In the offline world, you wouldn't invest tons of money in a sloppy-looking, incorrect-grammar-ing, confusing, and unknowledgeable salesman that wasn't able to serve your customers needs in the ways they wanted to be served, would you?  So, why would you do it online?  Would you like to buy something from this guy?

The truth is, your website is your digital sales rep.  It's the go-to "person" in the online world for customers looking for your solutions.  In light of all the activities you may do online, this is your digital home.  It is THE preeminent piece of your digital existence.  Kinda makes you think a little more about what you do with it, right?!?

Authority is Persuasive

Psychologically, customers' perceptions of the quality of businesses has a lot to do with their purchasing decisions.  There are many ways in which quality is communicated on a website.  Right now, I'm going to focus on your professional authority in your industry. This is so important to your business because authority is a major contributor to the persuasive process for a customer. 

Why?  Humans have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority.  We are trained from birth to believe that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong.  It is so entrenched in us that we often obey it even when it makes no sense to.  When stacked up with your competition, does your  website communicate effectively that you are THE authority in your industry for your solutions?  If not, it is failing.

How To Communicate It

If you really think about, you're very familiar with many of the ways in which authority is communicated because you see it in marketing all the time.  Here are a few examples:

  • Titles (4 out of 5 doctors agree) - the perception is that titles take time and excellence to acquire.  In fact, there have been studies that show that even people that have titles that didn't earn them can be blindly followed even when their performance isn't up to par or when they give false advice.  After all, just because they have M.D. after their name doesn't means they know everything, right?!?
  • Size (Google vs. Ask) - There is an association between size and status.  If given the opportunity to place confidence in one of two companies with no information but their size (employees, sales, etc.) most would choose the larger company.
  • Dress (Suit or sweatpants?) - The more professional or prestigious a person is dressed, the more authority they are given.  Online, this can apply to the look and feel of your site.
  • Awards (Nominated for Best Picture) - You wouldn't get the award if you didn't do something great, right?  Awards show that someone else somewhere else believes you are an authority; combining this psychological principle with another one: social proof.
  • Knowledge (FAQs) - if you have all the answers to all their questions, you will be perceived as an authority.  After all, you wouldn't have the answers if you didn't know what you were talking about (at least that's the perception).
  • Resources (tables, graphs and charts, oh my) - if you have information available that brings light upon a customer's buying process, they will perceive you to have more authority than one who doesn't.

Don't Waste Your Visitors

On the flip side, if you don't include these types of environmental factors on your website that communicate authority, you will have a very hard time motivating the customers that reach your site to make a commitment to you.  After all that investment to get them to your site, don't waste most of it by displaying a poor image, not answering their questions, delivering confusing navigation and failing to communicate what you've achieved.

April 22, 2013

Mike Fleming specializes in Analytics and Paid Search for Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.

Mike and the team at Pole Position are available to help clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Contact them via their site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Fleming > Why An Authoritative Website is So Important to Your Business