.com or call 513-444-2016.

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