When we're building a website for a client, the two top questions we get are about how the website will rank in search results, and ...Read Article.
One of the most common things I hear from business owners that they tried some form of marketing and it didn’t work. For example, they ran pay per click ads where the goal was go get visitors to the site. They got visitors, but the visitors didn’t take further action. Or they did the same with email…they got clicks to the website, but no further activity. Somehow the email or advertisement got the blame when in fact they achieved activity! The drop off happened at the next stage, because the website was not optimized for converting visitors into customers. The first step to winning buyers is to earn their trust, and that effort starts with knowing how to build trust on a website.
Marketing isn’t linear. There isn’t one channel or one step that gets loads of customers in the pipeline. Modern marketing is an eco-system with many channels working together and buyer validation is a key component to the success of a campaign. As consumers, we’re more informed now than ever before and information is accessible in just a few clicks. In fact, we expect that information in those few clicks. That includes information about your product and services, your reputation via online reviews, your path to purchase, and even how you interact with customers and fans via social channels post purchase.
Buyers often narrow down a few top choices before making a purchase decision, and that’s where the trust factors and comparison come in to play. This is called validation. Is this a company that is reputable, and should I choose them over a competing offer? What they’re essentially asking, is whether or not your brand can be trusted. And many websites overlook key validation factors that buyers are seeking when they look at your website. Here are 10 tips on how to build trust with your website.
1. Trust Starts With Stating Who You Are & What You Do
This seems obvious right? You’d be surprised how many businesses do not do this effectively. Vagueness on services and companies lacking overall direction is unfortunately pretty common. Transparency and clarity is 100% essential for buyers. Every website should mention their target audience and provide details as to how they help their specific niche providing a concise list of services or product categories.
Many of our client websites get a majority of traffic to their “about us” page. This is because buyers want to know who you are, and how you came to be in their service. What they’re validating is you! So not having goals, missions, leadership, and reasons why you’re the best at what you do will miss that essential point of website trust validation.
Stating why you’re in business and listing the leaders in the industry helps paint the picture that you’re the authority on the subject matter to help them reach their goals. Clearly state what you do, how you do it, and what is involved in the process. This sets the right expectations of what will occur when they choose you over a competitor.
2. Fast & Mobile Friendly Wins Trust
Modern websites are mobile friendly and responsive. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, the message it sends is we’re not home, out of business, and are not mindful of our digital reputation. Not a good first impression, and not building website trust. A good rule of thumb is that your website should get refreshed about every 3 years.
Look back just 5 years ago, everyone was buying iPads and downloading apps. Now smartphones are larger, and tablet sales declined almost 12% in 2021. See how quickly trends change? Is your website giving a great user experience on mobile phone devices? On average, more than 50% of your visitors are using mobile devices. If they visit a page and have to fumble around with the website on their screen to read your content, you are NOT gaining their trust. Think about the experience they just had with your brand and your attention to detail. That says them what to expect when it comes to buying from you…hassle.
Websites need to be fast loading. Remember half are using a phone, which needs to download all the images and videos you have on your site. So if the pages aren’t optimized for low powered devices and take more than a few seconds to load, the visitor has bounced, and moved on. Your web page should be under 5 MB. For more competitive niches you may need to be even faster as site speed is considered a potential ranking factor for search engine results.
3. Website Trust Requires Secure Transmissions (SSL)
E-commerce grew again in 2021 by 14.2% and estimated at 870.8 billion in revenue. That’s a lot of credit card transactions taking place online. Makers of website browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox saw this coming years ago and made the push to alert website visitors if the connection between their browser and the website they were visiting was not secure. This will turn visitors away even if you aren’t selling anything online simply because the browser alerts them that their connection is not secure. Most visitors don’t know what SSL means or what it does, but they do know the alert from their browser means the transmission is not secure.
