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).