(This post was originally posted in 2016. We have substantially updated it for 2018 and republished it.)
While people are more comfortable searching and buying online, there are more hackers and scammers out there than blowflies at a sausage sizzle. This creates a dilemma. People want to buy from you, but they are worried if you are a business that they can trust. You may have the best product or service in the world, but unless people trust you, they will ghost away from your website faster than you can say “Would you like an invitation to my Tupperware party?” But how can you increase the trustworthiness of your website?
Trust comes in two flavours – technical trust and social trust. You need to build trust across both areas.
Trust is a competitive advantage in business. If your business is trustworthy and can demonstrate your trustworthiness through your website, then you will increase enquiries and sales. It is also a key ranking factor for Google. Demonstrating trust is a no-brainer!
Ways to Build Technical Trust On Your Website
Technical trust is where the customer can trust the basic functionality of your website. In other words, your site actually works without crashing and doing bad things to their computers. If technical trust is broken, then no amount of social trust will make up for it.
If you want to order a pizza, but the website won’t let you order because of broken code, then no amount of your friends saying how great the pizza is will let you order a pizza online.
Have Modern Web Design
A website that looks cheap, or slapped together by an amateur sends alarm bells ringing for many people. A professional looking website, that is mobile responsive and has fantastic images and graphics, inspires trust.
When assessing if a website is trustworthy, people also look at spelling and grammar. They forgive the odd mistake, but repeated errors make people click away. Correct spelling matters when you are trying to build trust.
Pro Tip: You do know that we build websites for small businesses don’t you?
Do your forms all go where they are supposed to go? Do the autoresponders actually respond? Do all the links work? Does the shopping cart actually process orders?
Ensure Your Website is up 99%+ of the time
If a site repeatedly crashes due to server overload, people lose confidence and will often not come back.
Ensure Your Site is Fast Loading
Slow websites = silent websites. By that I mean, if your site is slow to load, generally potential clients have left before the page fully loads. The slower the load time, the more clients you are losing.
Keep Your Website Clear of Malware, Viruses & Spam
This is the equivalent of condoning other people stealing wallets while customers are in your store. You need to constantly monitor your site and take action the moment you find there is a problem.
Steer Clear of Low-Quality Hosting
Shared cheap hosting creates problems. You don’t know your neighbours in the shared space. Most times, they are good neighbours, but if you get spammers or scammers moving in, your website can be caught in the crossfire and get blacklisted by default until you take action to distance yourself from your neighbours.
Ways to Build Social Trust On Your Website
People trust the recommendations of other people. Social trust is all about your reputation both online and offline. If people say great things about you, people will be more willing to give their trust to you.
Ensure Your Website Content is Professional
People look to websites to inform or entertain. In business, you want to add value
Cheap copywriting from places like ODesk or from your teenager who is “Doing good at English” is as obvious as a kid covered in chocolate denying they ate the last biscuit.
Great copywriting shows through simply because it has the right balance of fact plus emotion. It is written to appeal to the customer and not merely stroke the ego of the owner, and it contains well-researched information about your business that answers customers’ questions.
It also gives clear directions to the customer so they know what action they need to take next, rather than leaving them wondering around without assistance.
Credibility through great copywriting converts customers.
Pro Tip: The highest traffic pages on all of our client’s websites are the ones where specific questions that people are looking for are answered in depth. A number of our clients hold the top spots in Google for particular blog posts that provide solutions to common issues that people face when using particular products or services. For example, one local small business tradie gets over 200 unique visitors each day to one blog post about a common call out they get!
Use The Right Words
The words you use can make or break trust. In one interesting study quoted by Roger Dooley, researchers found that adding in the words “You can trust us to do the job for you” in an auto service firm increased trust scores by 33%.
There are other words that you can use to increase trust including fair price, caring and quality.
Pro Tip: A competent web copywriter (Hint: Pick us!) will know the words to include in your web content for you if you are not sure what to use.
Be Better Than Your Competitors
The online world makes it easy to compare businesses by simply looking at the two websites. You need your site to be more credible, more trustworthy and better than your competitors in the areas that matter. You need to make it a no-brainer that people will pick up the phone and call you first.
Ensure Your Spelling is Correct
Most websites will have at least one or two typos – very few are 100% perfect. But when spelling mistakes start to add up, people spot them and start to discount the credibility of the rest of your information.
Show Your Legal Identity
Make it easy for people to check out that you are a legitimate business: Add your ABN details to your website Contact Page or footer.
If you are licenced through a professional body (e.g. QBCC), then include your licence or registration number. You can also include a direct link to the licence lookup section of the registering organisation so people can check for themselves.
Use Quality, Real Images
The photos you use on your website can either make or break trust. Ideally use photos of you and your team and use stock photos carefully and only after considering the implications of each image.
Read more about how to choose the right images for your website.
Make it Easy For People to Contact You
Don’t hide your phone number or email, forcing people to only use your contact form on your site to contact you. This is a common tactic used by scammers and is a trust breaker for many people
People want to know that you have a bricks and mortar address. No address is seen as a sure sign of a scammer.
Many small businesses that work from home are worried that people will rock up to their door. That’s why they don’t want to include their residential addresses on their website.
Invest in a Post Office Box if you are concerned. They are low cost and will remove all that fear, while still allowing people to contact you.
Including a highly visible phone number is not an optional extra. If people have questions, they want to be able to call you.
Hiding your phone number so you won’t be interrupted is another way of saying “I am more important than you. Please go away.” Making them search through your site for your number buried as deep in your content as a missing sock in a sock drawer is a guaranteed way to annoy customers. The good news is that people will go away. The bad news, is so will your business.