If a website does not have an SSL certificate, anything a visitor transmits like an email address, or personal phone number can be intercepted over wifi, or other methods hackers use to capture unsecured transmissions. By adding an SSL certificate (secure socket layer) on your website, these transmissions are encrypted. The same applies for credit card numbers and other sensitive information. Every website host offers SSL protections, and many have it built into their monthly plan, but old websites that have gone out of date often never implemented this implied requirement, which is very likely turning customers away before they even had a chance to learn about you through your content. How’s that for a huge miss – broadcasting your website isn’t trustworthy by neglecting the demand for a simple security measure.
4. Make It Easy To Reach You
Every website should have a phone number and a private contact form. If someone has a problem, they may want to call right away, so not having a number says, “we don’t take calls”. It also says if there’s a problem…guess what…”we don’t take calls”. Phone number prefixes also validate locality for those looking to call a local provider. If you need a service company to come out, and they have a local number sends the message they’re your neighborhood repair company. That’s a great way to build trust with your local audience.
For contact forms, some indication of what will happen if someone reaches out should be placed above or near the form. “Contact us today and a representative will reply within 24 hours.” This indicates you’re actively on top of your website inquiries and a response will be made within 24 hours. It sets the expectation of what will take place after engaging with your contact form.
Forms, not “mail-to” links. In the past, webmasters would leave an email link present on the website page. That mail-to” link (when clicked) would open up the computer email app, and start a message with the “to address” inserted, making it easy to send a message. These emails posted on sites also get picked up by bots, email scrapers, solicitors, and spammers galore that pass your email around left and right.
Contact forms are pretty common nowadays and not hard to implement as they once were. Not having a form sends a message that your inbox is likely inundated with junk, and you probably won’t reply. The best method is to just have a simple website contact form without too many fields. Name, email / phone with a message field is usually a good start. Done right, this is the path of least resistance for a person wanting to reach you.
5. Maintain Your Content & Links
Not only does your website need to look fresh and provide a simple user experience, it needs to be maintained. Many websites on the internet are more than 100 pages and a lot happens in a year. Content deteriorates. Sites you linked to may not be here next year. Or an image you linked to is no longer hosted, and things start to fall apart. Having a website with links that go to broken pages is a great way to lose trust from readers and sends a signal that the website is not updated, and the brand is not paying attention to details. What impression does that give to the work that you do? Visitors may not return because their time will likely be wasted following a trail of information that led them to broken paths.
Website administrators know how to scan for broken links and fix them. There are tactics to relink pages that changed, or moved, and forward content elsewhere if a former link is no longer valid. This keeps your visitor experience ahead of the trust failing pitfalls that can occur by leaving content unattended.
6. Trust = Helpful, Informative, & Educational
There’s two types of copy writing. There’s long form writing like this blog post, and there’s short form marketing copy that is more common on website pages. On your main website pages, copy should be short form, rich with sub-headings and titles that help visitors find what they’re looking for faster. This is often promotional in nature to convince the visitor to take the next step in making a purchase. And while marketing copy is necessary, it’s often the long form informational writing that builds trust. So having it available for your buyers is essential.
Long form content is great for users looking to dig deeper on a subject. Maybe they want to know if the product or tool you sell is great for a specific use, project, or application. So having long-form content that describes proper use, and sets the right expectations using it can be a great tool to help someone decide your product is the one they want to purchase. Long form content showcases expertise, and builds trust and confidence in your brand.
7. Use Quality Brand Imagery
Websites can have different levels of flashy behavior and slickness, but a baseline for every website is to have branded photography and videography that fits your organization. Stock images can only tell part of the story, and good stock is expensive, which means the businesses grabbing the cheap images, or free stock images usually comes off looking…you guessed it…cheap.
It’s very affordable nowadays for a small business to hire a photographer for a few hours and get some company shots. Not all visitors want to read, so having videos and images appeals to other senses, bringing your brand to life on the web page, and the consistency across all formats will paint a more trusting, appealing, and memorable experience for your brand.
