They say the devil is in the details. Well, so is trust. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re an avid internet user and consumer of online content, and have likely experienced this scenario before:
You click a link in an email or social media, and land on a site that appears to have all the right information but something just doesn’t feel right. You can’t put your finger on it exactly, but that uncomfortable feeling is there.
If this sounds familiar, the site most likely didn’t demonstrate the minimum trust points (MTPs) that we’ve grown to expect from sites across the web. This is why we get an uncomfortable feeling when the site just seems “off.”
Gone are the days of it being impressive to have a website in the first place. Now, average users expect a lot from your site and if it doesn’t deliver, you’re potentially throwing away leads.
Since trust is fairly intangible, I’ve outlined some MTP guidance and tips below to help you your website build better relationships.
Site Level Trust Points
There are many ways to establish trust in the buying process. However, from a website perspective, it’s broken down into two main groups: site level trust points and page level trust points.
There are 8 sitewide trust points:
Sitewide trust points are visible in some form on every page of a website and can be so well done as to feel invisible.
In a world that increasingly favours aesthetics, design matters. A well designed site looks better and builds trust compared to a site that lacks credibility in design.
A well designed website is consistent and sensible. It guides the user through a curated path and leads with direction. It nurtures the user and shows them logically where to go next — strive for sensibility and consistency in your website design.
While minimalist design can look stunning, good design doesn’t inherently mean sparse or boring. A website can be effective, lively and vibrant all at once while guiding the user through the buying journey. Two great examples are Lings Cars and Oasis Cannabis.
Lings Cars is a car leasing and sales site in the UK. This site is (in)famous for its “tacky” design but that doesn’t hold the business back. In fact, according to Ling, they did over £85 million in revenue in 2015. Not bad for a site that breaks every design rule you’ve ever read.
Bonus tip: View their source code to see how much they’ve committed to this design concept!
Oasis Cannabis also bucks the boring design trend with its mind bending figures and page transitions. Both sites are not standard but are effective designs, fit for their particular purpose and audience.
A Website That Works
Your website is a direct reflection of your business. If users land on your site to find broken images, broken links and weird alignment, you’re losing their trust by the second.
Part of crafting a great user experience and making them feel good about your brand all begins with your site. When it’s clean, fully functional and easy for them to find what they need, you’re giving them a reason to stay (and to come back again).
Checking every aspect of your website isn’t practical but thankfully, there are tools out there that do this for you and highlight the issues. My three preferred tools for this are:
With these tools you can get reports on broken links, orphan pages that have no internal links to them or pages that load slow or don’t show well on mobile.
Design consistency is about incorporating the look, feel and functionality across every facet of the site. No matter where a user ends up on your website, it should ‘feel’ like they’re still looking at the same brand — even if they’re reading a blog post from 2014.
There should be consistency in your navigation and colour scheme on every page. Same with the logo placement in your header, contact information in your footer and other nuances.
This concept applies to the verbage you use and how you implement it, too. Copy, format, font and voice should all be consistent, no matter which page they’ve landed on. Decide on a typeface, layout and voice and stick to it.
Consistency is important to building trust because it demonstrates an organised, professional operation and raises no red flags in the subconscious of a user.
How each element is presented can be subjective, but sitewide consistency is not. When things don’t quite feel ‘right’, it’s often because there are subtle red flags we’ve started to pick up on.
Image Source: Nielsen Norman Group
Social proof is extremely powerful in building trust with your website. People want what other people want, so when you’re demonstrating that other real people have used and endorsed your product, that’s more powerful than anything you could say about your own brand.
We’ve all come to rely on reviews for honest, unbiased feedback. In a world where every brand is trying to yell the loudest about how they’re #1 (and they can’t all be), those unbiased opinions play a role in getting that conversion.
Getting testimonials can be hard but software like Delighted can help.
Establishing authority in your space is another effective way to build trust. Display the logo of brands you’ve worked with, any media you have been featured in, and try to publish guest blog posts from authorities or experts in your field. (the latter is also a great way to support SEO backlinks on your site).
Much like testimonials, being able to show that you’ve worked with multiple brands, especially if those brands are prominent, is another major trust signal. It suggests that you’re an active business that works with and for reputable, larger brands.
