Getting users to trust your website is increasingly important to the success of your business or brand. In a time of international hacking, sophisticated online scams and cyber attacks, people are becoming more vigilant in their online activities.
When performing online transactions or even carrying out informational research, users need to feel safe and secure. If there is even the smallest indication that a website isn’t safe or genuine, savvy consumers will dismiss it in favour of another.
In this article, we take you through the obvious (as well as the less obvious) signals that will help people trust your website.
Qualities of a Trustworthy Website
It’s vital to inspire trust in a user as soon as they reach your site. Users will enter your site on a number of different types of pages. Each page should give off strong and consistent trust signals. Let’s start by looking at the homepage.
Homepage trust signals
How can you show people your website is trustworthy?
When a user hits your homepage they will be looking for confirmation that they’ve reached a reliable and secure environment. You can provide signs to let them know your website is trustworthy.
Contact details of your business including the physical address of your company, a telephone number (local landline number is best) and at least one contact email address should be very visible on your website.
Websites that do not reflect genuine companies are not likely to have physical postal addresses and won’t usually provide customers with a way of getting in touch.
By providing these key details on your site, you help inform someone new to your brand that you are a real business and easily contactable. Make the enquiry process straightforward too, with no barriers.
To enhance this sense of trust, you could display an embedded map of your location and photos in case people want to find your premises. If there are multiple locations within your business, you could simply list the main hubs instead.
If you work from home and are reluctant to give out your personal address, then you could use a virtual office with a mail forwarding system. It’s best to use a landline number too, as a mobile telephone number doesn’t always inspire confidence. Use a service such as eReceptionist to project great trust signals.
Moz Local offers a tool that allows you to check for contact detail consistency across key instances of your business listings online. It is worth carrying out this audit to make sure your business details are up to date and exactly match the ones on your site.
Social profiles should be displayed on each page of your website. These are the icons that link through to your business’ active social media accounts.
These could include popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn as well as Google+, Pinterest, Snapchat and Tumblr. Display these in the footer of your site so that a visitor can see these wherever they’re browsing.
The signals provided by active and clean social accounts add to your brand’s online footprint and indicate to a new visitor on the site that you are genuine.
One of the biggest fears of Internet users is that their personal data will be misused or fall into the wrong hands. You need to reassure visitors to your site that you can be trusted completely with their data.
As well as being a legal requirement, Privacy Policies are another sign of credibility for visitors to your site. Another important element is a disclaimer, which has the added benefit of limiting your liability for any errors in copy on your site alongside other legal details. A terms and conditions page, although not a legal requirement, can also help inform customers and protect you from legal action.
Security Protocols and Seals
If you are processing payments through your site or have a login function, you need to invest in an SSL certificate as a matter of urgency. An SSL security protocol means that any information inputted into your site is encrypted. Once this is live, your website URL will start with https://.
Ensure you also display your security seals, either in the footer or the header. This is particularly important if you are running an eCommerce site. You can do everything possible towards building your brand and create the most exciting, slick and professionally designed website out there, but if your customers don’t feel that their data will be secure they won’t engage or convert.
You also want to ensure that your site is protected against malware and viruses. Make sure you choose a reliable security provider that people will recognise, rather than an unknown. McAfee or Norton are well known and so are likely to inspire trust.
Reviews and Review Symbols
The strongest seal of approval to wary customers is a genuine and constructive review from a real person. We see reviews becoming increasingly important to the validity of a brand as well as a key element in converting users.
The first step is to reach out to current and previous customers and ask them to feedback on their experiences. Showcase these reviews prominently on your site. If you can display the customer’s name and even a photo of them this adds to the credibility of the review. Reviews on third party sites are incredibly powerful too and also send the right signals to Google, establishing the validity of your site and strength of your service. Trustpilot is a common review site.
Encourage reviews through your Facebook and Google Business pages to provide positive signals to Google and users. Google is also introducing verified Google reviews that is free and only requires you to have a Merchant Account. You could also identify prominent industry bloggers and form strong relationships with them by means of social outreach. Although part of a longer term marketing strategy, this is a great way to achieve genuine testimonials and good quality referral links.
Trust and Google
Google pays attention to certain elements on your site when it’s trying to determine if it’s trustworthy. If Google deems a site to be trustworthy and providing a high-quality experience to users, it will rank it higher.
Some overarching trust signals for all types of websites include the following:
Main content should be written by experts and reviewed on a regular basis.
Useful and genuine contact details. Google looks for these and includes this in its ranking signals.
Evidence of a good reputation, which means being endorsed through reviews.
High quality customer support for eCommerce sites. A customer should feel as if they can get in touch through a variety of channels.
Google also puts emphasis to what it terms ‘Your Money Or Your Life’ pages – these provide information that could have an effect on your current or future well-being. Pages that fall within this category need to feature content with an even higher level of expertise and authority as well as be kept regularly updated and reviewed. These include eCommerce sites as well as ones relating directly to health and financial services.
Content and Trust
Having high-quality content on your site is a must. It must be authoritative, well-researched and genuinely useful to readers.
