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Winning Trust: 50 Proven Ways to Make Your Business Look Professional Online

  |   Blogging Tips, Business Tips, Classy Marketing, Customer Service   |   40 Comments

Use this heroic list of 50 proven ways to make your business look professional online to boost your brand cred and be more successful. The tips here will help you be a trusted, respected authority online, meaning you get the followers you want and the clients + customers you need.

 

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

Good starter webhosting: Bluehost. Better webhosting: Flywheel. WordPress themes: Enfold on Themeforest, StudioPress, or Elegant Themes.

 

 

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

Top suggestions: Ninja Forms, Mailchimp for WP, Coming Soon Pro, Pretty Link Lite, Shareaholic

 

 

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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 14.39.47

 

 

7. Display consistent, attractive branding

Namely, use the same colors + fonts and acquire a nice-looking logo. Try DIY’ing in CanvaPicMonkey, 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

Below is an image showing what favicons are. They make websites look #forreal. Check out the tutorial on WPBeginner, Design Your Own (Lovely) Blog, and/or WPMU DEV on how to create/install one.

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 12.12.11

 

 

9. Avoid email subscription pop-ups

I don’t approve of pop-ups, and here’s why.

 

 

WEBSITE CONTENT:

 

10. Include Terms + Conditions and Privacy Policy pages

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.

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 10.25.03

 

 

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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 10.17.22

 
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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 09.28.26

 

 

18. Display testimonials/case studies/reviews

And keep them honest! Jenna Arak‘s praise page is a lovely example of what works:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 09.39.49

 

 

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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 07.20.32

 

 

22. Use an online payment + digital delivery provider that is trusted + reliable + secure

Look into Selz, Gumroad, SendOwl, or DPD.

 

 

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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 09.44.49

 

 

BLOG:

 

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:

 

gorgeous_free_stock_photos_sidebar

 

 

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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 09.52.02

 

 

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:

 

shouldnt_shut_down_blog_comments_sidebar

 

 

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

Most popular, effective options: Akismet (plugin) or Disqus (comment platform).

 

 

31. Monitor blog comments for bullies + other unacceptable abuse

Reputable businesses don’t let disrespectful people freely vandalize their space, right?

 

 

SOCIAL MEDIA:

 

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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 07.00.24

 

 

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.

 

 

EMAIL:

 

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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 10.49.50

 

 

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:

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 10.55.20

 

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

Melissa of Suger Coat It has one of the most beautiful e-books ever, IMO.

Screenshot 2015-10-21 11.35.18

 
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*

 

Screenshot 2015-10-21 11.45.23

 

 

+ 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.

 

 

make_your_business_look_professional_onlineCTT

 

 

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.

 

 

Erika Madden

(Chief Olyvia)

 

Dark blue + white flower photo (c) Shay Cochrane

 

 

The other posts in the #HeroicBrand series are here:

 

 

The "secret" to consistent customer service online! This trick is used by big politicians + successful companies to wow their customers EVERY time -- and it's ideal for busy solo business owners, too! Implement it and you'll be faster + better at giving people the customer experience they hope for with your biz.

 

The free 21 day ecourse that creates pro online impressions for business owners!

  • These are great tips, thanks!

    • You’re so welcome, Kelsey. 🙂 Thanks for taking time to comment!

  • Amazing post Erika. There are so many amazing tips and resources here, it almost leaves me speechless! You’ve inspired me to tweak a few things on my website and social media. Thanks for always posting such amazing content!

    • Thank you for your sweet words, Tiffany. I’m happy you found something helpful here that you can use. That’s awesome!

  • Integrated Learning Strategies

    Wow, these are all fantastic tips! I need to implement some of these on my website. A few I haven’t tried yet and it needs to attract more viewers. Thanks for the tips!

  • Holy EPIC tips, there’s so much awesome sauce in this one I’m gonna be snacking on it for a while. As always, you’ve out done yourself, Erika!! 😉

    • Haha, you’re awesome, my friend. 🙂 Thanks for the comment love, as always!

  • Kelly

    These are some really great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • Heather Blaise

    HI!

    Great post and site! I found you on FB GYB page. Let me know if you’d like to collaborate, be a guest writer with links back to your blog (or vice versa), or get together to do a giveaway with some other bloggers, just support each other in some way. My site is http://www.4hourbodygirl.com.

    All the best,

    Heather

  • Abby

    Girl you are amazing, such wonderful tips.

  • You are THE ultimate, Erika. I just don’t know what to say about how much time, care, concern, love, and actually epic tips you put into everything you do. I will always buy everything you release for forever. For real.

