5 Ways to Create Trust to Improve Conversions

by Mark Faggiano on August 26, 2010

trust icon

Which icons best promote trust?

Conversions. There’s a lot to discuss. So I’m going to try and keep this simple and stick to one small contributing factor.

A couple of the most recent Internet Marketing consulting gigs I’ve been involved with have been focused on improving conversion rates. Both are websites that don’t struggle getting a decent amount of traffic. The problem is that too many people leave without converting (in both cases the goal is to get people to sign up for a free trial of their service).

In each case there were multiple culprits contributing to low conversion rates. One of the biggest mistakes was the failure to gain people’s trust. Nothing, on either website, told users that the site was legitimate, safe, and could be trusted.

Remember, when someone comes to your website (and it might not be your HOME page by the way) they perform an instant assessment. Among others, they ask themselves two questions,

  • “Does this website offer what I’m looking for?”, and
  • “Can this website deliver?” – in other words, “Are they full of crap, or are they legit?”

One of the most effective ways to give potential business a quick answer to the second bullet is by using trust icons. These are visual cues that all, in their own way, add the perception of legitimacy and trustworthiness to a website.

Here are my top 5 that I recommend using on your website:

trust icon1. Better Business Bureau Accredited Business
If you run a website that does any business in the US, this is the best trust icon. It screams legitimate business. Best of all, it links to the businesses profile and rating with the BBB. If your company doesn’t have a good rating, get that taken care of first before adding this icon to your website. Posting a link to a C+ rating will do more harm than good.

Details: a company must be more than a year old and its website has to have a privacy policy prominently displayed before being considered for the icon. In my experience, as long as a company has both the BBB will “pass” the website. This is a premium seal, so you’ll need to pay an annual fee to be part of the program.

trust icon2. Associations / Trade Groups / Memberships
Any business that is part of a larger association or group of companies should leverage that membership and feature that icon on their website. For example, let’s say you’re a realtor. I would recommend having the National Association of Realtors icon on your website. Number one, it’s a quick sign that your firm can be trusted. Number two, I’d be willing to bet it’s a differentiator with your competition. If someone comparing your site to a close competitor sees that icon on your website and not on the other, that may be enough to call you and not the other firm.

Details: it depends on the association. Some will offer an icon with a membership. Some memberships are free and other paid.

trust icon3. Payment
If your website processes payments, then it has to have an icon saying that their information will be safe. Examples of icons for payment are PayPal, Authorize.net, Thawte, and Verisign. Each example, in their own way, tells the user that they can feel good about taking their credit card out of their wallet and forking over those hard earned dollars to buy your product or service. Like #2, the biggest error is in this category is the error of omission. When a website doesn’t talk about how payments are processed safely, that’s when a red flag goes up.

Details: in most cases these icons are free. Many payment gateways (like Authorize.net for example) make it really easy to add their icon to your site (because they get the added benefit of an inbound link).

trust icon4. McAfee Secure
This one should look familiar because it’s seemingly everywhere. It’s becoming so prevalent that it’s almost a “must have”, which is why it made my list. These days it’s weird when websites don’t have it (btw, great business model for McAfee). This icons says to people that the website can be trusted because it is safe.

Details: this is another premium icon. It’s close to $1,000 per year, so it’s not cheap. The requirements for getting the icon are relatively easy as long as the site is hosted with a legit hosting company. This does work with hosting on shared servers, so you don’t have to have your own dedicated machine to get this.

5. US Flag
trust iconYour first instinct might be that adding the stars and stripes is a cheesy 1997 website move that doesn’t belong in today’s real-time web. I’d say you’re wrong. There are plenty of industries where consumers feel better knowing that the website is owned and operated in the US, and not in Europe or Asia. For example, the tax industry. I know from working with clients in that industry that there are companies based in Eastern Europe that perform all kinds of tax preparation and accounting tasks. Think about it, would the average US taxpayer want someone in Europe storing their data and advising them on tax issues? Probably not. But those sites based elsewhere do every well. No one ever thinks it might be operated out of the country. The flag is a subtle way of showing that a business is based and operated in the US. If people assume that means it’s more safe or legitimate, then why not take advantage of that?

Details: there are no requirements (other than being honest about the business being located in the US). And it’s free! I’m sure you are resourceful enough to find the flag somewhere on the web.

The last thing I’ll say is if you buy into the trust icon theory, then don’t hide your icons. Make them prominent so people can see them.

What are your thoughts on trust icons? What do you think my list? What’s missing? Let’s discuss in the comment section below.

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Website consultant who loves helping others build online companies. Sold @beelya & @filelater. Working on my next cash machine: @taxjar. Crazy about golf & sports. Connect with me on Google+

  • http://www.zagoumenov.com/ alexander zagoumenov

    Mark, you’ve got a good point. Agree on first 4, but as a Canadian business owner I’m not sure if Canada’s maple leaf to Canadian customer means as much as the stripes and stars for U.S. customer. But I might be off on this one. Anyone else with a Canadian perspective? Mark, thanks for the article!

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