In order to manage your online reputation, you need to know what factors search engines and clients are using to assess your reputation online. Online reputation can be a tricky thing, prone to changes that can happen instantaneously. What's more, changes to Google's algorithms have changed the reputation online of more than 10 percent of websites worldwide in just 2012. In this guide, you'll find seven factors that go into your online reputation. You'll also learn key tips about how to manage your online reputation in both the long and short term.
Online Reputation Factor #1: Reviews
Researching an attorney online is easier than ever today. Not only are there attorney websites that can help you compare different lawyers, there are also review sites where clients go to anonymously post reviews of attorneys they have used in the past. Your online reputation can hinge tremendously on these reviews. To manage your online reputation effectively, you need to have fully filled out profiles on review websites and monitor them at least once a week.
Why once a week? Because your reputation online can be damaged immensely by even just a few negative reviews. Three or four decisively negative reviews will bring your online reputation into the gutter, and make it much harder to manage your online reputation in the future if you let them stand. By checking at least once a week, you are being proactive and won't be caught surprised by a proliferation of negative reviews.
Try to manage your online reputation on review websites by encouraging clients with positive experiences to give you a review there. Satisfied clients are often happy to improve your reputation online with a good review.
Online Reputation Factor #2: Directories
If there is a local or state attorney directory sponsored by your bar association, you should become part of it as soon as possible. Your reputation online will be significantly better if your directory entry is completely filled out, rather than having missing or incomplete information. Many clients will check out your profile on directories before ever visiting your website, so these are a vital tool for managing your reputation online.
Online Reputation Factor #3: Social Media
Belonging to social media websites is mandatory in order to manage your online reputation. By belonging to these sites, you make it possible to do damage control if someone tries to harm your reputation on them.
A reputation management service can monitor social media sites to see if your reputation online has been damaged by anything being said there. Then, they can alert you to these issues or manage your online reputation without your assistance, depending on your preference.
Social media links can also help your reputation online by generating new inbound links for your firm's website—making those pages appear earlier in search results and confining more negative results to the forgotten back pages of the search.
Online Reputation Factor #4: News Buzz
Getting a great piece of press coverage is a godsend when you want to manage your online reputation. Press coverage can be used in your website copy and will generate new inbound links all on its own. Don't just send press releases to press release websites—get it in front of reporters and editors. You should also try to make connections to people in the media using social networking websites. By doing this, you'll be taking a huge step that will help you manage your reputation online for years to come.
Online Reputation Factor #5: Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization, or SEO, can help you to manage your online reputation better. By using SEO techniques, you can boost the number of inbound links going to your website and make sure that those pages show up earliest in searches for your firm's name.
Search engine optimization isn't the biggest factor in your overall reputation online, but it's a mistake to manage your reputation online without using at least some SEO techniques to put your best foot forward.
Online Reputation Factor #6: Astroturfing
When someone tries to improve their reputation online or hurt someone else's by using fake reviews, websites, and personalities, it's called astroturfing. Why? Because astroturfing efforts are designed to look like genuine grassroots reputation management, but are actually completely artificial.
You should generally avoid astroturfing tactics, because people online can be outraged by them when they find out you've been using them. If your competitors are using astroturfing to hurt your website or help theirs, you may want to figure out a way to expose them. In some states, creating this kind of fake publicity for a law office may be worth filing an official complaint with the bar association in your city or state.
Online Reputation Factor #7: Criticism and Response
It will hurt your reputation online badly if you're perceived as a law firm that is unable to handle criticism well. It's a bad idea to manage your online reputation by just ignoring people who are criticizing you. First, you should take an honest look at whether your firm actually made a mistake or not. If not, you shouldn't just dismiss the criticism—try looking at it from the other person's perspective and thinking about what you could have done better from their point of view.
Online Reputation Factor #8: One Way Links
If you want to manage your online reputation successfully, you should work on building one way linking opportunities. Organic one way links are one of the best ways to get a great reputation online. If you're using too many link exchanges or reciprocal links, you could actually face penalties from Google and other search engines.
Building one way links with anchor text that references your brand can also help your website reputation when people search for you online. You can manage your online reputation much more easily when you've already got a large stock of positive link coverage.