One of the most important factors in the success of any business website is that your potential customers perceive you to be credible and genuine. There are a number of key signs that people consciously and subconsciously look for in order to gauge whether a site is trustworthy and safe to do business with.
In the modern age of the web it is possible for anyone to make a website for free, therefore it is now more important than ever to ensure that you are clearly distinguishing your business as being legitimate. Customers are becoming increasingly savvy to the many scammers and spammers out there who create fake websites to sell inferior products, or simply steal money from unsuspecting people.
The following guide includes the main aspects that customers may look for when deciding whether to trust a business on the web. Not every item is suitable for every company, but if you can incorporate at least a few of these recommendations, you can create a professional and credible online presence.
Testimonials are a great way of demonstrating the quality of your business by the fact that your customers are satisfied enough to recommend you to others. Normally, previous clients who are happy with the service they received will be happy to write a one paragraph recommendation for you to use on your website. If possible you should include some markers of credibility for your customers too, so that people can tell that it is a genuine recommendation. A photo, logo, website address or full name are all examples of customer information that will add authenticity to your testimonials.
One thing we would strongly advise against is creating fake testimonials. This is essentially fraud and could cause very serious, irreparable damage to your brand. Websites like Fiverr.com feature thousands of people offering to manufacture testimonials for your website. However, imagine how your customers will feel if they happen to be browsing on Fiverr and recognise someone that they trusted as one of your former customers, offering to lie for any company for $5. This could be potential PR suicide and we seriously advise you to only use genuine and credible testimonials.
Think about offering a post-sale incentive to your customers in order to generate recommendations. A discount on future purchases, or an informative free whitepaper may work. Or, simply asking because you delivered a great service is usually enough.
Full Contact Details
Customers need to know that they can get in contact with you whenever they need to, and for this reason the more contact options you can give them, the better. It is not enough to just have an [email protected] email address with no telephone number or office address, as this gives the impression that you donâ€™t want to be contacted.
Everyone has a preferred method of contact (email, phone etc), however as a business it should not be up to you to dictate this to your customers. If you donâ€™t like talking on the phone thatâ€™s fine, but you will almost certainly lose business in the long term if you do not offer customers the option of giving you a call if they need to.
There are many different opinions on social network use for small businesses, and our position is generally that a low level of engagement with the main social networks is advised. One significant advantage of this is that it acts as a proof of credibility to potential customers. Think about what happens if someone searches for your company name on Google. Your website should be the first result (if it’s not, get in touch and we can help you with your ranking), then after that you want as many of the other search results as possible to relate to your business in a positive way.
There are many other ways to achieve this including business directories and press releases, but social networking is free and immediate. If people see that you spend time â€˜adding valueâ€™ by posting content and integrating with your customers in a free social media environment, it will help reinforce the perception that you are trustworthy and genuine.
As mentioned above, directory listings can have a number of positive effects for a small business. They are a great source of leads and incoming inquiries, and the links to your website are great for your search engine ranking. Potential customers will also see your listing positioned alongside your competitors, and realise that you are a serious and credible business.
One rule that we would recommend when using directories, is to only sign up with sites that you genuinely believe could provide you with business. This is where the issue of credibility is flipped the other way around. You only want to associate with successful, credible businesses, as listings on poor quality sites will actually have a negative effect on your brand perception. There is more information about using business directories in our post on Marketing Methods for Small Businesses.
It is a good long-term idea to have these pages officially drafted for your business by a solicitor. However, there are now many online sources of adequate standard templates available for free, or a small charge. Potential customers may not take any notice of these links if they are there, but they may notice if they are not there, and any serious business will look unprofessional without them.
An SSL certificate proves that your website has a secure encrypted connection which protects visitors from attacks and fraud. If your website includes an online payment system you simply must have one, at least for the shopping cart pages, or possibly for the whole site. An SSL is an obvious sign that you care about protecting your customers and providing a safe and reliable website, so that they can feel comfortable doing business with you.
The presence of an SSL certificate is indicated by the https prefix on your URLs, and often a â€˜site sealâ€™ logo from the SSL provider, providing a link to the certificate for customers. These certificates are now very affordable (starting from Â£10 from most web hosting providers) and highly recommended to small businesses that have a shopping cart, or collect data from their visitors.
Professional Website Design
Last but not least, the overall look and feel of your website has a significant impact on your perceived credibility with potential customers. If you have outdated design features, broken links, no recent content or updates, or any signs that you are not a reliable and professional business, it will affect your sales. After all, if you donâ€™t take your website seriously, you can’t expect customers to either. Research has proven that, even if you donâ€™t sell products online, most consumers will check out a companyâ€™s website before making a purchase.
Time for a Checkup?
If you think that there are aspects of your business that could benefit from a professional review, we offer affordable website design services for small businesses.Â Brand credibility is one of the areas that we focus on whilst designing a website, so we can help you become even more professional online if this is something that you are interested in.