Online Marketing Blog

Web Credibility Factors You Need To Keep In Mind

Why does your website offering a far superior product or service than your competition under perform time and time again? How can your competition offer the same product or service at a higher price than you? The answer just might be credibility.

There is some wonderful research and documentation done by Stanford University on the subject of Web Credibility. They have published their findings on the incredibly informative WebCredibility.org site. Of their findings, their top ten credibility factors really stuck out. Below are my takings on the results.

1. Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
Google put a lot of weight on this, especially when evaluating the quality of your landing page. Make it easy (read: link) to verify what you claim. Simple. If you are an INC 500 company, a Deloitte fast 40 company, a Google AdWords Qualified Company or have won an award, link to the proof. It makes your more credible and shows that you have nothing to hide.

2. Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
We have all dealt with companies online that claim to be a massive organization and found out the hard way that it is some kid reselling a service from his/her bedroom. Nothing wrong with that in principle as long as it is not outright lies, but when it comes to getting support problems can arise. Show photos of your office, list your address. Show photos of the staff and list your office on Google maps (if you are not in Ireland that is).

3. Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.
You are the best at what you do right? Your product is the best on the market right? Highlight the fact. Sing your own praises. Push the fact that you are the best and you are not afraid to prove it. If you are not the best, highlight the areas that you are. Focus on your unique selling point. If your staff have any special skills, tell the world!

4. Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
Do staff profiles on your site. Highlight their experience and life (in moderation). Highlight any particularly noteworthy performances by them for your company or past employers. Display individuals testimonials (“John Doe at Makey Upey co. took ownership of my project from start to finish”).

5. Make it easy to contact you.
This is a no brainer. Company name, VAT number, registration number, physical address and phone number should all be displayed either in the footer of each page of your site or at least in an easily accessibly part of your site. This is fact now part of EU legislation to include this information.

6. Design your site so it looks professional.
First impressions matter. Use a good web design company to portray an image of how professional your business is. If a customer were to visit your office what sort of state would you have it in? Make sure the first impression your potential customer is given is the best possible impression.

7. Make your site easy to use and useful.
We all know our business. We all know every section of our company website like the back of our hands. This does not mean that the visitor to our site does. Make sure that your site could be used by someone using the internet for the first time. Make sure the navigation makes sense and include a search feature. If possible, run lab usability tests or outsource this. It is amazing watching your potential customers interact with your site, make sure they are getting what they are there for.

8. Update your site’s content often (at least show it’s been reviewed recently).
Show that you have not dropped off the face of the planet. Time Stamp any articles and if possible, show your most recent press releases, or at least show their dates. Link to recent press coverage or industry event involvement. People assign more credibility to something that is updated frequently and recently. Better yet, start a blog (don’t forget to maintain it).

9. Use restraint with any promotional content.
This still amazes me. Companies sometimes would rather earn a few cents a day displaying ads on their websites than have the optimal chance at converting their visitor. If you absolutely need to display advertising on your corporate site, display something relevant and non competitive. (obviously unless your business model is display advertising!). The worst thing you could possibly do is use AdSense or some other contextual advertising which displays the ads of your competitors on your site.

10. Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.
While we all make mistakes (in blog posts mainly), poor grammar and spelling can reduce credibility many times over. Think about it yourself. Have someone read over all your content. Have multiple people inside and outside your company do this. As soon as you find an error, fix it immediately. It could be only minutes before that big potential customer comes along and sees it.
These points may seem too basic to even think about. Have a look over your website and see how much your credibility can be improved. Now go and ask someone else.

More information and details of these results can be found on the Stanford university research repository (http://credibility.stanford.edu/research.html).


  1. avatar
    Maribella Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 3:17 am

    i do not know why my comment is rejected. Maybe you thought its spam, thats not even my site – but a very good article. But you are the webmaster and i respect your decision. Ciao.

    Reply

  2. avatar
    Steve Baker Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Dave,

    I’m not normally this pedantic, but after reading point 10, you should probably capitalise the word Adwords in your profile in the top-right corner :)

    I’ll be quiet now…

    Steve

    Reply

  3. avatar
    Dave Rooney Says:
    September 19th, 2007 at 1:01 am

    A company comes to mind reading through this post. Ends with a ‘.COM’! hahaha

    Reply

  4. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    September 20th, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    @ Dave, who might that be?

