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God bless universities and their spigots of funding.

I’ve just discovered that Stanford University has a specific lab entitled the ‘Persuasive Technology Lab’. Aside from the totally creepy name, the Lab does some pretty cool stuff. For example, they have a website with 10 guidelines(opens in a new tab) which detail how to boost your website’s credibility. What a great concept! I decided to break down each guideline to demonstrate how to apply these ideas:

Guideline 1: Make It Easy for People To Verify Your Claims

You can build web site credibility by providing third-party support (citations, references, source material) for information you present, especially if you link to this evidence. Even if people don’t follow these links, you’ve shown confidence in your material.

How To Apply This: Use testimonials from TripAdvisor with a link back to the original review.

While reviewing websites, I regularly see testimonials that are text-only from people with names like ‘John W.’ I’d suggest that when most people see this kind of testimonial, they don’t find it as convincing. If you don’t have an external source to link to, you can show photos of the people leaving the testimonial.

If you’re showing media logos to claim that you’ve been mentioned in those sources, you need to link to those sources.

Guideline 2: Show That You’re Real

Showing that you’re a legitimate organization will boost your credibility. Put your physical address on your website as well as photos of your office space. List any memberships of organizations you’re affiliated with, such as the chamber of commerce or an industry organization.

How To Apply This: In addition to a physical address, we also put a Google Map on the contact page of our customers. Their visitors can then get an additional sense that they’re dealing with a legitimate, active company.

On your about page or towards the bottom of your homepage, it’s important to include logos of organizations that you are a member of.

Guideline 3: Demonstrate Your Expertise

Do you have experts on your team? Are your contributors or service providers authorities? Be sure to give their credentials. Are you affiliated with a respected organization? Make that clear. Conversely, don’t link to outside sites that are not credible. Your site becomes less credible by association.

How to Apply This: In my blog post “How To Write a Better Tour Description(opens in a new tab)“, I talk about this factor.

Across your website, you need to show expertise. Mention your years of experience, qualifications, industry recognition, and more. This doesn’t just apply to things like historical or art tours!

Guideline 4: Show That Honest and Trustworthy People Stand Behind Your Site

Show there are real people behind the site and in the organization. Next, find a way to convey their trustworthiness through images or text. For example, some sites post employee bios that tell about family or hobbies.

How to Apply This: As a basic must, you need to show the owner’s photo and name – something many websites fail to do. The next step is to have about page content that is engaging and trust-building. Read our guide to building a great about page(opens in a new tab).

Guideline 5: Make It Easy to Contact You

A simple way to boost your site’s credibility is by making your contact information clear: phone number, physical address and email address.

This comes back to Guideline 2. We’ve seen all manner of variations when it comes to contact forms. One particularly glaring mistake is overloading website guests with unnecessary form fields.

Wanting to contact you doesn’t mean they’re ready to book. Despite this, I’ve seen countless examples of people forcing website visitors to pick a date, group size, tour options (and more) just to be able to ask a simple question such as “Do you do tours in Spanish?”

Guideline 6: Design Your Site So It Looks Professional

We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone. When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues and more. Of course, not all sites gain credibility by looking like in a new tab). The visual design should match the site’s purpose.

How to Apply This: Start right here(opens in a new tab).

Guideline 7: Make Your Site Easy to Use (And Useful)

We’re squeezing two guidelines into one here. Our research shows that sites win credibility points by being both easy to use and useful. Some site operators forget about users when they cater to their own company’s ego or try to show the dazzling things they can do with web technology.

How to Apply This: The importance of following this guideline cannot be underestimated. Think about removing old Flash elements, making your site usable on mobile devices, and making sure the opening headline of your website is clear.

We strive to make our layouts painfully simple to use and navigate. This raises the average time on site and reduces bounce rate.

Guideline 8: Update Your Site’s Content Often

People assign more credibility to sites that show they have been recently updated or reviewed.

How to Apply This: Upcoming tour dates (or using an updated booking calendar) show that your business is active and running.

Remove dates from your blog posts, especially if you’re not blogging much. An out-of-date blog looks silly to everyone.

A site which has obviously been built over 10 years ago will lose bookings. How are people meant to know whether you’re alive or not? Call you on the phone? Many, if not most, people hate the idea of calling a business if they’re not sure what’s going to come on the other end.

Guideline 9: Use Restraint With Any Promotional Content

If possible, avoid having ads on your site. If you must have ads, clearly distinguish the sponsored content from your own. Avoid pop-up ads, unless you don’t mind annoying users and losing credibility. As for writing style, try to be clear, direct and sincere.

How to Apply This: If you’re one of the few tour operators with ads for other businesses (it happens), take it down. To work so hard to get a visitor and then send them to another website is insane-crazy.

Guideline 10: Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem

Typographical errors and broken links hurt a site’s credibility more than most people imagine. It’s also important to keep your site up and running.

How to Apply This: To fix grammar or spelling is important and cheap. You can easily hire someone from in a new tab) for $20 to revise your site to remove errors.

In terms of broken links, Broken Link Check(opens in a new tab) is a service that checks your entire site for – you guessed it – broken links.

Wrapping Up

Nailing the above 10 points is something you should always be taking care of before focusing on other things such as Facebook marketing. Your website is most likely the number one driver of sales for your company, and if you nail all the right details, this can only help your sales.

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