Techniques for Gaining Consumer Trust

    December 27, 2006

When speaking of website optimization practices, it is often associated with SEO and the goal of achieving high search rankings. While this certainly is important to a site’s overall visibility, gaining and retaining user trust should also be a primary focus of any company looking to bolster its virtual presence.

We write a lot of articles at WebProNews about the SEO industry, as well as the importance of social media and other peripheral influences that can have either a positive or negative effect for a business wishing to venture into the foray of eCommerce.

Yes, understanding how search rankings work is vital. Yes, taking the proper steps to index content while steering clear of spam practices is something that all webmasters should strive to achieve. However, it’s often the little things that tend to be overlooked which separate the great sites from the mediocre ones.

What sorts of little things? Noel Bautista at Search Engine Weblog outlines a couple:

“Create a helpful Contact Us page with your business location and phone numbers. This will make your visitors feel secure. In knowing that you are a phone call away, your visitors will be relieved from other trust worries. Detailed About Us page will also give visitors clear view of what the website is all about and what it can offer.

Also, register your website with BBB and These websites are independent nonprofit organizations that review sites. They also issue seals of trusts to those sites that employ strict privacy policies. Search engine optimization specialists say that seals of trusts from these websites increase sales by over 50%.”

These seem almost trivial, like afterthoughts that fall somewhere between making sure the site layout conforms to proper feng-shui guidelines and checking to see if all the images are named according to date, time, page, and product. Sure, these are elements of detail that require some attention, but are often the very last stages of development.

Site visitors want to know that there is an actual human presence behind the virtual sales counter. They want the opportunity to speak with a living, breathing person should they have questions about a product or difficulty making a purchase. It’s the personal touch that can be a deal-breaker for consumers, especially ones that are leery of online stores in the first place.

Archie Glikakas offers a couple more pointers:

“Never break a promise. If you tell your newsletter subscribers that they will receive your newsletter and only your newsletter, don’t go sending them advertisements or “partner emails” the day after they signup. They will unsubscribe quicker than you can say “empty subscriber list”.

Customer testimonials. Never ever post a testimonial without any details of the person who sent you the testimonial. Always include the person’s website link, email address and/or photo (with their permission, of course). Also, don’t post “typical” testimonials on your web site. By typical I mean testimonials that won’t make your visitors say “WOW”. Only post truly remarkable testimonials that praise your products, customer support or both.”

In this age of infomercials and 24-hour television shopping networks, people have learned to see through the spin. The consumer, by nature, is cynical and is ultimately disinclined to view testimonials with any sort of validity. So, use them sparingly. Shy away from the standard, “this product changed my life” sort of platforms.

Authenticity is key. People have so many options in which to spend their hard-earned money. If you want them to spend it on your product, you had better convince them that your business is not some fly-by-night operation. Show them a company that’s run by real people who stand by their product as well as their word.

Never, ever make the mistake of underestimating consumer intelligence, or the importance of trust.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.