I’ve been thinking a lot recently about trust, and it seems to me that this is a concept that applies in both Search Engine Optimisation and in successful web site construction and interacting with users/customers.
To get Google to rank you highly you have to persuade it to trust your site. Trust it not to attempt to spam the indexes with cheap tricks. Trust it not to duplicate or steal content. Trust it not to join any link farms or other dubious linking arrangements designed purely to raise your rankings. We even talk about “trustrank” as a concept superceding PageRank. If a site has done any of these things then that trust is reduced and you have to earn it back again before you’ll rank well for the terms involved.
Similarly with users. If you want them to buy from your site or follow up on your services then you need to pursuade them that you’re trustworthy.
You do that with your design:
Does it look professional and geared to the subject, or does it look like someone knocked off a cheap template and stuck some text on it? Does it assist the user in finding what they need or is it just showing off the skills of the guy that did the Flash intro that takes a minute to load and wastes everyone’s time?
Does your navigation work effectively and cleanly? If not then why would anyone trust you to build a checkout system that they have to give their credit card details to?
You do it with your text:
Does it address the user in an engaging manner and tell them succinctly what you can do for them and how they can find out more? Or does it throw reams of over-hyped sales-speak at them, or maybe paragraphs of generalised business jargon of the type I’ve complained about before.
Is it transparent about who you are and where you’re from? Is it easy to contact you if they have a problem?
If you don’t tell them what they need to know about you and your services then they’ll go elsewhere because they don’t trust you to deliver.
Next time you look at your site pretend that you’ve never seen it before. Would you trust it?