credibility website trust optimizationWhy does credibility matter? Credibility is the essential third step that has to happen before you can make a sale.

The first step is Findability. People have to be able to find you – they need to know that you exist and that you can solve their problem.

The second step is Education. You have to educate people about how you can help them, what you will do, how much it costs, and why they should do business with you rather than anyone else.

Once you have jumped over those hurdles you still have the third step – Credibility. People need to believe that you will deliver what you promise – that it is safe to do business with you.

So your website needs to send the message that you will deliver what you promise, that you get good results for the people you work with.

How can you do that?

A recent Stanford University research report* identified all the different ways people evaluate a website’s credibility. Here are 5 tips based on that report you can use right now to increase the credibility of your website.

1. Design Look

While you can’t judge a book by its cover, most people judge the credibility of a website by its visual design. This is the biggest reason why it’s so important to engage the services of a professional graphic designer for a new or redesigned website.

Besides a pleasing overall layout, you should consider things like typography, color scheme, and ample use of white space for your website. You don’t want your prospects or customers to think you threw the site together haphazardly in your friend’s garage. More than any other factor, a professional-looking design helps you prove to your prospects that your company is the real deal.

2. Navigation Ease

A well-organized website is critical to establishing your site’s credibility. If you are thinking about redesigning your site or creating a new one from scratch, think carefully about how the site should be structured from the user’s perspective. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Why are they visiting your website? What do you want them to do when they get there? How can you make it easy for them to complete a simple task such as filling out a contact form or downloading a white paper?

The best way to answer these questions is to create simple outlines and page mockups called “wireframes”. The good news is you don’t need to be a graphic designer to do this and it’s easy to test out different scenarios. You can simply sketch them out on a white board or with paper and pen, or you can make more formalized page mockups using Microsoft Powerpoint or Word.

Besides enhancing your website’s credibility, this exercise helps you remain focused on your site’s goals. Also, doing this before you hire a professional designer will likely save money by reducing the possibility of major changes later in the project.

3. Information Usefulness

Another big credibility factor is information usefulness, meaning how relevant your site’s content is to your audience. In order to be useful, any information included on your website should be relevant to both the business and the end user.

How do you know what’s useful to your audience and what’s not? Ask. Online surveys and direct interviews are the best way to determine what people want and need from your website, and both can be done very inexpensively. You can make assumptions, but at the end of the day website users click on what they want, not what you want. And if they can’t find it on your site they will click away to your competition.

4. Writing Tone

Since your company’s website is an online extension of your company’s brand and personality, the tone of voice in all website copywriting should match your company’s other marketing collateral. However, most users are turned off by “marketing speak”, so the attitude conveyed in your site copy should speak directly to their needs without being too “salesy”. Likewise, all pages should have a consistent tone of voice, so if you have different writers make sure they are aware of your messaging standards.

5. Readability

Finally, improving overall readability can greatly improve your website’s credibility. Test your website on a variety of different browsers and make sure all typography is legible. Even better, get a second set of eyes to proofread and test every piece of content on your website. Easy-to-fix things like typos, broken links and grammatical errors can damage your site’s reputation in the marketplace. Don’t let this happen to your website. Spend the extra effort to make sure the final product is the best it can be.

*B.J. Fogg, Ph.D., Cathy Soohoo, David Daniel, “How Do People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility?”, 2002.

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