Online Professional Reputation Building
You know your potential clients and referral sources are looking for you online, but how do you get started with online professional reputation building the right way? Here are some basic tips for entering the web marketing fray.
Everywhere you look, someone is talking about web marketing. Whether it's building a website, getting found in search engines, or the latest hot ticket, social media and social networks. But how do you get involved with web marketing for your law firm that actually works and still promotes your professional brand in a dignified way? Here are some basics for getting started.
When it comes to your law firm's website, there will be a lot of things to ask:
How do I build the website? Should I build it myself? How much should it cost? What should I put on my website?
Each law firm will have to decide what they want to invest in their firm's website. I have always believed that while your law firm's website needs to meet a certain standard of professionalism, spending thousands of dollars on a website generally isn't worth the cost. There are many affordable and effective methods for implementing a website for your firm. Specifically, check out wordpress.org, joomla, and even godaddy's website tonite content management systems.
With regard to whether you should handle building your law firm website yourself, you have to ask yourself whether or not you have the requisite technical know-how and time. Generally speaking, most legal professionals simply don't have the knowledge or time to build a professional looking law firm website. On the other hand, web technologies have made implementing a site much easier than it has been in the past.
If you decide to purchase a website, make sure that it is built on a content management system that is search engine friendly. Many web developers aren't savvy when it comes to search engines. Making big development investments in websites that aren't going to get found is a big waste of marketing dollars.
Using a legal blog to demonstrate your expertise in your field is one of the most effective ways to build your professional legal reputation online. But many of the same questions arise: Where do I find a legal blog? Should I build my legal blog on my own? Who can help me with blogging?
Sure, finding the right blogging platform for your legal blog is important. However, even more important is knowing how to effectively blog. Problogger.com and LexBlog are great places to find information for getting started with legal blogging. In a nutshell, the key to successful blogging includes listening, participating, and conversing with others online that have an interest in the topics about which you are blogging.
By now, you have probably received an email or a phone call from someone trying to pitch you search engine optimization or SEO. Let's face it, there is a lot of garbage out there on the subject. However, like it or not, getting found in search engines is critical to successful professional reputation building on the web. This is an area that has created a lot of questions and confusion for attorneys. What law firm search engine optimization strategies work? Should I do SEO on my own or outsource it to a professional legal SEO company? How do I get found in Google without harming my professional reputation? What search terms is my audience using to find my services?
Whether you want to do it yourself or hire someone else to do it, you should never do anything online that could potentially harm your reputation. Unfortunately, this is often more easily said than accomplished. This is especially true for lawyers that don't really have a great understanding of what their web marketing company is doing "on their behalf". That is why it is essential to understand the basics about search marketing before outsourcing to an SEO company. When you are ready to hire a consultant, be sure to know exactly what it is they intend on doing for your firm. On the back end, make sure you have a defined way to measure their efforts (i.e. traffic, inbound leads, phone calls, rankings, etc). In the end, law firm search marketing must eventually generate results for your firm in terms of new business.
Social media and social networking are the hot button topics for businesses right now, and for good reason. Long before LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs, businesses were built on relationships with people. The same is true today. The difference is that today, there are a multitude of tools available to build new relationships with a much larger audience. Unfortunately, like other web-based tools, there is a lot of abuse. Again, it's essential to remember that your professional reputation takes precedence over any "results" that you may be able to garner from using social media and networking tools.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gyi Tsakalakis
Gyi works with legal professionals to help them build their professional reputation online.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.