Today, pretty much everything in the online and offline worlds is just a search away. Unfortunately, while you may think the top search results are the most relevant or credible, there is a lot of misinformation out there that has created an environment where consumers have started to question what’s real and what’s not.

From fake listings to fake reviews to fake ads, imposters have devised complex ways to scam the local commerce ecosystem. This hurts local businesses just as much as it hurts consumers. That’s why local businesses have to be one step ahead. How? Building a strong online presence that integrates seamlessly with your offline marketing strategy is the best way to ensure your business always stands out as the real deal.

Understand Consumers Business Needs
The first step in creating a credible, useful presence is understanding exactly what consumers are looking for when they search for products and services. This spans your business profiles, your website and even your social media channels. The information you provide about your business should not only help move consumers along their purchase journey, but also work hard to establish your business as convenient, high-quality and trustworthy.

To get started, make sure all the information in your business profiles is consistent, accurate and up-to-date at all times. Why is this so important? According to “The Why Before the Buy” research study:

  • 37 percent of consumers will not consider a business with inaccurate business listings
  • 32 percent of consumers will not consider a business with wrong contact information
  • 37 percent of consumers will not consider a business with inconsistent information from one business profile to another

The message is clear: the consistency and accuracy of a business’s total online presence is a key driver for establishing consumer confidence and trust. The research showed that even something as simple as inaccurately listed business hours can create skepticism among consumers – so much that it could lead a consumer to choose one business over another. Another good way to build confidence with consumers is to ensure your business is listed on trusted sites, such as the Better Business Bureau.

Build Trust with Content
Once you have all the basic information in place, start adding more creative, contextual content to your business profile. Post images of your storefront, your displays, your products and your happy customers. Create videos that not only put a spotlight on the products and services you offer, but also introduce consumers to the people behind your business. These high-touch elements make your business feel a lot more relatable – and that goes a long way in engaging consumers and building their trust. The point is to be authentic; and here’s some good news, it doesn’t have to be pricey or highly produced either.

Additionally, word of mouth is still one of the best ways local businesses can promote products and services. A whopping 92 percent of consumers still rely heavily on customer reviews to help them in their purchase journey. So, don’t be afraid to ask your satisfied customers to share their experiences on your business website, your social media channels or even other directories where your business is listed. Unfortunately, not every interaction will be a positive one for your customers, so be prepared to respond to critical feedback by monitoring online reviews and social mentions. Every opportunity you have to engage with a customer is an opportunity to create a customer for life.

Keep It Consistent

Lastly, with all this talk about online presence, it’s important to remember that both your online and offline marketing efforts need to be in sync by creating a single, unified experience across every consumer touch point. Doing so will build credibility for your business while also keeping your business top-of-mind as consumers “zigzag” along their purchase journeys.

There’s a lot of false information out there, but your business does not need to suffer. By taking the necessary steps to maintain a consistent and accurate online (and offline) presence, your business will create connections that build trust, credibility and loyalty. At the end of the day, that’s the secret to your long-term success.