6 ways to build online credibility for your business

Why you need to earn the trust of your customers or constituents

We live in jaded times.  People have become cynical because of the companies and leaders who have lied to them.  Advertising is not powerless, but it no longer holds the influential sway it once did.  You have to build your case for everything you sell, with complete transparency and with reliance on third-party endorsements.  During tough economic times, people are highly discerning about how they spend their money, and will gravitate to brands, products, and organizations they find trustworthy.  Having a robust online presence — with images and video they can see, and content and testimonials they can read — is one of the best ways you can earn this trust.

Take steps to build the search engine optimization of your website

As people search for your company online — or keywords associated with your business — they will tend to select the top ranking search engine results, as well as companies and organizations that have many search engine results.  Market researchers have also established that people place more confidence in companies that have established a social media presence, including Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles and accounts.  Therefore, taking steps to improve your company’s SEO is another important way to build trust in your business.

When you look like you care and are passionate about your business, people will begin to believe in you.  Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to build online credibility.  But it will take planning and effort, and if you are behind the eight ball now, you do need to get started.  Here are some sure-fire ways to build credibility in your brand online.

1. Take lots of photographs and post them frequently. You know how they call Missouri the “Show Me” state?  In this economy, every state is the “Show Me” state.  Your inventory of online photographs must include photos of every staff member, product, and service you offer.  I still see websites without photographs.  They will not fly.  People need to see it to believe it.  Post your photographs on Facebook, Google Profiles and Maps, Yelp, and Flickr.

2. Assertively collect testimonials and reviews: Credibility in this economy is everything, and there are few more effective ways to build trust in your company than with testimonials.  You need to ask your past and existing clients, customers, and vendors to post testimonials for you on LinkedIn.

What lends even more credibility power to the testimonials you re-publish on your website?  Photographs and real names of your endorsers and reviewers.  Don’t forget, you can also collect video testimonials.

Reviews are different.  You really should not solicit online reviews, such as those found on Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor.  It violates the terms of service for these platforms. However, you can encourage people to post reviews by establishing a business listing on review sites, including photographs, URL, and contact information.  And once you have reviews, you can link to those reviews, including the review icon, which may encourage even more reviews.  And you could always ask your repeat customers and regulars for endorsements or video testimonials.

3. Produce YouTube video: 25% of search is processing through YouTube.  In search results, people tend to click on links with videos more than those without –  even if the video link is ranked lower.  And there is no better way to tell your story, or earn trust with your target audience, than to make your case “in person’’  Video is no longer an option; it is a requirement if you are serious about marketing your business or nonprofit organization.

Are you worried about production quality? You should strive for a decent level of production quality, yes.  You should use a great camera, and proper lighting and microphones.  Or, hire a company like Fletcher Prince to produce affordable videos for you.  But don’t over think it and delay.  Marketers are discovering that consumers actually tend to place slightly more trust in brands that have videos that appear to be inexpensively produced.  That is one reason why major brands who can afford to create the best quality video (such as Doritos and Heinz) have relied on consumer productions to promote their brands.  It may not pay to be too slick these days.

4. Start blogging: Search engines love blogs; they’re great for driving traffic back to your site.  But there are other benefits. Blogs are an effective way to present your subject matter expertise, which builds trust in you and your business.  They can be easily linked, shared, and fed into your social media platforms, and other people can easily share your  posts on their sites.  Not every blogger is lucky to receive many useful comments, but when you do receive feedback, you may find it useful.

One blogging bonus — that you don’t often hear people talking about — is that the action of formulating and shaping your thoughts into text and images, and the discipline of routinely blogging about your services, industry, and issues, will help you constantly examine and refine how you present yourself and your business.  It’s just a great mental workout, which is why I recommend it for everyone. My experience with blogging is that it has helped me become more articulate and confident in client meetings, and as a speaker.

5. Comment on popular blogs and online news articles: Search engines rely on the number of inbound links you have to your website to determine if your web site is popular and reputable enough to bump to the top pages of search engine rankings.  There is are two very easy and legitimate ways to create inbound links.  First, link to your web site from all of your social media, YouTube videos, blog posts.  Secondly, whenever you comment on blogs and online news articles about your industry, you usually have to add your name, email, and website URL.  Each of those comments will link back to your site as an inbound link, and will boost your rankings.  So, it pays to express your opinion, especially on popular blogs.

Don’t believe it?  I just checked my Google search engine results for blog posts for the name of my company.  Between my blog posts and comments, there are more than 76,000 search engine results. Do you think I could have bought that kind of exposure?  I couldn’t.  It’s all from blogging and commenting.

6. Update your web site. Your web site will usually be in the top search engine results for your company name, and if you’re fortunate and strategic, for your industry.  More than 80% of web users click on the first listings.  The kinds of changes you should be making now?  Featuring your social media links, revising copy to contain keywords (words and phrases an organization’s customers are searching for online), and adding video, photographs, and PDF files.

Now, if you’re reading this and thinking, “Sure, Mary, but easier said than done,” then you need to talk to me about creating an actionable online marketing plan for your business.  That IS what we do at Fletcher Prince.  You can trust that we know what we’re talking about, because we have 22 recommendations on LinkedIn and 2 video testimonials on YouTube.  Now, that’s what I’m talking about!  If we can do it, so can you.  Visit http://www.fletcherprince.com to learn more.

Questions?  Comments?

What is your experience with earning the trust of your customers?  How do you think the economy affects people’s ability to develop trust in your brand?  Feel free to share your insights in the comments (remember how good it will be for your SEO!)

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on March 21, 2010, in Blogging Tips, Facebook Tips, Marketing Tips, Photography and Flickr, small business marketing tips, Social Media Tips, Web Site Design and SEO Tips, YouTube Video Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for this great post. It was a clear and concise summary of how to build your online presence. I struggle with leaving comments on blogs, hence I am leaving one here. I am thinking it is just discipline as I read so many great blogs but don’t comment.

    The other issue is I read my feeds in google reader and then get lazy about going to the original post to leave a comment.

    You have inspired me to be more diligent about this. Thanks Mary!

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