All I really needed to know about life – or online reputation management – I learned by watching The Simpsons. One of my favorite characters was the hapless, shyster lawyer played by the late, great Phil Hartman.
Lionel Hutz: Mrs. Simpson, you’re in luck. Your sexual harassment suit is exactly what I need to help rebuild my shattered practice. Care to join me in a belt of scotch?
Marge: It’s 9:30 in the morning.
Lionel Hutz: Yeah, but I haven’t slept in days.
Or this classic…
Lionel Hutz: Now don’t you worry, Mrs. Simpson, I… uh-oh. We’ve drawn Judge Snyder.
Marge: Is that bad?
Lionel Hutz: Well, he’s kind of had it in for me, since I accidently ran over his dog. Actually, replace ‘accidently’ with ‘repeatedly’, and replace ‘dog’ with ‘son’.
While you may not be able to control what others say about you online (or on Fox television), you can create positive online content to diminish the impact and visibility of damaging content. That is the power of online reputation management.
I recently wrote a blog article about Online Reputation Management for Lawyers and I wanted to followup on that post to share seven easy ways lawyers can improve their online reputation:
1. Buy your own domain name (e.g. yourname.com). Download WordPress or Blogger software for free and start a blog on your new site. No programming knowledge or skills needed at all.
2. Blog about topics relevant to your practice area. Now that you have a domain name, it is time to start using it. According to inbound marketing firm Hubspot, businesses that blog get 55% more web traffic. The more blog articles you post, the more pages search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing will index, and the more pages that you index the more links you get from other sites. These links will raise your rank on search engines like Google — driving traffic directly to your website.
3. Create an optimized profile. There is the business card you carry in your wallet and the business card you post online. Create a dynamic profile and complete every available field of information on Findlaw.com, Avvo.com, Justia.com, Lawyers.com, Nolo.com and Martindale.com. If you haven’t stepped up to LinkedIn, you are watching new business walk right past your door.
4. Google is king. Although Bing is gaining market share, you have to dominate Google. Luckily, they give you a few easy ways to help people who may be looking for you online. Use Google Places for Business to get your business found on local search results on both Google Search and Google Maps. Google Images also performs very well on search results so straighten that bowtie, smile for the camera and post your pics on your blog, Flickr and other photo sharing sites. And stay on top of new developments from the Googleplex, the new Google+ is looking like a social networking juggernaut, and you can bet your Google+ profile will get some serious online exposure.
5. Be your own expert witness. Comment on relevant legal news articles and blog posts that relate to your practice area, respond to requests for public comment from government agencies and regulatory organizations, join panel discussions and industry events that may receive online publicity. Demonstrate your competence by hosting continuing education classes and publicize these events across the web. It takes just a couple of hours a week. I know practice management is non-billable time, but you will be amazed at how quickly you can extend your web footprint.
6. Think twice before posting anything online. The best way to manage your online reputation is to not do or say anything stupid in the first place. We can’t control what others might say about us, but don’t give them any extra ammunition. Lawyers behaving badly might make for a funny email forward or Above the Law post, but for your clients it’s not a laughing matter. I don’t want to see a picture of my lawyer doing bong hits or drinking tequila shots off the chest of a Las Vegas stripper.
7. Hire the best online reputation management firm. An online reputation management company will elevate positive content and minimize the impact of negative content. Beware of firms that guarantee they will remove a negative post. Like lawyers, no reputable reputation management firm will guarantee a particular result. Search engine algorithms are closely guarded secrets and change frequently. However, certain fundamental online and search marketing techniques have proven successful in helping lawyers overcome online defamation – that is what a “white hat” online reputation management firm will bring to the table.
Select a U.S.-based online reputation management firm and make sure your services agreement includes strict confidentiality provisions. If you are a good writer, you should insist upon reviewing any posts made on your behalf and drafting your own biography. Also, since legal ethics surrounding attorney marketing vary from state to state, you will want to make sure web postings include any required disclosures.
Feel free to share your personal stories of online reputation management success and failure in the comments below and any other tips and tricks for turbocharging your online image.