19 ways to a more credible website

By Maria Marsala

Elevating Your Business

Have you ever visited a website and been attacked by screaming pop-up ads, gotten lost in a clutter of banner ads, had things flash and go boom? Have you ever visited a site and the information and brand didn't match what the person was selling, or it wasn't as professional as it needed to be? And have you ever visited a site that was informative, easy to navigate and generally enjoyable to peruse?

Which site gained your trust? Which site would you revisit? Which firm’s newsletter would you want to read? The more user-friendly building tools you use on your site and the more consistent your site is with your band, the more levels of trust you'll develop with your visitors. With this in mind, here are expert tips for making your financial advisor website more trustworthy.

1. Purchase an appropriate domain name.

Paying for your own domain name builds trust and looks professional. You can ensure your own domain name will be free of all advertisements (except products or services you sell or recommend). Your own domain name will have your name listed as its owner, because you pay for it yearly or every few years (and you don't want a designer to hijack it). You want to sell your visitors on the content of your site — not the products of other advertisers.

2. Use your domain name email addresses.

When searching for a host for your site, look for packages that include POP3 accounts and not alias accounts. This will enable you to send email from your site (you@YourBusiness.com), which is perceived as more professional than seeing you@FreeEmailAccount.com. It is easier to trust someone who has evidently made an investment in his or her business. When you use free email accounts, or the email address from your ISP (you@YourEmailProvider.com), it’s perceived that you’re new to business or are in business while you wait for something better. You can get your domain name email addresses from your hosting company.

3. Include contact information.

Provide as much information as possible to help your prospective (and current) clients contact you. Things like phone numbers, hours of operation (including time zone), Skype address, a business mailing address and an email address are all basics to include on your site. Post office boxes are not considered addresses; in fact, many companies won't deliver to post office boxes and may be skeptical about doing business with you if you use a post office or private mailing box. They want someone to contact and write to when and if there are problems. Work from home? Add a suite or building number to your home/apartment. Or use a mail forwarding service for a real address.

4. Add contact links.

Place at least two ways for your visitors to contact you on each page. The top navigation bar and somewhere on the bottom of the page are where people will look for this information.

5. Watch your dates.

Are your dates current? People prefer to see a current copyright date on the bottom of sites. They also expect to see a blog post from the current month on your blog, too. Sharing events? Make sure the dates are current, or if the event is over, add a link for them to contact you to join the mailing list for the next round of classes, seminars, etc.

6. Include a personal touch.

Studies have shown that after viewing a home page, the next page people read — and spend a lot of time on — is your “About” page. The About area of your website would include your bio, the bio of the firm and the bios of your team, etc. Include links to their LinkedIn profiles and email addresses or phone numbers, too, if you wish. You don’t have to put everything on one page. Consider creating About the Founder, About the Team and About the Company pages. Don’t make it look as though your site’s owners want to be anonymous, which obviously generates suspicions.
7. Avoid "Enter" and splash screens.

Do you have an “Enter page” on the front of your site? If so, delete it now. You will lose visitors who want information quickly because they’ll go to a rival site instead. Splash and slider pages are coded using Java script or Flash. Search engines don’t read those codes and many companies have shut down the use of Flash on their computers. Worse than an Enter page is an Enter page that forces someone to download a program of some sort, just to read the page. If you want to use Flash pages, fancy pointers, etc., give visitors the option of viewing them, but don’t force these things upon anyone.

8. Make me special.

You have two seconds for someone to view your website, know that they’re in the right place, and understand that you can help them with their problem. You do this by clearly listing on your homepage your niche and the benefits your services or products offer to your target market.

9. Make it quick.

Ensure that your pages load in less than seven seconds. Most visitors will not have the patience to stick around much longer than that and will simply move on. A site that loads quickly and is neatly designed will show that you are a professional company. It will also boost confidence in your potential buyers. Here are two different tools you can use to analyze your website: Google PageSpeed Insights and The New iWEBTOOL Website Speed Test.

