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If your website has any of these 11 things, people probably don't trust you

The best thing you can do for your business is to assume nobody trusts you.

Because they don’t.

One of the first things we’re told when we’re children is to not speak to strangers. And if a stranger came your way, there was only one rule. Say NO.

We’re naturally inclined to say no and to distrust unfamiliar things, which is why the most influential brands in the world have become masters of storytelling and relating to their customers in order to inspire trust.

And while you might not have the giant budget of these brands, the same lesson applies. Building trust in your customers is the number one crucial step to building your business and gaining a loyal and engaged audience.

So, if you feel like you’re doing everything right but still can’t seem to convert traffic into real paying customers, it’s time to dig deeper. Here are 11 possible reasons why people don't trust your brand, and what you can to do change that.

1. Your website is leaving an awful first impression

Why is the menu split in two with a stock photo in the middle? Why are random tags highlighted and bigger than the others? What does this company even sell? Who is it for? What is going on here???

There’s no excuse for slow and complicated websites, not in 2023. If your homepage has too much going on, takes too long to load, or is filled with fonts and colours that don’t belong together, you’re leaving an instant bad impression for anyone who visits your website.

If you’re familiar with the blink test (the amount of time you have to capture a website visitor’s attention), then you’ll know that broken links, distracting images, confusing site navigation and slow page loading times are all instant website turn offs.

Your website is often the first point of entry for new customers so do your brand a favour and give it the attention it deserves.

What you can do:

  • Improve your web design

  • If you don’t have the budget to hire a web designer, use an easy drag and drop website builder like Wix, Squarespace or Weebly. You don’t need design or code knowledge and you can get a modern and responsive website up and running in a day.

  • Look for broken links by double-checking each link and image on your website

  • Optimise your page loading speed. Most studies show that site visitors won’t wait more than 4 seconds for a page to load.

3. Your copy is mysterious or cliche

If your website has empty words and phrases that make little sense and offer no value, like this:

Or is filled with convoluted jargon that might seem clever to some, but sounds ridiculous to everyone else, like this:

Then it’s time to rethink your copy. Phrases like reimagine your impact, cutting-edge, industry-leading and highly unique, are counterproductive and doesn't tell your visitor anything valuable or remotely interesting about your business or services.

It might feel like “bad writing” but when it comes to website copy, the simpler the better.

Tell your visitor exactly how you can help them by having a clear headline (your main piece of copy on your website, above the fold). As much as you might want to dress things up with fancy language, know that it won't have the effect you want it to (and you'll end up looking like a nonce).

What you can do:

  • Avoid using too many adjectives

  • Keep sentences short and to the point

  • Don’t be tempted to use clichés and hyperboles

  • Share your website with someone outside the business and see if they understand everything

  • Write as if you’re talking one on one to a real customer, face to face

4. You have no social proof

When was the last time you bought something or paid for a service online without checking a few reviews?

Visitors to your website are unlikely to hand their cash over if they can’t find any real people talking about you.

Without reviews and testimonials, they can’t make a confident decision to trust your promise and pay for it. To see the power of social proof, you need look no further than Amazon. There are three popular types of social proof that compels customers to buy, and Amazon ticks all three boxes.

But while Amazon is an obvious exception and can easily get hundreds of thousands of reviews for their products, you don’t need that many in order to inspire customer trust.

All you need is a handful of genuine feedback from real customers and for them to be visible and easy to find on your website and social channels. Remember, social proof is one of the most powerful form of advertising.

What you can do:

Encourage happy customers to share their satisfaction. The best time to do this will depend on your business. If you provide a product that promises results in seven days, for instance, follow up with them after that period when you’re fresh in your customer’s mind.

The key is to make it as easy as possible for customers to talk about you:

  • Create a relevant hashtag for your product and ask customers to share pictures/their experience with it on social media for a chance to win something

  • Send out a customer survey shortly after the purchase

  • Add a star rating or poll in your newsletter and let customers interact without having to leave their email.

  • Let customers share reviews directly to your website. This instils great trust as you obviously have no control over the review, which shows you care about customer feedback and welcome comments without the need to review them first.

5. You don’t offer secure payment options

This one’s actually more of a blatant red flag, which means it’s definitely an instant turn off for customers.

In the States alone, 70% of people do their shopping online, which means payment security is not only a no-brainer but a must-have for any business. And even though the number of people buying things online grows each day, it doesn’t mean the need for secure payment gets any less important. That's why it's important to display trust badges.

Studies show that online brands who display trust badges on their website see more conversions and receive more payments than the ones who don’t. But even displaying a trust badge on your website isn't enough to assure customers that their money is safe.

What you can do:

Offer multiple payment methods to suit different people and display your trust badges clearly on any checkout pages. Right now, the most common forms of payment are credit and debit cards, Paypal, Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

Remember, lots of people are wary about providing their bank details to a website they’ve never used before, and some people might not even look at or notice the trust badge. Play it safe and always offer secure PayPal and Apple Pay methods.

6. Your website isn’t optimised for mobile

It doesn’t matter how beautiful and functional your website is because if it comes up ugly on a mobile phone, it's useless.

