Researchers at Stanford University recently discovered that three-quarters of all potential customers from your company will decide whether or not you are credible just by look at your website.

How do they make their decision? The researchers at Stanford spent three years and talked to 4,500 people to produce a fascinating document called Stanford Web Credibility Research.

They discovered that credible websites have 10 key components that influence people’s opinions about the company. They are:

1. Reliably-sourced content that can be verified.

If you cite a “fact,” you must be able to show your readers where it came from so they can verify it if they want to. Provide links and references. Even if people don’t take the time to click on them, they want to know that they are there. When in doubt, it is always better to cite sources.

2.  Show that you actually exist. 

Worried that they might be dealing with a fraudulent online organization, people want to see your actual physical address and if possible, a photo of your building or office space. If you want to up the stakes, include a certificate of membership with your local Chamber of Commerce.

3. Show that you are an expert in your field. 

Don’t just say the services you offer; describe the people who will deliver them and give details that illustrate their level of expertise. If you offer physical therapy services, for example, include details on where your therapists were trained, their degrees, the fact they are licensed and the special certifications the have acquired. This goes much further to establishing credibility than simply saying “our experts will…”

4. Build your service providers into people who appear honest and trustworthy. 

Besides listing their educational accomplishments, tell people that they are members of the community gardening club in their spare time, or that they volunteer at the youth hostel or do volunteer work at a hospice. Better yet, show pictures of them doing these things.

5. Make it easy for them to reach you. 

It sounds so basic, but if your site doesn’t have an email and a direct phone number, it will seem less credible.

6. Spend time and/or money ensuring that your site looks professional. 

Amateurish sites give the impression that your credibility as a professional is questionable.

7. Ensure your design is easy to use. 

In all your website design decisions, think about your readers first and what they want to know, rather than you first and what you want to tell them. It just works better that way.

8. Keep your content up-to-date. 

Nobody wants to know that you hosted a community event in 2009 and haven’t updated your “news/events” category since then. They will wonder if you are that lax about keeping up your skills.

9. Refrain from distracting them with ads if you can. 

Keep your site as simple as possible so all your readers attention is on you and your products or services.

10. Proofread. 

Checking for spelling and grammar errors is so basic, and so often overlooked.

Do you think we missed any points? Let us know your opinions and thoughts in the comments below. 

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  • This really pinpoints many of the issues I raise with my clients. Two others that you missed are opening times and pricing. Even if you provide a bespoke service, some idea of indicative pricing is essential because people want to know if you are in their range. At http://websitesessex.co.uk we try to get our clients to do these things, but many business owners want a website that pleases them rather than focussing on their potential customers.

  • Great tips Roz. I agree that design and content of the website are very much important.