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I’ve written lots of posts dealing with online persuasion. But if your website doesn’t appear trustworthy, you’ll never get a chance to persuade anyone; visitors won’t stick around long enough to enter into a conversation. So this week I’m going to backpedal a bit and cover trustworthiness.

It’s not necessary (or desirable) to do everything presented here. And well-known organizations already carry an air of authority; they don’t have to work so hard. (In fact, some of the items listed here would appear downright silly on a site like Apple.com.)

This “Trustworthiness Checklist” is intended more for small, new or otherwise unknown websites.

Domain Name

The best domain names are:

  • Short
  • Guessable, memorable and meaningful to visitors
  • Easy to spell and pronounce, preferably with no punctuation
  • .gov, .org or .com (in that order of trustworthiness)

Website Design Quality

The level of polish required depends on your industry. A jeweler’s website should look more finished than a plumber’s. Things to look for are:

  • Visual appeal, level of finesse
  • Ease of navigation
  • Quality of photos
  • Error-free copy
  • Transacting (Forms, checkout, etc.)
  • “Real World Feel”
  • No appearance of an affiliates or Adwords site

Copywriting Tone

Maintain a straightforward tone, avoid pushiness and overblown claims.

Physical Address

Make sure you have a useful Contact page, not just a form. Show your full address (not a P.O. box) and phone number. Consider adding a photo of your premises.

In other words, prove you’re a real entity with nothing to hide.

FAQs

The mere existence of FAQs can help, but don’t use this as an excuse to list poor FAQs. They should be realistic and customer-oriented. Avoid “what we wish customers asked”.

References and Citations

Back up your claims. Give sources (especially if your claims are surprising). This is particularly important in academic and health-oriented websites.

Current Content

Don’t let your website go stale. Look like an active, ongoing concern. Show that “somebody’s home”.

Extensive Content

Show that a lot of effort has gone into the site. Add archives if appropriate. Blogs and discussion forums are great for building content.

External Links

Link to sources of information. Demonstrate you’re looking out for your customers and not trying to “trap” them on your site.

Also remember “guilt by association”. Linking to reputable websites makes you appear more reputable.

Policies that SHOW Trust

As I indicated in my post on How to Steal a Camera, we tend to trust those who show trust in us.

Ask yourself, for example, if your return policy might be overly restrictive and a turn-off to honest customers.

Awards and Certifications

Don’t be overly modest: If you’ve got it, flaunt it… tastefully. But please don’t list outdated or otherwise unimpressive awards.

Social Proof

Prove that you’re a safe and popular choice. Include peer advice such as:

  • Testimonials
  • Product Reviews and Ratings
  • Discussion Forum

Just remember that these items must be genuine, and they’re more powerful if they come from your target audience. (Remember The Power of People We Like.)

Avoid Tricky Offers

Web users are very sensitive about being manipulated or deceived. So avoid “too good to be true” offers. And make sure you don’t appear to be hiding anything.

Statements Against Self Interest

Where appropriate, be frank about your product’s disadvantages. “Clouds with silver linings” are best. (For example, “We’re more expensive, but we last twice as long as our competitor.”)

Sharing is caring!

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