For small businesses and big brands alike, there’s one thing that’s hard to build and maintain. It also has a huge effect on your conversions.
Credibility shows that you’re knowledgeable, trustworthy, safe, and an authority figure in your industry space.
By building your credibility, you increase the chances that customers choose to do business with you.
In this post, we’ll look at what website credibility is, why it matters, and the areas you can work on to improve yours.
What is website credibility?
According to BJ Fogg of Stanford University, web credibility is “believability or perception based on two (or more) factors,” namely trustworthiness and expertise. In other words, website credibility is a combination of several factors that signal to customers that your business is reliable and trustworthy.
Why is website credibility important?
The bottom line is that enhanced credibility gives your company a distinct competitive advantage. Users that deem your site credible are more likely to purchase your product, sign up for your services, contact your business, or take whatever key action you want them to take.
Credibility is especially crucial in today’s age of “fake news” and the speed in which visitors evaluate a website. If they decide in a matter of seconds that you’re not trustworthy, you’ve already lost their business.
Users spend about 2.6 seconds on a website before “fixating” on a particular item that will most influence their first impression. That’s how long you have to establish credibility.
More importantly, 75% of users admit to judging a company’s credibility based on their website design. If you earn a users credibility and get them over that initial “hump,” you’ll see a big increase in your conversions.
Four types of credibility
BJ Fogg claims that there are four types of credibility: presumed, reputed, surface, and earned.
Presumed credibility – We believe a website to be credible due to the assumptions we hold. For example, the NY Times website is credible since it’s such a recognizable name. Other factors like an “official” sounding domain name and regularly updated content can help with presumed credibility as well.
Reputed credibility – Refers to trust we have in a website due to a third party reference. These references could be other websites, newspapers, radio, professionals, or other testimonials.
Surface credibility – Means exactly what you think it means. On first glance, does this website look professional, clean, and contain accurate information?
Earned credibility – Gained through past experience with a website. If you’ve visited a site before and got an answer to a question, useful info, and had an overall positive experience, that website has likely earned your trust.
These four types of credibility are pretty broad, so let’s break them down further into a comprehensive website credibility checklist:
Design factors: surface credibility
Since surface credibility is something every company can improve, let’s look at the elements that can make or break it. Remember the 2.6 seconds users spend on your site before fixating on something? Here are the things they could be evaluating in that short time frame.
- Overall design and usability: Does your website look professional and is it responsive on mobile devices? If the answer to either of these is no, you should consider a redesign immediately. Users judge your website in a matter of seconds so good design is a must. In fact, the study by BJ Fogg found that 46% of people found the “design look” to be the most important factor in determining credibility.
- Branding: Make your logo, brand name, and tagline prominently visible, but not overbearing. It will make your website recognizable and memorable.
- Proper grammar: Typos and improper grammar look bad. Failure to spell words correctly or use proper punctuation will instantly signal to users that you’re not trustworthy.
- Simple language: Although it can be tempting to show off your vocabulary, stick to simple language. Make your content easy to read and understand.
- Stop the jargon: In tandem with the previous point, limit your use of industry-specific jargon. It may work in some cases, but it’s usually best to keep things simple so that you don’t confuse users.
- Minimize ads: I think we can all agree that website ads are annoying. If your website depends on ad revenue then it’s perfectly fine to keep them, just use them sparingly. Pop-ups and scroll-blockers can be a big turn off.
- Smart navigation: Put your most important landing pages in the main navigation so that users can’t miss it. Make use of call-to-action buttons in other areas of the site as well. The fewer clicks it takes for users to get to their destination, the better.
- Website speed: Have you ever waited 10 seconds for a page to load? Me either. Speed is king – get your hosting and technical optimizations (caching, CDN, minification, etc.) up to par so that loading is quick.
- No technical errors: Things like 404 pages and broken components can really put a damper on customer confidence. If a technical problem does arise, try to resolve it as soon as possible.
- Show off your staff: Pictures and bios of the team can really help build trust and make your company more approachable. Leaving this out of your website might make users think that you’re hiding something.
- Real photos: Whenever possible, use actual photos of your office. This helps personalize your brand.
- Minimize stock photos: Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but it’s best to keep them to a minimum. Overuse of stock photos can make your brand seem fake.
- Contact information: List your physical address, phone number, email, and business hours clearly on the site. Most websites utilize the footer or a dedicated contact page (or both).
- Return and refund policies: Users who are on the verge of conversion will usually look for these pages before making the purchase. Having clear policies will give users the extra boost to make the purchase.
