Trust – The Most Important Online value

    January 23, 2007

Once done with creating and improving a website, you can very well spend your time on improving your online business.

Apart from providing a useful product, you can consider building more trust with your customers to become more successful.

Why trust?

Online world is quite different from the real world. Not only in how people operate there, but also how they perceive it. When surfing the Net, it is impossible to touch, smell (until the devices become wide-spread, that is) or use a tangible product, so you have to make your decisions, based solely on the information you read (which may not be 100% correct and honest, too). Thus, one of the most important things you need to feel before making a decision to buy something online, is whether you trust the seller.

You can judge how competent the seller is and how quality his product is by trust, because trust is built by people, not machines. People develop products, create websites, communicate with the customers and also use the products. If in most (or all) instances you come across a company or a product you trust a company, the chances are you will buy their product or use their services.

Trust gives you something to back on before buying a product (you are sure in its quality), while using it (you are sure you’ll get help, if needed) and after (you are sure you’ll get an issue fixed or get a new, better version). In short, trusting a company and a product gives you confidence you’ll enjoy using it. That’s why it is one of the most important things that power your and others buying habits online.

How to build trust?

As mentioned before, only humans can build trust. So, when it comes to building trust with your customers, you’ll need to make sure your and your staff personality shines through however you communicate with your customers: through your website, via support emails or by phone.

That’s why to build trust, you’ll need to make sure your message is sincere, in good will and aimed to deliver value to the customer. Only then they’ll be able to trust and feel confident when buying from you. To build trust, you may do one of the following:

  • provide honest, correct information about you, your company and the product
  • make is obvious that there are real people behind the company (via about pages, for instance)
  • be open to communication with your [potential] customers (a clear way to contact you, have a forum or even a blog)
  • underpromise, overdeliver
  • write in simple language, while focusing on the people
  • have a user-friendly website
  • make it obvious that the site is well managed by updating content often, having time-sensitive information – news, press releases, dated posts – on the site, responding to site feedback

Read more about credibility at the Stanford University.

As you can see from the list, you can build trust by providing value to your customers and making it obvious to them.

Exact trust-building techniques

Once we have outlined the direction you need to be going to establish trust with your website, let’s see examples of what exactly you need to do:

  • have staff photos and bios on the about page
  • write text (especially staff bios) in conversational, personal style
  • make it really easy to contact you by placing your phone in the site header, having a visible email, using a working (with few fields) form, a forum, a blog, a software feedback form, etc
  • always provide exact, helpful and polite assistance in any type of communication
  • be personal (as in casual, conversational, but no personal accusations) in communication: let them know there are real people behind the company
  • have an easy to use website (includes both website usability and accessibility) to show that you do pay attention how easy to use the site is to your visitors
  • place your customers testimonials on your website (test which most visible ones improve conversions the most, though).
  • be polite when customers ask you for a refund, stay close to your announced refund policy
  • use any negative comments about your company (on forums, blogs, email messages) as a chance to improve your company, show the customers you do pay attention to them, do strive to improve quality and are a reliable company

Yet again, the above list could be continued, but the principles are the same: you need to focus on delivering value to your customers and be open about it with them. It is the people that count, not websites.

When you analyze your website from the point of view of making it more credible, you should, most likely, find more ways to earn trust with your customers, as each case is individual.

Trust and SEO

Another reason to build a solid, trusted website is to get into the circle of other established websites in your industry. This means that you will be getting more sophisticated, determined and targeted customers through links, than you would get from marginal communities. You will also be able to build relationships with other people within the industry, which will help you to learn more and get noticed, eventually.

Getting into your industry means that you’ll be getting links from other trusted websites and you’ll be better off it, as Google begins to give more weight to trust nowadays.

In essence, it is quite an important moment to remember about your website, as it will allow you to build links naturally from trusted, related websites, which will improve your rankings easier. Some respected experts (like Ammon Johns) say that building content to get links is the easiest way to get links, so you should pay attention to this, too.

Rounding up

Once you are done with the basics of improving your website, you can focus on building your loyal customer base by being open with them. This should, normally, involve communication via a company blog, various forums, other sites and such. The more value you deliver via the open channels, the better.

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15 things you need to remember as a SEO client


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Yuri Filimonov is a freelance website optimization and usability consultant, who writes about improving websites to gain more visitors,
customers and profit at his blog,