Trust signals are a major component of what makes a website convert. Think about it; if you come across a site that looks like it was hand-coded with HTML tables in 1995, and it hasn’t changed since, are you going to trust that site? I won’t. Sure, maybe there’s a valid and trustworthy business behind it, but they clearly don’t care much for the web, so how reliably will they handle web orders? A lot of spam sites are made poorly using substandard tools as well.
Meanwhile a slick site with a quality design and a lot of trust signals makes you more confident in your choice to purchase through that site. It just looks like the site owner has put more care and effort into their online presence. Plus, many trust signals are aggregated from satisfied users; they’re like positive endorsements from others like you.
So what trust signals can you add, and where should you add them? These are the best:
Customer testimonials are excellent for just about any business, but they work particularly well for any business that sells a service rather than a distinct product. One example of a testimonial can be seen on Hubspot’s homepage. Scroll down a bit and on the right side, under “the inbound community”, you can see (as of this writing) a quote from Matt Rivera, VP of YOH.
That testimonial doesn’t say much, right? It’s a pretty basic “hey Hubspot is great we like them” from someone who, presumably, uses and likes their services. Even if you don’t know who Matt is or what YOH does – they’re a workforce and staffing services company – you still understand that someone of value said something publicly to laud the benefits of Hubspot.
The key to a customer testimonial is that it has to come from someone with a position of authority. The more recognizable or influential the person leaving it, the more people will recognize them as valuable and trust their opinion. You can’t just make up someone, or get your neighbor to write one, and expect it to be as valuable.
Product reviews are a time-honored tradition when it comes to selling products. Aggregating reviews on your product pages is a great way to convince people to trust in the quality of your products.
Now, you can’t just make up reviews or pay for a bunch of high quality reviews. When a product has nothing but insubstantial five star “it was great!” reviews, people become very skeptical, and it works against you. They like to see a balance of positive, middling, and negative reviews. Believe it or not, a couple negative reviews can actually help you. They show that people are critical of your product, and they show what might be an issue with the product. I’ve bought products with negative reviews before simply because those reviews brought up issues that didn’t matter to me.
Product reviews are most useful when they’re on the page for the product itself, of course. Allow user submissions and review them occasionally, to remove reviews that are abusive or spam. You can also allow a certain level of crowd awareness by implementing an Amazon-like “did this review help you?” system, so the best, most influential reviews float to the top.
Social sharing is generally relegated to the blog, but it can be useful for some landing pages and even some product pages as well. A lot of times, people like sharing their purchases with their friends, assuming those purchases are interesting. Not many people will share the fact that they bought a piece of marketing software, but a lot more will share that the bought a video game. It’s all about context.
You can also include more general social proof, like the number of followers you have on various platforms. That helps people in two ways; they can trust you more when they see that other people trust you, and they can go to your social profiles if they need assistance and likely get a faster response than anything short of calling you.
Of particular note here is Google+, because integration between Google and Google+ is high. People can see +1s and other social metrics even in the search results, which can help people pick your URL to visit in the first place.
This is a similar but slightly different trust signal to the above. All it means is having a list of your most used social profiles in a footer or on a dedicated contact page. The idea is to have them readily available if the user wants to follow you. More importantly, it makes them available if they have a question or customer service complaint they want to address directly, without having to submit a form, file a ticket, write an email, or call you. Young folks today like social media more than any of those other methods, so you can be prepared for their concerns by maintaining a presence on at least the big three, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
You don’t need much more than a logo for these if you don’t want more. I prefer the simple, cleaner look of logos linked to profile pages, but you might find that embedded feeds give you a better conversion rate. Use what works best for you personally.
Every website should have a contact page. I also recommend having a “contact us” link in the footer, as many people will look there, and have that link lead to your contact page. In the past, that link was often a mailto: link for your CS email address, but those have fallen somewhat out of style.
What sort of contacts should you have on your contact page? Everything you can think of.
