How To Build Instant Trust On Your Website

How to build instant trust on your website

We all understand trust is not built instantly. Right?

So what do we mean when we talk about building instant trust on a website?

Well, here goes 2,500+ words, 13 images, lots of stats and even an infographic to explain why it is important to have clear trust indicators on your site, several ways to do so and how you can take the whole game of on-site trust to the next level.

Let’s start by stating the obvious…

When a person lands on your website for the first time, you typically have no longer than a split second to make a good impression before that person surfs away.

In that split second, you need to convince that person that you are a trusted source.

Things have evolved around here

Luckily for you, we have come a long way as users to trust the Internet in general. Just to give you an idea, this is what the New York Times was saying in an article back in 1999…

“Trusting an Internet site to navigate the World Wide Web, in short, is like following a helpful stranger in Morocco who offers to take you to the best rug store.”

Of course that was 14 years ago.

Today is a different story, the Internet is no longer viewed as a black hole and the user is able to make a quick decision whether or not he has landed on a website that is legit and can be trustworthy.

The Role of Instant Trust

The main objective of building on-site trust is to make your visitor feel comfortable enough to take action, for example, make a purchase or subscribe to your mailing list.

In this case, since we are talking about a first impression, the benefit of instantly communicating that trust is to retain that visitor a little longer to navigate your site, get to know you, read your content, look at your products or services, etc.

When people feel insecure about something, they look around for validation. Show them that other people trust you. Tweet this

In this post, we will go over some of the items that help you build that instant trust.

Are you ready?

The Human Factor

People like associating themselves and do business with other people, not with companies. This is why immediately showcasing that human factor on a site is essential.

Personal branding and the association of a leader figure with the company of course is not a new concept, we saw this explode in recent years and it has become key for so many companies success in communications.

But there are other ways to take this human factor in the front-end to the next level.

Showcase The Team

Buffer does a great job with this. Their blog includes all members of the team (not just the founders) right on the sidebar. As you can see in the following image, this team member mini-profile gives you the name, position in the company, a profile image, a quick description and even a Twitter follow button.

The first impression I get is of transparency, the team is also part of the community and I’m a click away from connecting with them. The company is obviously open to dialog and they’re not afraid of doing it publicly.

Showcasing your team

Showcase Your Community

The Facebook Page “Like Box” is a great way to increase your Fan base on the network, in our case this is the #1 source of Page Likes. But it also plays a role a lot of people don’t see… The “Face Pile”.

The Face Pile varies its content depending on the user visiting your site. I’m sure you have noticed that the Facebook users showcased in it are your friends. That means you have friends that already have liked that page. When people see familiar faces they feel more comfortable. It provides validation.

Build Trust - Showcase your community

Stock Photography

One mistake many businesses do on their websites when trying to add a human factor, is working with stock photography. This plays against the very concept of building trust.

People are educated enough to identify this and, most of them know you paid a buck or two for that image.

Web Design

I know some people still don’t consider design a priority. Other people woke up to the importance of design watching Apple transform several industries with its products. Truth is…

Design should be at the core of your business and, web design is not the exception. Click to tweet

Design is not about making something look cool. It’s about storytelling, standing out from the competition, solving a problem, usability, readability, and the list goes on…

But again in this case, we are talking about the importance of communicating trust in a matter of seconds, specially for that first-time visitor.

Ask yourself, how many websites did you visit in the last month alone, just to hit the back button because it had terrible design?

That’s the problem with web design, it can really turn people off in a second without even giving your content or your offer a chance.

Off-the-shelf design

Same effect created by stock photography, the Internet user is educated enough to be able to tell your website is nothing but a $49 template that you didn’t even bother to customize.

I know we often talk about the consequences of getting hung up in perfectionism, we tell people to take action. We talk about “minimum viable products” and that is good advice, as long as we know what that minimum is. For a serious business, big or small, having a template website can significantly reduce your chances of communicating trust.

