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How To Build a Successful Online Reputation

After running an online business (web site design) for a number of years I built a reputation online that helps me to gain and retain a continuous flow of customers. I had no online reputation when beginning my business, but was able to build it up step by step over the last few years.

Why is building your reputation important for your online business?

People tend to purchase services or products only from people they trust. For example you may have hired a contractor do a repair on your house, that did not deliver on what was promised leaving you very disappointed in his service.

So how can you build a reputation online which creates trust between you and your customers providing you with repeat business?

10 effective ways to build your reputation online

1. Provide courteous customer service - always be polite with each customer, greeting them (ie Hi, Hello, Dear) first and ending your communication appropriately (ie Best Regards, Sincerely, All the Best). I always try to do this in my email communication and postings in online forums.

2. Over deliver on your products - this is a great way to gain extra credit with your customers. People often take short cuts due to lack of time or impatience and therefore under deliver on their service, leaving the customer unhappy. A good example of over delivering is to provide quality bonus products when a customer purchases your e-book. Another effective way is to offer extra quality advice even after the client has purchased your service or product.

3. Become an expert - writing articles about my business and publishing it on the Web has been a very successful way to build trust and loyalty. I try to make the information easy to read, and provide the necessary steps to put the knowledge into practice. This saves a lot of time and frustration for people who want to find quality information quickly.

4. Display your full name, company name and contact information - when I visit a web site I want to know who is behind it and what they have to offer before I will make a purchase. Within your web site, include your full name, a picture of yourself, and contact information. Include a telephone number as well. I often have customers who call me instead of using email. They want to be sure there is a live person behind the web site (not just an autoresponder) that they can talk to personally. This helps build trust immediately by clarifying customers questions who may have hesitated to communicate with email.

5. Create a clean, navigable, and fast loading web site. You only have 10-20 seconds to get the attention of your web site visitors. Create a design that is easy to read with web copy focused on the benefits of your business. Don't try to wow them with a flashy design. Most visitors are simply looking for targeted information.

6. Be an active web participant - participate in online forums by offering quality advice, asking questions, giving testimonials and being courteous. When people see that you frequently help others in the forum, they will visit your own site (you can leave a link to your site at the bottom of each post, if they wish to contact you).

You may even want to create your own online discussion forum. This creates a supportive environment for people to share ideas and ask questions related to your business. This helps you to gain a lot of repeat customers.

7. Provide testimonials - ask for testimonies from satisfied customers and put them on your web site. Visitors are more apt to buy from you, if they can read about others' experiences that worked with you. Be sure to include their email and/or web site address so the testimony is believable. Don't create false testimonies (with no qualifying email or web site address). It only reduces your credibility.

8. Provide quality products and services - if you offer a high quality product or service, your customers are more likely to return in the future to do more business with you.

9. Keep in constant contact with your customers - send out a bi-weekly newsletter, create an online forum, use autoresponders, or other methods to stay in touch with your customers. Most people these days are simply too busy to remember to return to your web site for the new information you wish to share with them. Constant communication with your customers creates long term relationships that leads to building a strong reputation.

10. Be personable - be interested in what your customer is trying to achieve with your service or product. Don't try to take advantage of their inexperience and just sell them something. That action will come back to bite you later. Always be honest and upfront with your customers and you will reap many rewards.

Building your reputation online doesn't happen overnight. Therefore be consistent and patient in your efforts. This will create a solid pillar for establishing a successful business online for years to come.

Herman Drost is the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) owner and author of http://www.iSiteBuild.com Affordable Web Site Design and Web Hosting. Subscribe to his "Marketing Tips" newsletter for more original articles at subscribe@isitebuild.com. You can read more of his in-depth articles at: http://www.isitebuild.com/articles

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