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computer keyboard Nothing spreads faster on the Internet than negative reviews or contentious comments. Whether a former client is bitter about a case result or a rival is trying to drive down your positive reviews, a negative review can seem like a landmine just waiting to go off and ruin your hard work. However, there are ways to properly handle such situations and restore your positive online reputation.

At SLS Consulting, Inc., we always focus on the long term when marketing attorneys. There is not an online business out there that has not received a negative review, but what matters is how you use it to continue marketing your firm. Honest negative reviews can point to areas for your firm to grow, while illegitimate ones should be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

Since 1999, our legal internet marketers have provided attorneys throughout the country with invaluable guidance in managing their reputations so they could focus on what matters most – landing the next big case. If you need to discuss your marketing plan, call SLS Consulting, Inc., at (323) 254-1510 for a free case evaluation. We custom-build long-term marketing strategies for attorneys across the country and can consult with your firm to improve your reputation.

Cultivating Quality Positive Reviews

Alongside case results and awards, client testimonials are one of the best measures of an attorney’s capabilities. A former client’s opinions can break down how an attorney acts in and outside of the courtroom. Dissatisfied clients will not hesitate to share their negative experiences, potentially impacting the attorney’s online presence, while satisfied clients can humanize the attorney and highlight their strengths. For the first, your focus should be on management, while the latter should be cultivated organically.

You should never trust that clients will review your law firm of their own accord, but you can encourage reviews once a case is finalized. Creating a standardized exit package can help speed up this process. You can include relevant information a client may need after a case is complete, resources for future legal services, and information about where a client can review your firm. You can even include a custom-made survey where clients can tell you how your firm did and where you can improve. If a client directly gives you a negative review, you can keep it offline and resolve the problem before it spreads.

By informing your customers that they can review your business online, and even directly asking them to provide reviews, you can build up a large amount. A larger number of favorable reviews can establish your law practice as legitimate and lessen the amount of impact that a single negative review has on your company. Positive reviews can help improve your website’s rankings on search engines, as well as attorney directories like Avvo.

Responding to and Resolving Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are just the nature of doing business. You cannot satisfy every client, and some may even post negative reviews after initial consultations, even if they did not hire you. The most important thing you can do is remain calm, determine what you can learn from the review, and take steps to resolve the reviewer’s issues.

You are allowed to respond to individual reviews and it's critical to be apologetic and not place any blame. Don't be defensive or offensive in your response. As much as you can, put a positive spin on the situation, be prepared to explain your side of things, and don't assume someone is out to get you. The last thing you want is to get into an argument that will leave a footprint in your search engine results.

In some cases, directly responding to a review and meeting a dissatisfied client on equal ground will convince them to take the review down, but the best you can hope for is that future clients see your response and conclude that you are level-headed and polite. If you try to fight back against negative reviews and are aggressive, that only adds fuel to the fire and turns potential clients away. It is not about turning a negative review into a positive, but about evening it out.

The same points for handling negative reviews can be used in relation to social media. If someone has publicly made a complaint about you, your company, and/or your services, you can't ignore it or respond in an angry or attacking tone.

As a fast-paced and ever-growing way of communicating, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have become one the main ways in which positive or negative word of mouth spreads. Because the Internet is more social than it has ever been, you have to roll with the punches and not take everything personally.

However, you must do something. Respond to comments and/or messages in a timely manner and in a diplomatic fashion. How you handle the negative comment may be more important than the effect the comment has on your reputation.

It is important to provide continued quality service and be dedicated to each client. Remember, any customer can post an online review, and some may have an unexpectedly high amount of respect online that could positively or negatively impact your review in a major way.

Third-Party Sites vs. Testimonial Pages

An important element of your firm’s reputation is where your reviews are hosted. Most new clients are unaware of attorney directories like Avvo, Martindale, Nolo, and Attorney.com, but these websites can still rank well when someone is searching for your brand, so you should not discount their importance. In general, future clients will look to Google and Yelp to determine if an attorney is reputable or not. Encouraging past clients to review your firm on these sites can go a long way to improving your reputation, but some clients may be weary of sharing their information online or not want to go through the steps of creating an account with third-party services.

That is why acquiring reviews directly from clients is an invaluable approach. Creating a dedicated client testimonial page for your website will allow you to share original reviews from clients and control your firm’s reputation. Any reviews you receive personally from clients can be shared on this page, allowing you to benefit from having unique content that no other review site has. If old clients are willing, you can even film video reviews where they explain the problems they had and how you helped them, which can also be shared on social media.

Building Your Brand and Marketing Your Firm

The best thing that companies can do in order to safeguard their online presence is to obtain reviews the right way. The process may be slow, especially at first, but doing it right can make a drastic difference -- not only in how potential customers view you online, but also in how your reviews are displayed by other review sites across the web. If you are able to secure a variety of unique reviews across the web, they will help your firm build a digital footprint capable of withstanding the occasional negative review.

At SLS Consulting, Inc., our marketing team offers custom website design, social media, SEO, and content development to help attorneys manage their reputations online. We have worked with many clients who started out with a minimal online presence and then shot to the top of the search results because we focused on developing their brand to make it stand out from the crowd. We take every aspect of your firm into consideration – reviews, awards, case results – and package it into a solid marketing plan to get your name out in front of prospective clients. We can provide guidance on how to respond to reviews and how to cultivate a positive reputation. For more information about how we can help, call (323) 254-1510 for a free case evaluation with an expert legal marketing agency.

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