Web design can damage your business more than it can improve it.

Media Coverage

Media coverage should be one of the elements that stand out the most when your page is loaded on the user’s screen. The association between you or your brand with well known publications or TV networks tell people these media sources consider you an expert in the field and they have trusted you with their audiences.

Familiarity is one of the strongest aspects of communicating trust. It helps eliminate uncertainty. This is why is extremely important that you use logos of brands that are recognizable.

Here are a couple of examples. Marie Forleo uses the logos where she has been featured on her landing page.

Building trust - Media logos

And Lewis Howes does a great job including them right on the header of his site and next to the email opt-in box.

Building trust - Media coverage

Client Logos

This has pretty much the same effect as showcasing media logos. If you provide a service to big clients and brands that people can easily recognize, these logos must be included in your homepage.

At Plural, the experience of working with big brands is the #1 asset in our marketing efforts, so we make sure is also what stands the most on our website. You can see in the following image how our homepage is heavily focused on this.

Building trust with client logos


Content that has been socially shared many times is more likely to keep getting shares, Likes and Tweets. In part, this is because people are comfortable seeing that others have shared it too.

Ask yourself this question, what is your first impression when you see a post that has no Tweets or Likes? You simply think nobody is reading this content and, there must be a reason why…

The same thing happens with blog comments and any type of engagement counters shown on a site.

Here is an example from Chris Ducker. My first impression: People are sharing his content and they are commenting, there is a live audience here and they are engaged. This gives new visitors the validation they need and immediately get the idea that people consider Chris an expert in this field.

Building Trust - Showcase Engagement

Followers, Fans, Subscribers…

Oh yeah, the touchy subject of “numbers”…

Truth is these numbers play a big role in digital first impressions. Admit it. I’m not saying you go around connecting only to people with 30k followers or more but, with a quick glance at the sidebar, the number of followers, likes and subscribers, you can get a better idea of how relevant, influential and trustworthy this person or business is.

That’s why we call this Social Proof.

If there is a significant number of people that subscribes to your site or follows you on Twitter or Facebook, you’re giving people a clear indication that others find you or your business valuable.

On the other hand, when these digits are too low, this can play against you and it’s probably better not to display this kind of information until you have been able to build a bigger audience.

This example shows you how Freelance Switch uses these numbers to let you know they have a huge community of fans and subscribers.

Building trust with follower counters

Social proof can be shown in many different ways. I know I talked about the numbers of social shares displayed in counters in my previous point but that is also considered social proof. Some blogs display the number of monthly readers.


Testimonials are kind of funny because some people think they’re a dinosaur. They are. Then you have folks that think nobody reads them and others think people do.

In my opinion, people don’t read almost anything on a site but, the fact that testimonials are visually present is enough to build instant trust.

There are 2 types of testimonials:

Your clients

They can be powerful because they are regular human beings that people can relate to. They are usually satisfied clients that share how your product or service has improve their lives.


Then you have testimonials from well know individuals (preferable in your industry). Chances are everybody that visits your site can easily recognize them. This can pretty much have the effect of displaying the NBC logo.

Here is a great example of influence testimonials in action. Corbett Barr from ThinkTraffic shows a testimonial from Leo Babauta.

Also very important, the testimonial is positioned right next to the opt-in box, which is a great move since this is a spot where the users has to make a key decision.

Building trust with influence testimonials

How to take your testimonials to the next level

Testimonials today are not the same they used to be just a few years back. A random paragraph with a simple “-Jason, Phoenix” as the source just won’t do nowadays. This is now the recipe for a testimonial that will be widely ignored.

Testimonials need to communicate transparency, they need to be credible and they need to also deliver that human factor.

Ask your clients for permission to showcase them with a profile photo, name and their business. Some people will not have a problem with it, specially if they’re satisfied with your services. As for an influencer, you don’t even have to ask for permission.

