I came across a great post on Michael Gray’s blog (aka “GrayWolf”) where he gives some great advice on how to make your website appear more professional and legitimate by instilling visitors with confidence in your brand. I would like to expand upon some of his points and offer some other techniques for you to consider in order to bring your website to a whole new level of professionalism.
- Get a Real Address
Get yourself a real world address and phone number and use it everywhere. Invest in a real world mailing address. Indications show that Google does give a ranking bonus to websites that have real world addresses that match their WHOis information. If you work from home and are concerned about privacy, you can obtain a mailbox rental at a local mailbox rental service such as the Mailboxes Etc. or similar.
- Get a Real Domain Name
Nothing says “unprofessionall” like a url that is linked to your ISP. Anyone trying to promote themselves as a legitimate business with an address such as: http://members.shaw.ca/username, is not going to be successful in portraying themselves as a legitimate business. For only a few dollars a year, invest in a real domain name that accurately reflects your business.
It is worthwhile to enlist the help of a qualified SEO to do some preliminary keyword research to ensure you are choosing an appropriate address. You can change it later, but it is always best to leave it as is from the beginning.
- Use Your Domain Email Addresses
Once you have a real domain name, stop using you ISP email address. email@example.com is wholly unprofessional and does absolutely nothing to instill confidence in the person viewing your site. It also shows a lack of understanding of basic web hosting principles. Most people that do this are usually not aware that emails can be forwarded from you ISP to your domain email address.
By using firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com not only makes you look more legitimate, but allows you to track incoming volumes of mail and to change the routing to recipients. It also allows for distribution lists so that multiple users can receive the same emails. For instance, you can add/remove recipients to firstname.lastname@example.org as employees change.
- Use Boiler Plate Pages
- Brand Marketing
When you factor in the value of instant product recognition that a well designed logo provides and the amount of advertising opportunities it can offer, the cost of hiring a professional designer to develop a quality logo become less of a financial concern. Once you have a professional looking logo, use it consistently in your favicon, your social media profiles and in all of your communications. You should make it easy for others to use and share your logo, but at the same time take steps to protect against trademark infringement and reputation management.
Your company logo is a graphical representation and a declaration of who you are, what your company provides and can reflect your company’s values. It is without a doubt the single most important form of social recognition that you can employ. Even if you can say or spell McDonald’s, almost every man, woman and child understand what the golden arches represent.
- Use Quality Content
If the content on your site does not win over your visitors, it is all for naught. You can have a great website, a winning logo and a great domain name, but well written content is still of paramount importance and by far the most effective method of instilling your customers with a sense of your company’s legitimacy.
Develop well written content and make sure to place it on appropriate pages. Information about the company’s history and mission statement go on the “About Us” page, contact information goes under the “Contact Us” section, etc. Good content is even more crucial after the Panda algorithm update from Google. Regardless of whether or not you think your viewers read the content, nothing drives away a potentially converting client faster than poorly written copy.
- Update Your Website
By engaging in updates to the content of your site, it shows visitors that you are an active participant and that you are committed to providing an interactive customer experience. Actively engaging your audience through company blogs and other site content gives life to an otherwise static environment. This reassures the viewer that there is an actually organic and human component to the website and that it is not being run by a faceless corporation.
- Clear Navigation
This may not seem like a significant factor to make your site look legitimate, but having shoddy navigation will not only infuriate and frustrate your viewers, but it will cause them to leave as well. Make the site’s navigation easy to follow and ensure that customers do not get confused. If you are selling products on line be sure not to hid access to your shopping cart section. It is also important that you do not bury your critical content five levels down. Anything that you want a customer to see or experience should be up front and no more than two clicks away.
- Press Releases and Media Kits
Inform the public about the things that your company engages in that are "press-worthy." This helps to attract people to your site and can help to build links back to your site which is helpful for search engine ranking purposes. Incorporate press releases into your ongoing marketing campaign. Submit these press releases to a select number of high-quality, relevant news websites.
Press Kits, often referred to as a Media Kits are pre-packaged sets of promotional materials for your business that can be distributed to members of the media for promotional usage. They are often distributed in conjunction with a press release or news conference. Create a professional looking media kit and embed links to your web content. Have a media kit comprised of PDFs; promotional materials, logos, company information and affiliate programs. Press Kits help to increase your company’s profile to media, businesses and the public.
- Social Media Profiles
Having a company website alone is insufficient. You need to be actively engaging you viewers and customers. Using social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook are not meant to replace your website, but are used to promote your company. Learn about different social networks and use only the ones that are most relevant to you and your business. Use a select few social networking sites and syndicate great content among them. It is not worth the expenditure of your resources to spread yourself too thin across too many. Good syndicated content will propogate itself.
Specialize in your area of expertise and promote your strengths as a business. Try to keep your focus on what you know. This portrays you and your business as an area of expertise. A business that neglects the importance of social media will not be realizing their full marketing potential.
- Ads and PPC Campaigns
There is a large temptation by online businesses to try and subsidize their revenue by engaging in sponsored ad campaigns. Use these tactics with caution. They may generate some extra income, but they look tacky and do little to portray the legitimacy of your site. If you decide to use ads, make sure the not obtrusive, are relevant to your site or products and do not any cause confusion in navigation or design.