Consumers can be tough to catch. Like a slippery fish, if you fail to hook them, you lose them. This split-second decision-making process is magnified online, where competitors are a simple click away.

Your website and social media outlets are often the first opportunity consumers have to form an opinion of your business. If your online presence doesn’t communicate that you’re a credible company, you may fail to attract and retain customers.

Here are 12 steps your business can take to make sure your website is a powerful tool that accurately represents who you are and what you do:

  1. Include contact information. One of the primary reasons to maintain a website is to prompt customers to contact you, whether online, by telephone, or in person. If you don’t include contact information, people might suspect you have something to hide. To communicate credibility and a commitment to quality service, make sure your customers can easily reach you.
  2. Provide insight into your team. People don’t want to buy their products from a faceless entity. Instead, they want to see who is operating the company. Associate a human face (or more than one face) with your brand.
  3. Post testimonials. Your customers aren’t interested in marketing jargon, but rather the real-life experiences of past clients. Take Yelp, for example. Its proliferation in the food industry demonstrates consumers’ partiality toward peer reviews. A restaurant may claim it has the best steak in town, but do customers agree?
  4. Incorporate customer videos. Simple text reviews are no longer sufficient. Posting a video with real customers — not actors — speaking on camera can be highly effective.
  5. Utilize video explanations. In addition to well-written website copy, include concise videos highlighting what you offer. Feature the elements that enable your product to stand out, such as your unparalleled warranty or your excellent customer service. Again, customers expect footage, so you should provide it.
  6. Share specifics. People enjoy feeling like they’re part of the companies they do business with, and allowing them an “inside look” at your product or service encourages that. For example, my company specializes in personalized tutoring, so our website has individual tutor profiles. If you operate a restaurant, include pictures of the different dishes you prepare, or discuss where you source your ingredients. Above all, personalize the information you provide so people can find the information that’s relevant to them.
  7. Offer guarantees or warranties. This is especially relevant for online businesses. You’re asking people to pay for a product they haven’t even seen yet, so a guarantee or warranty can give consumers peace of mind.
  8. Obtain endorsements. Authoritative endorsements create credibility beyond what user reviews can provide. Customers like to see that individuals or organizations they admire and trust have given your product their stamp of approval. Ensure, however, that the endorsement is a proper fit. For example, if you own a local coffeehouse, try to obtain a testimonial from the mayor or other local celebrities.
  9. Highlight press coverage. Including press coverage from a local newspaper or a national publication also adds third-party credibility.
  10. Show you’re thriving. Few people want to spend money on a dying company. If your website is stale, your consumers may question their purchase and your longevity. What if the product they buy breaks after several months? Will their warranty be honored? Include links to your social media — which should be updated more frequently than your website — to demonstrate that you are, in fact, alive and well.
  11. Bolster your security. Security breaches at companies like eBay and Target put data security on customers’ radars. Your business should be doing everything it can to ensure the safety of customers’ information. Users may not recognize this immediately, but if you fail to provide excellent security, it will damage your credibility.
  12. Ensure your website functions properly. Check for dead links, and double-check for nonresponsive forms. Such problems are not only frustrating, but also lead customers to wonder what else may be wrong with your company. After all, if you can’t provide a functioning contact form, how can you expect consumers to trust the quality of your product or service? Don’t provide customers with a reason to doubt your business.

They say homebuyers decide within 10 seconds whether they like a house or not. The same is true of online consumers. If your website doesn’t communicate that you’re a trustworthy business, customers will wriggle off your line, and a different company will make the catch.

What strategies have you used to communicate credibility online?