For a good example, look at this page. You can see the submit form, you can see the office locations and maps with phone numbers for those offices, and you can even scroll down to below the footer and see some social profile links. It’s all there and available for anyone who wants to make contact.
Now, a newsletter is only as good as the people on it. It’s also only as attractive as the people reading it. Who wants to sign up for a mailing list no one else is on? Well, mailing lists aren’t really that social, but you can use that peer pressure to validate the fact that your mailing list is valuable.
It’s pretty simple. All you need to do is, on your newsletter landing page, indicate how many users are already on your mailing list. You don’t need a live count or anything like that, but you can easily round to the nearest thousand.
One example of a good newsletter page is Jon Loomer’s. It’s simple. It tells you up front that he’s going to send emails on a weekly basis with content that includes tutorials, actionable strategies, breaking news, and his up to date posts. It only requires two pieces of information. And, most relevant to this point, he says “join more than 100,000 marketers” in his mailing list. A hundred thousand people wouldn’t stay subscribed if your mailing list wasn’t worth it, right?
Including the logos of the brands you have as customers is another great item of trust. You’re saying “if this is good enough for IBM it’s good enough for anyone.” IBM, of course, is replaced with whatever brands actually do use your products or services. This is one of the most common social signals these days. You can see it on Moz, eConsultancy, and many others.
There are two keys to using these bits of social proof effectively. The first is to use a reasonable number of logos. Don’t go overboard with a huge bank of dozens of customers; you can cut it down to no more than 10 very easily. The second is to use logos of brands people know. Don’t have a bank of logos that looks like this. For reference, other than a small handful of those, most of them are tiny no-name sites, spam sites, or non-existent URLs.
This is a narrow trust signal that only applies when you’re selling products that you don’t make yourself. It’s primarily used for resellers and dropshippers, as well as some affiliate marketers. The idea is to have product pages advertising something like an authentic watch from a name brand. To make sure people trust you in your assertions that it’s a real watch, and not a fake knock-off, you can add a seal from the manufacturer that says it’s authentic.
I use the watch example specifically because of this case study, which demonstrates that using a branded “authorized dealer site” stamp increased conversions dramatically. When people aren’t concerned that they’re buying a fake, they’re more likely to buy.
There are two primary indications of trust you should have for site security. Both rely on you using SSL as your security method, which turns your site from HTTP to HTTPS.
The first and most noticeable indication of SSL security is the lock icon in the URL bar. This lock has become a trusted indicator of encrypted traffic with a site, and has become a Google search ranking factor in the last year.
The second indication is using a security seal. You’ve seen security seals before; they show up everywhere. Baymard ran a survey to discover which of the most common seals presented the most trust, and found that Norton Secured by VeriSign, an SSL security badge, was the most trusted. You can read their results here. It’s the clear winner because it both is an actual security seal and has the most trust amongst survey respondents.
Payment assurance certifications are very similar to the above, but tend to only show up on the pages where the user has to enter their financial information. Even if the seal is little more than an image, it’s an indication that you take security seriously and that these companies vouch for you. Most of the time it will be one of several icons, from companies like BusinessWeek or the BBB, as well as icons of the payment processors you handle, including the major credit cards, PayPal, and even Google and Amazon payments.
On a related note, it’s better to be able to accept more payment methods than not. Yes, I understand that it can crank up fees and you make less per sale, but you’ll make up for it in volume. People will be more likely to convert when they’re comfortable paying through a method they trust to have recovery options if you turn out to be a fraud.
However, some payment methods can decrease trust. If I find that your business is accepting MoneyGram and Western Union as payment methods, I’m going to be more skeptical. Other than the fast cash transfer between friends and family, these services are often used by scammers because there’s no way to reverse the payment.
Accepting something like Bitcoin is another iffy prospect. Bitcoin is such a volatile currency, and is used by so few people, that it is often not worth accepting. Even if it is, you should run it through a converter so that what you get is the actual dollar value, so you don’t have to handle Bitcoins with your business accounts at all.
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