Online Credibility

Online Credibility

Gaining the trust of consumers is essential if you want to generate business and this is as true today as it was before the internet era. When face to face you can look the consumer in the eye, shake hands and otherwise communicate in reaction to their spoken and unspoken signals which you can’t easily do online.

Most consumers like to do a lot of research online before committing to a product, service or supplier. This may involve checking for evidence of your successes and professionalism and looking for signs of third-party support such as on social media content. You need to help them in their quest for information “at the top of the funnel”. You only ever have one chance to create a first impression and it is essential not to blow it. Online credibility is all about creating a good first impression.

Your online credibility is related to your online visibility for obvious reasons. If you cannot be found because your website is not ranking and you have no other online profiles then what does that say about your credibility online?

Sales Funnel

The sales funnel can have many stages depending on your business but is essentially the process of moving the consumer down the funnel towards becoming a customer and, eventually, an ambassador for your business. The initial goal is to attract consumers and then, later on, you can convert them from a prospect to a customer. The most successful businesses don’t stop there as they convert their best customers into brand ambassadors and leverage their online credibility to their advantage.

You must adjust your content to suit the appropriate stage of the funnel. There is little point in having content suitable for customers which will be consumed by strangers because of where you place the content.

Your brand style

If you have a website, which is not necessarily essential, then it must be well-designed and have the right content. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a DIY site except when you fail to design it well or have a designer tidy it up once you have created it. Let us assume that you have a website and it is well designed. It will no doubt have a Logo, a hero image (that people see on the home page), a colour scheme, a font, in other words, a “style”. This represents your brand online.

When people find you online on other platforms such as social media, will they recognise your brand? What do you look like on Facebook or LinkedIn? Are you compliant with your own style guidelines? This is all about creating that first impression and reinforcing your brand at every touchpoint online and offline.

Testimonials

At the top of the funnel, the consumer does not know you and therefore does not trust you; they treat you like they would a stranger. Credibility means “believable” and a good way to help with that is via third party endorsements. Research indicates that consumers trust online reviews almost as much as personal recommendations. So don’t hide them, use testimonials as content on your business website, in your email communications to prospects and anywhere that you may be found. For instance, it is possible to put reviews and testimonials on social media accounts or even in press releases.

Testimonials are a great way to boost your credibility – these are examples of positive feedback left by previous clients. They show visitors to your website or social media page that you’ve got lots of customer experience and that you’re able to make your customers happy. You can encourage testimonials by asking for feedback – either in person, over the phone or via text or email. It’s possible to add a button to your website that allows customers to leave their own feedback or testimonials, which you can then check before publishing.

Please note that testimonials on your own website are not trusted as much as online reviews on third-party review sites like Trustpilot, Google, Yelp or industry-specific review sites like TripAdvisor. However, you can display third-party reviews on your website to overcome that problem.

Display trust seals and award badges

In regulated industries, it is very important to prove that you are qualified to the required standards, so displaying various seals and badges on your site can also help boost your online credibility. These are signs that you are recognised within your trade by professional bodies. To display a trust seal, you usually have to be a member of a professional body or have passed some test, which usually involves your company meeting certain requirements. Trades like accountancy, surveying and law typically have recognised professional certifications.

There are lots of local award schemes out there that are worth looking out for – you may have a chance of winning or being a runner up. An example is shown below where Belvoir Lettings King’s Lynn is reminding consumers that they have been voted the best letting agent in King’s Lynn two years in a row, which must be good for future business.

You should only display seals and badges if you’ve truly gained these credentials, otherwise, you could get yourself in legal trouble.

Encourage online customer reviews

Online customer reviews are perhaps the biggest way in which consumers judge the credibility of a business. Trustpilot, Google, Facebook, Yelp or industry-specific review sites like TripAdvisor are review platforms and you should take steps to encourage reviews on them. Having reviews on multiple review sites is better for your business than having reviews on only a single review site.