Lets look at a couple of examples of well done testimonials, in this case both from Shopify. First they have very familiar faces. John Daymond is not only a success figure but also a TV personality that many people recognize. The only way to top this is if you have a picture of Brad Pitt wearing a t-shirt with your logo…

Building trust with influential faces

Then they do something very smart, they show Tweets from people praising Shopify. The fact that they are actual Tweets takes the whole game of authenticity to the next level.

Building trust with Twitter testimonials

Two very special things to point out here, first you have a timestamp that tells you how long ago the message was tweeted and as you can see they are pretty recent, and then, you can actually click on the user and be linked to the person’s Twitter profile.

Now, let’s get real here, to embed Tweets like Shopify does on their site, requires of a bit of coding knowledge, or a programmer. I won’t go too deep into this but you can also achieve this (at a smaller scale) in 3 steps:

  1. Every time someone writes a tweet with something positive about your business, you “favorite” the tweet
  2. You create and customize a Twitter widget that displays those “favorite” tweets
  3. And you embed that widget into your site

Or you can simply embed individual Tweets like this:


Using Twitter testimonials is great because since they have been published for public viewing, you don’t need permission from the author to embed them on your site.

Product Reviews

“This is the first time in history that word of mouth has become a digitally-archived medium.”  –Brett Hurt, Founder & CEO, BazaarVoice

Product reviews work because they are a word-of-mouth engine and people know they are written by real users.

If you sell products on your site, reviews are a must. According to ZMOT, 70% of Americans say they look at reviews before taking the next step to conversion.

I recently had the fortune to take part on the integration of Bazaarvoice for a brand’s website. BazaarVoice is the robust reviews and ratings engine running in the back-end of many of your favorite websites. Here is a good example from the Levi’s site:

Building trust with product reviews

Of course as a small business or blog, a system like this could be overkill and completely out of budget. Fortunately, there are options available for you, for example, if you run your site on WordPress you can use a plugin like WP Customer Reviews. In the following image, you can see how this plugin provides you with all the features you need.

Building trust with customer reviews

If you don’t believe reviews are relevant enough to drive trust and to help users feel comfortable enough to take action on your site, here is an infographic from People Claim that covers everything you need to know about them. I gotta say, these stats are pretty impressive.

Here are some of the key points:

  • 75% of reviews posted on websites are positive
  • 71% agree that product reviews make them comfortable about buying a product
  • 41% say they read 4 to 7 reviews before feeling comfortable about a purchase decision
  • 63% are more likely to buy from a website with reviews and ratings
  • Customer reviews increase product conversion by 74%

The review of reviews infographic

Faking your way to instant trust

Before we wrap this up (because it’s turning to be longer than the Oscars), let’s quickly touch on the dark side of building online trust…

This is one of those occasions when the saying “Fake it ’til you make it” does not apply. In fact, the FTC has pretty heavy fines for fake testimony and reviews.

But besides the financial penalties, faking any of these items can only damage your business:

  • The social web has this transparency element that, with time, brings everything to surface
  • You can probably fake this in the front-end, but not in the back-end of your business, it’s just a matter of time before your clients/readers realize perception does not match the reality of your service

Bad Reviews

Anybody can have a bad review online, what matters is how you handle it. Tweet this

If you delete or ignore anything negative said about your company, you are wasting a great opportunity to make somebody happy and let others see how committed you are to that happiness.

How about you?

What are doing to build trust on your website? Are you applying some of these methods or, maybe you have your own? Have you tested some of them?

Share your experience!

  • Hey

    I am just thinking of converting my first time visitors into subscribers. Tadaa your post popped out at fb timeline 🙂

    Thanks Francisco for the article.

  • Francisco, that’s a brilliant guide!

  • Oh, thank you for “Design is not about making something look cool. It’s about storytelling, standing out from the competition, solving a problem, usability, readability, and the list goes on…”

  • EMaw

    Very helpful Francisco: thank you so much! I’ll definitely be using this article as a guide and working on a number of these areas.

