The Digital Lawyer: How to Increase Your Visibility and Manage Your Online Reputation
Many attorneys have built their practices on referrals. If you are one of those attorneys, you may not see the relevance of building and maintaining your firm’s online presence, especially when you are presented daily with the many other responsibilities and emergencies that come with running a law practice. But no attorney can afford to ignore their online footprint. Consumers of all services—including legal services—conduct online research before making a purchasing decision. Even if a client comes to you by way of a referral, they will almost certainly run at least a basic Google search on you before they step foot into your office.
When prospective clients Google you, you need to make sure what they find will leave a good impression. Here are a few ways you can do just that.
When people perform online searches for your name or your small firm’s name, you want your website to show up near the top of search results. Even if your firm has been enthusiastically recommended by a colleague, if you don’t show up in a Google search, a potential client may have doubts about your firm’s reputation. You need to use the best search engine optimization practices when designing your website, so when a prospective client searches for a “real estate lawyer in Poughkeepsie,” you can be one of the results on the first page (if you are an attorney in Poughkeepsie who specializes in real estate law, of course).
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. Even if your website was initially designed with search in mind, Google updates its algorithms over time and the best practices from 3 or 5 years ago may not be effective today. Keep your SEO updated by revising it as needed.
Keeping Your Website Up-to-Date
When potential customers visit your website, you can control the content they find. Make sure the information on your site is current. If your practice has changed over time—for example, if you started out as a generalist, but now specialize in small business transactional work—you’re going to want to make sure that your website reflects what you do now, not what you did in the past. If you list favorable jury verdicts, make sure these are updated with regularity. If your most recent verdict is three years old, prospects might conclude that you’ve not accomplished much for your clients recently.
Writing about your area of expertise can be a great way to earn useful recognition online, as it not only positions you as a resource to potential clients, but as a knowledgeable source within your field as well. Write about topics of interest to your target audience. If your clients are predominantly laypeople (e.g. individuals or business people), lay things out in a way that a layperson can understand it. Don’t use difficult-to-understand legal jargon. On the other hand, if you’re looking to establish yourself in the legal community as an expert in an area with the hope of generating referrals, a more detailed treatment of legal issues may be appropriate.
When you write something, make sure your audience hears about it. Make use of a regularly updated blog on your website (which will also add to your website’s SEO) and let people know about the content through your social media networks. You may also want to find guest blogging opportunities on sites that potential clients or referral sources will read.
Not having a social media presence as a solo attorney or small law firm attorney can be just as dangerous as not having a website. Being present on social media not only helps increase your validity online, but it provides a platform for current and prospective clients to interact with you.
LinkedIn and Facebook are two social media networks that are particularly useful for lawyers. As an individual outside of work, you are probably already active on both of those sites, however, you want to ensure your law practice appears on both social networks as well. Both LinkedIn and Facebook offer business pages, and you’ll want to take full advantage of these features. Create pages for your legal practice, and keep them up-to-date just as you would your website. Use them to solicit reviews from customers, interact with visitors, and keep interested parties informed on the latest news and updates regarding your law firm.
Half of adults under 50 routinely check online reviews before buying anything; the same usually goes for potential customers who are interested in using services. With this in mind, you’ll want to be sure your law practice can be found on online review sites that potential clients review.
One absolute must-do is ensuring that your profile on Google is complete by using Google My Business. The information you provide here will be prominently featured when your firm is displayed in a Google search. In particular, your Google entry will prominently feature client reviews.
Past Google, the website listing service that you use will depend on your area of specialization. If you’re appealing directly to individual clients, Yelp can be instrumental. Yelp is popular for a variety of services and a Yelp listing is likely to zoom to the top of a Google search query. Avvo is another rankings site that often appears toward the top of a Google ranking search query, so you’re going to want to make sure that information about your practice in Avvo is up to date.
There are a variety of other listing services, many of which require payment to be listed. Whether or not you list should be determined by a careful analysis of the demographics of the visitors to the site, the expected traffic to your site, and the cost of a listing.
As an attorney, your online presence matters. Take full advantage by utilizing your website, social media profiles, and online rating sites to show current and prospective clients who you are, what you’re about, and differentiate yourself from the crowd.
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