Create a good first impression with your content, whether its microcopy, landing pages or long-form content in a blog or resources section. The content should be well-researched, accurate, based on customer needs and meet the intent behind the user queries it targets. Showing that you understand your audience’s needs and are delivering valuable content is a strong trust signal.
When people reach your site they want to know if you can provide an answer to a specific problem or need they may have. You can address this in the content. By having a blog or resources section on your site and publishing content on a regular basis, you can show that you’re an industry specialist.
Be consistent with your tone of voice throughout the content on your website and social media platforms. You want the user to feel like one person is speaking to them. You can read more about developing your brand tone of voice in our article on branding.
Make sure your grammar and spelling is up to scratch. Glaring typos or grammar errors won’t create a favourable impression, even if people can’t quite put their finger on what’s putting them off. Google also checks for good spelling, grammar and readability.
You don’t need to fork out for a huge website redesign, but your site should look professional and all images and graphics should be of a high standard. Make sure all of your visual imagery is consistent and on-brand too.
UX designer Anton Nikolov stresses the importance of design consistency in his article on Medium, stating:
Usability and learnability improve when similar elements have a consistent look and function in a similar way. When consistency is present in your design, people can transfer knowledge to new contexts and learn new things quickly without pain.
You want the site to have consistent design and similar usability so that users can learn how to use it.
When it comes to website functionality and trust, you need to give people what they expect. This is particularly true when it comes to the navigation and functionality of your site. Any unexpected behaviours, broken elements of strangeness and you instantly create friction. You should aim to provide a seamless journey throughout.
When considering the navigation of your website, follow the principle of least surprise and make the main service pages as obvious as possible.
An expected customer journey looks like this:
Homepage and Key Service Pages (what it is you do)
About Us (about the people within your business)
Case Studies and Portfolio (how you do it)
Where You Do It (contact details)
When (evidence that your is business active and current; social feeds and blogs)
At all of these stages make sure the expected information is there and well presented. You also want to signpost the next stage of your user’s journey, making it as seamless as possible.
User Experience and site speed
When optimising your site for a great user experience, you should ensure your site load speed is as fast as it can be.
The faster a site is, the happier it’ll make your customers, as they’ll be able to travel through the site with ease. As well as pleasing human visitors to your site, it will also send positive signals to Google.
It’s very much in your benefit to focus on delivering the fastest mobile and desktop experience you can. Two seconds load time for a site is a good figure to aim for. There is evidence that for every second you shave off your load time, your conversion rate increases dramatically.
When assessing your site speed run your website through Google Page speed tools for desktop and here for mobile. If there are any changes that need to be made you can then let your developer know.
In 2017, Google announced it is moving to a ‘mobile-first index’.
This means that Google will consider your site speed and mobile responsiveness as part of the bigger picture of your site. Ensure that whatever device your customer views your website on delivers the best visual and user experience possible.
eCommerce trust signals
If you’re running an eCommerce business, the security of your website is one of the most important trust signals.
People won’t want to leave their payment details on a site that they don’t feel comfortable on. The lack of good security indicators is the quickest way to lose customers on your eCommerce site.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of security seals and the SSL protocol. For eCommerce sites, these are essential.
The following are also crucial if you’re running an eCommerce site:
Display multiple payment methods in the footer of your site, so visitors won’t miss them, whatever part of your website they land on.
Display third party badges and certifications if you can.
If you use the Google Shopping channel to display your products and you’ve achieved the Google Trusted Stores Merchant status, show off the Google Trusted Retailer Symbol.
Before you implement advertising on your website, you should consider your options carefully. It can be all too tempting to make money and attract sponsorship by covering your site with ads. However, if you have a site heavy on adverts, you’ll most likely receive a bad rating in Google’s quality score. This could be due to a slow site load time, a disruptive user experience and a low level of trust emanating from your site.
It’s worth noting that Google has advised that in 2018 Chrome will block adverts classed as annoying or aggressive, according to the Coalition for Better Ads. If your site features advertising, you need to ensure it is correctly implemented.
Interstitials & Pop-Ups
When you have a visitor on your site, you don’t want them to leave yet you need to be careful with interstitials and pop-ups. Be careful not to alienate your visitors with disruptive advertising, such as pop-ups, display adverts and an overload of banner ads above the fold. This includes auto-play videos with sound and large sticky banners. Prestitial ads (displayed to users before the page appears) are also bad news, as are flashing animations, mobile pages with more than 30% density and postitial ads. Sprinkling well-written, clear and concise calls to action throughout your site is a much better way to retain visitors.
Be careful when displaying ‘related content’ on your site through sponsored content sites such as Outbrain. This can often distract people from your own content and negatively impact their online experience in general.
Your Website Trust Check
You should now feel equipped to make the necessary changes to your site to boost the trust signals it sends out.
We’ve summarised our pointers into a handy website trust checklist, so you can feel 100% confident that your website is working as hard as it can for your business.
Loom – Digital Marketing Agency in Bristol
At Loom, we constantly work towards improving the quality of our clients’ websites. Achieving a robust set of trust signals contributes to better engagement, conversions and brand loyalty. To find out more about our unique approach to Digital Marketing, call us today on 0117 923 2021 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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