There is a great invention called an answering machine you can buy to add to most traditional home phones. Most mobile phone services also have a message bank service. Use it then return calls when you are available.
I try to return calls in a block of time once a day. My view is that when I am writing for a client, they deserve my undivided attention. It also makes it easier for me to stay in writing or coding flow, which means less mistakes.
Another option is to subscribe to an outsourced answering service if you want that human touch answering your phone. Shop around as there are good services and seriously average ones that pass on messages that resemble words taken by a two-year-old who has just had a litre of red cordial and is grasping a crayon to write with.
If you don’t want to include your email on your website because you are worried about receiving confetti-like loads of spam email courtesy of scraper bots, then resort to technology.
There is a handy-dandy plugin for WordPress websites called Email Address Encoder. It is lightweight and has nothing to configure. It simply takes the email addresses on your website (either in plain text or mailto links) and turns them into decimal and hexadecimal entities to hide them from email harvesting bots. Translating the geek speak – while you and other humans can see your email address, the bots can’t.
It can’t protect you from a dedicated human manually writing down your email address, but nothing will deter those cherubs.
Share People You Have Worked With
People want to find out “Who do you know that I know?” This is where portfolios, testimonials, and public interaction come into play. If a person knows someone who uses your business or service, they are more willing also to use your business or service.
People are always worried that the product or service may not be as good as it sounds. They want to be reassured that other people have used your product or service, and are happy with it. That’s why testimonials are so powerful.
Include rich, descriptive testimonials from real clients on your website. The more detail they share, the better!
Pro Tip: Check out our blog post on How to Get Terrific Testimonials from Clients for tips on how to get brilliant ones!
Case Studies & Past Projects
Another way to demonstrate your trustworthiness is through highlighting case studies of past client work.
Explain what the brief to the project was, any challenges that accompanied the project brief and then share the outcomes. Stories are remarkably powerful and very persuasive!
You can also share great before and after photos of past projects. Don’t be afraid to ask the client if you can take photos of your work. Most people are only too happy to share.
A quick word about past project photos
Photos need to be high quality to work effectively. This means in focus, well lit, nicely framed, with distracting background objects removed. If you are in anything to do with building or renovations, think more Home Beautiful and less Snapchat.
A great photo inspires trust. A poor quality photo removes trust. This means you may need to have a local photographer on call to take regular professional photos for you. The difference a great photographer vs a DIY happy snapper makes is remarkable in terms of generating trust.
You may have seen websites with scrolling banners of logos of past clients. This scroll is there for a reason – it inspires trust. You look at the logos and automatically think “Wow! They have worked with all those big name companies. They must be OK.”
Pro Tip: Get permission first if your contracts/agreements don’t already have provision to use their details in your marketing. Talk with your lawyer to make sure you have that clause in your agreements!
Another way to build trust with your website is through including powerful guarantees. In general, the longer the guarantee, the stronger the guarantee. By being transparent with your policies, you increase trust.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to publicise that you do honour your guarantees and the reasons why people have requested refunds. For example, here’s what we say in our employee manual product: “Do people ever take us up on the guarantee? Yes! We refunded one HR Policies & Procedures Manual to one business as it was too detailed for their needs, and one to another business as the manual wasn’t detailed enough. We understand that our Instant HR Policies and Procedures Manual templates are not right for all businesses.”
Show Your Refund Policies
People are worried that the service or product won’t fit, be right for them, won’t work etc. By being upfront about when and how you can ask for a refund, you increase trust.
Pro Tip: Don’t hide your refund policy in teeny tiny print on hard to find pages. This is particularly true if you have a page dedicated to cancellations of your service, then hide a 3-month notice of cancellation clause in a totally different section of your website (Yes I am looking at you PostPlanner. Aside from a seriously average product, they are harder to cancel than getting off a Reader’s Digest mailing list. Never use them!)
Specific Ways to Build Trust with Your Website for Sites That Sell Online
If people can buy directly from your website, then you need to add in a few more trust builders to the ones we mentioned.
Use HTTPS Not HTTP
If you are selling anything online or have a contact form on your website, your website needs to be running a trusted SSL Certificate. Basically, SSL is a more secure way of connecting and sharing information, which means your customer’s details are encrypted during transfer.
People look for that little green padlock in their browser before they buy. Without it, many people will leave without purchasing. The cost and hassle of setting up SSL is a worthwhile investment if you are selling anything online from a single item or service via PayPal through to a full online shop.
If you need an additional nudge, HTTPS is a ranking factor for Google, which means having it will affect where your website appears in search results.
That said, if you have an existing website migrating from
Pro Tip: The best time to add SSL is on a brand new website for a brand new business. If you even think that somewhere in the future you may want your new website to accept any payments online, start with a SSL.
Want to know more about converting to HTTPS? Here’s a handy
Trust Seals / Trust Marks
Another way to demonstrate your online trustworthiness is through showing trust seals or trust marks.
A trust seal is a third party verified company that confirms that your business is legitimate. Depending on the seal, it can also verify that a site is free from malware and has strong privacy procedures in place.
Not all Trust Seals are created equal. Studies have shown that Norton & McAfee trust seals are the most likely to increase conversions.
Pro Tip: Not all trust seals are easily recognised or trusted by customers, so you need to choose your seal carefully.
Alternative Ordering Processes
Not every business is happy to order online. By offering options to order over the phone or through requesting an invoice, then you increase options for customers to buy from you. Make it easy for customers to buy, and they will reward you with their purchase and their trust.
Being trustworthy is more than just being a good person. It comes from the actions that you take. By being conscious of the actions that you take on your website, you will demonstrate your trustworthiness and make it easier to connect with your customers.