We do business with people we know, like and trust. Decisions all start with trust, though.
Potential customers want to know if your business is legit, that you’re an expert and authority in your industry and they want to be assured your website is safe.
You can start building online trust with honesty and empathy, but you still need to show why your business is trustworthy. Telling isn't enough. Potential customers need proof if they're going to be converted into customers.
In this post, I’m going to share 20 proven ways to build trust with your website.
1. Don’t Have Any Site Warnings
An untrustworthy site might appear in the SERPs (search engine result pages) as a site warning or a browser warning like the image above with the Web of Trust browser extension. This warns of potentially malicious sites that may contain malware, phishing or scams.
Use Google Search Console to learn if any security issues threaten the trust of your website.
2. Use an SSL Certificate
Websites that aren't secure lower trust, reduce search engine rankings and hurt business — especially since Safari and Chrome now mark all HTTP sites as “not secure." Domains that use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encrypts the connection between browsers and websites.
When I conduct a Website Audit and find clients don’t have an SSL certificate, I either recommend getting a free certificate when I redesign their website on Webflow or getting a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt.
To determine if your website is secure, open a browser to see if your domain’s URL begins with https:// and a closed padlock icon next to the URL.
3. Use a Domain That Accurately Reflects Your Business
Domains are IP (internet protocol) addresses that have been made human-readable. Instead of visitors having to remember a number like 315.912.7.25 to visit a site, they just enter “companyname.com.”
Companies should use a domain that accurately reflects their business. However, if a business is named “Taco Bob,” but the domain isn’t available, choose a close alternative that accurately describes the business like “tacobobatlanta.net” or “tacobobatlanta.com.”
Avoid the following:
- Use a custom domain (e.g. example.wordpress.com ➙ example.com).
- Avoid confusing domains (e.g. rad.io ➙ radio.com).
- Avoid spammy-sounding domains (e.g. 123-r2f.com)
- Avoid domains that could be potential trademark conflicts (e.g. ephone.com, loneyplanetinsurance.com).
Use a registrar like Google Domains. Also, consider registering multiple TLDs (top-level domains) like .org, .net, .us, etc.
4. Make Your Website Beautiful
Just as readers often judge a book by its cover, potential customers do the same with websites. In just 50 milliseconds, they’re deciding if they can trust and respect your business.
A website might look and feel untrustworthy if the branding looks cheap. Outdated stock photography, excessive drop shadows and reflections won’t help either.
Evaluate the aesthetics of your site and enlist colleagues, test groups and friends for constructive feedback. If you're still unsure about the aesthetics, compare your website to others in your industry.
5. Aim for Zero Usability Issues
Trustworthy sites have zero or few usability issues. They load quickly. They're responsive. They’re easy to navigate. On the other hand, sites with usability issues might fail Google’s mobile-friendly test, have slow load times, a poor structure, broken links, auto-playing music/videos, excessive pop-ups, etc.
Review your site to ensure it doesn't have any usability issues. If you’re unsure how to evaluate your site, study competitors’ sites. What do they appear to be doing right, wrong or not doing? If you still need help, it might be time for a Website Audit.
6. Avoid Spelling and Grammar Mistakes
A typo, misspelled word or poorly worded sentence isn't going to lead to distrust, but it won't help either, especially if it occurs frequently. For example, if a proofreading service often misspells words like "grammer" instead of "grammar" and uses two spaces after a period instead of one space — the target market isn't going to trust the business is an expert on the topic of writing.
Use tools like Grammarly to spell check and grammar check, but also use an editor to proofread and copyedit.
7. Showcase Ratings and Reviews
Potential customers want to know what previous customers thought of a business and its products/services. Ratings and reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other relevant and authoritative sites help to build online trust.
Start encouraging — not bribing — customers to rate and review your company on authoritative sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp. Add those testimonials (with photos) to sales pages.
8. Showcase Recognition
Showcasing influential companies that have used a business' products/services or featured its products/services in an article adds instant legitimacy (see image). Not only does this position a business as trustworthy, but it also signals a business’ success.
