The "Effective 7" Must-Have Website Trust Signals

Have you ever met someone or walked into a place and suddenly…feel – a little uncomfortable?  Maybe you couldn't quite find the right words to describe that feeling, but you just knew something did not seem quite right?  That gut reaction was your intuition telling you to be wary.  Intuition is an immediate insight formed on past similar experiences.  Have you ever had this feeling about a website? A social media page? An email???  Consciously or subconsciously, your intuition guides your ability to trust what you are seeing and reading online.

A 2018 study by Harvard Business Review found that online consumers rely more on intuition than on logic and rule-based processes (deliberation) for decisions involving risk. This research “offers an explanation as to why things like aesthetics, professionalism, and other implicit clues matter for building online trust” (HBR, 2018).  To be successful, you must overcome some challenges inherent to online marketing.

Consider this. In the consumer products world, statistics show only 1%-4% conversion rates for online purchases compared to 20%-40% offline retail (HBR, 2018). Because humans look for both verbal and nonverbal cues to create trust, the lack of direct personal contact is a likely factor. In the service industry where lives are directly affected, trust is even more critical. Therefore, the first goal of your website should be to establish trust with your prospective customer. Without it, the relationship ends.

Fortunately, building trust doesn’t require magic. The following example of two Montessori schools in Cleveland, Ohio will show you how to incorporate 7 strategies into your website to immediately and intuitively inspire trust.

The "Effective 7" Website Trust Signals

1. Secure your website.

With Chrome’s browser recent update, your website may now be a hindrance to attracting customers.  If you haven’t installed a security certificate on your domain, you run the risk of losing potential customers even as you read this post. Do it today.

Effective 7 Website Trust Signals - Not Secure No SSL Example


Question: What if my site is purely informational; do I still need an SSL certificate?

Answer: Yes, an SSL certificate helps your website gain the trust of visitors, helps promote credibility, and helps your ranking in Google.

2. Make it easy for visitors to contact you.

If you have ever landed on a website and struggled to find a phone number, then you already understand the frustration.  If a visitor wants to call or contact you for more information, then your website should make it easy for them to do just that: contact you.  Placing your phone number in your website’s header and including a map showing your location either in the footer or on your Contact Us page, makes for a frustration-free visitor experience.

Consider these two examples



Both schools utilize a "Contact" link which takes a visitor to a contact form. However, if we look closer at their contact forms Ratner's contact form is above the fold, uses reCAPTCHA protection and is clean and simple in design; thus minimizing the opportunity for a visitor to click off the form. Whereas, Ruffing's contact form seems to take a back burner to the other more prominent links and to the Google map at the top.  If a visitor wants to complete the form, they might have to scroll down to finish the form before hitting the "send" button. 

In the photo above, Ratner's Contact form is above the fold and clearly displays the address and phone number at the top. The form takes center stage on this page.

By contrast, in the above image Ruffing's contact form is in the left column and seems to take a back seat to the other elements on the page.

3. Use authentic photos of facilities, executives and/or staff.

Having photos of your business, service and/or staff help visitors relate to your brand.  Both Ratner Montessori and Ruffing Montessori include messages from the Heads of School; and, photos of the schools, students, and staff. Each of these elements serves to foster trust with their visitors. 

Ratner Montessori's menu organization (image below) is organized around their visitor experience.  The navigation menu on the right is sequenced in the order a visitor might want to explore: Welcome from the Head of School, Faculty, and Staff, Board of Trustees, Beyond Ratner, Employment Opportunities, About Montessori, and then finally Mission and Core Values.

Effective 7 Website Trust Signals - Menu Navigation

4. List and display accreditations, licenses, professional recognitions, association memberships, and certifications.

If your business is accredited by the Better Business Bureau, is a member of the local chamber of commerce, or has any other professional memberships,  these should be listed on your website.  Details matter in building trust. Ratner loses a possible engagement opportunity when the "Read More" button under key metrics directs visitors to an Events Calendar instead of a page that substantiates their numbers.  Whereas, Ruffing Montessori does a great job of listing their accreditations.  Our only recommendation would be to list "Recent Accolades" in descending order. Ratner Montessori lists key metrics; however their link to "Read More" goes to an events calendar. As a visitor, this would be confusing as I would be expecting to read more about their teacher/student ratio, their accreditations, and so on.


Effective 7 Website Trust Signals - Accreditations


5. Ensure your website is mobile friendly and includes links to social sites and testimonials.

With approximately 67% of consumers owning and using a mobile device to search and shop, you want your website to be responsive and resize to fit on a smartphone. If your website is not mobile friendly, you are losing potential customers. If your website is responsive but is a convoluted mess of information and not streamlined or designed for mobile use, you are likely losing potential customers. According to socPub, 57% of users report that they will not recommend a business if the mobile website is poorly designed. This aligns with HBR’s findings on the role aesthetics plays in building trust.

Another way to boost credibility is to have links to your business’ major social sites such as a verified Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram account, and Google My Business page.  Having social sites established and regularly updated demonstrates that your business is active and communicates with its user base.  It also easily allows your customers to leave a review for your business!  In the example below, Ratner Montessori has links to three social profiles, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; whereas, Ruffing Montessori doesn’t appear to be on social media.

Although it wasn’t apparent on their website, Ruffing Montessori does have a Facebook page with 24 reviews for a rating of 4.8 out of 5.  If we were advising Ruffing Montessori, we would have them verify their Facebook page and create a link to it from their website.


6.  Create great first impressions.

Look at the images below.  Visually, which website creates a better first impression?  Although they both use main photos, they differ in design and mood. Ratner Montessori's photos and website design overall is more professional. It is organized and uses white space.  When making decisions for their children’s education, however, parents look to other cues to understand the environment. Images speak volumes. The banner of sliding photos shows Ratner's children smiling and happy. Visually, it seems to set the expectation for the culture of the school.  Ruffing’s background photo sets a different tone. It shows a child who seems to be focused and deep in concentration. Although both images depict positive situations, Ratner’s image slider prominently highlights happy children and may elicit a different gut reaction than Ruffing’s serious student.

First impressions matter.  Ratner Montessori (left) is streamlined and organized.  Photos of smiling children help establish their brand.

First impressions are also formed in the details. Disclaimers, cookies, and privacy policies should be clear and easy to find. Be sure to scan your website for any broken links.  Broken links simply serve to frustrate a potential customer. No one wants to click on an image or hyperlinked text only to be told that the page or destination doesn’t exist.

7. Build easy conversion paths.

When thinking about your website menu structure, you want to consider how many clicks it will take for the desired action to be completed.  For example, every page on Ratner Montessori's website is one click away. They are not using submenus. With Ruffing Montessori’s website, it takes more than one click to learn more about their art program.  When it comes to design, you want the desired conversion path to be as easy and direct as possible within one or two clicks.  Anything more and you may lose potential leads and inadvertently create a negative experience.

Every page is one click away.

Use these "Effective 7" website elements to build intuitive trust — convert your visitors to customers

Effective website design starts with your trust signals. The above 7 trust signals, when combined with a clean, logical design will help create an enjoyable user experience that directly serves the needs and wants of YOUR customer. 

We’re very good at this. If you have any questions about our 7 trust signals, or if you aren’t getting the results you need from your online marketing efforts, please contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Tabitha Middendorf

As Creative Director for WSI Connect, Tabitha oversees all creative marketing collateral created for WSI Connect and their clients. She enjoys working with nonprofits and giving back to her community.