    • I’m not going to lie. This comment made me weepy, in a totally pathetic but wonderful way. Thank you, Regina. Your words are everything to me.

  • And my love for you continues! Yes, I opened a few million tabs as I was reading your post! lol
    One day soon, I am going to binge read, implement and then you and I will become best friends! 🙂

    Thank you as usual, Erika! aka BFF coming soon!

    • Caressa, you are the best. You always say the most encouraging things to me and support me so much. I’d like to become best friends, even if you don’t implement anything! 😀

  • Erika, I just learned about you from Regina’s scope!! This post is EVERYTHING!!! I feel like I need to go back and read all your post.

    • Siobhan, oh I’m so glad you took the time to comment and introduce yourself. 🙂 Regina is just extraordinary, isn’t she? She’s connected me with so many excellent people. I’m so happy to meet you, too. Please let me know if you’re ever looking for something specific and I’ll try my best to help you out!

  • Bay

    What a wealth of information! Thanks so much Erika.

    • You’re very welcome. 🙂 Thank you for being so kind.

  • New fan of your blog! Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your tidbits of business savvy 🙂

    • I’m so happy to meet you! I’m glad we connected on Twitter, too. 🙂 And yes, of course, you’re more than welcome. I hope they are useful in some small way.

  • This is amazing – saving and printing this post so I can keep coming back and ticking items off. Thank you for being so awesome 🙂

  • I love this (and not just for the mention, thank you! Amanda Fuller created this eBook design for me, she’s a rock star). There is more than one tip I feel like I NEED to implement tonight! Instead, because it’s getting rather late, I’m making a list and will tackle them asap. Thanks for another amazing post!

    • It was such a pleasure to design this for my good friend Melissa and it’s such a boost to hear you think it’s so great! I love working with bloggers on their branding and design! It makes me happy to see their ideas and dreams come to life with a little help from me! Thanks so much for your super kind words about the ebook Erika!

  • Erika,

    This is a wonderful post! Every single tip you’ve listed is absolutely true. Thank you so much for including your personal note about your beginnings. It’s hard! You see people online and you wonder how they get so successful so fast. There are so many courses and masterminds; it becomes information overload… It makes people who are just starting their online biz feel overwhelmed.

    I’m so happy that you shared your personal note so people can know we all start somewhere and it’s not easy.

    Take care,
    Lillian

    P.S. Where’s Aragorn? Well I suppose the gorgeous flower will do… haha 😉

    • Lillian you are soooo wonderful and sweet and just…the best to me. I’m glad my personal story helped make what I was trying to say more “real.” It IS tough. And none of us have it all together!

      P.S. I really need to find a legal photo of him I can use, because dang. That post would surely go viral!!!

  • Love love love this Erika! You are the epitome of classy! I always want to be but sometimes I screw it up and get snarky haha 😉

    Anyway wow what a list! Epic as always and thanks for include dyob in here again too girlfriend!

    • And sometimes I screw up and get behind on replying to comments. LOL. 😉 But seriously, I know — it’s hard to always be on top of your game as a biz owner. Hopefully these tips here help move all of us forward a little!

  • Erika thanks so much for sharing the Suger Coat It ebook. It was such a pleasure to design this for my good friend Melissa and it’s such a boost to hear you think it’s so great! I love working with bloggers on their branding and design! It makes me happy to see their ideas and dreams come to life with a little help from me!

    • You did such an excellent job, Amanda! Your talent is breathtaking.

  • So many great tips here Erika! Just discovered your blog + business earlier this month on Pinterest. You’re offering up tons of amazing advice here for solo biz owners! 🙂

  • jillconyers

    Erika I could literally spend hours reading your content and it still wouldn’t be enough. So much great stuff to help me grow as a blogger. Thank you.

    • Jill, this comment just makes my day. 🙂 You are so very welcome.

  • Carrie

    Just came across this post – these are awesome! To-do list this week: implement Olyvia recommendations.

  • Melia Boutin

    Great stuff!

  • SnoZen Shaved Snow

    Really great read, and beautiful blog – extremely easy on the eyes and easy to navigate. Thanks!

  • Rose Guthrie

    Awesome post Erika, There are a couple of things for me to implement and I think I’ll be up to scratch. Your posts are just so phenomenal. I love them.

  • MalikaBourne

    WOW! You covered this so well. I read this psot to my website builder who was very impressed by your statements.
    I am enjoying reading through your blogs ( i foudn you on Pinterest) I need to do a lot of tweaking. I believe your tips will help me to get over the hump.
    TY Malika