Online reviews are wildly popular these days, with everything from restaurants to salons and doctors being judged by ratings and scores on sites like Yelp. Lawyers are not immune. Avvo. Google My Business. Well-known ratings sites like these make or break law firms. Prospects turn to these sites to choose which attorneys to contact and hire.

In fact, statistics from BrightLocal show that:

  • 80% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 60% of consumers need to read four or more reviews to perform an opinion
  • Nearly half of all prospective clients say a lawyer’s reputation matters

Is online reputation hurting or helping your law firm’s digital marketing strategy? Here’s how you can up your reputation management game to the next level and start wooing prospective clients your way.

Two keys toward managing the reputation of your law firm or legal career

reviews onlineYou should approach reputation management with a two-pronged strategy:

  • Proactive reputation management
  • Reactive reputation management

Proactive reputation management

People are clearly influenced by the reviews they read online. That’s why it’s important that you build a solid presence on review sites where your prospects search.

A proactive approach will help.

Proactive reputation management for lawyers is designed to put out fires before they spread by ensuring there’s plenty of positive testimonials across the web.

You achieve this by posting and promoting positive reviews, interacting with your existing reviewers, and keeping your contact information (such as name, address, phone number) updated on every site where it appears.

This task, alone, can be incredibly overwhelming. There are countless review and rating sites out there, any number of which your prospects might use in their decision-making process. And while there are some digital tools to help you build a presence – and manage your profiles – on each site, we recommend you start with a more concentrated effort.

avvoAs you begin your proactive reputation management strategy, focus in on the review sites you know are popular among your prospects and geographic location. You can do this by asking around to your colleagues, or ask the question directly to your clients – When choosing a lawyer, did you visit any review sites that helped you make a decision?

When all else fails, we recommend, at the very least, Avvo.com and Lawyers.com, two of the most popular sites in the industry.

What you’ll do is determine whether you have a profile on these directories. If you do, you can claim your profile (and if you don’t, you can create one). Once your profile is claimed or created, you can then update it with the correct information, as well as accomplishments, awards and more.

Then, you can monitor these sites for any mention of you or your firm and engage in conversations with the people who make both positive and negative reviews. Lastly, you can ask your satisfied clients to make reviews on these sites, to help bolster your “good side.”

Reactive reputation management

Negative reviews are an inevitability. In fact, historically speaking, unhappy clients are far more likely to be the most vocal online reviewers.

Rather than throw your hands up in defeat after receiving a negative review, you need a strategy to help your prospects see the good reviews of your firm, rather than solely the negative ones.

Here’s how reactive reputation management can help; Our SEO agency for law firms uses this same strategy for clients.

First, to maximize your efforts, you’ll want to determine which review sites require the most attention. Here’s a good tip: Conduct a search for lawyers in your area. Something like “Good Lawyer Near Me” or “[Area of focus] Lawyer in [City] would work.

google search

Then look at the results. Find which ratings sites rank high. For our search of attorneys in Dallas, here’s what we came up with:

google search results

Avvo and SuperLawyers.com rank #1 and #2. For our example, then, we’d recommend checking out your profile on these sites. If either one of these sites contains negative reviews about you or your firm, this is where you should first focus your attention.

google alertsYou can also monitor mentions and reviews about your firm by:

  • Setting alerts on Google, Yahoo! and Bing
  • Assigning a staff member to monitor the postings of all relevant sites
  • Using social media monitoring tools (like Hootsuite) to keep tabs on references of your law firm

More often than not, it’s worth your while to publicly reply to negative reviews in a respectful manner (that doesn’t’ violate any confidentiality agreements and laws). Replies help you connect with the reviewer and show the rest of the digital world that you welcome and respond to feedback of all types.

We recommend you craft a standard reply that you can alter as you see fit. Feel free to adapt this for your own uses:

“Thank you for expressing your concerns. If you could be so kind as to contact our offices directly so we can discuss this matter with you further. Client satisfaction is our number one goal.”

This generic response shows that you read and care about reviews, without adding any fuel to the fire.

The best way to squash negative reviews is to drown them out

online questionnaireIf you have 5 bad reviews, but also have 500 positive ones, chances are the impact of these negative reviews will be minimal. So, as part of your strategy, you must find a way to increase glowing reviews of you and your firm.

This isn’t as hard as you might think. It can be as easy as simply asking your clients.

When you help a client with their case or legal issues, it’s perfectly okay to say, “You know, you’d really make my day if you provided a positive review online.” Then, be sure to direct them to the sites that you’ve chosen to focus your attention on.

The goal is to create a large catalog of positive content that will outweigh the inevitable negative posts you’ll receive over time.

Finding truth in the negative

While you obviously want to combat your negative reviews, these reviews might also contain a kernel of truth in them.

For example, what if you came across a trend in negative reviews focusing on how inaccessible you can be at times. It’s possible that this is a lingering problem with your practice. Take a moment to look at things from the perspective of your clients. Is there anything you can do to appear more accessible without restructuring your entire day?

By looking inward and making changes, you can and will very likely avoid future negative reviews on the matter.

For lawyers, reputation is everything. It’s time to protect and preserve your good name

Remember, you should manage your reputation from both a proactive and reactive approach. As you grow comfortable with these strategies, you can begin to reach out to even more rating sites. Over time, you’ll discover that monitoring all references to your firm can become overwhelming, which is why many law firms rely on tools or 3rd-party agencies. But even without these tools and services, you can rely on tried-and-true strategies to ensure that when folks find you online, they like what they see.