Collect the most influential company or publication logos of companies that use or have featured your products/services. Then, set them to grayscale, so the colors don’t clash with your branding.
9. Have a Business Bio
A business bio can elicit positive emotions with the target audience and cement a company as the preferred choice. How did the business start? How did the founder grow the business? What are the core values?
Create a business bio. Invite the target market into your story and take them on a compelling journey that shows why you do what you do.
10. Have Founder and Team Bios
Founder and team bios that contain brand-matching professional photos and short, friendly introductions connect the faces of a company with its target market.
Include bios of the founder or CEO executive team and employees who make your business a success (see image).
11. Link to Active Social Media Accounts
Businesses with active social media accounts can position themselves as authoritative and trustworthy by posting regular, non-offending, compelling content.
Brainstorm a list of unique content ideas to share on social media. Then, determine if you can produce the content yourself or you need to hire someone. Upwork is a good place to start for hiring freelancers.
12. Show Your Business is Protected
Being compliant with internet laws and actively protecting your intellectual property conveys to website visitors that you’re not a fly-by-night company.
Consult with an internet business lawyer to learn how to make your website compliant. Also, don’t forget to update the copyright notice every year (e.g. Copyright © 2019 Company Name).
13. Avoid Stock Photography of Models
Photos of real employees and real customers provide a genuine glimpse inside a business. Conversely, stock photography of models who neither work at or buy from the business provide no value, are easily to spot and often date a website (see image).
Take high-quality photos of employees and customers with a modern camera or hire a professional photographer.
14. Showcase Awards and Certificates
Potential customers are more likely to trust a business when it has been officially recognized by a relevant and authoritative third party like Yelp's Bizzie Awards and certificates like MailerLite's Partner Program.
List any relevant awards or certificates and include images. If you don't have any yet, set SMART goals and begin working toward achieving the outcome you desire.
15. Highlight Statistics
Statistics reveal the facts and figures behind the success of a business, its products/services or the target market. Potential customers are attracted to statistics because it gives them a quantifiable reason why a business is trustworthy. McDonald’s did this for years with their slogan, "Billions and Billions Served” and many internet marketers like Pat Flynn do this by sharing their income reports.
Brainstorm a list of statistics that build online trust and sell products/services. Then, shorten the list to the best ones. After that, add the statistics to your homepage or sales pages.
16. Offer a Guarantee
Potential customers are more willing to trust a business that provides a guarantee because it reduces risk. This is why Costco's return policy is a huge part of its success. Costco guarantees satisfaction on every membership and every product with a full refund.
Offer a liberal return policy, money-back guarantee, etc.
17. Include Contact Information
Contact information builds trust simply by being accessible. It should be located in obvious locations throughout the site and inform users when they can expect a response and also include hours of operation. Whether it's a phone number, a link to the contact page, a “call now" CTA or live chat — accessible contact information conveys a readiness to help potential customers succeed and they'll trust you more for that reason.
Use a professional email address (e.g. email@example.com) instead of a free email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) for anyone who emails customers (see image)
18. Avoid Excessive Advertisements
Websites should provide value without bombarding and annoying potential customers with excessive advertisements (i.e. pop-ups, banners, third-party ads, etc.). Customers like to shop, they don't like to be sold.
Review your analytics and conduct user tests to pinpoint advertisements aren’t working. Aim for a healthy balance between content and advertisements. Guide visitors to accomplish the goals of your website — not drive them away in the process.
19. Follow White Hat SEO
White hat SEO (search engine optimization) techniques provide website visitors with quality content that's accurate, relevant and well-organized whereas black hat SEO techniques penalize websites and damage online reputations.
Learn more about building trust online with a Website Audit.
20. Be Consistent
Building trust starts with showing up at regular times and being open and honest. Whether you’re publishing posts, responding to inquiries or comments — be consistent.
Start showing up regularly with blog posts and social media posts. When you begin to show up regularly, your audience will begin to show up too. Trust works both ways.
You just learned 20 proven ways to build trust with your website. Remember, you can start building trust with honesty and empathy, but you still have to show why your business is trustworthy.
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