There’s no doubt that we live in a world where instant gratification is a constant demand. Those of us with something to sell are confronted with the challenge of being the shiniest object in a universe of shiny objects. Brands want to get noticed fast.
In an ever-increasing competition for customers, it may be tempting to just put on a show. However, it takes time and dedication to build your company’s online credibility. You’ll regret taking shortcuts when someone sees what’s really behind the curtain and lets everyone else know.
Instead, create and stick to an honest strategy for building your online credibility. Here are four things you should avoid doing along the way.
1. Varnished Truths
If you exaggerate, mislead or outright lie about your company to make it sound incredible, you have missed the point of credibility. Central to credibility are honest and consistent communication, as well as delivering to your customers what you promise.
Don’t attempt to skirt the truth by using fancy or vague language. If you’d respond to potential objections about your website content by saying that “technically” it’s not dishonest, don’t use that content. Lying by omission does not build credibility.
Irrelevant content is dishonest in its own way, so don’t create it either. Readers despise clicking a link they’re interested in only to find something unrelated and immaterial. In fact, they’re getting wiser about filtering out irrelevant content, and they loathe the brands who put it out there.
You also won’t fool anyone by publishing only positive reviews on your website and social media channels. Someone is going to express issues with your product or customer experience. Publish the poor review along with your response to it, and your brand will be believable.
Consumers are increasingly skeptical and savvy. They have a multitude of brands to choose from when making a purchasing decision, and they do their research to find the best fit. A little polish is fine, but aim to give them the unvarnished truth.
2. Anything Ad Nauseam
Avoid being too promotional in your online marketing efforts. Grandstanding may attract attention, but not the right kind. No one likes a showoff, including consumers, competitors and search engines.
Spammy online marketing practices aren’t just enormously annoying. They can destroy trust in your brand and send leads and customers running for cover. How do you steer clear of these tactics?
Make sure your website design is clean, informative and easy to navigate on a variety of devices. Beware overuse of pop-ups, slide-ins and video clips that launch without the user’s request or, worse, without them even knowing they’re there.
Not that you need to forgo these tactics altogether. One well-placed exit-intent pop-up may be all you need to convert a lead. What you should eschew, however, is one-upmanship. It’s OK to let consumers know what’s great about your product without claiming to be infinitely superior to a crowded field of competitors. Instead, use your competitors’ strengths to lift up the industry, honestly compare your products and demonstrate your industry expertise.
Consumers are generally wary, knowing that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And nothing will irritate search engines faster than overtly promotional content. There’s an abundance of spammy ways to promote your brand ad nauseam. Resist them or risk losing credibility forever.
3. Poor Context
Your brand will be judged by the company you keep, so be choosy about the connections you make. Of course, you want to see your brand’s name mentioned and your content printed in top-tier publications. You want to find your products ranked highly in best-of listicles on reputable sites. You want respected media outlets to interview you for stories.
Scores of other brands are reaching for these goals, too, so you’ll need to be patient and strategic. Avoid the temptation to link your brand in any way with sketchy publications because you think it’s better than nothing at all.
You may opt to hire an agency to help you develop placement strategies and content. There are nearly as many agencies out there as there are online publications, and not all of them are reputable. Shun the keyword stuffers and spam commenters. The publications and blogs you want to appear in know who those bad actors are.
Vet your agencies by checking references and reviews. It will be worth paying one more than another if the more expensive agency demonstrates a commitment to professional ethics and a record of results.
Bad press, or press in bad publications, really isn’t better than no press at all. So be selective about the context in which you place your brand. Keeping good company may make you the company consumers keep.
4. Trendy Topics
Trends are the shiny objects du jour. Too many brands, hoping to capitalize on them, leave their carefully crafted and executed marketing strategies in the gutter to follow the latest fads.
There’s nothing wrong with using a trend in a clever way so long as it’s relevant to the brand and your audience. But avoid going from one flash in the pan to another as a regular practice. By their very nature, trends are fleeting.
If you want your brand’s credibility to remain for the long term, stick to what’s working in your marketing strategy. For sure, social media makes latching onto fads easy. Content responding to the latest internet meme or celebrity trend can be created and pushed out into the world within minutes, often at the expense of credibility.
In fact, trends can do irreparable harm if they’re off-target. Do you really comprehend the nuances of today’s trending hashtag? Once you’ve put it out there, it’s too late to pull it back, so beware.
Smart use of a trendy topic here and there is fine and may in fact attract new audience members. But at the end of the day, it’s your brand’s evergreen content that will cultivate trust in your company. Use anything else with extreme caution.
Online credibility is built over time, so avoid seeking quick fixes, no matter how appealing they may be. Instead of grasping at the shiny new tactic, apply some spit and polish to the ones you’re already using. You’ll give readers, customers, search engines and competitors something to believe in.