Is Your Web Site Trustworthy? 10 Ways to Earn Visitor Trust On The Web

When visitors land on your web site, you want them to do something. You want them to opt-in in exchange for your ethical bribe eBook download, you want them to sign up for your weekly newsletter, buy something, complete a form or pick up the telephone and call you.

Given the number of options web users have, you’re actually asking site visitors to do you a favor. And they’re more likely to perform a favor for you if you establish trust on your web site. In 1999, 6% of web users bought something on the world wide web. That number is expected to rise to 60% in 2010. Anybody see a trend?

More and more people use the web to make purchases, comparison shop, find directions to a local business or buy their insurance on the web, the fastest growing marketplace ever. But think about your own web use habits.

Do you opt in for that free eBook? Do you provide name, address and telephone filling out a survey so you can get a coupon for a free box of Wheat Chex? Do you buy from an on-line store that you never heard of before half-way around the globe? Probably not, if you’re like most of us.

Why? We know that if we give you our email addresses you’ll load up our email in-boxes with spam. We know if we buy insurance on-line we’ll get a sales call. And who knows what sites like Facebook do with the marketing data they collect. Data has value. It’s currency on line so collecting it while members take a fun little quiz generates cash for the social media giant with over 500 million subscribers.

The answer is simple. Add trust-building elements to your web site – elements that not only encourage the performance of an action, but make the site visitor comfortable in the performance of that action.

So here are some trust builders that will deliver more sign-ups, inquiries, bookings and sales. In the commercial sphere of the world wide web, trust is a must to increase conversion ratios.

1. Join the On-Line Better Business Bureau.

This little logo defines a client-centric corporate culture – a business that values customer or client satisfaction.

Membership in the BBB also requires that your business agrees to abide by ethical business practices established by the BBB. If the trust-building organization receives complaints about your business practices, i.e. you don’t run a trustworthy web site business, the BBB will give you the boot and you can’t display that trust-building logo anymore.

2. Add the VeriSign logo on all checkout pages.

Visitors leave an awful lot of stranded virtual shopping carts on web sites that sell products. They put an item or two in the cart, ready to make the purchase, but they get cold feet somewhere during the checkout process.

Often, prospective buyers back out at the last minute because they aren’t sure they’re on a secure page. The little padlock in the lower right hand corner of the screen was duplicated years ago by hackers so you need to provide an indication that all sensitive data – including credit card numbers – are transmitted on a secure circuit, encrypted (coded) by VeriSign or a similar on-line security provider.

Also, during the checkout process, keep reminding buyers that they’re on a secure path, that all data is encrypted and stored securely. This builds trust when accompanied by an authority logo with a strong reputation of secure, on-line transactions.

3. Add your picture.

People like to know there’s a real human being behind the sharp looking, well-designed web site so if you’re “Smilin’ Bob with the best prices this side of Waco,” don the Stetson and smile, Bob.

Smilin’ Bob.

We got the lowest prices in town.

Have a professional photographer take a business portrait of you against a neutral background. Wear your best clothes and look good. Look professional. DON’T look like Smilin’ Bob! Would you buy a car from this man? I wouldn’t.

4. Make your privacy policy clear.

Offer warranties, guarantees and honor them.

A lot of web owners bury their privacy policies deep in the boilerplate section of their on-line enterprises, accessible through a simple text link at the bottom of the home page.

Why hide it if you’ve got nothing to hide. Add a PRIVACY POLICY link to your main navigation bar and spell it out in the simplest possible terms. Pages and pages of “lawyer speak” do not build trust in buyers who believe (and rightly so) that somewhere in all of that fine print are loopholes through which you could drive a semi.

Keep it simple, keep it accessible and keep your word.

This is one of the all-time best trust builders. Guarantee your products. Warranty your services with a 100% money-back guarantee: IF YOU’RE NOT 100% COMPLETELY SATISFIED…

Buyers feel better about making a purchase they know they can return it for a full refund if it doesn’t fit, if it’s the wrong part or it’s not the service they thought they were buying.

Why is a guarantee one of the top trust builders? Because few people actually go to the trouble to return a product – even one they don’t want. They have to wrap it, address it, provide a copy of the invoice, drive to the post office and send it registered mail. For a lot of buyers, this is just more trouble than it’s worth for an 8-gig thumb drive that only costs $14.95 to begin with.

Of course, it’s essential that you honor your promises and provide a means for returning payments made. Any good customer management software (CMS) tracks orders, returns and paybacks so it’s not like a big pain in the neck – and it builds trust fast. Hey, the buyer has nothing to lose.

5. Provide clear terms of service.

If you sell a service, what are your terms? Do you expect a 50% payment upfront? Do you guarantee prices for 12 months? Under what conditions can you close a service-based account?

Again, the TOS are often buried deep in the web site, accessible only by a minuscule text link right next to the privacy policy. If you deliver good services, and you back them up, you should be proud of your TOS and display them in large text available through a large, clearly labeled link.

6. Provide complete contact information.

Where are you located? If your site is optimized for local search, provide a map and written directions showing site visitors how to get to your brick-and-mortar store.

A toll-free telephone number demonstrates a corporate concern for assisting customers and clients. So does a street address.

It’s also a good idea to add an email module to your “Contact Us” page so site visitors can drop you a line with questions, or to fix problems with billing. Simple rule: the more ways you provide for site visitors to contact you, the more trustworthy your on-line business.

7. Keep your site text honest.

Not every tax accountant is the best, the lowest cost, the most experienced, so cut down on the hype, whether you’re selling shoes or tax preparation services.

Regular web users have become numb from over-exposure to hype text pushing one product or service after another. Keep your text simple, define benefits, explain return policies and be upfront with site visitors. THE BEST doesn’t fool anyone any more. We all know that every site offers THE BEST.

8. Provide a picture of your storefront.

If your web site is an adjunct to your store on Main Street, show us a picture. It helps local residents find your store and it demonstrates a solid, stable business to prospects miles from your real-world outlet.

Signage should be professionally done and straightforward, just like your web site. If you build trust in town, you’ll build trust from prospects in Asia so show the shop and let them see your business is for real.

9. Use real client testimonials.

Any one can spot a fake testimonial from Sue K., Boston, Massachusetts. Good luck trying to confirm that testimonial from Sue.

Instead, ask satisfied buyers to write a short testimonial that includes credible attribution, such as: John Smith, CEO, Intecture, LLC. That’s a credible testimonial from a real person, and a recommendation from a satisfied customer is one of the best trust builders available to the small web business just starting to get traction.

10. Overdeliver.

Once a site visitor has converted to a buyer, over-deliver on your promises. Offer free shipping “to all of our first-time-customers,” or upgrade shipping to overnight at no cost.

Throw in a small give-away – a key chain, a flashlight, a pen with your company name on it. There are dozens of companies on-line that sell these bonuses and they’re one of the best ways to show buyers that you want them to stay buyers and that your site is a trustworthy site.

Offer free consultations, a free analysis of sales, a top-down review of business practices and other free services that establish your credibility as a business and as a source for products or services.

Now all of this has to happen quickly. Site visitors don’t stick around long. Check your site’s bounce rate. If it’s over 50%, one-half of those who came to your site quickly bounced to another site before even giving you a chance to show them how good you are.

Perception is reality on the world wide web, and if site visitors perceive that your web site has integrity, and your delivery of services or products demonstrates that you’re a trustworthy businessperson, you’ll see more and more repeat sales – even if you lose money on a return on that first sale.

Build trust with site visitors and you’ll build business with site visitors. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.