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Build Website Trust According to Google

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Trust has become the true currency for websites seeking to attract and retain customers. It’s also become an important factor with Google, particularly with their last core update. Many websites have lost their rankings because of lower trust factors.

The “Trust Process” begins the moment a visitor lands on your site and can end in short order due to many factors. In this article, I’ll explain the key trust factors associated with building and maintaining your websites.

Having worked on hundreds of sites either as a site administrator or content contributor, I’ve learned that there are many pitfalls facing the small business without dedicated resources to address the technical and psychological elements of a modern website.

The resources necessary for maintaining a trustworthy site cross the boundaries of technology and psychology. Technically, you now have to be viewed as trustworthy in terms of security and safety for your visitors. Psychologically, you have to appear authentic and authoritative, and to be as human as possible vs. being an A.I. generated blob of content.

This article will provide direct experiences on creating a trustworthy site from an end-user’s perspective AND from a technical perspective.

Each element, no matter how minute, plays a part in beginning the trust process.

Key Takeaways

  • Ensuring a secure technical connection is a simple first step to establishing trust.
  • Quality content and professional design are crucial for credibility.
  • Visible customer engagement such as with testimonials are important trust factors.
  • Having clear contact details on your site show there are humans behind it.
  • A clear definition of authors who are writing content add to the ‘humanizing’ effect.

Establishing Security Certificates

Security certificates indicate that connections between the visitor and the site are secure. They also authenticate a website’s identity and encrypt data protecting both the website and its users. Security certificates show as the little lock in your browser bar near the web address.

How to Implement SSL/TLS Encryption

This is fancy tech jargon but SSL/TLS Encryption esentially safeguards website communications between the site and you. You can obtain a TLS certificate from a trusted Certificate Authority Service. 

Making this less daunting, you’ll find these certificates are often provided by your hosting company and often free or very low cost. There are a range of certificate types with varied cost depending upon your needs. For example, a new site might start with what the hosting company provides but as the site matures, you may want to upgrade as in the case of a large e-commerce site ready to go live. An e-commerce focused certificate with increased levels of protection may be a good idea.

Display Security Badges

Now that you have your Security Badge,  putting this in the footer of your website signals to visitors that security is taken seriously. This is especially important for sites that are conducting any financial transaction.

Additionally, there are other trust badges from security providers can be added to further confirm that my site is secure and trustworthy.

  • PayPal: The PayPal trust badge is essential if you sell using PayPal.
  • Norton: Norton, who is probably more well known for antivirus
  • McAfee. Offers the Trusted Site Certification for a monthly fee.

These visible and technical measures protect against data breaches and assure users of their security and privacy while interacting with your site.

Publishing Trustworthy Content

To secure Google’s trust, and that of your readers, focus on these key practices.

Authoritative Author Biographies

In your author bio section, include detailed credentials and professional background information. Highlight your relevant expertise.

An insightful biography can boost the Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T) of content, according to Google’s guidelines.

Regular Content Updates

Commit to revisiting older content and updating it with the latest information and industry developments.

Keeping content current is a signal of reliability — it shows an active participation and a dedication to providing readers with the most up-to-date and useful information.

Clear and Cited Information Sources

Whenever you present data, statistics, or other factual information, clarity and transparency about the sources are paramount.

Make sure to cite reliable and respected sources to back claims, providing a reference point for readers to verify the information presented.

Professional Modern Design

In building website trust according to Google, focus on implementing design elements that showcase professionalism. A visitor’s first impression truly counts here. If your design hasn’t been updated in 5 years (or more), consider getting a facelift. Of course, if you’re getting customers with an old, plain design, perhaps you’ve already established credibility with your audience and this will have less relevance. Still, we believe an updated modern site that’s easy on the eyes can make a difference.

User-Friendly Interface

It’s important to make finding content pages easy so your audience won’t get lost. Simple is generally better.

Structure high-quality content clearly with headlines and bullet points to aid skimming the page and making comprehension easier.

Consistent Branding

My strategies include maintaining a uniform color scheme, typography, and layout throughout the website.

These branding elements are consistent across all pages and align with the brand’s identity, creating a professional appearance and making the brand immediately recognizable.

Mobile Responsiveness

Acknowledging that a significant portion of web traffic comes from mobile devices, ensure websites are mobile-optimized. Your web design should adapts to different screen sizes and orientations for optimal viewing and interaction. This is a critical factor in building trust and credibility.

