By Zachary Paruch
The internet is filled with anonymity, as anyone can start a website and post content or sell things. New websites and online stores pop up every single day, but there is no one that can verify their legitimacy or their claims.
Trust is a scarce—but extremely valuable—commodity. Your favorite brands are just that because they have earned your trust. No one really questions whether to provide personal or payment information to Google, Amazon, or Apple. You don’t even think twice. Of course, these are extreme examples, but they continue to be successful because they have your trust.
So how do you build this kind of trust in your website?
1. Make a good first impression
The old adage advises against judging a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what visitors to your website are doing. It’s said that you have seven seconds to make a first impression—that applies to your website, too. In those seven seconds, your visitors won’t have enough time to get into your content—however great it may be. They will see what you have above the fold:
Ads—One thing that absolutely kills trust in websites is the presence of big or excessive advertisements. If you must have ads on your website, keep them to a minimum. Small, tasteful ads in the sidebar, or generally away from the areas of focus are okay, but don’t get carried away.
Layout—Your website should look clean, with a logical, easy-to-navigate layout. Too many websites these days are overly reliant on aesthetics—they look great, but it’s hard to determine what they are actually about and users don’t know exactly where to go to get the information they want.
The website should also not divide attention. There should be a purposeful layout that directs visitors’ focus. If there is too much going on, users will be confused and thus, less trusting of your site.
Colors—Believe it or not, the colors of your website affect the level of trust users have in it. Stick with mostly neutral colors like black, gray, and blue, along with a white background. The color blue has been shown to elicit trust and security in websites.
Media—Having media like images and videos on your site is great, as it looks professional and gives your site personality. However, having too much can be a problem as it affects the load time of your site. Users will become impatient and leave, without you ever having the chance to gain their support.
Stock images are often a problem as well. People don’t want to see the same stock photos on every site they visit. They can make a site feel very corporate, and thus, untrustworthy. Take your own photos and include employees from your company in them. This will show your visitors that you’re not hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, and that you’re willing to put your face behind your product.
Videos are another great tool you can use to draw in visitors and build trust. However, you can immediately destroy that trust by having those videos set to autoplay.
Certification—Certifications can go a long way toward securing the trust of your users. If people see a certification logo, they will feel assured that their information is secure.
SSL. The first step is to get an SSL certificate. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates allow for the encryption of data, and are essential for securing HTTPS protocol on your site. Basically, once you have an SSL certificate, the URL bar will show a lock and say that the website secure. Users will see this and feel more confident about your site. An additional benefit of SSL certification is that Google will start using SSL certification as a ranking signal—so this certification will help you rank higher in the SERPs.
Trust badges. The presence of well-known trust badges on your website can give the impression that your site is one that is secure and can be trusted with sensitive information. (For example, eBay proudly displays a Norton security badge in the footer of its website.) Displaying the badges of familiar brands like Visa, Mastercard, Google, Norton, and PayPal has been shown to increase customer trust in websites. Consider adding a few to your site—but be careful, as you don’t want to divide user attention with too many options.
2. Be transparent
It’s easy to put your trust in brick-and-mortar stores, as you can see the people working there, shake their hands, and know that if you have a problem, the store will still be there tomorrow. One of the biggest reasons people don’t trust some websites is that they seem faceless. New websites pop up every day, and many others shut down. Customers can’t see who they are doing business with, and have no guarantee that the website will still be there if there is a problem.
The best way to combat this problem is to be as transparent as possible on your website. You can achieve a strong level of transparency a number of ways:
Company pages—The company pages on your website are important for building customer trust. They are just about as close as a website can get to a real-life handshake.
Your About Us page is an opportunity to show visitors your human side with some humor, photos of yourself and your team, and some honest truths about who you are and why you do what you do. Show your face—and show your visitors that you are not hiding behind the anonymity of the internet.
Your Contact page is another opportunity to show that you are real, human, and trustworthy. Include a toll-free phone number and an email address that will reach a person—not an automated response—and isn’t something like “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
It’s also important to be available. Don’t make your customers wait for days before they get a response. It’s a lot more difficult to trust and rely on someone who takes ages to get back to you. Some websites even implement live chat features, so that visitors are able to chat with a company representative whenever they need.
Posting these policies in a conspicuous place on your website will make visitors feel secure, knowing that no matter what situation arises, you have a plan for it. Their presence also elicits trust, as users can view your policies and understand the rules that you play by.
The numbers—People love transparency. We love when something is exactly what it seems. This is especially true when it comes to the companies we do business with. You can achieve a great level of transparency by posting company statistics on your website. These can include number of visitors to your site, your company’s revenues, and even your employees’ salaries—if you are brave. If you are comfortable enough to share your salary and company revenue, customers will have no trouble trusting you or providing you with sensitive information.
Successes and failures—Trust is ultimately the belief that someone or something is honest. Thus, to establish trust, you need to be honest—even when it comes to your mistakes. The ability to admit your mistakes, and make them right again, is an invaluable quality for online businesses and websites.
In the same vein, it’s important to admit your successes as well. If you’ve had some successes or reached some goals, share it on your site. Visitors will be impressed by your honesty and forthcomingness.
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