Establish Website Credibility: How to Evaluate a Brand Online

Increase Credibility

There are a number of ways to evaluate and improve the online credibility of a brand.

Credibility Definition or Meaning

Credibility is related to the quality of being trusted by others. If you are considered credible, others respect your thoughts and opinions over those who are considered not credible.

Company or Brand Credibility

Company or brand credibility relates directly to its ability to generate sales and profits. Apple products, like the iPad tablet, are more highly valued than similar generic products, like the Android tablet (Apad). Although they perform similar tasks, the iPad Pro retails for about $800 whereas the Amazon Fire, with its Android operating system, retails for about $50. In this case, the Apple iPad has more brand credibility than the Amazon Fire.

How to Create Trust and Credibility

There are 5 key elements of generating trust and credibility. These five elements are dependent upon each other. If you are very strong in one, but very weak in another, you could still be considered untrustworthy. These elements are:

1) Integrity / Authenticity / Trustworthiness

If people are going to invest themselves into you, they need to be sure that you will be good stewards of this trust. Integrity is doing the right thing when now one else is watching. It is a consistency between your thoughts, actions, statements, and opinions. This is one of those things that is hard to earn and easy to lose. People with high integrity, include: Nelson Mandela and Neil Armstrong.

2) Competence

Competence is the ability to do something effectively. Usain Bolt is competent at running, for he is currently the fastest man alive with a top speed of 45.7 km/h or 27.78 mph. Being considered an expert is a relative term and truly depends on the competition. Who is more competent in reporting the news: Fox News Channel, CNN, or MSNBC? This is a difficult question to answer. Who is the most popular cable news network? Fox News Channel has more total viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined.

3) Ability to Make Sound Decisions

The ability to make good choices and sound decisions is one thing that separates those who achieve from those who don’t. We are all faced with making decisions every day, from what we eat to where we apply our efforts to generate income. Many of us elect the next President of the United States based on a track record of the choices made, such as military background, voting history, and public speeches. Having a track history of decisions demonstrates a person’s ability to navigate situations in a way that increases the value of the project being worked on.

4) Empathy and Compassion

Empathy and compassion are purely emotional characteristics. Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s emotions. Compassion is a benevolent or positive response to these emotions. We are emotional. We make decisions based on our emotions. Your brain tells you that drinking and driving is bad. Your emotions tell you that you need to get home. For many of us, there is a disconnect between our emotions and our logic. To improve credibility, one must have a consistency between emotions and logic. People with empathy and compassion, include: Mother Theresa and Clara Barton.

5) Charisma and Likability

Charisma is related to having a personality that attracts others. It is the ability to charm and inspire. Likability is related to having a positive personality – one who is not critical or harsh. They are two separate things. A charismatic person may not be likable, such as Jim Jones (who got 900 people to commit suicide). A likable person may not be charismatic (Steve Jobs avoided public speeches throughout much of his career, but was still highly respected).

Website Credibility Factors Checklist

1) Aesthetically pleasing website.

Websites that are more attractive and offer more features create a greater feeling of trustworthiness and professionalism in consumers.

2) Easy to find contact information.

If people cannot easily find a way to contact you through phone, email, standard mail or social media, they think you have something to hide. Also, when they do contact you, make sure you answer their questions and fulfill any obligations.

3) Relevance of content.

A website that displays the type of information being searched for is perceived as being more credible. The question was asked earlier: Who is more competent in reporting the news: Fox News Channel, CNN, or MSNBC? Each has its own bias. If your bias lines up with one of these, you think it is more credible. So each of these news sites generates news that they think you want.

4) Talk to your customers, not over them.

Use the same words and lingo as your customers. You will communicate differently if your customers are medical doctors versus teenagers.

5) Proper spelling and grammar.

Poor grammar and incorrect spelling make you seem less credible. It’s more forgivable in blog posts and social media, but unacceptable on your home page or popular landing pages.

6) Easily found links to respected 3rd party sites that mention you.

A posted photo with a respected celebrity or a news article from a credible source can increase your own credibility.

7) Staff bios and photos.

People don’t trust anonymous websites. Personalize your website and social media with photos and bios.

8) Visible privacy statement, terms of use, email policy, return policies and refund policies.

People want to know what to expect, so tell them. Describe your policies and procedures and post them in visible and expected locations.

9) All claims should be backed up. If you can’t prove it, don’t state it.

If you are the best at something, prove it. Provide third-party evidence and neutral experts to substantiate your claims.

10) Provide enough detail.

Provide enough details for a reasonable conclusion about the information being provided. The amount of information required is different based on established goals. Getting them to call requires a lot less data then getting them to purchase online with a credit card.

11) Show client list, reviews, and testimonials.

This is social proof of your ability to fulfill your promises. Also, provide opportunities for customers to provide online feedback on 3rd-party sites, like Google+, Facebook, Better Business Bureau, etc. Not all review sites are reputable, so do your homework.

12) Show your affiliations.

If you are associated with a university, non-profit organization, or government agency, show it. Provide evidence of this relationship through videos, photos, and links.

13) Provide case studies.

Provide evidence through case studies of projects completed and services rendered.

14) Use SSL encryption.

If you collect any personal information, make sure you have a properly integrated SSL certificate.

15) Display trust marks.

Use an SSL, Verisign, TRUSTe, or other similar seal to show that you have taken steps to secure your website.

16) Maintain your website, blog, and social media.

Provide regular updates of fresh content to demonstrate that you are active and open for business. Keep your website and social media accounts inviting. Fix broken links, non-functional forms, and any other similar features.

17) Celebrity and authority endorsements.

When someone who is often in the media spotlight mentions a website or a brand, its credibility increases significantly. Work towards getting endorsements from authority figures within your industry.

18) Get published in other locations (online and offline).

Brand your products by getting them mentioned in a variety of different media closely related to your industry. If you are developing computer hardware, an article within PC Mag can help boost brand recognition and credibility. Also, generate a guest blog post for a website like PCWorld.com.

19) Have a jobs / careers page.

A real company in a real location that is growing is hiring for specific positions. Be detailed as to what qualifications you are looking for.

20) Own search for your brand.

When you do a search on Google, Bing or Yahoo for [your brand name] + reviews / complaints, you should have a strong presence on the first page. The more of this real estate you control, the easier it will be to mitigate any negative reviews in the future.

21) Minimize banners, popups, ads, etc.

Your website should be clean and straight forward. Minimize any flashy elements, such as popups and blinking banners. You should have a clear call to action on each page of the website. What do you want users to do when they reach your website.

22) Decrease website page load speed.

If your website takes a long time to load, people will go somewhere else for information and/or services. See how to Improve Page Load Time.

23) Develop a community.

If there are a lot of people waiting in line for a business to open, you are curious as to what is going on. The Internet is no different. Provide opportunities for people to gather near your store front through blog comments, forums, social media comments, etc.

24) Be truthful, honest, and generous.

Treat your customers as you would like to be treated. Avoid “bait and switch.” Follow through on your promises. Give of your expertise to the community.

Bonus) High organic search rankings in Google.

As you increase your brand credibility online, you will also increase your organic search engine rankings. Many brand credibility indicators are also Google Search Indicators For Website Rankings.