What attracts customers to your website? Well, that’s a complex answer. First, users must find your website, which involves using SEO (search engine optimization) to show up near the top when users’ search involves products or content related to your site. Most commercial traffic (an average of 53% of traffic) arrives through this means, termed organic search, compared to an average of only 15% from paid search and 5% from social media. But, once they arrive at your website, you must show that you built a credible website that features a great user experience (UX) and offers the content visitors will likely find valuable in addressing their query. Below, you see a nice graphic outlining how trust impacts purchase decisions for large purchases but a similar situation occurs among consumers when making small purchase decisions.
In reality, building trust among consumers in your target market is the cumulation of a variety of credibility factors, including marketing activities such as SEO and social media influencer campaigns. But marketing is only one of the elements that will leave a positive impression on customers that impacts perceived credibility. Customers are digitally-savvy and therefore equipped to spot red flags during the first few seconds of their website visit. Below, we discuss how to build a credible website that influences visitor purchase intentions, as well as their willingness to share positive impressions of your brand, including writing reviews.
Trust versus credibility
Trust and credibility aren’t synonymous although they’re very closely related terms. According to one school of thought, trust is a prerequisite for credibility, as well as other factors such as influence and power. In an academic experiment, researchers found that trust and perceptions of expertise impact the level of credibility assigned to a source by consumers.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, credibility is defined as:
the quality or power of inspiring belief: an account lacking in credibility
capacity for belief: Her account exceeds credibility
While trust is defined by the same source as:
assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
one in which confidence is placed
Again, the relationship between the 2 words is highlighted in this definition. Whether as a prerequisite for credibility or as one of the elements impacting credibility, we need to include trust in our discussion of building a credible website. As you go through the steps needed to build a credible website outlined below, keep this relationship in mind.
Building a credible website
1. Build an attractive, valuable, and user-friendly website
Countless platforms enable small businesses to launch a website in a matter of a few clicks, most often called website builders. WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace are among the most popular, with around 455 million websites currently using WordPress (which includes both of the formats discussed below). The WordPress platform is divided into two distinctive branches:
- wordpress.com, which lets you build and host a website using pre-existing templates and WordPress ad sponsoring
- wordpress.org, which is an ad-free website-building tool (actually a content management system that reduces or eliminates the need to learn to code) allowing full creative freedom
Websites built using templates from these plug-and-play website builders often look repetitive and unprofessional compared with self-hosted websites built on content management systems such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. The template patterns and requirements from website builders often constrict them, making the website feel clunky and less navigable. They also don’t offer opportunities for SEO that limit your ability to attract visitors to the site.
That’s precisely why a stunning and unique website has a better chance of outranking the competition by bringing the functionality and differentiation you need to stand out from the crowd and match your website to the needs of your target market. As the experts at South Bend Marketing explain, you need a website that 100% reflects your brand instead of a cookie-cutter template to attract the right audience.
2. Valuable content
Visitors come to your website to satisfy some need or solve a problem (although these are somewhat synonymous activities). By providing valuable content on a consistent basis, you increase the credibility of your website as well as the chance to convert visitors, as you can see below. Of course, that assumes you product valuable content in each post.
So, what is valuable content? To a large extent, that’s a function of your target market and the problems they come to you for in search of a solution. Commonly, we divide these reasons into entertainment, information, and solutions. A website that creates content related to all 3 offers the most value to visitors (and improves its rank in search engine results to attract more traffic).
Among the elements to consider in producing content for your credible website is;
- the content length, as long-form content over 2000 words is often viewed as more valuable although word count isn’t a ranking factor
- organization and content density, as content with white space and headings is easier to scan so visitors get their answers quickly
- an attractive design makes a website more entertaining and pleasing to visitors
- excellent writing including grammatically correct content that’s spelled correctly
- depth of coverage as more general content doesn’t provide as much value as when the author really digs into the topic
- unbiased content that isn’t self-serving but objective and not always about the brand
- recency is also a factor in credibility as facts change over time so work toward freshness without producing duplicate content
Duplicate content is content that users can find many times in different places on your website. When a potential customer finds the same content elsewhere on your website, it affects the brand’s credibility.
Why does duplicate content happen? It’s actually easier and less fake than it seems.
In the process of transforming an existing website, the webmaster may inadvertently duplicate content. If the navigation hierarchy changes, the same content can exist on different pages of the same website. Web admins should work to address these issues. Experts estimate that almost 30% of the web consists of duplicate content.
Duplicate content can also happen in the event of working with a copywriting team to create new pages. If the team is not properly briefed and lacks an understanding of the business processes, they might lift too much content from an earlier post when creating a new one or forget to delete an obsolete page before publishing an update. The correct procedure is to redirect the URL of old content to the revised page and then delete the old content page, called a 301 redirect.
Duplicate content also happens when you lift entire posts or large sections of content for your post from an existing page on the internet (word for word) or when someone does that to your content. Search engines monitor and discount duplicate content, using the publication date to determine which content is original and which was duplicated.
3. Reviews are too positive
Customers tend to read reviews from other buyers before making a decision. Positive reviews are preferable but almost no product gets all positive reviews naturally. So, too many 5-star reviews can tarnish your brand as they look fake, even falsified by employees of the company. Amazon is filing lawsuits against companies that sell fake positive reviews. The reasoning: Fake reviews create a false image of the product. But more importantly, fake reviews decrease sales because customers grow suspicious of companies and 3rd party platforms containing an unnatural number of positive reviews. So if even a giant like Amazon noticed the negative impact of fake positives, chances are that small businesses faking their reviews on their own websites face the same issue.
4. Upvotes from others
In building a credible website, you need endorsements from others in addition to positive product reviews. These endorsements support the value and veracity of the information on your website. Backlinks, especially backlinks from other credible websites go a long way to endorse your content. So does engagement from your social media community. These not only point to a credible website but they’re also used by search engines as part of their search algorithm because search engines care about credible websites as much as users do.
Another way you can build a credible website is to link to other credible sources within your content, especially with a .edu or .gov registration. Also, link to websites that rank well on search engines as these likely reflect very credible websites (remember, factors indicating credibility are ranking factors for search engines).
Everything about your website should show you’re a professional from the look to the navigation to the images to the shopping experience. Ensure you don’t have deadlinks in your content and that none of the links to your pages found on other sites yields an error message because you deleted or moved the content. Your images should appear clearly (not pixelated) and large enough for visitors to interpret (if you include a link to an image, visitors can often get a full-screen version of the image). Your layout should look clean with elements aligned rather than splashed any old way.
Gaining your customer’s trust is a long and challenging process. Yet, the first step businesses can take is to avoid red flags during the first few seconds of the visit:
- a unique website
- original and unique content
- real reviews
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.