We all want to support the little guy. But how can you tell if you're making a big mistake?

Most consumers want to support the small businesses in their own community as well as those that have an online presence. Each type of shopping has its own advantages for the consumers nowadays.

However, no one wants to get duped out of their hard-earned money, so it’s important to be able to separate the good local and online businesses from the not-so-good.

Thanks to the online environment, it’s still pretty easy to identify the good small businesses where you are able to put your trust and your money.

Here are some ways to find sites that deserve your trust and business…

1. Online reviews

Online review sites provide a wealth of information about other shoppers’ experiences at various small businesses. While there may be a few unwarranted reviews from disgruntled and unreasonable consumers, reading through all the reviews will give you a good picture of where you want and don’t want to shop. One of the most widely known online review sites is Yelp, but there are other online reviews like Yahoo and Google that offer shopper reviews.

2. Your social circle

With the many social media sites you already belong to, you most likely can survey for those trusted sites among friends — as many of them live in your area and use those small businesses already. These can provide a trustworthy review, generally more accurate than other online reviews from strangers, about a particular small business. Plus, usually people you know will provide additional details if you want more information about what it is a friend likes or doesn’t like about a small business.

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3. Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) exists to help consumers understand which businesses are trustworthy. They provide reviews and information about any complaints that have been filed against a small business. Seeing the Better Business Bureau seal on a website or in a store still counts for something. This seal provides a vote of confidence that this is a small business that is in good standing.

4. Owner accessibility

Seeing the business owner and being able to interact with them through a one-on-one face time is always a good sign that you are going to buy from a good small business. It shows an active and involved owner who is eager to know their customers or prospects so they are there working all the time.

Active small business owners learn to recognize and acknowledge their customers by name, which adds further to the likelihood that it’s a good small business. Additionally, if the owner is featured as a thought leader in blogs and articles, online and/or offline, this is also indicative of a business to shop at.

5. Media coverage of community deeds

Although the media may be fooled at times, more often than not coverage on a small business is highlighting that they do well. It may even focus on the types of things they do to give back to their community in terms of social responsibility. Combined, these two signs illustrate that a small business has their heart and mind in the right place.

6. Happy employees

You know you want to shop at a small business when you walk in, call the business, or email them and get a cheerful response. If employees are happy there and not stressed to the point of breaking, then it means the owner is treating them well and that’s a good sign that you, as the customer, will be taken care of as well. Plus, the happy employees will further enhance the positive customer experience that the small business owner most likely is trying to create.

7. Attractive environment

You don’t want to do business with a company that has a dirty, disorganized, and unattractive storefront — and that goes for a brick and mortar store as well as a website. How a business takes care of their physical business tells you a lot about what type of experience you will have in that environment. Look for those businesses that focus on a clean, organized, and attractive presentation.

8. Effective communication

Call or contact the business with a question and see what type of response you get. The speed and effectiveness of the communication you receive will also be telltale signs of the type of business. Look for those that are responsive and friendly as well as have good listening skills.

From gaining information by what others recommend to you — to what you perceive through your own interaction with a small business, you will be able to conclude whether it is a small business you want to be associated with and whether it’s worth shopping there. This holds true of both regular shopping sprees, or the online kind.

Worst-case scenario, you can take the leap and do a test shop to see for yourself. Most likely your instinct, based on the research, will tell you if your initial findings were correct.

Budgeting & Saving, Career and Business, News

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Article last modified on June 23, 2017. Published by Debt.com, LLC .