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Do Your Users Trust You?: 21 Tips for Improved Website Credibility

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 15 years and 102 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

I often find myself accidently lumping in everything internet marketing with SEO. To me, SEO is just what you call someone with an insatiable hunger to learn about marketing online. The day you truly become an SEO could be the first time you read something that makes you say, “damn, this is pretty easy and I can do this, but it’s hard enough where I’m going to learn more and more about it everyday”. So maybe there should be better names for “meta-webmasters”, or “online project managers”, but for now, SEO still just sounds cool. With all the intro babble aside, to most online marketing folks, it’s all about the bottom line. In simplest form, there are three questions that I try to answer with every site: How will it get traffic? How will it convert? How will it profit? If you constantly improve on these questions you’re golden. One way to increase on the conversion question is to increase credibility. To me it makes sense that if it adds credibility for the user, it’s eventually gonna be rolled into an algorithm somewhere as well.

Every tip for credibility by it self may only create marginal benefits, but the sum total of their effects is improved credibility which equates to improved conversion. It’s not a bad idea to run through these with most of the places that YOU buy from online as well.

21 Tips for Better Online Credibility

1. About page
Show your history. “…since 1945″ looks real nice to someone wondering if your legit or a dropshipper with a markup and no customer service. People are going to skim online. Don’t waste words and highlight the most important things.

2. Pictures of REAL peopleEven if your kinda fugly show your smiling mug. Using photoshop for zits is okay.

3. An 800 numberPreferably with someone that actually answers it (at least during business hours).

4. Contact page with physical address
If you can show your building even better. Just on your contact or about page though please. If I’m never coming to your business I really don’t care about your beautifully landscaped watergarden no matter how immaculate it is. Your physical local wll not DRIVE your online business.

5. Quick responses to customer service requests
You can build a reputation that will drive an entire company on just customer service alone. Many have done it before.

6. Confirm transactions or signups
Autoresponders are some times annoying, but what’s even more annoying is if you buy something or sign up for something and about the time you’re expecting it to arrive you get a call from Cletus the dropshipping monkey telling you that you didn’t fill in your fax number. If someone accomplishes an action on your website, let them know you recieved it, and that you understand the ball is in your court, and you are taking care of it.

7. References
If you can talk a real good client into allowing you to publicly post them as a reference it adds huge credibility. No matter what you do, if you have a third party that is willing to spend some of their time helping to sell you on your account – then you’re doing something right and prospects will recognize that.

8. Citations of brilliant people on your site
I don’t mean Albert Einstein needs to be quoted on every site on the web, but cite the brilliant people WITHIN your industry, and write articles that backup what they are saying, or expanding on ideas that you though were exceptionally creative. Demonstrating that you know your industry and the latest changes adds HUGE creditibility for any site, and is fundamental part of most successful sites on the web.

9. Guest authors
If someone is willing to help assist you with your work just to associate themselves with you then you are on your way to success. Successful people surround themselves with successful people.

10. Site last updated tag
Simple, silly, and effective. Have something that page last modified date. It works.

11. Go light on the ads
This is a tough one, as ads generally bring in the money. Too many advertisements lowers your credibility with users. Have a dedicated advertising/ editorial policy page, and tell people that are interested about how you select and treat advertisers.

12. Please update your homepage.
If you have something static on your webpage you need to climb out of 2001, and throw a blog, newsfeed, or the like on your homepage. No matter what you do there is SOMETHING that you can update weekly and easy ways to set it up. This is your direct link to reach many of your customers (and cut down on the e-mails you have to respond to). Don’t act like you’re too good to talk to them.

13. Sign up with some credible folksJoin organizations, donate some time, and show that you DO care about more than just the bottom line. There is a reason most good businesspeople display some altruism. Karma comes back to you, etc. etc.

14. Link to good people.
If you haven’t heard about link neighborhoods, Jim tells it better than I. Link to other good places with topically relevant information. You probably don’t want to link to competitors, but if you’re really GOOD, and you DO, that definitely adds some serious credibility. There are a handful of “SEO buddies” that I’m happy to send prospects over to and vice versa. Most the time we have too much work, and we all depend on one another for a variety of different things. Find people in your industry to count on and link to them.

15. No 404’sOne of my biggest pet peeves is the default IIS 404 page. It drives me crazy that people don’t create custom 404 pages because it’s very easy. This is one of the first things I do on nearly any sites. You’re bound to goof up, and tell people when you do. Don’t make them feel stupid by giving them some crazy technical looking page that was written by the same person who programmed the OS for your webserver. Ugh. Get something likexenu and check your site for broken links once a month or so. Watch your logs for 404’s and figure out why. Why waste traffic on stupid mistakes?

16. Write like a real personDon’t have your PR person write your site. Take time and get personal with your readers/ customers. You’ll be amazed how many people want to continue the conversation when you use a conversational tone. Don’t waste words. Use bold and bullet points, and cut your articles DOWN. I’m certainly guilty of this one here. I should edit more. Look at your log files and pay attention to how long people actually READ on your website. If you tell me more than two minutes you’re damn lucky. Write and highlight what is important. Bold and bullet point what is really important.

