04 May Many still distrust Web sites – is yours credible enough?
Although the Internet is an integral place of business, the online reality is that many Internet users still distrust even the most credible Web sites.
Many Internet surfers often believe they know a good Web site when they see one. Their intuition is based on a number of surface-level factors. For example, surfers are more likely to trust a site when it appears in the natural results of a search engine query than when it appears as a pay-per-click ad.
Sites seem intuitively credible when content is frequently updated, the design looks professional, and content includes third-party citations. Sites that contain technical errors, typos and poor organization lose credibility.
A surfer’s experience on the Web site is another influential factor. If the site is easy to navigate and their impression of the content they read seems “fair and balanced,” the credibility of the overall site improves in the surfer’s mind. If users can contact the Web site’s owner, and receive a prompt response when they do, the credibility of the site benefits. Likewise, factual errors and poor contact information makes users suspicious.
To enhance the credibility of their Web site, companies can:
• Include meaningful contact information.
Many businesses overlook the benefits of stating where they’re located, their telephone number and email address. Contact information positions your company as legitimate, reliable, and accountable. Lack of contact information makes surfers wary.
• Provide well-attributed testimonials.
Testimonials raise a Web site’s credibility. Testimonials can brief, specific, unique or unexpected in their wording. Attribution is important. Testimonials need to include detailed attribution (the name and company of the individual providing the testimonial). Testimonials that exclude attribution raise suspicion.
• Offer expertise.
Be an “approachable expert” to Web site visitors by providing them with meaningful content and advice. Demonstrate your expertise. Offer articles and white papers that people can freely read at your site or download.
• Use experts.
Ensure that your site is well designed, well organized and well written. Even, if you’re implementing a Web site in-house, consider using professionals outside your company to review your design, organization and copy prior to implementation. This is less expensive than implementing the entire project externally and results in a better site than one implemented without any outside assistance.
A Web site’s reputation also influences web surfers. Sites recommended by people surfers know, or published by organizations they support offline have much higher credibility than organizations they learn about for the first time online. Sites gain credibility in the minds of users when they win notable awards. Or, when they have links from popular Web sites that have already gained mass credibility. Sites that have noticeably small site traffic have less credibility.
Although the Internet has become the most important source of current information for users, the initially high level of credibility of information on the Internet has steadily declined over the past four years. According to a Digital Future Report (PDF here) published by the Center for the Digital Future:
• 48 percent of Internet users believe that most of the information online is reliable and accurate, compared with 56 percent of users in 2001.
• 40 percent of Internet users believe that only about half of the information on the Internet is accurate and reliable.
• 29.5 percent of non-users believe that most or all of the information on the Internet is reliable and accurate.
Web sites mounted by established media (such as the New York Times site) rank highest in credibility (74.4 percent), and Web sites posted by individuals (such as blogs) were ranked among the least reliable (9.5 percent).
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.