Site Credibility: 10 Simple Guidelines
Take a moment to picture the following scenario. You’re looking
online to purchase a DVD player. You type “DVD Player” into
your favorite search engine and the result is a list of thousands
of companies that sell DVD players. You click on the first link
listed and are taken to an online merchant selling the very DVD
player you were looking for. The price is reasonable and shipping
is included; however, you decide to check out another merchant to
see if you can find a lower price. You go back to your search
engine results and follow the second link listed. Again, you’re
taken to a merchant selling the DVD player you’re looking for,
but this time the price (shipping included) is $50 less.
How do you choose between the two merchants?
All things being equal you would choose the merchant offering the
lower price. However, what if the lower-priced DVD player was
being sold on a web site that just didn’t look very professional
to you? What if you found the layout of the web site to be
confusing? What if you noticed a lot of misspelled words in the
text of the pages? What if many of the links were broken and
images were missing? What if you couldn’t find any contact
information for this merchant? Would any of these issues influence
your decision to buy?
Research shows that in this case the majority of online buyers
would purchase the more expensive DVD player because the
credibility of the merchant selling the lower- priced product is
in question. Consequently, you see how crucial it is for your web
site to be perceived as credible.
Guideline 1: Make it Easy to Verify Content on your Web
If your web site makes the claim that you provide excellent
customer service, provide quotes with identifying information
(with permission) of past buyers or clients speaking of your
excellent customer service. If the local newspaper voted your
business as best online merchant in 2003, then provide a link to
the article or cite the newspaper in which the article appeared.
The basic rule here is to be able to “prove” to your visitors
that the information shown and claims made on your web site are
real and not just fictitious marketing ploys.
Guideline 2: Show that a Real Organization Exists Behind
your Web Site.
Visitors to your web site want to be assured that they’re not
dealing with some shadowy figure who may run off with their money.
Would you feel comfortable submitting your credit card information
to a merchant in which you couldn’t track down? Increase the
credibility of your web site by including the physical address of
your business, including telephone number.
Guideline 3: Highlight Expertise in your Organization.
Convince visitors that you and your associates posses the know-how
and skills necessary to provide the products or services you
offer. If you or others in your organization have specialized
training or education that’s related to your products or
services, make that information known on your web site.
Guideline 4: Show that People Stand Behind your Web Site.
With today’s advances in computer technology, it isn’t
uncommon to come across a fully-automated online business. Who’s
doing all the work? Being able to show that living, breathing
humans are behind your web site will increase the credibility of
your web site (and business). You might add a page to your web
site that features a particularly hardworking employee each month.
At the very least, you might want to list department heads or
supervisors (with pictures) on your web site contact page. This
guideline is perhaps most important if you have a web site that is
fully- automated (or appears fully-automated).
Guideline 5: Make it Easy to Make Contact.
Don’t give visitors the impression that you have something to
hide. Make your contact information available and make it easy to
find. At a minimum every web site should have a “contact” page
that lists your physical address, telephone numbers, and email
Guideline 6: Design a Professional-looking Web Site.
This is a very common mistake for many small- and medium- sized
businesses. Typically the web site is designed and maintained by
the office manager or other employee with little or no real
experience in web design. They’re told to purchase a popular web
design software package, learn how to use it, and design the
company web site. Often the result is a vertically “stacked”
web site that features lots of animated gifs, randomly placed
images and flashing or scrolling text. Don’t be lured into
thinking you will save thousands of dollars by designing your web
site in-house with novice “web designers.” Lost revenue and
sales leads from visitors who left your web site because they did
not perceive it as credible will far exceed your initial savings.
Guideline 7: Make Your Web Site Easy to Use.
Visitors to your web site are there for a reason; they want to
purchase something or they want to learn more about your products
or services. They will become irritated (and leave) if they are
forced to figure out how to navigate your web site. Keep the web
site layout consistent and clear. Avoid moving your navigation
menu to a different location on each page of your site and avoid
changing the look of the navigation menu from page to page.
Guideline 8: Update Content Often.
This is another common mistake made by small- and medium-sized
businesses. Because business owners know their business should
have an online presence, they quickly have a web site created and
uploaded to the Internet. However, they rarely (or never) keep the
web site content updated. This lack of concern over the content on
your web site makes visitors perceive you and your business as
Guideline 9: Use Promotional Content Sparingly.
Web sites filled with advertisements are viewed as less credible
than web sites with little or no advertising. In an attempt to
increase search engine rankings and generate additional revenue,
many web site owners join referral programs. The result is a web
site inundated with banner ads cluttering your web site and
linking your visitors to other web sites. If your intent is to
generate revenue through referral programs, you should create a
web site separate from your company web site. The goal of your
company web site should be to sell products or services and market
Guideline 10: Avoid Errors.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal on the surface, but errors
seriously detract from the credibility of a web site. The most
common errors are typos, misspellings, and broken links. Remember,
your web site is an extension of your business. If grammatical
errors and broken links reduce the credibility of your web site,
then the credibility of your business is also reduced.
Research studying what makes web sites credible to the online
public has become increasingly important to wise business owners
(and good web designers). If visitors to your web site do not
perceive it as being credible they will not perceive your business
as credible. Web site credibility is an issue that precludes
thousands of online businesses from reaching their online sale and
About the Author:
Woods is a Creative Director with Optic Fusion Design Group,
a web design and marketing firm providing “visible
marketing solutions.” Optic Fusion Design Group helps
small, medium, and emerging companies achieve their
marketing potential. Ethan Woods can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org