17. Strong Web Design
I like to say “ugly sells” too…and it probably does for high traffic affiliate work. Affiliates are not exactly the epitome of credibility though (nor do they really want to take the effort to be in most cases). If you stop to ask REAL people who don’t live on the web all day about websites, the design is the first thing that they will comment on. Get a print designer with years of experience and have them design a template portrait style. Now get a CSS guru to turn it into something usable. That or just get a good designer that knows what the hell they’re doing. You can start with ugly, but stunning will improve your credibility and conversion. Even those that don’t live on the web, get a subconcious “feel” for good design and well developed sites. If you need inspiration, try something like this.

18. Speel correctly
Okay, I’m a hypocrite…I don’t use spell check on this site, but my urge to use a conversational tone and my sheer laziness of not wanting to copy and paste to word outweigh my desire to preserve my site’s credibility. If you’re a grammar/ spelling nazi, I’m sorry that I suck at this one. I also don’t sell a highly specialized product or service with a high ratio of intelligent people purchasing my service…errr…damn…time to get that plugin working right.

19. Privacy policy
If you really want to be a filthy bum that sells e-mail lists, then at least create a page with really tiny typeface for those that are willing to spend an hour and a half figuring out what it really means. Be sure to have your lawyer write it so that even if someone DOES try to read it they will give up in frustration and just fork over their e-mail so you can give it to every pharmicist, pr0n site, mortgage lender, and Nigerian prince that you know. If you don’t sell your e-mail address to others, then you should probably tell your users that in a simple conversational tone as well.

20. Display a contact e-mail prominently.
This way if you sell their e-mail address, at least they can get back at you. Be sure to use a mail that you can turn off or change like “” and just forward it. You really don’t want to clean out junk all day, and every six months or so you can change it to ease the load.

21. Have a freakin’ sense of humor
When you start joking around you will definitely offend someone. That is everyone’s fear. Ya know what…who cares? You’re only going to offend the people you probably didn’t want to work with anyways. There’s also a line between offending someone and being an as*hole (please let me know when I cross this line). When you do offend someone apologize and find out why. Sometimes making someone laugh is the best way to get their business. If you enjoy your work, and your website, and your visitors, you will improve your credibility, and your overall happiness. Take time to laugh, poke fun at yourself, and make others laugh as well. Show people that you’re human and not a corporate drone. Not only is it good for your soul…it’s good for credibility and your business.

Do I do all this stuff on ALL my sites? Nope. But you can bet if I had only ONE site, or even a couple for that matter I would be doing every little thing like this that I could find to improve my credibility and conversion. As users get smarter…you had better too.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

  • -Desiderius Erasmus, Adagia
  • Resources:

    **note to self, don’t wait so long on going live with posts.

    Silly smoochy thank you’s for inspiration:

    More information about Todd Malicoat aka stuntdubl.

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    • Jim Westergren


      Bookmarked. Thanks.

    • Jonathan

      Great comments!
      I concur!

    • ray

      We got rid of our 800 # a long time ago, it cuts down on the “Tire Kickers”.
      Today, most people have some type of unlimited calling plan, and if they don’t, long distance phone calls cost pennies. If the are real, they will call.
      So, if they are going to call and waste my time asking stupid questions that could be answered if they read anything on our site; while they talk to somebody in the background trying to decide what they should have decided before they called me; or they are just lonely and want somebody to talk to, at least it’s on their dime (however, these people are not as bad as the ones who email you 25 times, each time with a different stupid question).
      If they don’t call because they are to cheap to spend .25 cents (way less than the price of a stamp ) for 5 minutes to ask a few serious questions or to place an order, they are not my customer.

    • Cameron

      Wow Ray! Remind me never to do business with you.

      Todd – Great Article.

    • Bill Kelm

      Todd, it is evident that you believe in and use “O’HUG” Commuication (Open, Honest, Upfront, and Good = clear, conspicuous, comprehensive, and comprehendable). That’s what most of your 21points are about, IMO.

      My question, though, is about publishing e-mail addresses on web sites or blogs. Isn’t there a chance that the e-mail address will be “scraped” or “data mined” somehow,and then the company or person that owns the web site or blog could be e-mail spammed?

      By the way, I would appreciate your opinion of my “E-Mail Policy” =
      and my “Privacy Policy” =


    • site admin

      Hey Bill,

      I’m probably not qualified to critique your policies to be honest. I think you got it spot on with my approach. Mainly just HAVING those policies in my mind is 90% of the credibility factor. To maximize the other 10%, you’d probably be best off writing something funny for anyone who actually has the time to read stuff like that.

      >emails on site
      Scraping of addresses is a problem. Here’s a few ideas from an article I caught off digg:

    • Bill Kelm


      Bringing a “sense of humor” into important parts of a web site is great advice.

      Also, I’ve bookmarked your “coding suggestions” digg link as I’m sure I’ll need it in the future. Thanks!

    • Karl Ribas

      Hey Todd –

      Excellent post man! You’ve outlined some very important elements which should no doubt help with validating a website and with increasing its conversion rate. I have also found that adding a client testimonial page, an online portfolio or case studies page, and a FAQ page helps a bit.

