Back in 2002, Stanford published their Top 10 Guidelines To Establishing Web Credibility. Amazingly, these conditions for creating a credible website are just as relevant today as they were back then. Isn’t it funny how, with all of the advancements in site development and marketing, it all still comes back to the basics?
Below are the first five guidelines. I’ve provided some of my own additional thoughts and commentary and would be interested in hearing yours as well.
Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
You can build website credibility by providing third-party support (citations, references, source material) for information you present, especially if you link to this evidence. Even if people don’t follow these links, you’ve shown confidence in your material.
A lot of what you find on the web is merely opinion. But, when you’re operating a business, opinion doesn’t always fly. We can state “facts” until we’re blue in the face, but if you’re claiming you “provide the best”, “offer the most”, or are “more successful”, you better be able to back that up.
If you can’t find an original source to back up your claim, look for those that are most credible and aren’t known for trying to pass opinion as fact. While the original source helps, you can always take the next best thing over nothing.
Sometimes you can be your own best source. If you are writing content about how satisfied your customers are, link to a testimonial page on your site. If you make the point of how well your product or service does, link to another page that backs that up with your own research.
Finally, don’t try to link to every possible resource or verification of your claims. Find a few of the most credible, and use those. Too much and you can cause your site to lose focus.
Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
Showing that your website is for a legitimate organization will boost the site’s credibility. The easiest way to do this is by listing a physical address. Other features can also help, such as posting a photo of your offices or listing a membership with the Chamber of Commerce.
A pretty website isn’t enough. Online shoppers are still skeptical, and unless you can provide some kind of verification that you’re legit, you’ll be hard pressed to gain any kind of traction with your audience.
If possible, showcase your professional affiliations. If you belong to a local Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau, display this information on your site. This provides an additional avenue of legitimacy verification.
Answering your phone and emails can also go a long way to building credibility, while not answering them destroys it even faster. If your visitors don’t feel as if they can reach you they may question whether you’ll be able to provide them the help and support they need.
Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.
Do you have experts on your team? Are your contributors or service providers authorities? Be sure to give their credentials. Are you affiliated with a respected organization? Make that clear. Conversely, don’t link to outside sites that are not credible. Your site becomes less credible by association.
What sets you apart from your competition? Is it just lower prices, or do you have something substantially unique to offer? Sometimes you don’t even have to offer anything different, it’s just a matter of presenting it in a new or unique way.
Highlight whatever knowledge or experience you and your team have. By providing information on your particular experiences, you provide a way for your audience to see that you have a solid history of performance, and that you don’t just say you can… you’ve proven it.
Provide as much information as you can on your organization, industry experience, and even case-studies, as these all work together to bolster your credibility.
Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
The first part of this guideline is to show there are real people behind the site and in the organization. Next, find a way to convey their trustworthiness through images or text. For example, some sites post employee bios that tell about family or hobbies.
This familiarity breeds trust and trust turns people into customers. As much as you need to provide information on your successes, you also need to provide what’s behind those successes: real people.
Anybody can talk a good game and even be knowledgeable in the product or service offered, but the people that make up your team can speak volumes about you. Even if nobody knows who you are, providing bios on the people that are your “authority team” gives your audience an opportunity to get to know them.
You don’t want to be a faceless corporation. You can avoid this by humanizing your self or your staff and giving people someone they can relate to. Don’t be “all business” in your bios. Show the personal side a bit. The more personable you are, the more genuine you appear.
People like to feel a connection to you which is also why it helps to tell about your family, your interests, or your hobbies. Your reader may have kids of the same age, which gives them something in common with you. Some might have similar interests or hobbies, or know someone who does, which again, helps them make that connection to you that is more than just someone out to make a quick buck at their expense.
If your visitors can be made to feel like you’re like them, then they are more apt to spend their money with you than some other faceless, nameless person or organization.
Make it easy to contact you.
A simple way to boost your site’s credibility is by making your contact information clear: phone number, physical address, and email address.
Simple things such as providing full and complete contact information, not just a web form, can go a long way to establishing your credibility. Give your visitors options on how to contact you in a variety of ways.
Every visitor has their own set of preferences in making contact. For some, a form is just fine. For others, they want to hear a voice. And still others will want to send off a quick email. By providing each of these options, you allow your visitors to contact you in a way they are most comfortable, and will likely establish the most trust.
I suggest that you make your phone number visible on every page. If you’re national, you need to have a toll free number.
Many visitors won’t engage with a site that doesn’t provide an “appropriate” way to be contacted. If this avenue isn’t readily available, your would-be customers may be going elsewhere.
This wraps up the first five! In my next post, we’ll cover the remaining five conditions for web credibility.