How to build brand trust online

Brand theft and ‘form jacking’

In our recent articles we have been discussing the scope of online threats and the ways you can protect and mitigate against cyber-attacks. Be they through your email, connected networks or digital assets, these threats exists and one issue this has created that we haven’t yet touched upon is an erosion of trust online.

Bad actors can impersonate, mimic, and infiltrate their targets, creating potentially irreparable damage to your network systems or rapid reduction in sales or customer engagement, one method ‘form jacking’ is listed as one of the top five threats online. The FBI documented a record $3.5 billion in losses due to internet crimes in 2019 so it is understandable that consumers and businesses could be wary to part with their money or details.

It’s almost impossible to stop someone finding your logo and trying to impersonate you with a similar URL or copied posts or website assets. These can be protected to some degree, but a competent user will be able to get hold of these things without much issue.

The digital storefront

For this reason, we want to look at other ways to create trust at the key points of contact for your users or customers online, so that your customers can feel safe and can easily cross reference your online presence with any communication they have received from you or be sure it is really you they are contacting or giving information or payment to.

It’s sensible to look at this with a multifaceted approach when trying to create a wholesome and trustworthy online presence, the human factor paired with a variety of tools and partnerships will create a robust level of trustworthiness.

Formerly we used word of mouth, collegial recommendations, and the curb appeal of a store front to make consumer choices. The digital storefront is now everywhere your business or organisation can be found online, how this will look and how easy the user experience is, and it is somewhat easier to copy or piggyback from.  Below we will summarise some tools, useful tips, and potential pitfalls to avoid when creating a trustworthy online presence.

Points of contact

Here are some questions to think about to help you put yourself in the mind of your users or customers:

  • If you were in their shoes, would you find the experience of searching and contacting you engenders trust or is it a bit confusing?
  • What are points of contact your customers will find for you online? Have you tried a search for your company on different search engines lately?
  • Does your digital storefront match up with any physical presence your company has in terms of branding and style?
  • Are your website and all the links on it live and up to date?
  • Do you have a business email that matches your website URL and does everyone in the company use the appropriate email to reply to customers with?
  • Email disclaimers and signatures – are they used consistently organisation wide?
  • Email encryption – do you have an email encryption tool that suits your business?
  • SSL cert on your site? By far the easiest way to gain search engine trust and authenticate a secure server connection with your users. SSL certificates are a must for websites since 2018, if you don’t have one you aren’t showing up properly on search engines and users will receive a trust warning before they can visit your site.
  • Any other trusted logos? If you belong to an industry wide organisation or other trustworthy partnership, be sure to highlight this with logos on your site with live links to the site they originate from.
  • Google my business listing – Google my business is the knowledge panel found on the right-hand side of the Google chrome browser when you search for a business, displaying website, contact information and opening hours as well as reviews if this is enabled. This is highly recommended for engendering trust, and as a prevention method against malicious hackers who would hijack your business profile. Follow this link to find out more about registering your business profile with Google.
  • Google search console – Google search console is a powerful tool that allows you to verify your site to the specific search terms and business identity you set, via linking to your google profile and website. You can tell Google to crawl your site and make a sitemap so that a record of the links to all the pages in your website are available to the search engine. This is useful as you can see if any unusual or inserted URLs are in your sitemap and delete them if they appear. Companies that don’t do this are vulnerable to hacks like the Japanese search engine hack that replaces all your business links with Japanese language and links to randomised sellers’ items. This can be extremely hard to get rid of once it has happened so this is a very sensible precaution. Some SEO tools like Yoast can manage this for you also.
  • Social media – Social media links on your site, regular posts and using Linked In can really boost your online trustworthiness. Real person replies are especially useful.
  • Live customer service – real person replies online, on the phone or via email are the fastest way a customer can check if you are who you say you are.

The human factor

We would be remiss not to cover the human factor in terms of trustworthiness. As after all that’s where trust really is built, between people not digital assets or systems. Ensuring that your company has a personable presence with visible staff and team members who participate in your online discussion or provide content for your socials will help to build a likeable and visible brand.  Responding to customer complaints using professional email and communication style will help to mitigate problems before they escalate, and your customers will feel heard. this should reflect well on your reviews if you enable them in your Google My Business panel.

Forbes break down this human approach in greater detail in this comprehensive article which focuses on culture of safety for customers, open honest and transparent communication and the ‘Know Like Trust’ model.

If you aren’t making the impact online that you would like and if your customers mention you aren’t easily found why not consider appointing a trust ambassador – someone who can look at some of the ideas we have mentioned, use their leadership and communication skills to create dialogue and participation online, and be on the ball with the way your customers are experiencing your digital presence.

Tools for growing trust

If you want to create a solid foundation for trustworthiness in your business, please contact PieSecurity for a Demo of our email encryption tools.