- Display prices: Users don’t like going through another hoop just to find out how much something costs. State your prices up front.
- Detailed information: If you offer a product or service, be as detailed as possible. Answer any questions you think customers would have right in the product/service description.
- Order updates: For physical products, how much does shipping cost and when will it arrive? In a world where it seems like everyone has Amazon Prime, you can bet people will obsessively click “track package” once the order is shipped.
- Overall website accessibility: Website accessibility and credibility are strongly related. Accessibility means clear link text, proper contrast, ability to tab through content, and more.
Before they hit your website: presumed credibility
Presumed credibility is all about what factors make a good impression before users reach your website.
- Official sounding domain: Use a domain that is concise, professional, and easy to remember. Long or gimmicky domains won’t resonate well with users.
- Updated content: If the only blog post on your site is from 5 years ago when you first launched your site, users are going to question your reputability. Always update with new posts and revisit landing pages to optimize them.
- Guest posting: Guest blogging is a great way to get your name out there and establish trust with an entirely new audience. If you see an opportunity to write a guest post on something you have expertise on, take it!
- Influencers: This can be difficult or just plain out-of-reach for some businesses, but if you have the budget, getting a celebrity influencer to back you can be invaluable.
- Paid advertising: Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, or YouTube Ads can all help get your brand in people’s heads before they go to your website.
Word of mouth (and web): reputed credibility
Reputed credibility is simply credibility that you gain through third parties, whether it’s an individual person or media source.
- Cite your sources: Any claims you make should be evidenced by another source.
- Display your clients: A clientele list is an easy way to gain reputed credibility. If you’ve done business with recognizable brands, other people will be more inclined to trust you.
- Awards: Awards are a clear-cut way to show that other, authoritative peers respect your work. Show them off.
- Press mentions: If your company is mentioned in the newspaper, live stream, radio, the web, or anywhere in the media – share it.
- Case studies: Conduct case studies to show the concrete evidence that your product/service works. Numbers don’t lie.
- Testimonials: Users want to know what other people think of your business. Utilize pictures, full names, and titles so that users know the testimonials are legit. They also give more insight into how your business operates.
- Google Reviews: Encourage users to leave a review on Google in addition to a website testimonial. Users might Google your business and look at your Google My Business listing before going to your site. It’s also known that Google Reviews are a significant ranking signal.
- Trust marks: If you take credit card payments, make it clear to customers that your connection is secure and their data is protected.
- Third-party validation: Mention other companies that have endorsed your product or service. In a sense, you “borrow” some of their trust for your own company.
When they come back: earned credibility
Earned credibility happens when a user returns to your website. If they consistently get a good experience, they’re more likely to trust you.
- Useful insights: If the content on your site is constantly helping users solve their problems, they will keep coming back.
- Consistency: You need to be consistent in design, content updates, and everything in between. Consistency allows people to grow accustomed to your brand.
- Customer service: Great customer service helps users think that you’re there to help them, not just to make money off them. People remember conversations with your service reps so make sure they are always polite and helpful.
- Fresh content: If your company stays up to date on the latest trends and buzz, people will realize that you’re a thought leader in the space, and therefore, trustworthy.
- No pop-ups or banners: Users hate pop-ups that interrupt their experience. People want a web experience they can control, not something you force on them.
- FAQs: Once users come back to your website they may have more questions about your business. Provide an FAQ page – this shows that you’re already thinking of the customer’s needs.
- Community engagement: If you have an active comment section or forum, it shows that other users trust you, which in turn will help new users trust you too.
- No forced requirements: Having to provide your email for simple actions and being automatically put into a mailing list is an experience no one enjoys.
How to increase website credibility
As you can see, there’s quite a lot that goes into website credibility. Some factors build up over the course of your company’s career, and others happen right when users hit the first landing page of your website.
Building website credibility comes down to making an honest evaluation of your business. Are you a relatively small agency? Maybe work on outreach to build your reputed credibility. Is your website outdated and slow? A website redesign could help improve your surface credibility.
Different industries rely on different credibility factors. Find out what matters for your business and focus your efforts on that. BJ Fogg’s maxim for credible website design sums it up perfectly:
“To increase the credibility impact of a website, find what elements your target audience interprets most favorably and make those elements most prominent.”
By building website credibility, you build trust, which will contribute favorably to your bottom line.
Have more questions about website credibility? Get in touch and we’d love to help you out!