Obviously, it’s better to have more positive reviews than negative reviews, which means that you have to offer a good quality service in the first place. It also means taking steps to encourage all your happy customers to leave reviews for your business. In certain sectors, some negative reviews may be inevitable and you generally can’t get these taken down unless they breach the review platform’s guidelines (i.e. if they’re discriminatory). You can, however, reply to these reviews on most platforms, which allows you to publicly show your professionalism.

Having no reviews can be as bad as having negative reviews, as consumers may think that you’re small or that you’ve had no customers. If you haven’t got any reviews at all you need to make that a priority but you need to stay within the guidelines of the review site. Do not to resort to writing your own reviews or getting fake reviews and in most cases, it is against the rules to offer incentives for reviews.

Use a domain email address and professional signature

You should also consider the presentation of your emails when gaining trust online. Using an email address with the same domain as your website is one way of making your company look more official – most email clients like Gmail or Outlook allow you to use your own domain name.

On top of this, you should consider adding an email signature to the end of your emails so that they reinforce your brand. This should contain your name, phone number, business address and a logo – most email services have features that allow you to automatically add this to the end of every email so that you don’t have to manually write it out each time.

Engage With Your Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassadors are people who have experienced your service and like it enough to help you by spreading the word. This is the equivalent of a word of mouth recommendation and is not given lightly, you have to earn it. Because they are talking to people who already trust them, what they say already has extra credibility for you. Make sure you treat your ambassadors well because the power of word of mouth marketing is huge and they may have a wide reach online too.

A very good tactic which can be automated is to make sure that you share your new content with your brand ambassadors and ask them to share it online with their own contacts. This would typically be a new blog post and they would receive an email with a link to the article and share buttons in the email making it really easy for them to share on the most popular social media platforms.

Release White Papers & Ebooks

White papers and ebooks are a great way to establish trust and credibility while showing your future customers that you know what you are talking about. These can be used as “lead magnets” which pull prospects into your sales funnel like a magnet. The idea is that they can only be accessed in return for an email address or contact information. With the right follow up sequence through email marketing you can convert a visitor into a lead and eventually into a customer.

Beyond the sales aspect of the ebooks and white papers, if they come from an expert within your business you are demonstrating your expertise and resources. Even if they come from a third-party expert they can help your cause if they are considered of value by your prospects.

Be Social

It is one thing to have a social media presence such as having well-designed profiles on the major platforms. It is quite another to be social on those platforms because it takes a lot of time and effort. You should regard these platforms as a place to meet strangers and to gain their trust over time. You cannot do that by selling. Instead, you must engage either by educating or entertaining so that people can get to know you and start to like and trust you. Once they do that then they have moved down the funnel and will be more open to conversations about your services.

Consistency

Consistency is important for your online credibility. How does it look to your potential customers if you look different or send different messages depending on where you are found online? We mentioned brand consistency when talking about online visibility and that was really about the look and feel of your online presence. But the messaging is just as important. What happens if in your blog posts on one site you stand for “X” and on another you stand for “Y” or simply don’t stand for “X”?

Or what happens if you have testimonials praising your after-sales service and a customer experiences poor customer support? That is mixed messaging and not only does it confuse your potential customers it also confuses the search engines.

Your online presence is a journey, not a destination. Content marketing never ends but, when done correctly, it is like compound interest – at a certain point in time, it gains a momentum of its own which makes your early investment worthwhile.

Search Engines

We have spoken a lot about your credibility online through the eyes of your prospective customers, but what about search engines like Google and Bing? How do you gain their trust? One way is to be listed as widely as possible on directory sites so that the search engines have more proof about your business than just a website. Another is called backlinks. This means having another website link to your site. If you can get websites which already have high authority to link to your website, this causes them to associate you with high authority sites. You would get much more value from a link from Wikipedia than from thousands of links from low authority sites.

Obtaining backlinks is not easy and is one of the reasons why SEO services are so expensive. Unfortunately, many SEO service providers are happy to take your money but not undertake the work required to get quality backlinks for your website. One of the most cost-effective ways to get quality backlinks is via Press Releases. Using specialist services a well-written PR will be published widely and result in many high authority links to the content referenced in the PR.

 

This content was originated by MyLocal – All rights reserved.

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