8. Encourage Visiting Your Social Media
Your website needs to have links to social media. It’s implied that every reputable business is on social media to some extent. While not having links on social media is not a red flag, it does send a message that the business is not established according to current media channels. It’s 2022; presence on social media is expected. Additionally, if the links go to a social page that is devoid of content, or the content is years old and dated, it again sends a message that you’re not home. If this is what a visitor sees, the first question they’ll ask is whether or not you’re still in business. You’re not building trust if the first question is in regard to whether or not you still answer your calls. Keeping up with content is hard, but a post or two each month is very manageable even at a most basic level.
Your organization doesn’t have to be on every social channel either. Pick one or two channels that you can excel at faster before trying to develop a strategy for everything on the web. Know your audience too. We recently had a business in the financial investments vertical ask us to propose a TikTok strategy. When we asked why, they stated because “it’s popular”. The largest segment of TikTok users are between the ages of 10 and 19, whereas buyers segment is largely in the 50+ where TikTok audience is 7%. 93% of their users are below that segment. For B2B organizations, LinkedIn is an absolute must. For B2C small businesses Facebook and Instagram are still the 2 best tools to reach audiences.
9. Social Proof Builds Trust
Reviews and ratings are critical trust building tools. Listing testimonials on your website is a great way to let buyers know what your customers had to say. When it comes to validation, the best way to do this is to publish, or republish reviews that can be found on Google, Yelp, or Facebook. These are verified reviews from individuals that publicly stated they liked or disliked your brand.
Google reviews are a trusted resource, so piping them through your website adds additional value. Google reviews also help with search engine rankings and are a great asset to build your local search profiles. Furthermore, Google makes it easy to leave a review, so having a “leave us a review” tool on your site also helps gain even more momentum with this feature.
A lot of business owners I’ve met over the years fear a bad review. Bad reviews are helpful. Maybe you sell laptops, and the majority of reviews are 5 stars, but of the 17 one star reviews, 12 of them mentioned low battery life. Well, that tells you what you need to improve, but more importantly, if battery life wasn’t my biggest concern, at least I know to bring the power cord with me when I travel to a meeting. Also, being actively responsive to bad reviews tells future buyers you’re paying attention, and willing to fix what’s wrong. “Thanks for your feedback; we’re working on a new battery upgrade that has 3x longevity between charges and will be available soon! Stay tuned!” This builds trust because it says we care, and we’re addressing the matter. This builds confidence in your brand. Bad reviews are an opportunity to build trust! It’s when they go neglected that they paint you in a bad light.
10. Awards Accolades and Case Studies
Showing off your client base is a great way to establish trust if the organizations you’re naming are known or well established. Placing their logo on your website is a great way to show others have placed their trust in your company. Not every business can promote these because some relationships are private, but luckily there is more than one way to embellish this trust factor
Any kind of award or recognition, is a great way to show you’re a leader in your field. The more your business participates in anything ranked or awarded is a great way to gain recognition. Many local small business organizations have annual events that recognize businesses on performance, products, growth, service, satisfaction, and many other opportunities to gain accolades and accreditations.
Case studies are another one of the best methods to show a specific use case, a problem that occurred, and how your product or service was able to provide a solution. Case studies can be blind, and not mention the specific client; they just need to tell the specific situation and provide details. This is great way to also show new buyers in the same situation that your organization is the right choice solution.
Thanks For Reading!
The On Fire Group is a digital marketing agency in the Delaware Valley PA NJ DE area serving small businesses ready to grow. If we can help your organization with branding, marketing, website design, or social media services, please contact us below.
Michael Spinka has nearly 2 decades of demonstrated success in marketing & technology, and was formerly a vice president with a #1 marketing franchise that scaled coast to coast.
He founded The On Fire Group to help small and medium sized businesses reach their target audience affordably. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn. Subscribe to stay up to date!
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