Establishing Credibility on the Web
The nature of the Internet has meant that establishing a person or a company’s credibility based on their Web presence has been a bit of a challenge. There are several factors which contribute to this including:
A virtual world. The fabric of the Web only exists on computers, and on the Web a person or organisation has a great deal of freedom and license in terms of how they portray and present themselves. Not only do people have more scope in terms of how they can appear to be to the rest of the online world, but some distortion of perception can occur. An individual, sole trader or very small businesses can have a bigger and ‘better’ Web presence than much larger and perhaps longer / better established businesses and organisations.
Monitoring and regulating challenges. The Internet is now the most important and widely used source of reference for all manner of information. The data and information that people find on the Web is often incorporated into other documents and information sources because it is often accepted as fact, even though it is unlikely that many of us will ever check facts and information through other sources e.g. libraries. The Web has always been in a state of constant growth, and the rate of growth has also increased over time. This means that due to the sheer volume of content that makes up the Web, and its global, ‘borderless’ nature, monitoring, regulating and policing is a massive and ongoing challenge.
The ‘dark side’ of the Web. Spammer web sites and all manner of ‘black hat’ techniques have led to search engines continuously and incrementally altering their algorithms to try and stay one step ahead, and to maintain the general quality and integrity of the search engine results. There are many people out there who are actively using deceptive tactics designed to get high search engine listings, get traffic, carry out ‘scams’, and sometimes just to cause mayhem. There are also other areas of the web which could cause offence or not be suitable viewing for specific groups of society e.g. pages which aren’t suitable for children.
For these and many other reasons, establishing credibility on the Web is of extra importance and can bring extra benefits as a result. So how can you establish and make the most of your credibility in this environment?
Your Website Signals
Your website can help establish your credibility in a number of ways. Providing plenty of value adding content which demonstrates your knowledge, the quality of your work, and how trustworthy you are can go a long way towards increasing your online business. For example, including testimonials, case studies, helpful articles, before and after photographs of work, client lists, company and / or individual bios and profiles, displaying awards and membership of professional / regulatory organisations can all help to establish credibility. Make sure also that your website appears credible and reputable to the search engines by ensuring that your pages fit in with search engine guidelines and don’t use any elements which could appear ‘spammy’.
Other Contributions on the Web
Contributing to other relevant parts of the Web can also help to build your credibility and ‘expert’ status. For example, regularly submitting value adding, interesting videos to YouTube which support you credibility, experience and knowledge can really be of benefit. Setting up your own channel on YouTube, and including links to YouTube videos in your pages can work well. Submitting helpful contributions to other credible forums, blogs, and in appropriate areas within social networking platforms can also be highly beneficial.
Active Public Relations
Actively establishing yourself as an expert who can be consulted or who can be relied upon to give a relevant and valuable comment and contribution to journalists, bloggers, and opinion leaders can be a great way of increasing your visibility and establishing your credibility. By actively seeking out and contacting journalists, and offering them newsworthy and perhaps topical content e.g. through press releases, interviews etc, you can boost your online and offline profile. Regional or trade press, selected blogs and news websites can all be useful starting targets for your planned Public Relations.