Considering that 55.4% of all online shopping in the States is done on mobile, you really can’t afford to ignore mobile optimisation. And with many users loading websites from different devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.), your website needs to be perfectly functional on all of them.

Visitors to your site should be able to navigate easily (preferably with a vertical menu) and find everything they’re looking for in as few steps as possible.

Tip: "Mobile-friendly" isn't the same as "mobile-optimised". Mobile-friendly websites will still load properly on all devices but provides a bare-minimum experience. These websites are still designed for desktop computers, not great user experience.

"Mobile-optimised" on the other hand is specifically designed and created for mobile, which means it's 100% responsive and will reformat itself to fit the user's device.

6. You’re inactive on social media

In this social media-heavy world we live in, being inactive sends the wrong message about your business.

You’ll either seem out of business/shut down, indifferent to your online reputation or simply not a legit brand. None of which is what you want!

But being active on social media isn't just about sharing content. By being absent in the places where your customers most likely spend their time, you miss the huge opportunity to see comments and feedback from your fans. And by not responding to them, you lose the window to build trust and encourage engagement.

What you can do:

  • You don’t need to be active on every platform out there. Choose one or two platforms that you know your target audience uses the most and focus on those

  • Delete any profiles on platforms you don’t use anymore, so people don’t stumble across your empty feeds and get the wrong idea about your brand

  • If you have the budget, consider hiring a social media manager to take care of your accounts while you run your business. Consistency on social media takes time and you don’t want to risk missing mentions and comments just because you were too busy to check your profiles

  • If you can’t hire a social media manager, spend a couple of hours each week planning out your content using Hootsuite or something easier like Trello (if you just want to jot your ideas down rather than schedule them for automation)

7. You’re defensive when customers complain about you

Nothing screams unlikeable that a business owner who gets their claws out over a bad review.

Part of marketing your services means being vulnerable and that means sometimes you might say or do the wrong thing (or maybe you didn’t but it came across that way, same deal) and you’ll have to respond accordingly.

You could get a bad review, a complaint, a really disgruntled customer who seems like they want to tear you down for no good reason. If that happens, it is crucial to remember that the best response is apologetic and understanding, and never defensive.

Brands that can’t handle criticism online leave a bad impression on customers and risk alienating other happy customers too. Don’t do it.

8. You charge fees for “customer mistakes” or add on fees the customer didn’t know about

Respectable businesses are upfront about their fees. If a customer decides to buy from you and then is suddenly hit with extra charges they didn’t know about before making the purchase, you risk leaving a poor impression that’s hard to undo.

If you offer a free trial period, be clear about when and how customers will be charged when it ends. That’s not a piece of information that should be hidden in the fine print. That’s the stuff that needs to be displayed loud and clear where nobody can miss it.

What you can do:

  • Ensure all fees and costs are upfront and clear. Don’t hide them in fine print.

  • Let’s say you find that lots of customers don’t upgrade after a free trial. Consider ways you can monitor the customer journey and give a nudge at certain points.

  • Email marketing is one of the best ways to do this, as you can automate messages to go out at different touch points, depending on where your customers are in their buying journey

9. Your brand is faceless

People are more likely to trust real people than they are faceless corporations for tons of reasons. For starters, you can’t relate to a bureaucratic company.

Humans are more accessible, and customers (being humans), crave accessibility.

That’s why websites without photos of the real people behind the business can seem plain weird.

What you can do:

  • Take advantage of the power of social media and tap into your personal branding. Post photos of yourself or your team, share behind the scene moments, tell some stories about the faces making it happen

  • Do you have a newsletter? Sign each email off with a real name, rather than “the team @ [business]”

  • Greet newsletter recipients with their actual name instead of something generic like “hey, friends”. Your email marketing provider should have automation options for this

10. You have old contact forms on your website and no phone number

Speaking of sketchy, it’s perfectly fine to have contact forms on your website if you find it useful. But if that’s the only contact method you have, customers will sense something iffy going on.

Contact forms are no substitute for real phone numbers and email addresses.

If you’re happy to take people’s money but won’t let them contact you, what better way to show customers that you’re not interested in talking to anyone! It’s not a good look. Keep your contact details on show and up to date at all times.

11. You have no boundaries with form fields

Do your forms ask site visitors for first name, last name, date of birth, company name, postcode, telephone number, email address, name of their first crush and the street they grew up on as a child? That's way more info than you need (and your customers aren’t stupid, they can figure it out), and you'll just end up looking like a weirdo.

Do you really need all that personal info? And do you really think most people feel comfortable sharing all that data with a complete stranger on the internet?

Only ask for what you really need and visitors will be happy to give it up, especially if you’re offering a nice lead magnet in return. Also, offer a lead magnet.

Putting customer trust at the front of your marketing strategy

Building and maintaining trust with your customers should be your priority at every stage of your marketing plan, not just at the start. Think about brands that you trust, and use that as a brainstorm to map out your own plan.

And while trust takes a long time to build, the rewards are well worth it. With a loyal customer base who trusts you, you can reach more people and build a high-engaging community for your brand.

Want more tips to grow your audience and convert more customers? Sign up to get my emails. 5-minute reads to help you write better copy. Sent to your inbox every Monday.

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