Winning Trust: 50 Proven Ways to Make Your Business Look Professional Online
You’ve figured it out by now.
If you want to be successful (read: get followers + make money to pay your bills) in business online, it’s not enough to simply have a website.
It’s not enough to simply put up some services or products.
It’s not enough to simply post on some social media accounts.
You can have ALL those things…and still barely get noticed.
And while you no doubt get that, it’s still frustrating. That’s because while you know that it does take more, chances are that you’re simply not sure what that “more” is.
Does it take gobs of money?
Friends in high places?
A whiz partner helping in the background?!
Or maybe $20,000 worth of e-courses + masterminds?!?!
Let’s all take a collective cleansing breath, because I’m happy to tell you that NO: it does not require a single one of the above.
(If I can be a little bit personal with you guys here, I’ll tell you that I myself had none of those things that I just listed when I started Olyvia.co. The truth is, I had just left my destructive marriage, was living alone and on food stamps + Medicaid with three young children I had to care for full-time, had absolutely ZERO business connections because I had been a stay-at-home-mom for the past seven years [blogging + doing mostly free freelancing in my spare time], and could not afford to buy a single e-course or mastermind “opportunity.”)
What it takes, more than anything, is to make the right impression.
In part 1 of the #heroicbrand series, I taught you all about making an impression through relationships. In part 2, you learned to build a reputation for yourself via the quality of content you put out into the world. Today, in part 3, we’re going to take it a step further:
You’re going to learn the 50 exact things I did to make my business look professional online — and gain massive brand credibility + authority + influence in well under 1 year. Then you’re going to implement them, and do the same.
(Okay, disclaimer: I’ve only done 49 of the 50 — one of the tips is exclusively for physical product creators, which I am not…yet, anyhow!)
The tips are not advanced, but they don’t need to be. If you only followed this advice + carry out the suggestions in the previous two blog posts linked above, there is no reason why you won’t be able to take your brand to bigger, more profitable places over the next 12 months. I firmly believe that.
Grab a pen + paper for note-taking and read on, my heroes.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS LOOK PROFESSIONAL ONLINE
WEBSITE OPERATION + DESIGN:
1. Own a domain name that’s easy to remember + spell
You be the judge: iluvtobecreatingkewlness.com or createcool.co? I now buy my domains through Namecheap.
2. Use a webhost (+ code/theme) that allows your website to load fast + look great
3. Use a webhost that keeps your site up + running, with minimal downtime
#selfexplanatory #youvebeenwarned #seesuggestionsabove
4. Make use of plugins that help your site look + act elegant
5. Use a website theme/design that adjusts for mobile devices
See suggestions under point 2 — make sure whichever theme you choose says “mobile responsive.”
6. Have website navigation that is easy to find + arranged logically
Standard navigation placement is at the top of the page, and functions best when it begins with ‘Start Here’ or ‘About’ and ends with something like ‘Contact.’ On Kriss Did It, one of my most admired websites, the concept is the same even though she puts a unique spin on it:
7. Display consistent, attractive branding
Namely, use the same colors + fonts and acquire a nice-looking logo. Try DIY’ing in Canva, PicMonkey, or BeFunky — or buying through Etsy or Creative Market. But if you have any money, ANY WHATSOEVER, it is soooo worth it to spend it on a talented brand designer. Your visuals online are everything.
8. Use a favicon
9. Avoid email subscription pop-ups
I don’t approve of pop-ups, and here’s why.
Every professional has them, so you should, too. Head on over to a place like Termsfeed and get started.
11. Provide appropriate disclosures (for affiliates/sponsorships/etc.)
I just Google “disclosure statement” for this. Your affiliate networks or brand sponsors will probably give you some friendly, law-abiding suggestions as well. 🙂 You should refer to Lemuel Anaejionu (also here) if you have further questions, because he’s #yourlawexpert.
12. Give thorough information about your business
Does your website give any real information about you, or is it a lot of vague bunkum + balderdash? (By now you should know: I’m a geek and love finding excuses to use quasi-archaic words.)
13. Use authoritative language on your About page
Take out “I think…,” “well, probably…,” “it’s my opinion…,” and similar weak or wishy-washy statements. In fact, just do what Sarah Von Bargen does, because her About page rules the internet.
14. Display nice photos of yourself (+ any team members/employees)
Nice = not a beach selfie. But it doesn’t have to mean ‘hire the most expensive photographer’ either. I used my DSLR camera on a self-timer, propped on a dresser. 107 photos later, I had about five decent ones. Those were then edited in Adobe Lightroom.
15. Display accurate information about your services/products
Two things apply here: be truthful, and keep them current.
16. Provide thorough, detailed service/product descriptions
You’re running a business, my friends! The more you can share about what you sell, the better it looks. I know I talk about her often, but Susannah of Garnishing Co. just takes it to incredible levels (so she deserves to be talked about). This is only a small part of one of her perrrrfect sales pages:
17. Openly share your prices (or price ranges/”starting at” prices)
Not doing so is a huge hassle + deterrent for potential clients/customers. Jamie of Spruce Rd. shares her prices with elegance:
18. Display testimonials/case studies/reviews
And keep them honest! Jenna Arak‘s praise page is a lovely example of what works:
19. Have working links throughout the website (+ working contact form, if used)
People tend to believe that a website that works as it should indicates the business is in good working order, too. (And vice versa.)
20. Indicate your email response times
The best place to share this is on a contact page — or via your email autoresponder.
21. Have clear, conspicuous “hours of operation” — if kept
Even if you’re primarily a ‘virtual’ business and you work at all hours of the day + night, it’s helpful to have official hours for the public. Like what Marie Forleo does here:
22. Use an online payment + digital delivery provider that is trusted + reliable + secure
23. Ensure that you use correct spelling + grammar
Make built-in spellcheck + Google + Grammarly your BFFs.