  • Jen

    As always, fantastic post! I’ve just revamped my business and am getting it going again. The issue with trust is so critical. I know for myself that I’m much more willing to buy a service online if I’ve been referred by someone I know. I do think testimonials help as well especially if you’re seeing them not only on the website but out and about in the land of social media.

  • Hey Jen,

    Yes, off-site is a whole different story and, maybe a good idea for a follow up post. Thank you!

  • I’m glad it was helpful!

  • Hey Nando, I actually think people are understanding that much more than a few years ago. I read once in a Tom Peters book that the designer should have a seat right next to the CEO… It’s so true.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Thank you Zsuzsa! Glad you liked it.

  • Thank you Suresh, sounds like you have a clear goal in mind. Are you measuring those conversions on Google Analytics?

  • Thanks for this great guide, Francisco. How important do you think BBB accreditation is? Is it necessary to establish trust in your brand online?

  • Hi Francisco,
    Yet another fantastic post. I’ve been working on conversion for my website over the last two weeks and SEO is running in the background with another company. What I find is, with my limited experience, I really need a web designer sitting with me pushing out all my wacky ideas immediately with total communication, but I simply can’t justify hiring a full time web designer for the little bits and pieces I need done to my site.
    Any ideas?

  • I haven’t planned about tracking , when you said about “tracking with google analytic” I just remember that we can do event tracking with google analytics. That’s a great idea you gave Francisco .

    Thanks for it .


  • Wow, what an exhaustive article, @socialmouths:disqus. As far as I can tell, I will definitely use some of the tips you are mentioning. Thanks a lot for them.

  • Love this post — especially the part about showing your team. I say to my B2B clients, “You do business with people, not buildings. Show the people INSIDE the building.” (B2B companies always seem to want to have a picture of their building on the website.)

    I also think it’s important for freelancers and consultants to show photos of themselves on their site. Since I changed my site to include full-body photos — vs. a corporate-y looking headshot — I’ve received more comments about how I’m “approachable,” “warm,” “friendly,” and “authentic” — and that’s before people even get to know me. 🙂

  • Thank you for the well written article. I love that you provide information as well as action steps.

    I will use this as a guide to fine tune, add to and rework my website.

    Thank you.

  • Yes, it’s time bring the team to the front-end. I wanted to showcase @BufferApp because they’re doing an amazing job with customer happiness. I know other companies have been doing it too but, they still need to put their team members on the front.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Thank YOU, Michal, for taking the time to stop by.

  • Hey Logan,

    I get man, not all small businesses can afford a full-time designer. What I can recommend is to find somebody that can work by the project. Maybe even trying Fiverr.

    What you can’t do is hiring a mediocre designer because of financial reasons.

  • Hey Mary,

    I think it depends on the type of site but, I don’t know how many people still pay attention to those things. I’d prefer to focus on testimonials.

  • Very interesting an inspiring post, great with all the examples. Have a good one!

  • Hey Andreas, I’m glad you found it inspiring. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment.

    Have a nice weekend!

  • Monica Carter Tagore

    This was a useful piece on inspiring trust, as it gave so many suggestions, that you’re bound to find at least one (or several) to implement immediately or very soon. Trust is an important element in connecting with your audience, readers, and customers.

  • Amy Kvistad

    Great article – worthy of taking notes! I especially like the idea of showing tweets as additional validation. Thanks!

  • Chris Picanzo

    Thanks for all the tips Francisco! I can say I utilize some of them and my biggest takeaway is I think I’m going to place my client list on the front page of my site whereas now it’s a page that people can click to titled current clients but like you say we only have seconds to make that impression and most people prolly don’t even get to see that page I’m so proud of 🙂 Cheers from a new reader!

  • Great post! We will be linking to this particularly great content on our site. Keep up the good writing.

