Offline, credibility is a given – either you have it or you don’t, and if you don’t, you won’t be in business for long. People can come into your store or office, check it out, check you out, and decide to patronize your business or not. In turn, you can shake their hand, look them in the eye, crack a joke, display your diplomas, and show them around the shop.
So mostly, credibility offline is fairly easy to establish and as such, it is not something people think or worry about much; it is but step one in a multi-step sales process.
But online? That is a whole different enchilada. Online, your credibility is suspect. Now, why is that? Because statistics indicate that you have only a few seconds, once new people come to your site, to impress them enough that they will decide to stick around a bit. Fail to do that and away they go.
That is the nature of Web surfing, is it not?
There are millions of sites out there. Many are hokey and only some are great. We all know this. So as people look around online for information or products, their attention span is short, short, short. If they come to your site and don’t find it immediately credible, they will surf on and never give you another thought.
Online, you don’t have the opportunity to look them in the eye and crack a joke, online your ability to connect is much more limited.
So, how do you create this all-important online credibility in the few short seconds you have? The most important thing to understand is that Web surfing is all about getting clues and deciding whether to dig further. Again, consider your own surfing habits. Once you go to a site, you expect visual clues as to whether it is what you are looking for. If you find those clues, you will stay a little longer, but if not, ta ta!
Here’s how you create credibility online:
Be beautiful: The very first thing people will notice is the look and feel of your site. Is it graphically appealing? Is it elegant and beautiful? Is it contemporary? Or, alternatively, does it look like your teenage daughter made it for you?
Just today I was looking for a potential partner for a radio project I am working on. I did a search, landed on a site, and thought I had gone back in time to 2000. The site I found used frames and clip art.
Really? I mean really?
Toot your horn: If you want someone who knows nothing about your site to take it and you seriously, then consider posting a great quote, especially on the top of your homepage, above the fold (i.e., before they have to scroll down.)
It could be a quote about you from someone well-known, or even an excerpt from letters from happy customers (with a link to “more”.) What about a positive review? Whatever the case, this sort of third party validation creates legitimacy.
Boast brands: People generally know and trust brand names. As such, if you have some association with a well-known brand – maybe you sell their products or contract with them or something – then, again, above the fold, mention that: “Proud partners of XYZ Corp!” Post their logo.
It is sort of the opposite of guilt by association – it is credibility by association.
About “About”: One of the most clicked pages on any website is the “About Us” page, so one of your jobs is to have a link to yours that is easy to find, and then offer a lot of relevant, personal, easy-to-read information once people get there. Let them know:
· Who you are
· Your history
· All ways to contact you
Be social: Having links to your social media personas on your website is good, but having people discover that you have tons of fans, friends and followers is great. Again, it is third-party validation of you and your brand.
Guarantee it: If your site is an e-commerce site, then it behooves you to have liberal return and guarantee policies. People want to know that it is safe to spend their money with you and what will happen if they change their mind. Guaranteeing your product and offering easy returns gives customers comfort and makes them feel safe.