    @ Steve, I was waiting for someone to point out a flaw. Probably the wrong article to post considering we have just launched the new design! The issue has been resolved anyway. Thanks for the feedback.

    Reply

  5. avatar
    Matt Houldsworth (Earning From Affiliates) Says:
    September 22nd, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Number 4 is a lesson I have just learnt… make sure you tell people who you are, an about us page that just tells the user about the site is not good enough, they want confidence and to know who is behind the site.

    Reply

  6. avatar
    Jennifer Mattern Says:
    September 25th, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    An easy way to combine a few of these points (and something many smaller and online companies neglect to do) is to set up an online press room or media kit.

    They would not only include more detailed information about the company, but also about the executives or staff, specific products, past press releases issued by the company, past news coverage (which always lends an air of legitimacy and credibility), etc. You would not only include a basic photo of the owner or staff, but also high res images of the logo (let people who write about you use them to forward your brand), staff (for publications that interview you or write about the people behind the scenes), and products.

    An advertising kit (if you accept advertising) certainly helps with Web credibility as well by offering transparency in your target market / user demographics and site stats.

    Reply

  7. avatar
    Dave Davis Says:
    October 3rd, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks Jennifer for the additional factors. As you mentioned, some sites do not have advertising (or use it as their business model) and some businesses do not put out press releases, especially design related sites. What do you suggest in that case?

    Reply

  8. avatar
    Jennifer Mattern Says:
    October 3rd, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    In the case of not having advertising, you simply wouldn’t include an advertising kid. However, sites and companies in every industry can benefit from an online press room.

    No industry (design included) is “immune” from the need for and benefit from press releases. It’s all about making your company newsworthy. If someone can’t think of anything in their business that could be worthy of a release, the first thing they need to ask themselves is “why not?” They’re missing something.

    For example, some press release ideas for a designer would be announcing that they’re taking part in a seminar or are a speaker at an industry conference, that they’re in some way supporting a timely charity (like helping a breast cancer site do a redesign at little to no cost during breast cancer awareness month for example), or that the designer or company has won some kind of award. If nothing like that is going on with their business, it should tell them that they need to put more effort into being newsworthy on those or other fronts… it doesn’t just “happen,” it’s a lot of work.

    Reply

  9. avatar
    Jennifer Mattern Says:
    October 3rd, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Kit… kit, kit, kit. Only here can I apparently not type “advertising kit” without it becoming kid. lol Sorry about that.

    Reply

  10. avatar
    Vyak Says:
    January 30th, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Jennifer, what are you talking about? I didn’t understand a word of your comment? Please explain more…

    Reply

  11. avatar
    review riches Says:
    June 20th, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    It must have taken some good understanding to come up with this article.Thanks for your effort.The most important thing is that we need to have a product that speaks for itself.

    Reply

  12. avatar
    NatureLimit Says:
    July 16th, 2008 at 7:49 am

    There is some wonderful research and documentation done you on the subject of Web Credibility. Its a nice article.

    Reply

  13. avatar
    Brad Says:
    October 9th, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Nice article with solid info.

    I can especially identify with the last point about spelling and grammar. I recently had a customer point out a fairly significant spelling error on my homepage that “spellcheck” didn’t catch. I definitely should have invested some more time on proofreading. Learned that lesson the hard way.

    Brad

    Reply

  14. avatar
    Shaw Says:
    February 21st, 2009 at 5:34 am

    Very few people take credibility for a specialized issue to deal with, they concentrate their attention rather on factor like site design , most of the time resulting in a failure to complete all the requirements of credible website.

    Reply

  15. avatar
    Eugene Says:
    September 30th, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Reading through the comments actually brought up a question for me. Do you think that it matters whether your site has a .com/.net/.org domain? I feel like .com endings are the most favorable, .org seem most professional possibly, and .net might be the worst out of the three (which is probably not good news for me).

    Reply