Seth Godin discussed the downside of personal branding in the age of Google in a post this morning.

Seth’s story was about a woman who ran an add for a housekeeper on Craigslist. Three resumes rose to the top and she Googled each to look at their backgrounds.

The first search turned up a MySpace page. There was a picture of the applicant, drinking beer from a funnel. Under hobbies, the first entry was, “binge drinking.”

The second search turned up a personal blog (a good one, actually). The most recent entry said something like, “I am applying for some menial jobs that are below me, and I’m annoyed by it. I’ll certainly quit the minute I sell a few paintings.”

And the third? There were only six matches, and the sixth was from the local police department, indicating that the applicant had been arrested for shoplifting two years earlier.

What do people deciding on a lawyer find when they Google your name? You don’t need to have an arrest record or a blog post complaining about being a lawyer for the search results to reflect negatively on you.

Just having more of the routine results one finds when Googling a lawyer’s name can be negative.

Profile on lawyer website. Boring and typical. A directory listing you’ve paid for. Been around for decades. Membership on a church committee. Better, but not necessarily a reflection of your legal skill and philosophy. And results in a list of 10k race finishers. You work out, but again, how’s that help someone deciding on whether to retain you?

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do as a lawyer to build out your personal brand in the age of Google.

  • Partake in conversations among thought leaders in your field via a blog. Thought leaders will begin to cite you and your content. Powerful stuff when people Google your name.
  • Blog about stories in trade publications and newspapers that reach your target audience. Provide your take after a blockquote from the story. Email the reporter complimenting them on the story letting them know you shared it with your readers along with your insight. Of course also let them know you’d be happy to get them resources on stories they may be working on your niche, or even be available for a quote on short notice. Articles and news stories quoting put you in good light as an authority in your niche.
  • Blog about conferences of interest to your audience. Let the conference coordinator know and begin to build a relationship with them. Google results referencing you as a conference speaker will follow.
  • Twitter story headlines of relevance with an accompanying link and your very brief commentary of things you see in your newsreader. Better than the twitter posts which are indexed on Google are a growing list of bloggers and reporters following you on Twitter who are then more likely to see you as someone who stays up to speed in your niche. This results in the the reporters and bloggers citing you in their stories and blog posts.
  • Post in your blog answers to common questions you receive from prospective and current clients.

Who’s going to get hired when someone is comparing two lawyers who they’ve Googled?

The lawyer with the website profile, directory listing, committee membership, and 10k results? Or the lawyer who’s been cited by authorities in the lawyer’s area of expertise, quoted in news stories, spoken at industry and legal conferences, and who’s got enough command of their niche to regularly answer questions?

What does your personal brand look like on Google? What are you doing to build your brand so as to distinguish yourself from competitors? If you’re like most lawyers, you’re in trouble.

  • Greetings. I saw Seth’s post too and though it called out a trend that was part of why I decided to build a service called http://www.extendr.com
    Basically, why not collect all the places where you have content online into one place? Then why not share that consolidated place, your web footprint, with people you meet? Isn’t it time to start making better introductions in this space where we interact all the time called social media?
    Maybe it’ll help you. Maybe not. Regardless, I hope I’ve not been a bother. Cheers.

  • It will be interesting to see how this changes in the current employment market.
    To emphasize my gray hairs, I remember using Martindale as the way to find information about other lawyers. Then law firm web sites came out. It seems most lawyers are willing to stay pay and rely on their law firm websites.
    Of course that does you no good when you leave the firm.Few firms put information about the past employment of their lawyers. So you do not know if that is the same person you worked with at a different law firm.
    LinkedIn has been changing this dynamic, although slowly.
    People seem to think that Googling yourself is something dirty. Except, people are Googling you. You should see what they see.

  • Kevin I couldn’t agree with you more on this point. I have taken to referring to this as “managing your digital profile” with lawyers, which seems to have more resonance with those that think “branding” personal or otherwise, is something weird, esoteric and expensive.
    The point which you make very well and which I think deserves to be underscored, is that every one of us has a personal digital profile, whether we like it or not.
    Most lawyers will readily agree that their reputation is their most important asset as a professional. Increasingly, a significant portion of that reputation is defined online. Lawyers therefore need to ensure that the picture that emerges from a google search of their name is the one they want to project.