Is your website harming the trust and credibility of your business?
Are people worried or put off when they visit you online? Could your site be working against you rather than working as a business asset?
I’m sad to say that this is more common than we would like. It was certainly the case with John Corcoran’s site when he asked for a critique.
The GOOD news is, a lot of the problem areas that cause mistrust or unease in your visitors are easy to fix. Check out these factors and see if improvements can be made in your own site:
Dress for Success
First, you need to dress your site well.
Just like in real life, you need to dress your site appropriately taking into account your topic, the image you wish to portray, and according to the biases or pre-conceived notions of your market place.
While you don’t have to spend a fortune on design, you also do not want to look “spammy”.
Many people think that spammy sites just look cheap. That’s actually not the whole story. A site can be highly polished but still give off a whiff of canned meat product.
If you look at the screen grab above, you can see some problem areas that are causing problems for John’s site.
- Keyword-stuffing – Look in the top of the web browser window and you can see the site title has all kinds of SEO keywords stuffed in there. This has gone beyond multiple ways to describe the site into SEO spam territory. This will harm you in the search rankings as well as obviously turn off human beings who are faced with it.
- Palm Tree? – Palm trees are not the first thing I expect to see when looking at a site called “Law Report”. OK, this one is a judgement call because it is cute, fun, and related to sunny Cali weather, but as part of the overall mix? Not the best.
- Negative Social Proof – Having zero comments is working against you, because it looks like nobody is around.
- “Uncategorized” – Never have a category called Uncategorized – it makes it look like you don’t take care of your content. Categories should be based around the content your readers want to consume, make them appealing.
- Obvious Stock Photos – Images can be tricky, so need to be taken into the context of the rest of the site. Along with other red flags though this makes you look more spammy. Why are generic stock photos spammy? Because spammers use generic stock photos! Use photos that are high quality and either represent you, the product/service, or help make a point. Never just use “generic smiling business lady who obviously does not work for us” just to fill space.
- Confusion – Some of the content has no relation to your new focus and is therefore confusing (eg. content about real estate?). Confused people are seldom happy subscribers!
What’s In It For Me
If you look at the site, you will see a site name that conflicts with the tag Line.
The tag line is a bit generic, nothing stands out as unique or specifically beneficial, but it also conflicts with the site name. If the site is called “Law Report” then I expect benefits around legal advice, right?
When someone visits your site they need to immediately grasp what you are offering that is relevant to their wants and needs. Tell them what’s in it for them.
Use specific, benefit-lead language. Tell people the pain you remove, the problems you solve, the goals you help achieve, and what to expect.
Can you prove you are the person to help them? Do you have testimonials, case studies, certifications, badges, video demonstrations … anything that can support your argument is useful here.
People are much more willing to trust someone who seems like they might be able to help, providing at some point you back up your claims!
Just Like Me
Use the language of the market. How do they phrase things? What are they looking for? Is the industry using one language and the customer another? Do they call it a widget or a doodad?
If you can show you understand your audiences problems and goals, if you can tell stories that demonstrate you have “been there”, then you will get more audience connection because human beings are built with a need to find their tribe.
Your audience wants to associate with people who make them feel safe, they want to connect with people just like them (or people who were just like them and who have moved on, in the best possible way), people who understand them and their situation.
Avoid using phrases that make people think you are alien, speaking a different language, or some how speaking down to them. If you must use a strange term, explain it.
It’s also worth while generating positive “social proof” – evidence that other people are putting their trust in you. Therefore comments, subscriber counts and testimonials work well.
Consistency and Congruence
Once you have set up the best presentation of who you are and who you can help, then you need to keep your reputation that you are starting to build.
This means for a start, not acting “out of character”. It also means having a focus – don’t be scattered about who you help and how or the content you create.
There is something to be said for the element of surprise, but there are nice surprises and unpleasant surprises. Keep your behaviour, your communication, your language, and your customer service consistent.
If everything is in alignment then people will be comfortable with you, but the more you deviate from the consistent message and focus the more confused or put-off your audience will be.
Long Term Value Relationship
Finally, trust is not gained instantly but it can be lost very quickly. Warm people up steadily, earn their trust over time. Don’t take short cuts and certainly do not do anything to break trust once you have it.
Your content and auto responder should reward your subscribers for their attention. Wherever possible also give people an idea of your personality and back story. Show you are a real person, warts and all, and preferably a likeable one!
One of the key good things that John is doing is running webinars. They are awesome in that you convey a lot of valuable information, but also in a way that allows people to get an idea of who you are. Of course they are also a great way to build an email list! Just make sure they are 80 or 90% content so people really get a lot out of them.
First impressions online can be critical, make sure you are not doing anything to damage your perceived trustworthiness.
- Work out who you want to attract and what you can do for them
- Use a professional blog theme with good quality images that aligns with the image you want to portray and the audience you wish to attract
- Reinforce your trust with evidence, testimonials, case studies, and social proof
- Focus your content on who you can help and how, and avoid putting off humans in favor of search engines
- Build a relationship with your audience over time
What do you think? Got any feedback for John and his website? Have you ever been put off by a supposedly legitimate site that made you worry they are spammy? Think I might have been unfair? Please share in the comments …