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Do your readers and potential customers really trust you? Are you sure? Does your online presence send out trust signals?

Trust is vital to all of our relationships, both online and off. In order for visitors to your site to become customers, they must feel that you can be trusted with their personal details and payment information.

Trust Signal 1: Good Website Design Encourages Trust

Your website design is the first trust signal that you send when visitors come to your site. Your target audience will make a judgment based on their perception of the effort you took to create and maintain your site. Good design that is aesthetically pleasing and easy to use is a must.

Awful website design that tries to fit everything on one page and features no keyword-rich content will signal visitors that you are not trustworthy. These examples are a bit extreme, but similar elements of bad design are unfortunately still present on some sites.

The amount of content you provide is also a trust signal. The more content and the more webpages you have, the higher your trust level. While opinions remain mixed on the subject of one-page sites, it is best to create sites that are robust and contain enough content to answer all of your visitors’ potential questions.

Trust Signal 2: Contact Information is a Must

If you are an exclusively digital business, you may think your site visitors and customers will have no reason to contact you directly. Your web site makes sense in and of itself--what more could they need? Why do they need a mailing address?

By not providing an email address, phone number, and street address, you could be missing out on opportunities that are vital to your success. What if a publication wants to write a piece on you that would be excellent publicity? What if one of your customers has a complaint and can’t get express it to you personally? What if a potential customer wants to ask a question about a product or service before taking the big step of purchasing it?

If you don’t have contact info, here’s what will happen: that publication will probably find something else to write about, the shafted customer will take their complaint to social media, and the potential customer will walk away after you reeled them this close to the point of sale. 

Make sure you have a contact page that can be easily accessed from the home page. If you run your business out of your home, grab a P.O box at a convenient location. Anything to get that address up there!

Trust Signal 3: Let Site Visitors Know Who You Are

Photos are such a great clue when it comes to discerning the truth of a person or business online. Words can paint a picture for the reader but they also leave a lot to the imagination, and mystery is not what most business should be going for.

Include more than photos of your products--show off your office, staff, pleased customers, and even yourself. Show your potential customers that they are purchasing from a real, relatable human being.

To really show visitors what you’re about, include bios of your key staff and the company's executive or owners. Answer the question of who you are, your role in the enterprise, and your goal in nurturing this business or project.

Trust Signal 4: Be Active on Social Media to Prove that You Are Real

Your content needs to go beyond your website. Anyone can put up a fancy website, show off pictures of quality products, and talk about their business all day long. But nothing will make people feel as confident as the social proof that comes with a relevant social media presence. In the same way that reviews reinforce our confidence, conversations between you and your customers will legitimize you.

If you have no social media profiles to speak of--or extremely outdated ones that have no new content--you are missing out one of your only opportunities to prove that you can deliver on your promises. Social also matters because it increases your visibility and expands your presence, reinforcing your brand identity--which in turn builds trust.

Trust Signal 5: Secure Payment Assurance

If you accept online payments for anything (ebooks, digital downloads, subscriptions, consulting calls, or actual products), you must have trust seals to signal that you are collecting payment information in secure manner. Unless you are a major, national brand, customers will need proof that you can be trusted. Your payment processing company will be able to provide you with trust seals to use on your site. You should also put include seals from other applicable entities that have approved you: Better Business Bureau, Verisign, Norton, etc.

Be Upfront about 3rd Party Payment Processing: If you must send customers off-site to collect payment information, clearly state that upfront. When customers are caught unaware and notice that they are being sent to a new site, you run the risk of them abandoning the check-out process because of their immediate distrust.

Include Terms and Conditions and a Privacy Policy: Yes, no one actually reads these but the mere presence of them signals trust to buyers. They offer protection for both parties, set parameters, reassure them that you have carefully thought about the way you do business, and reduce suspicion about how you will conduct business if something doesn’t go as expected for the customer.

Privacy Policy Summary: Are you collecting email addresses and other contact information in order to build your list? At the point of collection, include a mini privacy policy: clearly state your intentions for using that data. On email collection popups, many small and medium business include statements like “I respect your privacy. Your information stays with me.”  Clearly stating your intentions up front will garner their trust so that they will provide their information.

Your goal for your website is to turn visitors into customers. Including all these trust signals in your content will help prove to visitors that you are someone they want to do business with. The lack of trust signals can unintentionally raise your visitors suspicions and cause them to leave your site.