Online business is business as usual these days, and your website is the port of entry for most if not all of your customers. But as online activity has increased, so have customer concerns about professionalism and security. Identity theft, data theft, malware, phishing, misleading ads, and shoddy service: savvy consumers will be on the lookout for any warning sign. How do you craft an online presence that reassures customers? Read on for some tips on building a website customers can trust.

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Image Credit: Mui Tsun (http://www.muitsun.com/building-trust-through-your-website-design)

Image Management

When you think “trustworthy,” you don’t think “used car salesman,” right? Make sure that your layout and color scheme are strong, not loud. Strobing text, multiple exclamation points, flashing gifs, noisy autoplay, glaring colors: all of these will signal to customers that you are not professional. Red – as in “red flag” – is another color to avoid, as it symbolizes danger.

Polish Your Reputation

Another immediate red flag is poor spelling and grammar. On top of seeming unpolished, they’ll make your website look like a potential scam. Make sure that all of your content is carefully edited. Graphic design and editing are areas where investment pays off. Consider hiring a professional web designer, graphic designer, and content editor to refine your online image.

Map It Out

A simple and straightforward landing page will also help convince customers that you’re responsive and helpful. Visible tabs, a site map, and an FAQ page will make it easy for customers to navigate and buy. Be careful to resolve any broken links, and keep external links up-to-date. Even one blind alley will make your customers doubt your trustworthiness.

Friendly Faces, Familiar Places

An open, personable attitude will help you go a long way towards securing your customers’ trust. Personalize your online presence with a profile page that includes a headshot and a message to customers. Talk about what inspired you to start your company, why it’s important for you to provide superlative service, and what makes your business unique. You can also add a “Who We Are” for your board or sales team. Use the same headshot format to promote your customer-service hotline and contact information, so that customers feel like they’re reaching out to a real person.

Name and Number

It’s not just important to seem accessible – make sure that your customers can contact you easily with questions and concerns. Your website should prominently display a contact email and phone number. A business address is just as important – feature a photograph of your office location, so customers can see that you’re real. Consider offering a livechat option for customers online, so that they don’t have to transfer to phone; Zoho and Zen Desk are two cost-effective options.

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Photo credit: Bplans (http://articles.bplans.com/building-trust-with-quality-website-content)

Secure Your Site

Secure Site SSL Certificates are an easy way to reassure your customers that any sensitive data will remain private. A prominent privacy policy is another gesture of good faith; a VeriSign seal will give extra force to your promise to keep information secure. Other trust symbols include seals of approval from the Better Business Bureau, Bizrate, STELLAService, and Shopify. If you use a secure payment method, like PayPal, display that information prominently. If you offer any guarantees – a 60-day return policy, for example – you can create your own badges to promote your policies.

Rave Reviews

If you work with prominent companies, feature past client logos on your site – if you’ve provided services to a known quantity, let them vouch for you. You may also want to consider a curated set of customer testimonials to display in a sidebar. Positive reviews will establish your reputation with new visitors to your site. If possible, include a real name – a testimonial from “ShoeLover677” isn’t anywhere near as impressive as one from “Andrea L.”

Play the Numbers

McDonalds is a classic example, with their rising total of “customers served” displayed under the golden arches. If you can offer similar metrics on your website, your customers will know that you’re successful.  You can include information on sales, share price, clients, product lines, and national and international reach. You can also include the number of people who follow you on social media. These statistics are a form of “social proof,” or markers of your high social status. Customers will see these numbers as an indication of your sterling reputation.

Community Cooperation

Another important form of social proof is local prominence. Can you participate in community charity work, like a food drive or a schools initiative? Can you work with a nearby university to mentor interns, set up a table at a jobs fair, or offer a talk to a business class? Can you donate time, space, or supplies to a local nonprofit organization? Can you take part in a fundraiser for a national charity like United Way or the Sierra Club? All of these activities will help you seem trustworthy to customers. They’ll also allow you to feature a recognized logo on your website, and generate content about your activities for your blog and updates page.

Stand Out and Deliver

Make sure that every claim about your company is backed up by solid customer service. Give clear information about schedules and fees, and make sure your return and exchange policy is easy to find.  Make sure that product descriptions, information about shipping options and costs, and everything else is up to date. Remember, too, that many customers will be looking you up on consumer rating sites – a few lukewarm reviews about delivery service or product quality will damage your trust with customers.

Trust is a form of social capital you can cultivate and strengthen. If you take the time to develop your online presence using just a few simple techniques, you can build a website customers will see as helpful and reliable.

Are you looking to work with a team of digital marketing professionals who will provide you with the tools you need to build a website customers can trust? Make an appointment with Square 1 Group today!