      Thanks for the great advice.

    • ray

      Just my opinion but, testimonials are not credible at all;

      I just wanted to follow-up with you and say that I am impressed with your______________ (fill in the blank) They are great! Thanks for your help.
      — Joe Blough

      We received our _____________ and they look great. I look forward to doing business with your company in the future. Thanks again for all your help.
      — Dick Hertz

      I appreciate the great __________ you folks do and your responsiveness!
      — I.P. Freely

      Thank you for the _______________ They are amazing. I look forward to ordering more things from you in the future.
      — Dong Hung Lo

      Come on…Do you really think the above ” testimonials”( which were copied and altered slightly) are real, and if they were, do you realy think anybody believes they are?

    • site admin

      You’re right Ray…the mileage with each of these will very.

      800#’s aren’t a good option for everyone, and testimonials DO get abused.

      I think we, as marketing professionals, often forget that not every one is as “ad saavy” or consumer saavy as we are.

      These are all tested principles that WORK as generalities. They work better for some than others though, and points of any of them could certainly be debated. Do you have any to ADD to the list that you’ve found to be extremely helpful in adding credibility to a website?

    • ray

      Sure. If they show serious interest, or have not taken the call to action, send them a list of as many customers as you can (15-20 is a good start) with contact information, and close the letter with something like “Please feel free to contact anyone on this list if you have any questions about the quality of our work.” Basically, this is a resume saying you can call any of my previous employers. This works like a charm, especially if you have some major players on the list (most people want to be associated with the heavy hitters in their industry). Even after they bite, send them the list to reinforce their belief that they made the right decision in going with you. After the coast is clear (a period of time where you wait to see if they are a pain in the ass customer), update the list with their name added, and send them a copy.

    • CindyT.

      Great tips Todd! It’s obvious that readers will pick and choose the ones they want which is perfectly ok. At least you got them thinking about things they can do. I’ll bet we could even think of some others. A client list that shows who you have worked with would also show credibility and if someone is really interested in it’s authenticity, they could call and get a personal testimonial.

    • Karl Ribas

      You do have a valid point Ray… most testimonial pages are not real and are generated or edited in some way by the website’s owner. However, I do believe that the usefulness of such a page is going to depend solely on who the website’s general audience is. I know through my own marketing efforts that testimonials and customer reviews work very well in the skin care and beauty markets. It would appear that potential customers of this market need and appreciate positive feedback that the product they’re interested in purchasing is really going to work.

      And for the record… I would never encourage a website to post false testimonials… most customers are willing to provide them when asked.

    • Tim Houghton

      Ray: you’re pretty free giving away other people’s time. If one of my contractors (and let’s face it, that’s what you are) did that with my name and phone number I’d never use their services again.

    • Tim Houghton

      Sorry for suddenly responding to this a week after it was posted. Blame stuntdubl’s RSS feed, which has suddenly re-listed posts going back to mid January as being ‘new’.

    • ray

      I am not a contractor. You don’t know me or what I do, so please don’t tell me what I am.

      What do you mean “free giving away other people’s time”?

      “Mr.__________ my name is John Smith, I am thinking of hiring _____________ to_________________ and he /she has listed you as a reference, could you please tell me a little about her/him?”
      “I sure can. ________________ has__________ for me for about 2 years and is one of the most honest and hard working people I know. He/she is always on time, does excellent work and I would highly recommend him/her.”
      A conversation similar to this takes less than 30 seconds.

      Whether the person who listed you as a reference is a baby sitter, auto mechanic, painter, roofer, plumber, or the person who optimized your website; yes you have compensated them, but they have helped you in some way. You don’t have time to do the right thing and spare less than 30 seconds to say a few good words about somebody who has helped you? (Read Guy Kawaski; How to Be a Mensch)

      Did what “with your name and phone number”? Your name, phone number and other contact info is posted your website, and you state “Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions”, and “Please feel free to ring me for a chat – I’ll be happy to discuss your options, offer advice and give you a quote”. You are not making any sense.

      If you would not use somebody’s services again, because they had the audacity to list you as a reference, you should warn anybody who does any work for you never to do so.

      The keyword here is “credibility”. In the current SEO arena, off-line credibility is becoming just as important as it is on-line, and they reinforce each other.
      Voluntarily providing information that will enable a potential client /customer to verify your claims, reinforces your credibility and increases the effectiveness of your WOM campaign.

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    • Website Credibility

      Great tips on web credibility. Include some on web usability as well.

    • Mobile SEO-ER

      Have forwarded to a number of friends, really great. Thanks

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    • Alex

      Nice list. It is also applicable to other web projects besides e-commerce.

    • laundry man

      Testimonials are helpful when they are real and longer, so readers can see they are not fake. These kind of testimonials can help potential customers better understand how products can work and what type of applications they may have.

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    • Brisbane Web Designer

      Having a link to your online Yellow Pages ad is also a source of credibility. The photos of real people also help.

    • Vanessa

      Love the article, wonderful points. Also, I think your message would be viewed as more credible and more knowledgeable if you knew the difference between “your” and “you’re”. Your is possessive, you’re is a contraction of “you are”.

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