10. Link it.

Make sure that all the links within your site or to other websites are working. Download a link checker and use it monthly. Sometimes you’ll find that you've linked within your site to a page you've moved or removed. Other times, you’ll find that pages outside your site have disappeared or have been changed. Ask your Web designer to create an interesting “error” page that will allow your visitors to get back on track if a page they bookmarked no longer exists. Here is a link to information on a free link checker, Xenu.

11. Spell it right.

If you want your site to be as professional as it can be, put each page through a spell-checker or hire an excellent proofreader. Don’t underestimate the value of a properly spelled site. If spelling or grammar isn’t your forte in life, as it isn’t in mine, hire a proofreader or editor to check what you’ve written or to write for you. There is also a spell-checker in Microsoft Word and other document programs.

12. Secure purchases and interactions.

The best sites provide the most secure access available to sensitive client information. This includes a secure server, a secure gateway, and information that informs your client that access is as secure as is currently possible. Make sure you offer your clients secure access if they're logging into your website to get to their vault, statements or other personal information. If you don’t, they will (and should) do business elsewhere. Secure websites usually appear when you log in to the client area (the main pages don't have sensitive information and don't have to be secure). The domain name starts with "https" and the addition of that last “s” means the site is secure.

13. Don’t clutter the site.

Use plenty of white space to “break up” the text. It’s easier on the eyes that way. The only place to not use lots of white space is at the top of your pages.
14. Watch your fonts.

Save the fancy font types for special items or graphics. Arial and Verdana work well on sites. Times New Roman is best kept for newspapers, magazines and printed documents.

15. Drop it.

Eliminate the pop-ups, pop-unders and banners that wave or blink all the time. While they may get you some attention, you are more likely to turn away or turn off potential serious clients. Besides, many people shut down their pop-ups in their browsers anyway.

16. View it.

Ask your newsletter mailing list subscribers to go to your site. Ask them if they know what your business is about without scrolling down the page. If they can’t figure it out, fix it. Once it’s fixed, ask fellow LinkedIn Group members to do the same thing. Fix what needs fixing again.

17. Let them get to know you.

Strangers visit your website. Your goal, if they fit your ideal client profile, is to turn them into prospects and then clients. But they might like what they see and not be ready to hire you. Give them a chance to get to know you better, and give yourself an opportunity to “touch” them. Have a newsletter subscribe box, and if possible, a way for them to subscribe to your RSS feed or blog emails on every page of your website.

18. Let them share and connect to you.

Include ways for visitors to share you with whatever social media platforms they use by including share links on every page of your site. You should also include ways for them to connect with you and your company on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

19. Cater to everyone.

Of course you have a niche, so your site in general is catering to one ideal audience. This tip is more about catering to everyone who views your website. Include alt = ” ” tags with your images to assist those with sight disabilities and the hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who use library-based, text-only computer software and Web browsers.

2 bonus concepts for small business owners (not financial advisors) to consider:

20. Ask for recommendations.

If you are not a financial professional, ask your clients for testimonials and permission to use their full name, city, state, website and photo on your website. Testimonials that don’t include a last name, or worse, include only initials, don’t seem credible enough and shouldn’t be used. Use recommendations on your LinkedIn profile, too. Remember: At this time, some industries, like the financial industry, can’t use testimonials at all. Why? Long story.

21. Be clear about what you guarantee.

Again, in the financial arena, guarantees aren’t allowed. If you are a financial professional, check with your compliance department on this issue. Other small business owners may or may not choose to provide guarantees. If you have a money-back guarantee on your service or product, say so. If you don’t, say what you do provide, if anything. Many industries guarantee nothing. Whatever your guarantee policy is, clearly place the information in your website’s policies and also where they can be viewed prior to a purchase.

See also:

Build trust with your insurance website prospects

10 killer ideas for financial advisor websites

Uh, you might want to fix that advisor website