24. Display trust logos
Were you featured somewhere cool on the internet? Do you have prominent people/companies as clients or customers? Is your site Norton verified? Displaying meaningful logos and/or badges will skyrocket your credibility. Jenny Blake‘s logos near her footer look hawwwt:
25. Write heroic content — and make it look good
People want to know you have #alltheknowledge. But, keep in mind: it’s hard to read posts that look super blah. The most important thing you can do for your posts besides filling them with extraordinary content + using a good headline is to make an attractive post image for them. For 30+ free places to get beautiful stock photos, check this post:
26. Provide extras (like free worksheets, tutorial videos, etc.)
Hint: it’s even better if access doesn’t always require an email opt-in. Regina, as per usual because she’s awesome like that, is the master of this:
27. File posts under a few simple, straightforward categories
Clutter + confusion can look amateurish. Catherine of The Blissful Mind does it right.
28. Allow people to leave comments on your blog
Professionals allow (+ encourage) discourse, yes? YES. If you need more persuasion, read my post:
29. Respond to comments as often as possible
It’s part of how you earn an audience, too. (You saw this post, right? :))
30. Use an appropriate plugin or commenting platform that blocks spam
31. Monitor blog comments for bullies + other unacceptable abuse
Reputable businesses don’t let disrespectful people freely vandalize their space, right?
32. Use a clear photo or logo as your profile image
Be sure you use the same one for all your platforms. Also, if you’re THE face behind your brand, a personal photo is far better than a logo.
33. Prominently link to your website and/or online store
It looks #solegit.
34. Upload cover images consistent with your brand
One of my favorites is from Macheesmo:
35. Write a specific description of what you do or provide for people
Allison Barclay’s: “I help adventurous creatives bring their badass brands to life.”
Katie Price’s: “Happily helping bloggers & authors create the #GenesisWP site of their dreams!”
Mine: “I help small biz owners earn brand cred + rock their online reputation with a dose of class + smarts.”
36. Indicate your city and/or state whenever possible
Again, even if you’re only “virtual,” it’s a significant trust builder.
37. Update your social media accounts regularly
A good goal for everyone is at least several times a week. Grab a free Buffer account and schedule it in if you’re up to your eyeballs in #serioustasks. I won’t judge.
38. Respond to people’s comments + questions
It looks real funny (in a most depressing way) when you visit a Facebook Page and there are a bunch of people posting about how the brand is their Most Favorite or making inquiries, yet there’s no acknowledgement by the business. Boo.
39. Use a domain-based email address
For official brand correspondence, this is the ONLY way to go. (Please believe me.)
40. Create an email signature that contains your most important link(s)
This is what I do:
41. Send new clients a friendly welcome email explaining how you’ll proceed
An educated, informed client is a happy client!
42. Send mass emails to your list that are either nicely designed + on-brand OR look like a regular personal email
Kirsten of Sweet Tea & Saving Grace sends emails that are easy to read and spot-on for her brand:
But if design isn’t your forte, plain text emails are also awesome (as people feel like they’re getting a personal email from you, not a marketing flyer).
43. Don’t harass your email list with daily (or near-daily) sales emails
Guyyyys. People start out liking you and thinking your biz is So Cool, but after getting 3 emails in a week (or 3 emails in 3 days) all about buying your new course/book/etc…you start to look icky.
SERVICES + PRODUCTS:
44. Use professional-looking proposals + contracts
When I was doing graphic + web design work with clients, my go-to source for creating these was Bidsketch. My clients complimented me on them all. the. time. One even said the ultimate reason they chose me over an equally talented designer was due to the professionalism of my paperwork. #thatsaWIN
45. Make your digital products look as beautiful/pro as possible
46. Make your physical products look as beautiful/pro as possible
The Linen Home Etsy shop makes me feel like I’m in a high end cooking store. *swoon*
+ 4 MORE GENERAL PIECES OF ADVICE:
47. Wherever you are online, respond respectfully
Tough clients + customers will come and go. People will leave reviews ranging from silly to scathing. People might say something weird about you on Facebook, leave snooty blog comments, or be a creeper on Periscope. But no one will remember that — they will, however, remember how you responded.
Your reputation is everything. Stay poised. Be polite. Move on.
48. Show interest in others
People can spot a self-involved person from a mile away. If everything is about you, you, you, it’s not just a turn-off — it actually makes you look super immature. This is not good for business. Look outside of yourself and start noticing what you can do for the people around you.
49. Respect the work of others
Don’t copy people’s blog posts. Don’t ever-so-slightly modify their worksheets or ideas and present them as yours. Just don’t, don’t, don’t. It might seem like no biggie to you, but this is how people make a living, my friends. What you’re doing is taking what took them numerous hours, if not weeks, to create — in order that it would help build their unique brand + enable them to pay the bills + possibly feed their kids — and using it to steal from them.
If you really want your business to look professional online, get to work creating your own stuff from scratch. Make it wildly, unapologetically, unmistakably yours. You will go MUCH further along that route than you would by copying.
50. Tell the truth
Wherever you are or whatever happens, don’t be gimmicky. And own up to your mistakes. If you “stretch the truth” in your marketing copy, you discredit yourself. If you won’t fully admit when you break the rules or mess up, you also discredit yourself. The most professional-looking business owner is the one who actually conducts themselves with quintessential professionalism.
You may be able to fake a lot of things online, but you can’t fake that.
What advice do you have for other small business owners who want to make their business look professional online? What has worked best for you? Is there anything you think I overlooked? Let me know in the comments, por favor.
Dark blue + white flower photo (c) Shay Cochrane
The other posts in the #HeroicBrand series are here: