When you prepare to meet a new client or fellow advisor for the first time, you undoubtedly wear one of your finest suits, make sure the conference room is set up just right and the necessary documentation prepared perfectly. You make this extra effort because you want to build a strong relationship with this visitor and you know that this first meeting will set the stage.
In the world of business, first impressions are everything. Of course this adage refers to in-person and phone meetings with potential business partners but as the influence of the web continues to grow, your web first impression has become increasingly more important.
What Impression Do I Give Off?
It’s hard to know exactly what prospective clients think of you during your first meeting or phone call. Fortunately, analyzing your first impression on the web can be much easier. Take some time and Google yourself. That’s right, type in your name and search. What sort of sites show up in the results? Are they links to your firm’s site, articles you’ve written for the local bar publication, professional profiles, photos from your 20 year high school reunion or links to your social media accounts? Take note of what you find and what you want to improve on. Albeit, you won’t be able to control everything that comes up in the results but you may be able to improve some of these findings
The Good Stuff
If a potential client Googles you, they want to know that you are a reputable attorney that they can trust. The following internet sources help to establish that positive first impression:
Your firm’s website: A well designed, informative website can elaborate on your education and experience and highlight exactly what sets you apart from other competitors in the area. With good search optimization, your site should be on the first page of the Google results when you do a search by name.
Membership profiles: Many professional organizations allow their members to create profiles in a membership directory. These profiles often rank well with the search engines and can show visitors that you are affiliated with an elite, respected group of professionals. Make sure that these profiles don’t just list your firm’s contact information but also sell you as an attorney.
Scholarly articles: Granted, most clients will not read through your scholarly legal works if they come across a link to an article that you wrote for the county bar association journal. However, they will undoubtedly be impressed that your work was recognized and published by an authoritative source. If you have not been published in journal, consider starting your own blog. Blog posts often appear in Google search results and can also showcase your expertise to web users.
Attorney directories: Many attorney directories allow you to claim your profile and provide additional information on your practice. Take advantage of these free opportunities to show off. In the case of Avvo, where clients and colleagues can rate you, you might actually consider asking your clients to review you if they have nothing but kind words and would like to share.
“Do-gooder” Mentions: Prospective clients also want to know that you’re a good person. Search results showing that you sponsored a local concert for the community or sit on the board for the YMCA may resonate with individuals and compel them to contact you over a local competitor.
The Not So Good Stuff
As you go through your Google self-inspection, you may find some items that you don’t want in the search results. Unfortunately you can’t control everything that goes online but you can control a great deal of it. Here are a few examples:
Personal Social Media Accounts: Perhaps, you have a personal Facebook account with a photo of you tailgating with college pals at the Alum football game that you don’t want being seen. Remove the photo. Although Facebook has privacy settings in place to allow you to control what search engines and “non-friends” can see, it is better to be safe than sorry. Same goes for wall posts or Tweets, if you don’t want a potential client or current client to see it—don’t post it online!
Empty Profiles: Just like you invest in expensive suits, so too should you invest in beefing up your public profiles. Visitors may come to view empty professional profiles as a negative sign meaning that you don’t have much to showcase or are just too lazy to do so. If one of your neighboring law firms takes the time to update their profiles regularly, you’re in trouble since internet users are more inclined to contact the firm they know more about.
Negative Client Reviews: Unhappy customers are far more likely to turn to the web to complain than happy customers. Unfortunately, once bad reviews are up, they may be impossible to remove. With that in mind, take preventative measures and keep your clients informed and satisfied with your legal services. If you do find a bad review, counteract it by encouraging happy clients to post positive endorsements. For every negative online testimonial, try to get three good ones singing your praises!
Your web first impression may be difficult to perfect but with a basic understanding of what clients see online when they search for you, you can take steps to greatly improve initial perceptions. You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression so start Googling and begin building an online presence you are proud of.