Fix Your Online Profile
Your online profile can suffer a hit for reasons purely beyond your control. How many times has an opposing party left you a one-star review because you did such high-quality work for your client? In the old days of Family Law Practice, your client’s losing former spouse would throw a baseball through your expensive sign out in front of your building. Now it’s far easier for him or her to leave you a review that sounds like it’s your own client (but it’s na-a-a-h-h--ht) that trashes your legal services.
Identity The Root Problem
Most experts will advise that there are steps to repairing one’s online reputation. Step one is always to identify the root cause of the problem. But identifying the root cause isn’t always as easy as it may seem. I had lunch with a friend today who had been honored a few years ago when a newly-created bar association award was both conferred upon and named for him. His business promptly dropped like a stone. It took some time and several surprised comments from friends he bumped into at the courthouse for him to realize that the drop in phone calls was because everyone had assumed that he was dead or had, at the very least, retired.
Fixing The Problem
Once you’ve identified the root cause of the problem, how do you fix SNAFUs like these? Fix negative content at its source. If appropriate, reach out to the person who left the negative content, and apologize and/or try to fix the problem that the person had.
If you were able to do this, and the naysayer seems content, ask him to either remove the content, or, if that is not possible, to post a positive comment, correcting the negative review. Of course, this strategy is not always appropriate. In many situations, you may have done nothing wrong. Some people are just crazy or have incorrect perceptions of how events actually transpired and there’s nothing you can do about that. And sometimes, the review was left by the opposing party.
So, if you can’t repair a negative comment at its source, attempt to remove a negative search result from Google. You should Google your name and your company’s name every couple of months to check what is being said about you. Better yet, set up a Google Alert with your name and related searches so that you know when anything is posted about you. Be sure to put your name in quotation marks so that you get only results that include your full name, instead of combinations of your first and last name. Search your email addresses and screen names. If you’re not finding anything, add modifiers like your profession, college, employer, etc.
Addressing Fake Reviews
If you find a fake review, flag it as fraudulent for removal. Believe it or not, competitors may post fake reviews to drum up more business for themselves. If you can prove that another business posted a false review about you, report them to the Better Business Bureau and your local Chamber of Commerce. And inform them that you are taking action.
Always flag fake reviews! Be sure to contact Google and Yelp to follow up on your flagged review status. A more extreme option, if you can prove that the post was slander, is to complete the Google form for legal removal request. The requirements, are high, so be prepared to show what you know if you decide to take this route.
You can only have Google remove certain types of reviews: spam and fake content; off-topic reviews that don’t reflect an individual’s experience; prohibited content like offensive, dangerous, derogatory, or sexually explicit content; or a review of your own business, your employer’s business, or a competitor’s business. To ask Google to remove a review, on your Google My Business home page, click on the option for “support” located at the bottom of the menu on the left-hand side. Or try tweeting your complaint to Google at @GoogleSmallBiz.
Even if the review is fake, you must respond to it quickly. Address the complaint, and apologize to the reviewer, even if the complainer’s perception isn’t the complete picture. Don’t make excuses because they won’t come across as credible, no matter how true. Genuine sincerity and maturity go a long way towards rectifying a bad review.
For more ideas on how to repair the damage to your online profile, see my next blog, Fix Your On-Line Profile II.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.