Most WordPress page builders have the capability to check your pages for mobile, and tablet resolution. Open a private browser window on your desktop, then shrink the page size to see how your site pages look. This isn’t foolproof and if you didn’t build the pages, this is the next best easy way. For things that look odd, pass this along to your website developer.

Optimizing Page Speed

According to Google’s standards, the speed of your site is extremely important. Think of the times when you’ve visited a site and it took 5,6 or 7 seconds to load. You probably left. Minimally, you thought there was some type of problem with the site before eventually giving up.  Why is your site slow?

Minimizing Load Time

To reduce the loading time of your website, one problem often missed is overly large, uncompressed images. How does this happen? You, or your developer grabbed some free stock images and slapped them on the website. When we talk size, I’m referring to two types of sizing that needs to be addressed:

  1. The physical density of the image in terms of bytes. The smaller, the less time to load with all of the other web content on a page.
  2. The dimensions of the image in terms of pixels, i.e a 1200 x 600 width and height. Let’s say you download an image from pexels (free image site) and it’s 5400 x 3200 pixels. That’s really large. You use your handy photo resizer tool and get it to 1200 x 600. It would still be  several hundred bytes large which would be more efficient if compressed.

How can you make compressing easy? If you’re on WordPress, use an image compression plugin such as Smush. There are others but they essentially reside on your website and compress images for greater load efficiency.

Tools like PageSpeed Insights from Google can diagnose and pinpoint areas for improvement to enhance your site’s performance. PageSpeed will tell you where images are inefficiently large but also some other quite technical notes such as to ‘minify css, javascript and HTML’. Again, plugins and tools from your hosting provider can help.

You can use the link above to run the pagespeed insights tool and then share the information with your web developer.

By methodically implementing these changes, the loading time of your pages will decrease, leading to a smoother user experience.

Using Reliable, Fast Hosting Services

If you’ve ever looked for hosting services online, there are pages and pages of ‘best hosting …..’ articles and reviews making it a dizzying choice. The first point I want to emphasize is the the ‘best ….’ reviews are usually affiliate links where the page publisher is paid to pitch these services. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this as I have some affiliate links too. The ethical way of promoting products via affiliate links is (a) to disclose it, and (b) to have actually used the product.

How can a site with 5-10 hosting reviews have actually used these companies? Possibly but it’s more likely due to higher commission rates.

In ten plus years of technical work I may have used ten companies. TEN YEARS.

Hosting review for the typical small business user are filled with information that will make little sense to the average non-techie. I plan on putting together a review that will explain what to look for, what can be a problem for non technical users and other thoughts about hosting.

I also emphasize the importance of choosing reliable hosting services, as the choice of web host could impact your site’s performance drastically.

Opting for a host that offers fast server response times will directly affect your website’s speed – a factor I don’t overlook in my quest for an optimized web presence.

  • Confirm the uptime track record of the host.
  • Consider host server locations relative to your audience.

The host that I’ve been using for over six years on my client sites and six if my own is SiteGround. It’s a good balance between cost and capability. They are fast and have excellent 24/7 support via phone and chat.  I’ll do a more detailed review of hosting from a non-technical point of view soon.

Showcasing Customer Reviews

Displaying customer reviews serves as a powerful testimonial to potential clients. They offer authentic proof of the satisfaction and experiences of prior customers, which can effectively build trust and reinforce your reputation.

Integrating Verified Reviews

Make it a point to integrate verified reviews into your website with real customer and business names. I realize this isn’t aways possible but the more that appears real, the better. No names or no last names, or initials really come across as fake and don’t add much to your cred factor. On consumer sites, putting full names is probably the most difficult as privacy is important. On a B2B site, it’s easier.

Another way is to connect your Google business profile which allows you to generate and display real customer reviews.

By selecting a suitable template, you can create a Google Reviews widget and embed it directly onto your website. Visitors now see genuine feedback prominently displayed. If you don’t have a Google Business profile, get one here.

Responding to Feedback

It’s important to take the time to respond to both positive and negative reviews. This engagement demonstrates that you value customer feedback and are dedicated to improving your services. This not only showcases transparency but also encourages a two-way conversation, fostering a stronger relationship with customers.

Displaying Contact Information

Google and your customers are most likely going to look for how to contact you at some point. This should be easily seen on your home page.

