Be a source of integrity. Don't be phony, people will know and not visit your site again. Even worse, they will post a bad review somewhere on the web and others will not even come to see for themselves. If you don't know about something, don't pretend that you do.
Respect your customers, or prospective customers, and offer them something of value. Give good information that will draw your customers' attention and this will help to build trust. It also gives them a reason to stay or come back again for more. Follow-up with your customers, but don't be a pest. Basically, don't spam, don't steal, and don't lie.
Just as in an offline business, there are ethics and standards that should be followed. If you are starting an online business, you've probably spent some time online already and can see that there are hundreds of thousands of businesses trying to sell their products and information and services to you. Study how they do it. Spend some time visiting the websites of your competitors, much like you would when preparing a business plan for an offline business. Look for and evaluate the following characteristics to determine the integrity of the business as a whole:
What are they selling?
When you first come to their home page, can you quickly and easily figure out what they are selling? If you cannot determine within the first 30 seconds what they are selling or why they are in business, chances are that they are just a hodgepodge of links put together to make the owner affiliate revenue. However, if you do see something of value, stay a bit longer and evaluate further.
Can you contact them directly?
Contact information could be in the top navigation bar, on the side navigation bar or at the bottom of the page. Also, look for a direct link such as Contact Us. Click this link and see where it takes you. Do they provide a physical or mailing address, a contact name or email, and a phone number? These three things are a must for a legitimate business. If an owner is not confident in his/her business enough to put an address and contact phone number on the site, that's a red flag. The final test is to send an email to the company and see who responds and how long it takes to get a response. Most one-person web businesses should be able to answer your email within 1-2 business days.
Is the content valuable and correct?
If the owner has done their research and knows what he/she is talking about, this should show in the quality of the information on the site. A professional image depends on attention to details. Presentation is everything. If you are going to put out information, it should be presented in an organized fashion with no mistakes. When I see more than one misspelled word or grammar mistake on a website or page, I move on. If the owner has not proofread his/her own material or verified the information on the site is correct and presented professionally, I won't be trusting that the products are much higher in quality.
Is there a free trial or guarantee on the products and services being offered?
Those businesses that have developed a quality product or service and are confident in it will not hesitate to put a guarantee on it. They will stand behind it 100%. Even better are those companies that let you try the product or service for free. This way you can test it out to see if it is indeed what you need and meets the quality standards of a legitimate business.
If they advertise, How do they do it?
Look at the other links on the website. Visit some of them to see the quality of partners associated with the first business. Do the links take you somewhere valuable and helpful? Is the business partnered with other legitimate businesses? Also, how did you find out about the website in the first place and what in their ad drew you in? Did the ad lie to you? Make sure that when you advertise that you don't misrepresent what you are offering. In addition, don't be a spammer. Make sure to develop an opt-in email list that you can use to send valuable follow up information to your customers. This will help to build loyalty as well as word of mouth referrals.
The bottom line is, there is good karma and bad karma. Even though we all know those people in life whose bad karma hasn't caught up with them yet, don't join the crowd. Be a leader, be a source of integrity, and provide a quality product or service that you can stand behind. In the long run, this will help you build a profitable and valuable long-standing business.