Be Proactive: Online Reviews and Reputation Management

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CATHERINE’S CALL

By Catherine Sanders Reach

Do you know what people are saying about you online? There are hundreds of online review sites, such as Yelp, Facebook and Google, as well as legal directories such as Avvo and lawyerratingz.com where anyone can add a review of your legal services. Following are some ways of how a firm can leverage reviews and enhance its online presence.

While there is recourse if someone says something negative about you or your firm online, the best defense is a good offence.

Do You Know What They Are Saying About You?

It is not impermissible to respond to a negative online review, but you may not reveal confidential information. You may make a measured response, preferably directly to the person writing. To do this you should keep an awareness of what is being said about you online. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. You should make this a habit.

One method is to do a Google search for your name, variations of your name, with your name in quotes and without, and your firm’s name. Because Google’s algorithms are influenced by what it knows about your online behavior and IP address/location you should do this search and then:

  • Search without logging in
  • Search with someone else’s computer
  • Search with your phone

Do the same search other sites such as Yahoo!, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and StartPage. Keep in mind there are limits to what you may find in search engine indexes. Don’t forget to go a few pages deep. The results may vary by day.

Sign Up for Alerts

Sign up with a service to receive alerts when your name/firm’s name and variations appear in search engine indexes.

  • Google Alerts https://www.google.com/alerts is a free service with Google account.
  • Mention.com https://en.mention.com/ includes a free trial, and offers advanced settings to let you search variations or AND or EXCLUDE words in results. The search extends to Facebook, Twitter, News sites, blogs, video sites, forums, image sites and general web. The search yields impressive results.  You can set it up to email you results daily or weekly. A “Solo” account is $29 per month.
  • Giga Alert http://www.gigaalert.com/ is somewhat secretive about where they search, “deep results” for $4.95 a month, search options are very much like Google advanced search options. The service is free for limited use (not deep results).

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Having an excellent web presence will help determine what people see in search engine results and review sites.   This can include any and all of the following:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social media presence
  • Other online presence

Without having a web presence that you control the results for a name search will likely be legal directories, some you may not have even submitted your name to, and review sites where you have little to no control over the reviews posted.

How Are We Doing?

Recently the North Carolina State Bar published 2018 Formal Ethics Opinion 7 which discusses soliciting client reviews and posting the positive reviews online to increase the lawyer’s ranking on search engines. The opinion generally suggests that under certain conditions that yes, this is permissible under the Rules of Professional Conduct. Whether or not you take steps to actively promote positive ratings, seeking client feedback has a variety of benefits.

Do you send your clients a satisfaction survey at the close of a matter? What about during the course of representation? Asking for feedback from your clients regarding performance not only gives them an opportunity to vent frustrations directly to you and your team (versus Yelp) but also help you learn how to improve. Most often clients complain online (and to the disciplinary board) when they are feeling neglected or that the communication is inadequate. By asking client’s questions like “are we keeping you up to date on the status of your matter?” and “is our service meeting your expectations?” you can head off complaints and be responsive to your client’s needs and perceptions. For questionnaire examples and more information on this topic see “Avoid Bad Reviews by Requesting Client Feedback“.  Once you have received feedback you can ask happy clients to rate you on review sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook or Avvo.  Choose the platform where you want to have the highest concentration of client reviews, which you can determine by looking at inbound links from Google Analytics or, if you don’t have a website, where you get the most reviews. Send them a link and encourage them to review your services. It works!

Conclusion

Always remember, simplicity is key! It might seem like adding another step to an already busy workday, but by giving clients a platform to feel they’re complaints are heard, you can prevent bad reviews from popping up online. Take charge of your online reputation by stopping bad reviews before they start!

Catherine Sanders Reach is the Director of the North Carolina Center for Practice Management. NCBA members, click here to learn more about how the Center for Practice Management can help you. NCBA CPM: Practice Smart.