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Trust is a very valuable commodity.

In fact, according to Terry O’Reilly, our office’s favourite ad man, trust is vital to business. When there is no trust, business efficiency and profitability sink.

When consumers don’t trust businesses to keep their best interests at heart, they turn to government to protect them. Government in turn uses the only thing open to them to block nefarious businesses – the much despised red tape of legislation and its cousin, the interminable government form.

What happens, though, when businesses do trust one another? 

Anything and everything. When consumers trust a business to hold up their end of the bargain, they are more willing to pay extra for this peace of mind. 

When businesses trust their customers, quick handshakes replace long forms filled with legal jargon. Emails replace complicated contract signing. Less time is spent checking the legal boxes. More time is spent satisfying the client and that’s money in the bank.

So trust is essential. How many people, though, trust businesses? And what are businesses doing in their advertising to erode this trust?

Trust by the Numbers

According to Nielson ratings, global trust in advertising varies depending on where you see the ad. Well-established ad formats, such as TV, radio and print ads are the most trusted, as would be expected. 

That trust is not overwhelming, mind you. Less than 50 percent of consumers trust any form of advertising, with TV ads highest at 47 percent.

Trust in online advertising, however, is low even in comparison. Email ads, sponsored search links, video ads, banner ads and mobile text ads are trusted by at most only a third of global consumers. 

Those aren’t great numbers. Credible businesses do their best to choose advertising formats that will net them sales. However, if shady businesses are using the same formats, the returns off investing in these advertising spaces weaken considerably.

A New Way to Advertise

 Businesses obviously still see the potential of advertising online for increasing their sales. So how does a new business get noticed amongst all the online noise and millions of websites? Well, there are a couple of options.

Option one is to build a great business with a product or service that people need and want. Then work on building a strong online presence with a credible, spam-free website, great copy, simple messages and transparent business goals. Then you work on getting the word out and back up your claims with fantastic, in-person service and quality products.

Option two is to take shortcuts.

You can throw up a website with bad copy and stolen images and then send out links to shady sites in an effort to increase the site’s rank on search engines. The website can steal visitor info and send them spam emails ad nauseum.

To shortcut the social media process, you can buy popularity online. Some sites sell Facebook and Twitter likes, some sell space to post spammy links, some sell “awards” that are thinly veiled marketing ploys with no real context or oversight. These are all available for the money and you don’t need to build a great business to purchase this popularity or get your name out there.

My recommendation? Stick with the first option. Here’s why.

People will find out.

Visitors will land on the site, then they will leave and never return. Search engines will sink your site to the bottom of the list even with all the paid links because the bounce rate is too high. Those links, awards and likes you paid for won’t mean a thing if people start badmouthing your business on social media.

You might think it’s a good idea to buy a little good PR, but if the result is to undermine your credibility later on, you will regret that decision.

So What Does this Do to Trust?

This shortcutting has an impact beyond just your own business. This behaviour impacts all online industry.

When people get spammed, fooled and cheated, they get wary, jaded and distrustful. Then even good businesses have to work harder to get their message out and their product recognized. Working to earn online trust instead of making sales can suck the life out of even a solid business venture. 

Then there is the much maligned red tape. The online marketplace is still largely unregulated and it is likely to stay that way so long as the majority supports it. If trust goes down, however, consumers are going to start taking it to their MP to do something about it. And that something usually has to be filled out in triplicate.

Like I said, people will find out. When they do, you’ll find out that taking shortcuts in online marketing is the long way around.


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