It’s common practice to check out a company’s social media profiles as a way to gauge trust. Since this is a direct way to communicate with your audience, it’s important to have a social media profile set up on at least one of the main four social media platforms:
Social media offers a great opportunity to show a more human side to your brand. Although still professional, it tends to feature the people behind your brand, not just the product you offer. This builds inherent trust by putting a face(s) to the logo rather than just being a cold, corporate entity.
You’re a vibrant, creative team of real and trustworthy people and social platforms are ideal for showing that off.
It’s crucial that your website has HTTPS authentication. Without it, users will get a “Your connection is not private” warning every time they try to navigate to your site. Some web browsers prevent people from entering your site altogether.
Depending on the size of your brand, many web hosts even offer free SSL certificates (HTTPS) that can be activated in a matter of seconds with just a few clicks. These free certificates aren’t suitable for all websites but they do a great job of lowering the barrier to entry.
As an important side benefit, HTTPS is also a ranking factor so making the switch can offer a modest ranking improvement — you’re demonstrating to users and search engines that your site is trustworthy.
You can get free SSL certificates from Lets Encrypt and most website hosting providers.
Finally, adding trust badges to your website is another great way to build trust. But, you have to earn them first. The SSL badge is one of the most popular, but you can easily find other options on Google and the steps you’ll need to acquire them.
People want to know that there’s an actual human behind your website. While including your address, email, phone number and hours of operation on the Contact page go a long way, an About page is where you really make an impact.
Adding an about page can go even farther in building trust with your audience by explaining who you are and what you do. Often more importantly, you can also explain why you do it. Effective ‘about’ pages often show photos of key staff so you users can see who they’re dealing with. When people know your story and your ‘why’, they feel more compelled to rally behind you. These are all humanizing elements that build trust and start making a connection with your users.
On the other hand, if your site lacks an address, phone number and ‘about’ information, your conversion is going to suffer. At that point, you’re presenting as a faceless brand of unknown origin and asking them to enter their credit card details. This demonstrates all the usual red flags of being a scam.
Page Level Trust Points
In addition to the 8 Sitewide Trust Points each page on your site should seek to build trust on its own. Not all visitors will see the other pages on your site and every page should demonstrate authority in its content and design.
The 5 page level trust points:
Outlinks to well-established publications or other trusted websites can help provide credibility for your site. By referencing other peoples’ work, you’re showing that you’re human and actually have some involvement in the space outside of your own website.
You’re also showing that the info you’re providing is trustworthy and backed up by more than just your own opinion. Instead of taking away from your expertise it actually reinforces it. It demonstrates you’ve done the research.
Internal links are just as important as external links and I don’t mean just to your sales pages! Linking between blogs and articles you’ve written about the same or similar topics is good for SEO and to demonstrate deep expertise.
Ideally, if a user can land on your page and find all the information they need in one place, they have no need to visit your competitors. Relevant internal linking is a fantastic way to guide them through this education process seamlessly.
You can incorporate images in your blog and website copy, and not just stock images. Custom diagrams and illustrations give you another way to demonstrate your expertise. When including images just make sure they’re always relevant to and emphasise the point (and that you’re legally allowed to use them).
Author Bio (for blogs)
Letting people know who is behind the blog creates trust and credibility. Showcasing the intelligent people behind your business and website content is infinitely better than the faceless blog poster most sites have.
A killer author bio can also help for SEO, especially if you’re in a category that requires a high demonstration of E-A-T (expertise, authority and Trust) principles like medicine or finance.
Publish date (for blogs)
A major red flag that a blog post is low quality and mass-produced is a lack of publish date. This is something we often see on those low quality link building websites where the content is terrible and meaningless. It’s written at the lowest cost possible and exists purely to provide a backlink.
Those sites provide no valid info and you want to differentiate yourself from that model as much as possible.
Omitting a publish date is also a personal pet peeve, especially if they’re talking about relative dates in those blog posts. “With the changes that were implemented last week…”, what changes? Was ‘last week’ some time in 2015 or was it 10 days ago? Argh.
Hitting each of these minimum trust points on your website will go a long way to crafting a more successful user experience from start to finish. When your audience trusts your website and the info you provide, they’re that much closer to reaching out and doing business with you.