Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.

Do you have experts on your team? Are your contributors or service providers authorities? Be sure to give their credentials. Are you affiliated with a respected organization? Make that clear. Conversely, don't link to outside sites that are not credible. Your site becomes less credible by association.

What makes you different from your competitors? Is it just lower prices, or do you have something substantially unique to offer? Experience and knowledge often translates to additional value for your customers. If you got it, flaunt it! Let your visitors know why they should do business with you rather than your competition.

It's important to allow your visitors to get comfortable with you and your team. People are more apt to buy from those whom they are more familiar with, even if a competitor seems to have a better offering. You can build this kind of trust by adding bios to your about us pages, talking about your self and your interests and pointing out the organizations you belong or participate in. You can also talk about your particular experience in your industry, detailing where you have particular expertise and demonstrating your accomplishments.

Be careful who you link out to. While linking to other reputable sites and services is a positive, linking out to non-credible websites can easily destroy the perception of credibility. You should only link out to sites that you feel provide a substantial benefit to your visitors. If you're just building a link directory for the sake of a link directory, reconsider. Your reputation can be at stake.

In all, you want to "put your best face forward", showing your visitors you have the knowledge and credentials to provide them the quality and results they expect.

Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.

The first part of this guideline is to show there are real people behind the site and in the organization. Next, find a way to convey their trustworthiness through images or text. For example, some sites post employee bios that tell about family or hobbies.

This is probably one of the most difficult tasks in establishing credibility. Anybody can talk a good game and even be knowledgeable in the product or service, but actions–and results–speak a lot louder than words on the web. Unfortunately, new visitors to your site do not have your past actions to take into account, only what you tell them about your past actions.

This is where you need to humanize yourself and your staff. I'm not going to tell you to take a staff picture with a dog and put that on your website, but there is a reason why companies do this. People like dogs and the dog humanizes the staff and makes them appear to be kinder, gentler, and more genuine.

People want to feel a connection in order to do business. Without getting into the realm of unprofessional, you can use bios to talk briefly about your family, your interests and your hobbies, but use that information to bring people back to why you do what you do.

Your readers may find that they have something in common with you such as number of kids, enjoyments, interests or hobbies. This can help them make that connection to you in that there is something more here than a person out to make a quick buck at their expense. If your visitors can be made to feel like you're like them, then they are more apt to spend their money with you than some other faceless, nameless person or organization.

Make it easy to contact you.

A simple way to boost your site's credibility is by making your contact information clear: phone number, physical address, and email address.

This is a pet peeve of mine: going to a website and not finding usable contact information. Using web forms on your site is a great way to gather information, but you really need more than that to be credible. You should give your visitors multiple ways to contact you. Phone number, physical address and email address are all necessary. I suggest that you make your phone number visible on every page. Getting a toll free number is a great help at looking legit as well as it let's visitors know that you're willing to give a little to get a little.

When it comes to ecommerce sites, I personally won't buy from a store that does not have visible contact information. With so many less than reputable stores on the internet, I often won't purchase from a store until I have talked with someone via email or phone. If this information isn't readily available, many purchases will be made elsewhere.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

March 17, 2006

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.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Establishing Web Credibility - Part 2