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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
And Lewis Howes does a great job including them right on the header of his site and next to the email opt-in box.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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…
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.
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:
- Every time someone writes a tweet with something positive about your business, you “favorite” the tweet
- You create and customize a Twitter widget that displays those “favorite” tweets
- And you embed that widget into your site
Or you can simply embed individual Tweets like this:
— Becky Murdy (@beckymurdy) July 15, 2010
@socialmouths Your FB app mini course is awesome! Thank you, love how you explain it in such detail w/ visuals.
— Juliet Kellogg (@julesndiamonds) August 16, 2012
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.
“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:
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.
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%
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
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!