10 Effective Credibility and Authenticity Tactics For Your Website

by Kimberly Krause Berg April 29th, 2011 

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For many of you doing business online, your goal of generating revenue may be more focused on sponsored spots of your site, Google Ads, sales lead forms and shopping cart purchases. It may seem like those site elements have magical qualities that attract clicks and lure credit card purchases, until one day you realize traffic and revenue have tanked.

Dont fool yourself into thinking all is well and your web sites magical powers will return. Certain industries are highly competitive and this means theyre on top of every change in technology, programming, web standards, legalities, user interface changes, and human factors that effect usability and, of course, all things search engine marketing. What have they learned?

Of the myriad of web site enhancements competitive web sites implement, one area is powerful and yet fairly simple to implement anytime. Authenticity, credibility, desirability, understandability and findability are focused on the people who come to your web site. Its these design factors of your web site that do what you would do if you could step out of their monitor, show them around and answer their questions.

Are you ready to attract new site visitors? Does your web site meet their needs right away? Have you convinced each new visitor that your products or services are the best possible value? How do you do that? If your brand name isnt well known, how do you convince web site visitors that youre a serious contender? You start with being real. This means being approachable and not hiding key information such as where youre located. It may mean showing your face and that of your team. Sometimes a nice introduction with guidance on the latest sales and gizmos goes a long way in keeping someone on a page.

So lets look at credibility and authenticity. The list below may validate what youd done correctly or show you something new to try.

Web Site Credibility and Authenticity Tactics to Rock Your Web Site

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  1. Say hello on your homepage and every key landing page with introductory content that greets and provides guidance. Remember that in most stores, from small family shops to big brand department stores, and many businesses with a public office, there are people whose job it is to greet you and take care of whatever you need. A homepage that lacks an introduction risks page abandonment because for starters, it doesnt feel like the folks behind it care that we came.
  2. Stop talking about you. The worst offenders are lawyer and legal sites, where the emphasis of the content and images is about the legal team and how great and outstanding they are rather than what they can do for clients. Limit we, our, my and focus on you.
  3. If you are an online business, put your business address in the footer and the contact page. Those who work from home understandably dont wish to do this, so I recommend a state, or town and at least the country of origin. Zip codes are a must for locally focused businesses. An address offers an instant clue that a business is legitimate, has a home base, isnt hiding their location, and sometimes it indicates where it conducts business (national, global, local.) The more forthright a location is offered, the more credible the message. That means adding a phone number nearby, FAX, and other contact information.
  4. When claiming expertise, provide proof.

a. Testimonials

b. Client lists

c. Portfolios

d. Bios of not only the top level people but also of team members like project managers and sales representative. Offer a face, bio, phone and email contact, plus any education, awards, history and stories that make the staff real, personable, approachable and knowledgeable.

e. Include any third party mentions such as articles written about you, your products or services, your staff and especially include any community involvement including charities and helping organizations raise funds.

f. Videos can increase revenue and interest when used to create a bond, present a product or describe benefits of a service. For example, a college can provide video interviews of professors who wish to explain their courses. They can include any student awards and competitions. Video of handcrafted one of a kind artwork or jewelry with someone describing each piece and interviewing the artist is another idea. Travel and real estate sites sometimes fall down on the job when it comes to images and video tours. Quality is critical to stronger sales.

  1. Choice of colors, font face and sizes and color contrasts are all part of communicating credibility because theyre related to findability, readability and understandability. Colored text against a colored background has to be tested for contrast issues. Some colors are harsh, such as too much red or bright yellow. Content has to be read without straining. Not tending to these details sends a silent signal to site visitors that you dont care about their needs or comfort.
  2. Organization is tied to authenticity. A sloppy user interface with no content, navigation elements scattered about with no logic, too many elements on a page with no balance, crowded pages and redundant links (or several links to the same page) all communicate laziness or lack of skill with web sites. Yes, its fun to go into an antique store and sort through piles of stuff. The best flea markets, junk shops, antique stores and discounted items stores typically have piles of inventory, but they also organize it into sections and categories, making it easier to find something easier and faster.
  3. Understand client and customer needs right away. With more and more people buying domains or sites already made, the less likely the site owner has of the expertise needed to really understand the products, services or people the site is targeting. Credibility has to be obvious and proven. It starts with knowing exactly what your visitors want and need first.
  4. Dump the ads. Travel sites are notorious for putting Google ads on their product landing pages. What are you trying to sell? Who are you trying to sell to? Off-site links and ads surrounding images and calls to action are clear indications that the business isnt genuine.
  5. Explain your value proposition. This is especially important when your business is in a competitive industry such as travel, real estate, web design services, marketing and advertising, clothing sales, jewellery and legal sites. Competition is fierce! What is it, exactly, that you provide and do that nobody does or can match? How will your product or service improve a visitors life, need or experience? Show benefits and features but dont neglect the values that people desire. Comfort. Saving money. Security. Safety. Privacy. Attentive service. Knowledge of local community and the people.
  6. Be real. Show you exist and arent playing volleyball on the beach. This means showing a picture of you, your office, and your staff volunteering somewhere. Make sure you provide a toll free phone number and provide the time zone or business hours to call. Be courteous by allowing user controls on videos and Flash so they can turn it off if they need to. Dont require answers to invasive questions on forms. Explain what happens at the end of filling out a form, completion of a sale, or even what happens if they click a link. Be sure your content is written in a warm, friendly way and if you have products, be generous with the details. Update your copyright date every year. Provide product guarantees. Emphasize customer service and be sure your visitors understand return, shipping and payment policies early on.

One of the ways I pick up new ideas for online credibility and authenticity is by watching how business is done off-line. What types of questions does a sales person ask me and how do they act? Are they friendly, approachable and knowledgeable about their products and services? In a business or store, do I feel welcome, secure and believe I can trust the people there?

Its harder to mimic these things online but not impossible. People are growing more and more comfortable with doing business online. Make sure you are one of their favourite places to go.

What's the single best thing that instils trust in a web site with you? Or what do web sites do that will make you lose trust right away?

Kimberly Krause Berg

Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, search engine optimization and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, and persuasive design. Human Factors and Usability and how it blends with Search Engine Optimization have been her passion for over a dozen years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998 and was a self-employed usability and search engine marketing consultant for Cre8pc.com since 1996. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability and persuasive design in her role as Usability and User Interface Analyst.

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4 Responses to “10 Effective Credibility and Authenticity Tactics For Your Website”

  1. DK says:

    You got me.

    Great list.

    But the title of this post—the reason I clicked over here in the first place—stings. Call me unimaginative, but I can't see "authenticity" and "tactics" in the same part of the ball field, or even in the same league. Tactics sounds like you're trying to pull the wool over someone's eyes. Authenticity is the diametric opposite: letting what's real radiate to attract organically.

    So I was relieved to see "be real" among the tips. It took some of the sting out of "tactics" for me. :)

    Have you read ConversationMarketing.com? I'd be curious what you think of Ian's blog.

    Cheers,
    DK

  2. Heidi says:

    Great and comprehensive list. Each item is tackled spot on. Credibility does not only happen at the site but how everything works offline.

  3. Kim Berg says:

    Thanks Heidi…yes, on and off-line actions matter, especially for some types of sites that benefit from a more personal angle from the site owners and staff. Something like community involvement for charities or projects shows another side of the people behind the scenes and that's a factor for some people when making decisions on whether or not they'll do business with that company.