Twenty years ago, a business’ website was pretty much the only place to find information about that business online.
Today, however, there are dozens of review, directory, and general information sites across the web that create profiles for businesses (including law firms) without the owners or employees of that business even being made aware that this is taking place.
On top of sites that make unsolicited profiles about businesses in the hopes that business owners will one day claim those listings, there are also an increasing number of social media sites, on which your law firm might or might not be active. Further, nefarious actors can falsely claim some business listings, and third parties may create false social media presences for businesses online. Then there are reviews, news stories, blogs, and social media posts by the public which might make mention of your law firm or otherwise cite your content, with or without your knowledge.
The point is, the internet is enormous, and it’s growing faster than ever.
The number of pages in Google’s index increased from 30 trillion to 130 trillion between 2012 and 2016 (that’s “130” followed by twelve zeros), and there’s no reason to believe that this growth has stopped, or even slowed, since then. As a result, it’s getting more and more difficult to locate and control all of the information available about your law firm across the web. That information, though, is used by search engines to determine how to return business in local search results. The more consistent your firm’s information is across those online sources, the better its placement in local search results will be.
It is for this reason that the digital marketing community has begun talking about the concept of Digital Knowledge Management (DKM) — which essentially amounts to locating and controlling all of the information available online about your law firm — with increasing frequency and urgency. While large companies might struggle to locate all of the information floating around about them online, businesses like solo and small law firms are still fairly well-positioned to take charge of their online information.
Here are five steps you can take to get a handle on your law firm’s DKM efforts before the challenge of doing so becomes too big to handle on your own.
1. Find Your Law Firm’s Information Online
The first step in managing the digital information that is available about your firm is to locate it. This task only becomes more difficult the larger a business gets and the longer it has been in existence. For this reason, it is better to begin thinking about DKM for your firm sooner rather than later.
It is probably possible to dig up most of the information that exists about your firm online through search engines, though it is likely to be a tedious and time-consuming process. Listing and reviews sites, for instance, may pull information about your firm from multiple sources, and then use what they find to build one or more profiles about your firm, whether or not the information they use is correct.
To locate your firm’s information manually, you will want to perform searches for your exact firm name, phone number, address, and web address, as well searches for multiple variations on those pieces of information, along with searches for past phone numbers, location addresses, and even employee names. Use multiple search engines, if possible, and make records of your findings, including notes about the incorrect information you find. Then, perform searches for that incorrect information in order to verify whether or not it has spread beyond the profile or page where you located the misinformation in the first place.
Luckily, services like LawLytics Listings can help streamline this process by checking dozens of sources of information simultaneously and alerting you about where and how your business information might be displayed incorrectly, as well as where duplicate listings for your firm might exist. For a free scan of your business, contact our support department.
2. Organize Your Law Firm’s Information
The information available about your law firm online is more than just its name, address, and phone number (NAP data). It’s also the content your firm has posted on the web, images of your firm and its employees, videos you’ve made, interviews you’ve done in all media formats, social media posts and pages, listings you’ve claimed and contributed to, and commercials and ads you’ve produced or had produced on your behalf.
Finding all of the available information about your law firm is only the first step toward making sure your potential clients and search engines can consistently find correct information about your firm online. You’ll also need to develop an organizational system to help you keep track of that information, and to help you share it in a more controlled fashion moving forward.
Organize data and files by date, as well as by their intended purpose and file type, whenever possible. That way, when you are looking for an old photo, video, or interview to share, or should you want to harken back to an old ad or case study for the purposes of educating new employees or clients, you can easily and quickly locate whatever information you need.
Making it easy to find historical information about your firm can also help to inform future business decisions, especially when it comes to your law firm marketing efforts. A good, easy-to-search database of content you’ve created in the past, for example, can help you avoid accidentally producing duplicate content that might otherwise hurt your SEO. Similarly, a thorough understanding of the history of your branding efforts can help you avoid missteps in future advertising.
3. Clean Up Your Law Firm’s Data
Once you manage to locate misinformation about your firm online (and you may find that some, if not most, of the information about your firm on the web is less-than-accurate), it’s time to start cleaning it up. If you elect to do this manually, the process will involve claiming your business listing on each and every site that has a dedicated profile for your firm, and correcting the information on those profiles one-at-a-time.
For sites that do not give you the option to manually claim your business listing and update your firm’s information yourself — such as on news sites, blogs other than your own, or on other people’s social media accounts, for example — you will likely have to reach out to the site’s webmaster or the profile owner personally to ask them to manually correct any mismatched data.
LawLytics Listings can help streamline the data clean-up process by updating your mismatched data with correct information across the dozens of entities in our network simultaneously.
4. Put the Right Information Out There
Start with your own site. Both to Google, and to your potential clients, your law firm website is going to be seen as the most authoritative place for information about your firm, so make sure the information on your site is correct and up-to-date. Then, make some decisions about how you want that information to appear across the web.
Will you use your firm name in its entirety (including business entity information, for instance) everywhere it appears online, or will you use a truncated version of your firm’s name that is more commonly used in conversations and branded material? Will you use parentheses to separate your area code from the rest of your phone number? Will you divide that phone number using dots or dashes? Such minor details might seem trivial, but even slight discrepancies in the way your information is presented online could register as mismatched data to search engines.
Ensure that your information is presented uniformly across the web in places where some version of that information already exists, then push the correct information to other places where your listing has yet to appear.
With LawLytics Listings, you need only update your information once in our central hub to ensure that it appears the same way across all of our network sites and apps, including those on which your firm is yet to be listed.
Our Listings service also enables you to update your information across multiple properties on a temporary basis, should your firm’s hours change as a result of travel plans or holidays, for example, thereby eliminating the need for you to update each listing manually every time a change needs to be made.
5. Monitor Your Law Firm’s Online Information Regularly
Even after you’ve corrected your firm’s information on a particular site, app, or profile, that information can still be updated with incorrect data without your knowledge. This is because many online entities use AI software to auto-populate the profiles they create, and new listings and reviews sites appear on the internet with some level of regularity.
The correct data you enter manually on the profiles you claim yourself can therefore still be changed by automated software. Incorrect information about your firm can also appear on new sites and apps as they arise, so it is important to continually monitor your firm’s information long-term.
When you use LawLytics Listings, however, we lock your correct information in place with the entities in our network as soon as it is entered, thus minimizing the repeated appearance of incorrect information across the web.
Much like with SEO for your law firm website, managing your firm’s digital knowledge is a long-term engagement. But, with the help of a DKM service like LawLytics Listings, it need not be tedious or stressful. Still, as the number of pages across the internet continues to grow, so will the number of opportunities for your firm’s information to be presented to search engines and potential clients incorrectly.
DKM is an increasingly important aspect of your law firm’s online branding efforts. The sooner you decide to take charge of it, the easier it will be to make sure your clients, potential clients, and search engines are being served consistent, reliable information about your firm online. And the more reliable the information about your firm is across the web, the easier it becomes for people to find your firm.