A Practical Guide On How To Build Trust With Website Visitors

It is almost impossible to scale website sales without building trust with online visitors. According to the Pew Research Center, about 58% of clients will check out your website before making a purchase or contacting you. That number jumps to 85% for B2B customers. That probably doesn’t surprise you, but where it gets interesting is that 75% of users admit they judge a business’s credibility based on their website experience.

…while nearly half of us trust doctors and firefighters, only 3% trust salespeople and marketers…

HubSpot Research study

Building trust with online visitors is no easy feat for a sales or marketing team. The general population only trusts about 3% of salespeople and marketers. While that is a daunting number, there are a few small steps you can take to building trust with each website visitor.

Website Features

It takes a user 50 milliseconds to form an opinion about your website. What do visitors think when they first open your website?

If you’re not sure, try this simple user impression test. Find some individuals that have never seen your website before, and show them the initial screen that comes up when they first land on the site. Give them 5 seconds to look and then close the computer. What was their impression of your business based on that first impression? Do they understand what your business provides within that short time?

Website Improvements to Consider

  • Modern/Up-to-Date Design: The design should make a great first impression and feature a lean layout that doesn’t overwhelm the visitor.
  • No Broken Links: Search engines and visitors alike hate broken links. Depending on how often you update the website, I’d recommend scanning your site with Broken Link Check at least every couple of months. That free tool will help you root out broken internal and external links so you can get them fixed up.
  • SSL: Having a secure connection has become a requirement for all sites, not just e-commerce. Chrome will show a lock, not secure, or dangerous indication. That little lock can help build trust but the other two will set you back (i.e. indicating the site is insecure). Try securing all assets (e.g. images) if you already have an SSL certificate encrypting the site but the lock isn’t showing.
  • Security/Malware scanning: A hacked website is a real pain for many reasons, trust included among them. A lot of times the website owner isn’t even aware their website has been compromised. Hackers have gotten clever to where they only redirect your Google visitors to their scammy websites. To get out ahead of this type of issue, considering using a tool like Sucuri or managed WordPress hosting to get regular scans and professional support if you do run into an issue.


I still remember designing my first website with a very corporate look to try and gain credibility. It worked back then but nowadays users want to be able to connect with you on a more personal level. They want to get to know your team, understand your products/services, and potentially become a customer. Make it easy for them to accomplish all three at the same time.

Tips for Website Authenticity

  • Photos of Your Team and Office: Stock photos can work great in the right setting or in a pinch but I’d highly recommend getting professional photos of your team and office. Visitors feel much more connected to you when they can seem your team and office. On our own website, we aim to include at least one photo of a team member on each page.
  • Be Clear, Not Clever: A lot of times we like to show off how much we know in our given field but that is very frustrating for users. If a user doesn’t understand the jargon or the messaging, they’ll likely suffer from decision fatigue and leave your site. Instead of trying to only impress the user, try to help educate them on your product/service. Educating users is a great way to show value right away.
  • Honesty: It takes time to build trust but that can be erased in an instant. Make sure to only make claims you can back up and be clear with visitors. For example, let them know they’ll be subscribed to your newsletter when completing a purchase so it isn’t a surprise. Also, consider letting visitors know exactly who you are and what clients are a good fit. That kind of honesty can save prospective clients research time and help you find better clients.
  • Personalization: Right at the top of the list for forward-thinking brands is personalization. If you have an e-commerce or membership site, leverage the profile information of that user while they navigate the site.

Social Proof

It is often hard to trust a company you’ve never heard of before. But what if your friends already made a purchase there? Or they have dazzling reviews? Or the company has thousands of paying members?

“When you say it, it’s marketing. When your customer says it, it’s social proof.” 

Andy Crestodina

All of these examples are social proof. It is human nature to look to our peers to slowly build trust for a product/service/company. Over 90% of website visitors check out reviews before making a purchase decision. That probably doesn’t surprise you when you think about your recent online purchases. What is a bit surprising is that consumer reviews are trusted 12 times more than descriptions that come straight from the manufacturer. The power of social proof is clear.

Types of Social Proof

It is almost impossible to have too much social proof but you want to try it to mix it up as well. What do I mean by that? If you’re going to feature testimonials, try to get some from not only customers but maybe a few from experts and or an influencer. Another example would be featuring how many customers you serve while highlighting the most notable brands.

Here are the six main types of social proof:

  1. Customers: leverage your current clients by encouraging them to leave reviews or provide a testimonial. It is even better if you can feature some of your best clients in a case study.
  2. Subject Matter Experts: individuals with degrees or proven expertise in a field can lend credibility with a candid review. If you’re selling a product, consider sending free samples to these individuals to encourage them to write a post about their experience.
  3. Influencers/Celebrities/Brands: do you have a recognizable individual using your product or service? Try to get a photo of them using the product or maybe feature a tweet. This doesn’t have have to be an A-list celebrity. It could be a person or company that is well-known in your area or has a large social media following.
  4. Crowds/Large Numbers: herd mentality can be very powerful for influencing a decision. For example, you could feature how many people follow your newsletter or how many members are using your software.
  5. Friends: you are more likely to trust your friend than a random person. Consider leveraging social media platforms to show how many of the visitor’s friends already “like” your page.
  6. Certifications: aim to feature any certifications or awards from credible 3rd party sources.

Summary: Path to 8 Touches

The path from prospect to customer is not a straight line. The customer journey can involve traditional marketing, websites, newsletters, social media, video, and more.

From discovery to purchase can be a matter of minutes, or a matter of months. It is different for all brands but the goal is to create 6-8 “touches” with each visitor. This is an old marketing adage to subconsciously create trust between the visitor and your brand.

This number can vary from business to business but the goal remains the same. Create positive interactions with visitors and you’ll get a lot more customers.

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I love writing about web design that inspires, figuring out Google's black box, and speaking to lively audiences. In my spare time, I enjoy reading Game of Thrones (waiting on Winds of Winter) and touring the lakes on my paddleboard.

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