Nobody hesitates these days about buying online from Amazon, iTunes, or Zappos. Customers know they can trust these big brands with their credit card information and they expect—and get—solid customer service from them.

Unfortunately, most small companies don’t have the luxury of a big brand name standing behind them. They have to build trust and establish credibility from the ground up. Huge advertising budgets and PR campaigns are nice but aren’t a substitute for credibility – trust and credibility are something you earn. Here are some ways to get started.

Establish Credibility on Your Website

Think of your website as a kind of online handshake. It’s a way people instantly assess you and your business. People will get their first and most lasting impression of you and your business from what they find there.

This isn’t necessarily about your website’s design or responsiveness (though those things certainly are important.) It’s about the kind of message your website sends about you and your business.

Establish Credibility in Your Product

Don’t strain your credibility by being willing to sell just anything. The products and services you sell should be those you are willing to put your name and face behind.

Establish Credibility in Your Brand

The most important quality you will need to establish credibility in your personal brand is consistency.

This means making sure that every time you are visible on social media or elsewhere, potential clients and customers see you being exactly what they expect you to be. Not trying to be like everyone else. . . just being who YOU are, in YOUR voice.

It takes time and and some effort to establish your own voice.  When you do, you have to make sure you’re using it across all channels – your blog, your social media presence, e-books, email – any communication that goes out. Sending a clear message about who you are and what you stand for is incredibly important and a necessary part of maintaining credibility in your personal brand.

Establishing Credibility in Your Reputation

Another reason to avoid selling just anything in your business is that the Internet has made the world transparent. Making the mistake of backing anything even remotely questionable can have a dire impact on your reputation. It’s critical to maintain a good reputation or your business will suffer.

Resources that publicly expose questionable products and services are everywhere, s don’t get your business anywhere close to any of these.

Establish Credibility in Your Social Media Efforts

We’ve touched upon this above, but several things go into establishing credibility in your social media efforts. To begin with, it’s helpful to start with an audacious plan of action to improve your social media footprint. Start with a commitment to take time to build your network, try to make a difference, shine a light on others and work harder on having real conversations. You’ll be surprised how much these simple efforts will improve your social media presence in the long run and your brand’s credibility too.

A website that builds trust and grows credibility doesn’t just happen overnight. You have to pay attention to it and put in some workl A little bit of elbow grease goes a long way and pays big dividends in the end.