9 Essential Trust Indicators For Your SMB Site

Trust is all you have as a small business. It’s your lifeblood. When you open your doors, you greet your customers and make a silent promise that you’ll do everything in your power to take care of them. You use your words, facial expressions and actions to make them feel safe. On the Web, you don’t have any of those visual cues. All you have to establish trust is your Web site. That becomes the face of your brand and what all emotional connections will be based on.

Your Web site should be crafted, designed and set up to clearly convey the information, values and trust signals that your customers are looking for. And here are nine trust indicators to help you do that.

Get a domain name that makes sense: Domains are as tricky as they are important. Get a good one and you’re almost set from the start. Get a dud and welltough break. As a small business owner, you don’t need to worry too much about the competitive art of domain buying. You simply need to find the best domain that your budget will allow. This means finding something that accurately describes what you do, is short and has good branding potential. At the bare minimum, you want it to “make sense” for what you do. If you sell computers, you want a domain that suggests that on sight. You don’t want someone to land on your Web site and then immediately leave because they thought you were about beach balls, not Mac computers.

Use a branded email addresses: Think about it like a user. If you’re about to spend $500 on an entertainment system, which contact email do you trust more – seller@sellerdomain.com or joey324@sketchyfreeemail.com? It’s a lot easier to trust someone who has clearly invested in their business over someone who simply stumbled across a free Yahoo or Gmail account. When you go searching for a host for your Web site, you want to get a package that includes POP3 accounts and email aliases so that you’ll be able to send branded email. It’s a very simple trust cue that packs a big punch.

Competent design: There’s a whole word of professional-looking DIY design solutions out there if you know some HTML. If you don’t and you’re not even sure what HTML stands for, do yourself a favor and get someone to help you design your site. Even if it’s a college kid you’re bribing with pizza. Find someone who can help you build a credible looking Web site. Essentially, you want your site to be “invisible” with everything in its proper place and working as it should so people don’t even notice it. You don’t need to pay for a full Flash site with all the bells and whistles (in fact, you shouldn’t, they’re horrible for SEO), but you do need something that establishes you as a credible business.

Use a reliable host: Your Web site doesn’t do anyone any good if it your host can’t be trusted to be up and running at all times. Before you settle on a hosting company, do some Google research to see if they have any widespread customer service issues. Google the name of your host plus a few of your favorite “[host name] sucks” variations to see what comes up. If you see frequent mentions of downtime troubles, go elsewhere. If you’re going to be running extensive social media or viral campaigns, you’ll want to talk to your host about that, as well. You don’t want them to automatically take your site down should a flurry of traffic suddenly hit. To make sure your site is running at optimal level, also look for ways to speed up page response times.

Create an About Us Page: Help folks feel comfortable with your site by introducing them to the people behind it. Show them you’re not just some makeshift company that will take their money and be gone in the morning. Very often creating a company About Page that includes all the names, faces and personalities of your company can go a long way to establishing vital trust cues. Use your About Page to talk to customers. Include when the company was founded, what you’re an expert in, how excited you are to help them and all the ways they can contact you. If your Web site is the face of your company, the About Page is its heart.

And a Contact Page: Sorry, but your About Page doesn’t erase your need for a contact page. You’ll still need a dedicated page on your site to show customers all the ways that they can contact you (it also acts as a great citation for the search engines’ local algorithms). Include your real business address, telephone number, a map of where you’re located, hours, and any other information someone would need to get a hold of you.

Use customer testimonials: Providing testimonials on your Web site does a couple of things for user trust. First, it helps show customers that you’re safe to do business with and gives them an idea of what they can expect from you. Second, people like to be associated with companies other people like. It makes us feel better about ourselves to be connected to popular things. If you can feed their vanity that buying your product makes them one of the in crowd you’ll go a long way toward helping them down the conversion path.

Keep a tidy site: Take as much pride in your Web site as you would a company newsletter or direct mailing. Your content should be grammatically correct and use an appropriate tone. Your links should work. Your pages should be neat. If there are a bunch of broken links, it’s a clear sign that you don’t care about your Web site. And if you don’t care about your site, why should they think you’d care about them? Or your product? That’s not the impression you want to give off.

List groups you belong to: People trust companies that go out of their way to be part of the community. If you’re part of the local chamber of commerce or Better Business Bureau, take the badge or logo they give you and proudly display it on your site. Again, it shows customers looking at your cold Web site that you’re real, that you care and that you’re part of your community. It will send the message that not only do you stand behind your products, but that you are aligned with others who share that same position.

Trust is everything, both on the Web and off. Take some time to make sure your Web site is giving off the right vibe and not turning off visitors before they even learn about you.

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Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

37 Reactions
  1. The two things that are the biggest for me are a competent design and a branded email address. You’re so right about the “sketchyfreeemail.com”!

