Nope. It’s a dark age for information on the internet. And yet,
- 93% of all online experiences begin with search.
- 35% of all e-commerce traffic comes from organic search.
While people are (rightly) wary of the web, they still rely on it to make purchase decisions. The onus of building trust, is on websites, not the web itself.
Since Facebook and Google proved that not everything on the web is trustworthy, people have honed their instincts for finding and deriding BS on the internet. It’s imperative that your website comes across as credible and authentic.
If it makes you feel any better, know that every business faces this uphill battle for consumers’ trust in the early days. However, there are some factors that influence website credibility, both on conscious and subconscious levels, which we can go through today.
Design and Aesthetics
Users barely take 50 milliseconds to decide whether they like your website or not – so a lot of people are, in fact, judging the book by its cover.
It happens, get over it and think about how to turn this around in your favour.
Good design and aesthetics, on the web, means that a site is usable, clean, and looks in sync with the purpose it was designed for. For instance, cute, flower-based visual effects will look great on a site for wedding planning, and just plain wrong on a site for funeral services.
Some tips to get your design right:
- Be consistent across pages: There’s a consistency of elements and colour palette in good web design.
- Eye-watering colours are a double-edged sword – great for getting attention; annoying when even slightly overused. These hurt your credibility, so unless you know what you’re doing, keep these off.
- Autoplay videos/animation are a no-no.
- While there’s never a set-standard that applies to everyone, it’s generally a good design principle to be familiar and minimalistic. You want your design to not distract people from your content.
On a related note: If you add features to the website (like chat boxes or shopping cart), make sure they’re actually work and are usable on all devices.
Be real, for heaven’s sake.
It’s ridiculous how many new business owners think that big words and cheesy stock photos can foster trust and credibility when, really, the complete opposite is true.
It’s long past time to do away with overused business jargon from your content. Just delete it. It’s not helping anyone and it’s testing your audience’s patience. Phrases like ‘shifting the paradigm’ or ‘striving for excellence’ are not good for your credibility.
Stick to the point. Quick tips for copy and content:
- The keywords you want to rank for? Try to organically insert them (do not stuff them, you’ll be blacklisted for it!) in your copy and content.
- Be concise: “If you can’t explain it to a 10 year old, you don’t understand it well enough”. I’m not asking you to treat your audience like children, but you do need to be clear about WHAT you do, HOW you do it, and WHO is on your team. Hire marketing copywriters who can present information in easily digestible chunks.
- Conversational: This works nicely for startups and less obscure/technical verticals, but you can test it for your own content strategy.
- Don’t be vague, flowery, or superlative-heavy (unless you can prove them). ‘Best price in the market’? Show me a price comparison or go home.
- No typos or slang. That’s just bad taste.
- Cap the amount of ads / affiliate links / sponsored content to a reasonable, non-spammy limit – especially in the beginning. And clearly mark them as such.
When it comes to visuals, stock photos do more harm than no photos. It’s admirable that you want to add a ‘human’ element to your business website, but you can’t accomplish that with fake photos that obviously obfuscate the truth. If you think you have nothing worth showing yet, go without photos. Or maybe consider animation and graphics to illustrate/visualise your point.
Once you do have pictures worth uploading on your website, make sure they’re not grainy and properly optimised for speed (compressed) and SEO (Alt text).
Frankly, Amazon’s fake review economy wouldn’t exist if purchase decisions weren’t influenced by customer reviews.
Businesses without testimonials or reviews or even press coverage raise defensive hackles. It’s a big gamble for people, especially online, to give their money to a business that no one else seems to be working with.
Here are a few tips on getting social proof right once you have a website.
- Running a blog? Keep posting on it. Blogs that are kept updated are a positive credibility indicator. Same goes for your company’s social media handles.
- Delete every last one of the testimonials that you paid someone to write for you. These often tend to be nauseatingly positive and they hurt your credibility more than they add to it. Why? Because people can smell the BS in seedy reviews.
- Instead, work on amazing content that you can pitch as guest posts to high ranking, high DA blogs in your industry. Work the PR submarine towards getting your name out, outreach to high traffic blogs in your niche who do industry roundups and get listed in those. Then, proudly showcase these mentions and content on your website.
- Genuine customer reviews accompanied by picture, name, designation/employer etc. is the bar you have to attain. Work towards that, not phoniness.
Additional Tips for Credibility
- If you can be active, relevant, and helpful on community forums, then start posting in niches relevant to your business. Remember, the key is to be helpful and reply to questions/ threads with that as a priority, not your business’s promotion. If you do want to get noticed on there immediately, mention your employer/business name in your bio.
- Contact info is a must. Display your office’s physical location(s) and contact information in the footer across the entire website.
- Invest time in strengthening your SEO game. Organic reach and number of articles on the top ranks in SERP are going to establish your credibility, relevance and ‘thought-leadership’ like absolutely nothing else. Do not miss it for the world.
I have this strong (some would call it naive) belief that if your moral values put great emphasis on trust, you’re not going to need someone like me to tell you how to look authentic and credible on the internet. Your own personal values will translate, and quite spectacularly at that.
How to be credible? Just be your best, honest, most helpful self.
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