Web searchers looking to research or purchase items to buy on the web are inherently skeptical. This is especially true when they end up on a site which is new to them. Regardless of how they got there--web search, referral, advertisement, etc.--this skepticism interferes with the buying and selling process.

There are numerous issues that make their way into the visitor's conscious and sub-conscious, most of which must be overcome before they are willing to seal the deal and complete the sale. Here are just a few:

  1. I don't know who you are so how can I trust you?
  2. What are you going to do with my precious credit card and personal information?
  3. How can I contact you (and be assured I'll reach someone) if I have a problem with my order?
  4. How do I know that my information will be secure?
  5. What if the product I buy doesn't work right or there is something else wrong?
  6. Why should I buy from you rather than another site?
  7. I'm having trouble finding information on your Web site, how do I know I'm getting what I need?
  8. I can't buy the way I want to. I'd like to talk to a person before placing my order
  9. Are you a serious business or is this just a hobby site?
  10. I need shipping options. Why don't you have more options?

As the website owner it's your job to help alleviate many, if not all, the fears that your site visitors have. You have to make them confident and comfortable with making the purchase.

Any of the questions above left unanswered is a potential sale lost due to uneasiness and the visitors inability to place their complete trust and confidence in you. All things being equal, they'll make their purchase from the site that they feel most confident about. Heck, all things not being equal, they'll still choose confidence over lower prices, better branding, etc.

It is often difficult for small business owners to see their websites objectively. A handful of people throw a few compliments their way and they assume that everyone thinks the same way. This then prevents them from making any changes because "we actually get complimented on that quite a lot." However when a more objective viewpoint is applied, one will often see past the few compliments and finally see the glaring omissions that may be preventing shoppers from completing their purchases.

So how do you create a site that builds shopper confidence in what you offer and increases your ability to close the deal? I have a few suggestions.

Risk free guarantees

Offering risk-free guarantees helps ease your shopper's worries about what happens if the product isn't what they wanted, doesn't fit, won't work right, or any of the dozens of other issues that may come into play. Providing options for returning products for whatever reason closes the door on "what if" something just isn't right. This closes a real gap between the shopper and the "place order" button.

Informative copy

All too often the content on product pages is drab or simply doesn't do enough to make the visitor really want it. Site's like this are relying on the visitor to absolutely know that the product they are viewing is the one they want. Instead, however, a great deal of gain can be had by adding copy that convinces the customer that each product is for them.

The product copy should make the shopper feel the warmth, smell the aroma, taste the sweetness, experience the rush, or enjoy the peace and comfort that the product will bring them. Every bit of the text must serve the purpose to both inform and convince. There needs to be enough information to satisfy all of the shoppers questions and that information needs to be presented in a way that communicates directly to the shoppers wants in order to help them overcome any objections they are running over in their mind.

Testimonials and product reviews

Testimonials and product reviews give the shopper additional and very valuable insight into the company (you) they are contemplating doing business with. Whenever possible seek out testimonials from satisfied customers. Even better are testimonials from customers who could have walked away disgruntled but you you were able to take care of their needs. These are powerful as they show that you're willing to go the extra mile for customer satisfaction.

Along the same lines, posting customer product reviews allows shoppers to see not just what you think of the product, but what other real customers think of it as well. Product reviews tend to be (or come across) as more honest and trustworthy. They will often mention negatives as well as positives which lends additional credibility not just to the product but to the site as well. After all, it's hard not to trust a site that is willing to display slightly negative comments about what they sell.

Company and site security info

Providing information about who you are and how you will keep your customers information secure is a great way to instill additional trust. About Us pages are frequently visited by those who need to know just a little bit more about who they are potentially buying from, and the information here can help the be put at ease.

If the visitor can see a real face behind the company they can begin to build a mental camaraderie with that person. This is especially true if some personal details are posted about team members and company executives. Along the same lines, providing information on how the shoppers information will remain secure is important. If the visitor feels, in any way, that their information isn't safe, the sale will have been lost.

In both cases, provide as much information as possible to ensure the visitors will feel at ease. Let them get to know you and trust you through these pages and the information you provide.

Building a web based business is more than just selling a product or service or even just getting a paycheck. Like any business, you need the customer to survive. Those that can direct their efforts into providing what the customer wants and needs find that they have more customers to please. While these are by no means everything you need to do to get the sale, implementing these four tips will go a long way to convincing your potential customers to become long-term customers.

December 17, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Very nice points brought together.

If I may add (just a quick thought crossed my mind) - if it's online services like for example proofreading, it might be helpful to implement the scheme: get percentage done-pay-get the rest done, rather than pay-get it done. Creates trust and commitment.

While I agree with most of your suggestions, I am no fan of "testimonials" that are written by someone who has no last name or just initials. They just read "phoney" to me.

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Useful article! thanks for sharing it!

talk about the wisdom of hindsight ! I could be an economist too if I could spout a hundred predictions and then just explain away all the ones that didn't work out.

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