  • I’m not surprised that 63% of customers are more likely to purchase if a product has ratings and reviews attached to the product description. With buying items online, you can’t see them in front of you to check for quality, design, and other aspects. Reading what others have to say on the products helps inform a purchase decision by relaying information from others who actually own the product.

  • Renè Rannamägi

    Very interesting post, It shows out psychological side of the internet marketing.

    You could also hook up with:

    VIDEO “8 Tips to Networking Without Being Fake”

  • Agree another great post. A lot to process and action. Really like the comment regarding the importance of professional and functional design.

  • Caitlyn Michel

    Lots of helpful examples for every type of business! Very useful thanks for the great post!

  • Building trust is such a forgotten concept in social media marketing. This post really provides great insight into a foundational component of social.

  • Francisco,

    This is without a doubt a post with a lot of great concepts compiled at one place. I absolutely enjoyed every aspect of this post. Thank you for sharing tremendous amount of research based knowledge. I am going to share this right now with my network!

  • Don’t know about the “instant” part, but there are definite ways to gain trust and you have listed some excellent ones here, like “engagement.”

  • Michael Vera


  • Michael Vera

    so cool! spam

  • jankolario

    Thanks for valuable info. I have also come with one another idea, add thing that are paid and users knows that – it means you care. e.g. SSL certificate. This principle is also used in Couchsurfing site, where you pay $20 for postcard approval and you have than “stamp” on your profile that you spent that money.

  • Michael Bian

    Fantastic post ! Thanks 🙂 keep inspiring .

  • I counted and that was only 2499 words.. haha.. Great piece guys. The social proof thing is a tough one because we all know you can go to fiverr and buy followers and look like a bad ass, but only have a bunch of fake accounts following you..
    but people do look at it. Such it’s a slippery slope.

  • Michael Vitamvas

    Thank you for writing this. I picked up several ideas that I can use right away

  • objectman

    Including the date of publication is another way to inspire trust. Otherwise it just looks like a lazy SEO trick.

  • Michelle

    Thanks, your tips are very awesome. I am looking forward to new cooperation. 🙂

  • Ian

    On the whole I enjoyed the post but have liked to have been some thought regarding what to do rather than what not to do for some of the points made.

    If stock photography is a no-no, then I wonder where the average site owner sources their images from? Not everyone can source unique high quality images from anywhere else.

    As for asking yourself this question, “what is your first impression when you see a
    post that has no Tweets or Likes?” – Sure, it’s better to have proof of engagement, but what if you’re just launching a blog or published a new blog article. Every article has to start with zero engagement.

  • John Hoefer

    Wonderful article. I am just beginning to redo my website and this is helping immeasurably. I will be sure to showcase my team on the side bar, something I never even thought of before. Thank you!

  • Sue |

    Great info. I think it’s slightly different for e-commerce stores, though. For example, having SSL certificates, being Google Trusted… would definitely be in the list, whereas “Meet the Team” is not as critical.

  • flamefox

    Great post, it proves once again that a company should work on many things simultaneously.
    Social proof seems like “fuel” for customers trust, I know it from my experience. After all, I’m also interested in the products which other people like.
    BTW, here is also one nice infographic about customers reviews and their impact on decision-making

  • With all those examples and elaborations, well… this is the best article about building trust so far.
    I believe there’s no shortcut for building trust,and it’s not an overnight job.
    But the way you have mentioned about those processes and tactics and all stuffs, gaining trust is much easier now.
    to end, i like the way it was said:
    Anybody can have a bad review online, what matters is how you handle it.

    cheers, Francisco.

  • Denisse Schnabel

    Very good post, loved it!

  • Ben Schad

    Really Nice Post Francisco, I really like the Idea of displaying Reviews to get customers to trust you. I used this technique myself on my Shopify Store and it really helped to build trust. I encourage everyone to give it a shot at least once. I used the Trustbadge Reviews Widget ( because it was really easy to integrate and its free. Best, Ben