Article: Micah Cranman

The Small Business Library

December 10, 2000

Trust & Credibility:
Vital Components to the Success of a Website

When was the last time you ever did business with someone you didn't trust? When did you last do business with someone that you suspected of being dishonest? Never.

This is because trust and credibility are crucial in any business transaction. In fact, engendering these qualities in your visitor is perhaps the most important aspect of running a commercial website. Without building trust or credibility, you'll never be able to sell your product or service(s). This is because your potential customer has no idea who they're dealing with, what your reputation is, and if they're going to get what they expect. If they can't trust you, why would they pick you instead of someone who they can trust?

So, to help you create a trusting environment on your website, I've compiled a list of ten things you can do:

  1. Don't Make Outrageous Claims.

    This one is common sense, but you would be surprised at how many people break this rule. Have you ever visited a site that's *obviously* been built for a little "mom & pop" shop that claims they're "The #1 Blah Blah Blah in America," the "The Best on the Planet," or something similar? And what impression does that leave with you? Probably that these people don't know what they're doing or are not to be trusted. So please people, be reasonable with what you say, because people won't believe you otherwise.

  2. Check for and correct any grammar or spelling errors.

    I've said this so many times before, but it's SO important that the content of your site is essentially flawless. Nothing says, "We're not to be trusted!" better than some spelling and grammar errors. To correct this problem, it's best to get several people to read through your site and point out any errors they see. Also, ALWAYS run any content you've made through a spell checker immediately before posting it.

  3. Give a risk-free guarantee on your product or services (and make it "no questions asked").

    Think about the beauty of this tactic. It does two things for you right away. First of all, it removes any risk for the customer, so they are usually far more likely to buy. Secondly, it builds trust because the customer assumes that if you're offering a "no questions asked" guarantee, you're willing to trust them. And if you're willing to trust them, they're usually willing to trust you!

  4. Publish a free newsletter.

    It's been proven that it usually takes more than one exposure to a product or service before someone will buy it. By running a free newsletter, you can gain those needed exposures. In the process of exposing those potential clients to your product or service repeatedly, you can also build trust with your newsletter if your content is good. If you've got something valuable and helpful to say, people will see you as an expert in your field and therefore trust you. And then you get their business.

  5. Use testimonials!

    I can't stress how important putting testimonials on your website is. If people can see proof that you've made previous customers happy, they almost always trust you. However, in order for this to be effective, you've got to do several things: first, NEVER make up testimonials. Second, make sure the testimonials are specific about how you helped the customer or client instead of something general like, "You guys are great!" Something like that is not specific enough, and you might as well leave it out. Third, make sure the people providing the testimonials are easy to contact either via an e-mail address or with a website address.

  6. Provide visitors with plenty of contact information.

    Many online businesses are fly-by-night companies who are here today and gone tomorrow. People are especially scared of getting cheated by one of these companies or people. So, in order to assuage their fears, make your contact information readily available for viewing at all times. You should ALWAYS include your phone number, address, and e-mail addresses in an easily accessible section of your website.

  7. Let people get to know who you are.

    A perfect way to go about doing this is to have an "About Us" page that gives a bit of background on all the members of your company or business. This is effective because the Internet is a very impersonal medium. Adding information about who you are often warms people up to your offer because they feel like they're dealing with a real person instead of a computer screen. When people feel like they "know you," they trust you as well.

  8. Take the "honest" approach from time to time.

    It's somewhat difficult to convey to you exactly what you should do to accomplish this. But the concept is pretty simple. You don't always have to try to "sell" your visitor on your product or service. Try being honest and up-front with your visitors and potential customers. For a good example what I'm talking about, just visit my site. ( You'll see that in places, I'm very blunt about what we're trying to accomplish and how we can help you. By trying to avoid "hyping" the visitor, I often gain their trust.

  9. Write articles for other websites and newsletters related to your field of expertise.

    When someone reads your informative and enlightening article on a topic they need help with, they immediately regard you as an expert, and they feel as though they can trust you. When you've engendered their trust, and they are already interested in the type of product or service you offer, it's VERY easy to make a sale. All you have to do is get them to your website!

  10. Make your site look like it was made by a pro!

    If you visited a run-down, nasty store with dusty shelves and cluttered items, you'd never buy one thing from them, even if their prices were incredible and their product quite good. If your website is "virtually" run-down, the same thing's going to happen - no one will buy from you. You've got to look good to sell well, because people *do* judge a book by its cover, and they'll judge your website by its "cover."

    So get your site designed by a pro or invest some time learning how to make it look good by yourself. If you don't, you'll never reap the full potential of the Internet.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help you on your way to becoming an online success (or more of one if you already are).
Good luck!

Article written by Micah Cranman, owner of Sybren Design, located at -- a small business web design and development firm. You may contact Micah by visiting: