It’s fair to say that practicing law may be one of the world’s oldest professions. That is to say that, as long as there have been laws to enforce, there has been a need for lawyers – going all the way back to ancient Greece.
And, for our Chicago-based audiences, we hardly need to reiterate how important lawyers are – after all, Illinois’s favorite son and America’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, got his start practicing law, as have countless other politicians and prominent figures in world history.
With all that being said, it’s important to realize that the practice of law has always adapted and shifted with the times. The young Mr. Lincoln may not have needed to worry about what people were saying about him via online reviews – but the practicing attorneys at your law firm certainly do!
Whether your focus is on real estate, personal injury, business, family law, estate planning, or any other area where lawyers practice today, it’s important to be able to keep in contact with your audience – so that new clients can always be ready to find you when the time comes.
For law firms, as with professionals in so many other industries, a huge number of leads are now generated online. Word of mouth still matters, of course, and your prospective clients will be sure to consider what their friends, family, and colleagues have to say about a legal professional before reaching out to him or her.
The thing is, though, that the very concept of “word of mouth” has changed in recent years. No longer does it just occur over coffee or in networking groups; instead, people today are getting their referrals and recommendations online, via search engines, social media, and recommendation sites like Avvo, Lawyers.com, and even Yelp.
And there’s a way that you can guide the conversation around your firm or personal brand for the better, helping make sure that all of those reviews, rankings, and testimonials all work in your favor, helping you gain new leads while also establishing even better relationships with your existing, satisfied clients. We call this strategy reputation management, and it’s a must-have for any legal professional today.
Generally, we break down successful reputation management into three interrelated parts, each of which has a major role to play in making you and your law firm stand out – for the right reasons – online.
Here’s what you need to know about online reputation management for your law firm or practice:
1.) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
According to digital marketing news site Search Engine Land, keywords like “law firm” and “lawyer” generate more than 60 million searches apiece on Google every single month. That’s huge.
And Search Engine Land’s data also suggests that using a search engine is the very first step that many consumers take when attempting to find a lawyer, as indicated by the fact that the vast majority (nearly 50 million people) use “vague” search terms to conduct information searches.
Is your business reaching this massive audience of eager searchers looking for a firm like yours?
In order to dominate the results on Google, Bing, and Yahoo search ranking pages, you’ll need a solid, local SEO strategy in place, one that includes:
- A responsive, well-designed website
- Compelling and informative content, optimized for search
- Accurate and up-to-date location tags and information for your business
- An emphasis on effective mobile design
That last point, in particular, is worth noting. Today, more users are using smartphones to reach out to their prospective legal professionals than ever before; according to a study from iLawyer Marketing, 57% of people indicate that they use a smartphone when searching online for a lawyer.
If your site isn’t attractive, responsive, and highly functional on mobile devices – and some research shows that up to 91% of small business websites aren’t optimized for phones – your potential clients won’t hesitate to move on to the legal professionals who makes a better first impression.
2.) Reviews and Testimonials
Remember those Google searchers? In addition to sussing out legal professionals via search engine results, many (i.e., nearly 300,000 a month) are also using the platform to find online review and listing resources, according to Search Engine Land.
According to iLawyer, the vast majority of consumers say that they consider third party reviews “important” in their decision to hire a lawyer; among those who seek out reviews and testimonials, Google reviews are prioritized most highly, followed by those posted on Facebook, Yelp, and Avvo.
The best way to put your best foot forward on these review sites and resources – a highly important decision making factor for many would-be clients – is to make sure that they work in your favor by deliberately currying positive reviews.
So, how can you do that? Here at Geek Chicago, we partner with a national reputation management service to offer our clients access to a review management tool with a proven track record of success.
Essentially, we’ll set up a workflow that lets you automatically reach out to your clients via text or email after you’ve completed your business with them, encouraging them to rate and review your place on a variety of sites.
Establishing this line of communication early will help you encourage your happiest clients to post glowing reviews. At the same time, reaching out like this allows you to “park” negative reviews; to that end, just giving less-satisfied clients a chance to vent privately to you over email could well prevent them from ever posting that negative public review in the first place.
The most important thing to know is that you don’t have to leave the word of mouth about your law firm up to chance! Instead, our tool will help you steer the conversation in a positive direction.
3.) Social Media and Email Marketing
So far, we’ve talked about reputation management in terms of what it takes – and what it can do – to get new customers to your brand for the first time.
But what about those who you can turn into lifelong friends and partners, ready to turn to you for future advice or service? Can reputation management and digital marketing actually help keep your clients coming back? Yes!
In fact, there are a ton of things your firm can do to encourage loyalty and retention among your client base – and it’s important that you do, since a loyal customer is worth up to 10x as much as the value of their first purchase! Most of these strategies take place over two main digital channels: social media and email.
When it comes to social media, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, it’s important that you remain active on your pages and profiles and really foster a sense of community between your firm and your existing (and future) clients.
To that end, take care to respond to positive and negative feedback and answer any client queries as they’re posted; don’t be afraid to pose questions and polls; offer up interesting blog posts and fresh visual content; and give your dedicated fans a “peek behind the curtain” with behind-the-scenes stories or insights.
You can also use social media, particularly Facebook, as a paid advertising channel; the platform’s sophisticated targeting tools make it easy to identify and appeal to a narrow audience, including users who’ve already searched for or otherwise showed an interest in your firm, a process that we call “remarketing.”
Email marketing is also a powerful tool for retention and reputation management; reaching out to your past clients in their inbox with fresh blog content or firm updates can be a great way to make sure that you’re top of mind the next time they need to consult with a legal pro – or recommend one to a friend or colleague!
Of course, we also recognize that legal professionals may be held to a different standard than other businesses when it comes to digital marketing – and we’d be happy to discuss what you can accomplish within the parameters and restrictions that are on the books for your state, and lead you to the proper resources. (We are not authorities on this particular question in any state. We are not licensed attorneys, and do not dispense legal advice.)
Curious about what it would take to execute this three-part reputation management plan for your law firm? Don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any and all of your digital marketing questions or concerns! Or, join us for our upcoming Reputation Management Training Webinar - its free! Our experienced team is here and always ready to help.