Providing Multiple Contact Methods

Email: Email can be problematic by allowing spammers to attack and that you’ll get loads of emails to filter. I do not recommend publishing your email on the site. Instead, use a form that forwards the request to a dedicated email address such as support or sales.

As to the form, include some filtering questions such as the department, the type of request, or other categorizing to make followup easier.

Phone Number: A dedicated phone line(s) for different departments is important. Even if you are a small company, there are great tools that allow capturing calls along with appropriate routing.

Physical Address: If applicable, a physical location adds another layer of legitimacy. If you’re small and don’t do business in a storefront or have walkins, you can abbreviate the address or use a postal service like the UPS store.

Contact Form: As mentioned earlier, I recommend creating forms that make it easier for you do manage inquiries by filtering request types. Another key feature to add is a CAPTCHA. This is where you have to enter special characters or complete a puzzle to submit your form. This helps weed out bots completing your forms and just helps to cut down on spam.

Maintaining Privacy and Transparency

Another important trust factor with website visitors hinges on how well a site maintains privacy and transparency. Do you have a privacy policy and clear terms of service? Are they easily accessible?

Clear Privacy Policy

Your privacy policy should be written in language that is straightforward and relatively easy to understand. It should identify what data is collected, how it’s used, and the measures in place to protect it.

Users should know if their data contributes to improving service quality or is solely for internal analysis. For example:

  • What Data is Collected: Names, email addresses, browsing history
  • Usage of Data: Service personalization, marketing communications
  • Data Protection Measures: Encryption, regular audits, compliance with regulations

Transparent Terms of Service

Your terms of service (ToS) should be crafted to be equally transparent. They clearly outline the responsibilities of both the user and my service, including content policies and the use of cookies.

Users are aware of what they agree to:

  1. User Responsibilities:
    • Account creation requirements
    • Acceptable behavior on the platform
  2. Service Commitments:
    • Uptime guarantees
    • Customer support protocols
  3. Use of Cookies:
    • Types of cookies used
    • Choice of opting in or out

Leveraging Social Proof

Establishing trust on a website is more crucial than ever. Social proof can be an effective tool for achieving this. It relies on the psychological tendency of people to trust the actions and feedback of others, making it a powerful element in online persuasion.

Incorporating Testimonials

Ensure that testimonials are prominently featured on your website, as they serve as a sound form of social proof. These are endorsements from satisfied customers that substantiate the credibility of your services or products.

To maximize impact, display testimonials with real names and images, and when possible. The more details you share that may resonate with your target audience, such as the industry or specific outcomes, the better.

Social Media Evidence of Trust

Social media metrics can be evidence of community trust and engagement, which can significantly influence potential customers.

Displaying metrics such as follower counts, likes, and shares directly on your website offers transparent proof of an engaged audience.

Additionally, embedding positive social media posts and reviews from platforms like Twitter or Facebook enhances authenticity and further cements trust with your site visitors.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key elements that contribute to a trustworthy website according to Google?

Google advocates for accurate, high-quality content. A site’s trust can be gauged by assessing the accuracy of the content. They also look at the clarity of information presented, and the overall reputation of the website and its contributors.

How can I improve my website’s adherence to Google’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines?

Establishing a clear authorship and providing content that reflects expertise in your field can significantly boost your website’s compliance to sound seo principles with E-A-T.

What strategies can be employed to enhance a website’s credibility ?

Strategies to enhance credibility include acquiring trust signals such as SSL certificates and publishing user reviews. Keep the content up-to-date. Cite your sources. Focus on user intent. These should be core strategies when building and maintaining your website.  These strategies help to build credibility and trust from Google’s perspective and from your visitors.

How does Google evaluate the trustworthiness of a website?

One important factor is the number of inbound links from trusted domains. As noted throughout this article, there are multiple factors associated with gaining trust. The more robust and quality links you have pointing to your site, the higher Google may value your trustworthiness. Again, this is only one factor.

What role does user experience play in building a website’s trust factor ?

User experience plays a pivotal role. Google rewards websites that offer a clear and intuitive user experience. This includes fast loading times, mobile optimization, and easy navigation, which are all facets that contribute to a site’s trust factor.

How can SEO best practices contribute to establishing greater trust?

Adhering to SEO best practices can gradually improve your site’s visibility and authority, but it will take time. Foundational steps such as optimizing meta tags, using structured data, and creating relevant, quality content are essential.

These practices can lead to better search rankings and garner more trust from your audience and Google.

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