Our online economy is run on attention.
Every business wants eyes on their stuff. We pay per click, we tally up our views, we tell each other that any publicity is good publicity, and that if you just put out enough stuff, something will eventually go viral.
But I’m calling B.S. The most valuable resource in your business isn’t attention. It’s trust.
Trust vs. attention
Think of it this way—a video of a puppy on Facebook will capture attention for sure (personally, I’ll watch every single one, for hours). But when the same account that posted the video then shares an ad for a random dog shampoo, are you going to buy it?
Maybe, maybe not. It’s probably easier to just pick up some generic dog shampoo at the grocery store anyway. There’s zero incentive to buy that product from that seller.
But let’s say instead of cute puppy videos, the account was a dog trainer who regularly shared instructional videos that helped you solve your puppy’s chewing problem. If she then introduced her new line of dog shampoos, you might listen a little closer.
The first account is chasing likes. The second account is building trust.
You can’t sell anything without trust, and likewise, actively working to make yourself more trustworthy often results in more sales. Unfortunately, trust is harder to get than attention, and most people aren’t willing (or don’t know how) to take the steps to get it.
As an online business owner, your website is essential to your success. So today, I’m going to share a few specific steps you can take to build trust with your website visitors.
We’ll start with the low-hanging fruit.
1) Concrete trust signals
These are the obvious security markers that visitors are looking for as they consider a purchase.
HTTPS and trust badges
In the browser bar, you’ll see that the full site URL begins with “HTTP” or “HTTPS.” The “S” at the end indicates it’s a secure website, and that the owner has an SSL certificate for the site. You can get an SSL certificate through your web host for a fee. Personally, I receive free encryption through my host SiteGround.
If you don’t have an SSL certificate, certain browsers will warn your visitors. For example, Chrome will sometimes show a “Not Secure” message in the browser bar.
Many people will still browse websites that don’t have SSL certificates, but not all. It’s definitely worth the investment, especially as your web traffic increases—and if you’re processing transactions through your website, it’s a must to protect your customers’ data.
When you have an SSL, you often have access to a trust badge as well that you can put on your website as well to assure the buyer that their credit card information is secure. You’ll want to make sure this is clearly displayed during the checkout process.
That said, I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. Once you’re handling significant traffic and can afford the expense, it’s of course best to work with a lawyer who specializes in online business to create one that’s more official.
2) Accreditation and certificates
Have you done official-y things? College degrees, industry certificates, and awards can quickly communicate to your readers that you know your sh*t. Many of these come with badges that are specifically designed to display on your site and show off your creds.
If you don’t have any accreditation, it may be worth taking the time to get some that align with your industry. For example, the Google Analytics Individual Qualification might be a good option if you’re advising customers on their marketing strategy and working in Google Analytics regularly.
Is accreditation necessary to succeed? No. But they do demonstrate to your visitors that you’re involved in your industry and aren’t some rando looking to make a quick buck.
Pro tip: Be sure to explain the significance of a particular award or certificate in your copy. Your readers might not know how prestigious a given award actually is, or what your training entailed. Those details matter!
3) Past work
Few things build trust better than evidence of past success. If you tell your customer that you can help them with something, then follow up with specific examples of how you helped others with the same problem, they’ll know you’re worth the money.
There are two main ways of sharing this information on your website. The first is to collect customer testimonials where they talk about how you helped them. The second is to write a case study (or to hire someone to write one for you) that dives deeper into the issues you solved, step by step.
Regardless of what form your “past work” examples take, remember that what you highlight is what you’ll attract. Namely, if you’re promoting all the work you did for a hospital when you really want to work with restaurants, you’re not going to get the kinds of clients you’re looking for.
4) Focus on a specific audience
This is the step that many people don’t think of as a trust factor, but it definitely is.
Choosing a niche allows you to get to know your customers’ needs intimately. In turn, this means you can:
- Create specialized solutions that perfectly align with those needs
- Develop expertise
- Speak directly to your audience’s struggles
We all want to be heard and understood. Focusing on a specific audience tells your readers I’m here for YOU. To build trust, you must deliver value. And frankly, you can’t deliver much value unless you know who you’re delivering it to and what they actually need help with.
If you’ve been a generalist throughout your career, let this be a call to action. Focusing in on a subset of people is the best way to get your business under control, raise your professionalism, and build trust with the clients who matter most.
5) Share your real values and personality
In other words, be authentic. Don’t be afraid to get on a little soapbox and share some real talk about the things that matter to you. Standing out gives your readers a chance to respond emotionally. And if you chase some people away, who cares? You’ll have even more who are attracted to what you’re bringing to the table.
Now, I’ve noticed an odd trend in recent years. The problem used to be that everyone sounded like corporate robots, and bloggers paved the way for natural-sounding, casual copy. Which was awesome. But now, it seems the opposite is starting to happen—everyone is trying hard to sound as casual as possible.
Which would be great, except everyone’s aiming for the same kind of casual that’s appropriate to their industry. Tech? Reference “ninjas” and “unicorns,” and talk about “rockstars” while mentioning how your office keeps beer on tap. Creative businesses? Bright colors, inspirational quotes, and a few curse words thrown in for fun.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Unless isn’t not actually your vibe.
Communicating your actual personality on your website is vital. If it’s not authentic, it shows. People just know. Whether you’re trying too hard to be professional or bubbly—THEY JUST KNOW.
We need more trust in our lives
The internet is full of noise, but I’m a big believer in the fact that real communities are only formed through intention and value. When you orient your business to quality over quantity, you’ll see the results you’re looking for.