  2. I couldn’t help but notice how many of these trust indicators blur the line between online and face-to-face. As Dr. McLaughlin (sp?) of Marketing Experiments always says, “People don’t buy from websites, people buy from people.” Your site should give people a mental picture of a friendly, smiling person who wants to help them.

  3. Thank you for sharing this article,”9 Essential Trust Indicators for Your SMB Site”. I certainly agree with using a reliable host up and running. My website:
    Also, the importance of site pages response time.
    Again thanks

  4. The “about us” and “contact us” pages are the most important to me as a buyer. If I can’t find your info easily, I’m not going to do business with you. I want a business to not appear as if they are hiding behind the website. It also doesn’t hurt to add a bit of personality to those pages.

  5. Totally agree Lisa. While the internet has given customers the convenience of being able to interact with your company/brand any time of day, they still want to feel like they’re dealing with real people.

    To improve testimonials, use a picture of the client who gave you the testimonial (provided they give you permission).

  6. Great advice. I think the URL is important and makes customers feel better. This of course ties into having a branded e-mail from that URL. Best of luck to everyone making a website.

  7. Lisa,

    I would add ensure a website has SSL on pages where personal or credit card information is requested. I still see sites that don’t have this.

  8. Yvonne Gaudette

    Customer testimonials are a valid way to increase consumer trust but a potential drawback can be the question of how current are the testimonials if the page is not dated. Online feedback and review sites give potential customers a look at the real-time customer service pulse of a business.

  9. RedHotFranchises

    Trust is very crucial in Business. 1st priority is customer retention, it is much easier to handle customers on the open web rather than having to speak to each person face to face, treat them as you would in person. Considering that you will even have more time to think of the perfect pitch, increasing the probability of getting your clients Sold, the 2nd priority is creating the right webstite that is SEO Compliant, updating it everyday, from there, and let your empire grow.

  10. Trust is everything, both on the Web and off. I strongly agree with you here, Lisa! Trust must always be taken of high regards in everything you do.

  11. Martin Lindeskog

    Good advice. I haven’t heard about the expression “makeshift company”. I am sorry to say that I have been approached by this kind of parasites, taking my money and then disappear. Personally, I am a bit quizzical against sites that look like standard out-of-the-box type design with plenty of stock photos of the so called of personnel without any personal touch to it.

  12. Stephanie Valentine

    Lisa – A nice solid list with items that people often overlook. These details make all the difference in the world, and go a long way to create a professional image for small businesses. Always good to recheck the basics.

  13. Lisa,

    Great job on this important article on often overlooked must-haves.

    I feel that a picture of the small business owner is important also.

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  14. Excellent suggestions to create trust with your customers. I need to work on adding groups I belong to on my website! 🙂 Thanks for the great advice!!


  15. Great list!! Another great article I’d love to see is on trust-worthy web hosts… I’ve used so many over the years… And even some of the major players have caused me huge headaches…

  16. Today all fake,spam and porn sites use these indicators for their SEO optimizations. How they could be a trust indicators if the worst of the web use them ?
    Me I think than if you see on the same website : customer testimonials, groups, branded email addresses with a too commercial name, domain name that makes sense with too general words (greatantivirus, bestwineofusa, gotovisitmybestpornsite), so it’s the proof than it’s a low quality website, a trap for tourists.
    My advice is to show that you are a serious site with a serious content, not with these fake artifacts used by so much bad compagnies.

  17. This is a really fantastic article! Anyone looking for an easy way to make a professional looking website should consider Office Live Small Business from Microsoft. The service is easy to use and extremely affordable. There is a gallery on the homepage with examples and case studies of business who have used Office Live Small Business to get their business off the ground.
    MSFT Office Live Outreach

  18. Hi Lisa, I agree with how trust is important to anyone’s business or even out of it. And I love the idea of actively participating/listing groups. I should start doing that now.

  19. These are such basic, good recommendations that a lot of people skip. Establishing trust and building credibility are, of course, key to successfully connecting with potential customers. Nice job.

    I would also suggest that companies look for a way to create content that gets updated on a regular schedule. I would file this under the “credibility and trust” heading as well. Anymore, people are looking to make sure that there is actually a company behind all those friendly about us pages.

  20. Good article Lisa. I just found this article from a newer post on a related topic. It’s amazing how many web sites miss these basics. One additional important trust indicator is a toll free number sprinkled prominently through your web site.

    Though we’ve been successfully selling and supporting time clock software online for over a decade, adding a toll free number a couple of years ago has done more than any other thing to build trust with potential customers. We get calls every day from businesses just checking us out before doing business with us That’s a good thing!

  21. Great list, also add limited use of FLASH and/or other animated images. It is easier for them to focus on the important content if the animation loops then stops.