A business website has only seconds to make a good impression. Here's how to make sure your site engenders trust and improves your bottom line.

Would you make an appointment with a cosmetic surgeon with an unattractive website? Anup Batra, CEO of digital marketing firm Arrow Digital, once assisted a surgeon with loads of experience and happy patients, who was getting less work than he should have thanks to his substandard online presence.

Whether you’re a surgeon or a shoe seller, it’s becoming more likely that the first point of contact prospective customers will have with you nowadays is your website. So you can’t afford to have a dodgy one.  

Who, what, why and where

The more concrete details you can provide about who you are and what you do, the better.

Personalise your website by identifying the key people in your business. Use your site’s 'About us' page to talk about what makes your business (and those who work in it) special. Make what you do part of who you are, advises Batra. Always keep the customer's pain point to the fore. "The customer is thinking, 'what is in it for me?' Address the top things on the mind of the customer then relate them back to your business’s story" advises Batra.

When customers know you're a ‘real’ business with a real-world office or outlet, they’re more likely to trust you. Whether this appears as part of your contact details or on the ‘About us’ page (e.g. "we’re a boutique consultancy based in Perth’s CBD") make it clear your business has an actual legitimate location.

“Fairly or not, your potential customers will equate the quality of your website to the quality of your business”

Disappointing sites can lead to lost sales

Fairly or not, your potential customers will equate the quality of your website to the quality of your business. That means it’s worth investing in good images (rather than free or cheap stock pictures) and paying a professional to write the website copy (rather than doing it yourself).

"To build credibility, the website should have a good look and feel" says Batra. "Make it simple and easy to navigate. People should be able to find what they are looking for within two clicks."

Offer that secure feeling

Security is just as important as aesthetics and user-friendliness. Google Chrome browsers now show a warning if a site is not secured by an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificate. Browsers usually signal this via a padlock icon before the URL that is locked (safe) or unlocked (unsafe); or https (safe) in green and http (unsafe) in red. Additionally, trustmarks by reputable IT security organisations can be earned and displayed once you prove your site is clear of malware. If your customers have entrusted you with their personal data they expect you to firstly, take reasonable steps to protect it and, secondly, not share it with others unless you’ve made it very clear that you may do that for specific reasons in strictly limited circumstances.

The Australian Signals Directorate recently listed an ‘Essential Eight’ actions that can be taken to improve the security of websites, such as patching operating systems and disabling unnecessary macros. While they may not have security implications, failing to keep your site free of annoyances such as broken links will suggest your business is sloppy.

“Video testimonials work well because people can see the customers; it's more authentic”

Word of mouth advertising in the digital age

Social proof, that is other people talking your business up, will also reassure potential purchasers. "Interview your customers, find out what they like about the company and obtain permission to showcase that" says Batra. "Video testimonials work well because people can see the customers; it's more authentic."

While not as powerful as raves from happy customers, a blog where issues of interest to customers are addressed (e.g. ‘How can I tell if my surgeon is properly trained and certified?’) can help a business owner seem reassuringly knowledgeable.

Unfortunately, even the best-designed websites can fall prey to cyber criminals. This can have devastating consequences for businesses, so make sure you’ve got the cyber insurance cover you need.

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