In the last issue of Agent eNews, we learned that concerns about online privacy and security significantly impact consumer behavior on the internet. We discussed the fundamentals of turning those concerns into a competitive advantage, by stressing transparency in the design and content of your website. This month, we’ll focus on another strategy that can dramatically improve consumer perception of your website’s credibility and trustworthiness –submitting your website to third party verification.
Third Party Verification
If you were considering buying a house, would you just accept the seller’s “personal guarantee” that there are no problems with the foundation, plumbing, or electrical systems? Of course you wouldn’t. As a potential buyer, you would insist on having an inspection done by a professional, independent inspector before you’d ever sign a contract. Even if you believe the seller is being completely honest, there could still be issues with the house he isn’t aware of. An independent inspection by a third party is simply indispensable when it comes to developing trust between the buyer and seller
The same principle applies to the relationship between a website and potential customers. If your site collects any kind of personal information from visitors, it’s vital that you establish a foundation of trust with them. This is true regardless of the depth of information you request. Don’t think, for example, that your website’s visitors aren’t concerned about disclosing just a simple email address. Numerous studies have proven they are. Now imagine the concerns they have when asked to provide their name or driver’s license number.
One of the most effective methods for building that trust (especially for a company with a new web presence) is to have your website validated by an independent verification service. You’ve probably seen hundreds of websites displaying graphics that say things like “McAfee Secure Tested 08-June” or “TRUSTe Certified Privacy” or “BBB Accredited Business.” These are examples of third party verification services that independently validate and rate a website in three essential categories:
- Is the address a legitimate physical business address?
- Is the customer support email address functional?
- Is the company’s phone number functional?
- What information collected about you on the website will be disclosed to third parties?
- What IT security measures have the website owners implemented to secure your private information (credit card data, SSN, etc.)?
- What does the website owner do with your private information after an order has been placed?
- Is the website secured against hackers and critical vulnerabilities?
- Is the website listed by Google or other reputation management services as a potential security risk?
As part of the price for their service, a verification service will provide “trust seals,” which you should display prominently on your website. This provides visitors with an easily recognizable way to validate your website. To prevent fraudulent use of their trust seals, most reputable verification services will provide you with a simple programming code that must be integrated into your web pages. This ensures that a displayed trust seal hasn’t been hijacked or just copied and pasted into the web page code.
To maximize the positive impact of the trust seals, follow these guidelines:
- Place the seals on your web pages so they are highly visible. Don’t position them so they are lost in a clutter of other graphics or text.
- Display the seals on your home page and any landing pages you may be using for PPC or SEO campaigns.
- Display the seals on any page where you ask the visitor to provide private information, especially credit card or bank information.
If you’re convinced that adding third party verification to your website is a good idea, there are several reputable services to choose from. Prices and specific service offerings vary widely so it’s wise to do your research and compare several options. Just do a web search for “business verification seals” or “business trust seals” or “trust seals.” Also, be careful to choose a legitimate and reputable verification service. Any legitimate service will require you to provide detailed information about your business and your website that they will use to conduct verification before they issue a trust seal. Avoid any company that’s just selling you a “trust seal” logo to place on your website.
If you decide to subscribe to a security scanning service for your website (which I highly recommend), be sure to choose a service that scans your site every day. You’ll also want the date displayed on your website’s security seal to be updated every day. To find a website security scanning service, do a web search for “website security.”
Be sure to read the next edition of Agent eNews, where I’ll outline other practical steps you can take to boost your web site’s effectiveness and profitability. Thanks for reading.