4 Ways to Increase Conversions using Credibility Indicators and Authority Symbols May 11, 2014

Researchers in Texas performed a study where a man in his early thirties would jaywalk across the street, and from a distance they counted how many people waiting at the corner would follow him. Half of the time he wore plain clothes, and the other half of the time he wore a suit. You might be surprised to learn that the people waiting at the corner were far more likely to follow the jaywalker when he was dressed in a suit than if he was dressed in regular clothes.

So, if people respond to symbols of authority by instantly handing over their trust, then leveraging this bias is a tremendous opportunity for you to increase the conversion rate of your page. Here are four ways you can use credibility indicators and authority symbols to help improve your website’s performance:

1. Certifications: Certifications are one of the best ways to build trust with someone visiting your website, especially if you are looking for them to make a purchase. While consumers have become increasingly comfortable purchasing online, there are enough stories of scams and fraud to still make your prospects weary. You want to show people that your site has been evaluated and deemed safe by a third party, and if possible multiple third parties.


Think about this: Why would a company that can take credit card payments on its own also take credit cards via PayPal? The answer is simple – trust! Consumers trust the PayPal logo and payment system, so they’re more likely to enter their information into a PayPal form than a website’s custom form. This increases the site’s conversion rate, which more than makes up for the additional 2.9% fee they have to pay to PayPal for their transactions.

So, without going overboard, you want to have several different logos from trusted security verification companies on your page if possible, especially where you ask people to enter personal information. Making sure that you have a valid SSL encryption on your site helps as well, since that also shows your site is secure, and if you have any other trusted affiliations like a Better Business Bureau recommendation they can also be beneficial.

2. Influential Sources: A similar method to using official certifications is taking advantage of mentions by an influential source. Most companies think that the biggest value of a reference in a prominent publication like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal is the referral traffic. And while there’s no doubt that being covered on a platform with substantial circulation like that will drive people to your page, there is another benefit that’s often overlooked.

In The Long Tail, author Chris Anderson explains how the internet has increased the number of products that consumers have the ability to purchase exponentially. No record store could ever carry all the titles that exist on iTunes, and no Blockbuster would ever be able to house the selection available on Netflix. But with increased choice also comes the burden of having to sort through the seemingly endless array of options before making a selection, and this has become a source of anxiety and aggravation for consumers.

So how do people find a way to cut through the clutter to decide what they want faster and with minimal hassle? They usually rely on recommendations, and major publications carry a reputation worth decades of trust to their audiences.

Even if your company only gets a one-sentence mention in a New York Times article, it means you can write “As seen in the New York Times” using the paper’s logo on your site. Customers coming to your page will see that recommendation and will instantly come to trust you more, since you’ve been vetted by a major publication that they already trust. So if you are able to get a tiny blurb about your business into a major publication, even if it doesn’t drive any traffic to your site, it can still serve as a useful tool for helping your company generate more sales.

3. Design: People judge the trustworthiness of your site from the moment it loads. Like it or not, if your website looks amateur people will think your business is also amateur regardless of what your content says. Just like business people dress in suits to convey professionalism, you need to make sure that your website is “dressed up” enough that it looks professional.

This doesn’t mean you have to have the fanciest design for your pages. Your site just needs to come across like it was created by professionals, so the people who visit it think that the business behind the site is also run by professionals. In fact, for many businesses sometimes the best website design is the one that visitors don’t notice — they feel so comfortable and familiar with the setup of your page that they go straight to evaluating the content without being distracted by its layout.

There’s a famous story about how in Van Halen’s contract for their tours they requested a bowl of M&Ms in their dressing room — but only the brown ones. Most people think this was just an example of rockstars being divas, but in reality it was a test.

At the time, Van Halen had possibly the most elaborate stage setup in the live music business. One bad wire could cause a pyrotechnic malfunction to burn down the arena, or one misplaced amplifier could exceed the weight capacity for the stage and send all of the band’s gear crashing through the floor. If the venue didn’t pay enough attention to a small bowl of M&Ms for the dressing room, the band had to wonder what else they would be careless about.

The same thing goes for people on your website. If you don’t pay enough attention to the design of your page, your visitors are going to wonder what else you were careless about, and they probably won’t trust you enough to turn over their personal information.

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4. Testimonials: Another powerful way to build trust is to strategically place testimonials from other customers on your page. You can find a lot more detail about this strategy in our post Leverage the Power of Social Proof to Increase Conversions, but in general when people are unsure about what to do, they try to find clues by watching the behavior of people similar to them, or people who they aspire to be like. This means if you can show testimonials on your page from customers that visitors to your site identify with, it will increase their trust in your business. The visitors will see other people like them working with your company and believe that they should do so, too.

Now that you’ve learned four ways to increase conversions using credibility indicators and authority symbols, let us know one way you can implement this strategy in the comments!

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Nick Cuttonaro

Nicholas Cuttonaro is an Internet Marketing professional specializing in search engine optimization, lead generation, and online reputation management.


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