You’ll hear a lot of opinions about what’s most important when you market your business online. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing: trustworthiness. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.
In the early days of the Internet, people could publish websites easily and cheaply. If they were smart about SEO, they could rank quickly for their websites for almost any search term and use that ranking to sell people stuff. Many of these were churn-and-burn sites, and as the owner could replace it quickly if it failed.
These sites were faceless, with no identity associated with the business. Searchers assumed that the sites that ranked high in the search engines were good sites, but that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Times have changed. The Web surfer in 2014 is far more knowledgeable and wary. But the pendulum is swinging back toward the times when we placed faith in local businesses — even ones that are now on the Web. The improvement comes courtesy of these factors:
Algorithm improvements: The search engines are doing a much better job in recent years at weeding out the bad sites. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have done a great job of dealing with black-hat SEO.
Social Media: More people are using one or more social media sites. Bad news travels fast in social media, and anyone with a complaint can get an audience.
Building a reputation on social media sites takes time and work, but it’s one of the best ways to build a trustworthy aura around your business.
Online Reviews: There are increasing numbers of ways to review businesses online, from TripAdvisor and Yelp to Angie’s List and Google Places. Many users make use of these platforms to evaluate a business before making a purchase.
To generate trust, be visible. Make yourself accessible to others. You can do this by sharing useful, compelling content on your site, being active and engaging in social media, responding to complaints online, and proactively helping others online.