Trust is more than just a feeling.
In this 2021 Edelman survey of 14,000 US consumers, trust was among the top three important factors used in buying decisions, ahead of brand likeability.
Website trust signals are often the difference between a user staying and engaging, or leaving a page without converting.
In this post, you will learn how (and when) to easily leverage trust signals to upgrade your site and improve key page metrics.
Specifically, this guide includes:
- Real life examples and data
- Industry-specific ideas
- Actionable tips from our landing page experts
- Trust signal case studies
- And more…
Basically, if you want to increase trustworthiness on your website or landing page (and improve conversion rates and goal metrics), you’ll enjoy this guide.
Let’s jump in!
What are Trust Signals?
First, to understand why marketers use trust signals, we must understand what trust is.
“Trust is the choice to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” – Charles Feltman, The Thin Book of Trust
In marketing, trust signals are symbols, icons, messages, and design elements used on web pages to build trust, reduce perceived risk and increase feelings of security for users interacting with an online business.
Any page element that helps your customer trust you and feel secure enough to submit a form, make a purchase, or complete an action on the page, is technically a trust signal.
This means trust signals will come in many forms. It also suggests that they play a big part in conversion rate optimization.
Types of Trust Signals You Can Use on Your Website
Before we get into specific trust signal examples, here are the (general) categories you’ll see on landing pages:
- Trustmarks: any signal that communicates privacy and trust to customers while entering sensitive information in a form or completing a transaction.
- Seals of approval: rather than increasing the perceived security of the page, this category highlights a brand’s competence or vouches for the quality of the product or service.
- Objective third-party ratings: these signals will focus on external opinions about the advertised product or service to add credibility to your own messaging.
- Affiliations: these signals increase trust by “renting” the authority of a trusted or credible source.
- Messaging and credibility design: unlike many of the above categories, message and design credibility will likely not take the form of a symbol. These signals will reduce risk and imply credibility through the copy and design aesthetics of the landing page.
Let’s delve into some specific trust signal types you can use on your website or sales page.
Privacy and Security Seals (Trust Marks)
If you’ve ever made a purchase online, you’ve likely seen trust seals. These badges hang out near forms that ask for financial information.
These trust seals (also known as trust badges) are a type of certification.
They signal to a user that a trusted third party has checked your page and passed it off as safe and secure.
Since distrusting sites with credit card information is a driver of checkout abandonment, using these trustmarks on any transactional page is key.
Trust seals from reputable sources help users feel comfortable giving you sensitive information required to convert on the purchase form.
And if you dislike too many options, recent data from that same Baymard report suggests that the Norton Seal is a clear winner when it comes to inspiring trust in users.
The Norton seal, Google Trusted Store, BBB Accredited Business, and McAfee Secure are the top trustmarks for US consumers.
Example: Uptowork (Now Zety)
So, do trust seals work? The short answer is yes.
When it comes to checkout, security seals still impact cart abandonment rates, even when other trust signals are present on the page.
For example, the original design on Uptowork’s checkout page includes a prominent money-back guarantee icon, accepted payment trust signals, and a logo.
Even given the other trust signals, they hypothesized that a McAfee secure trustmark would help signal security for customers during the payment process, reducing cart abandonment.
They placed the logo directly to the left of the accepted payment option icons.
The Mcafee badge did reduce cart abandonment, and lifted conversions by an additional percent.
The result isn’t mindblowing, but it lands a solid point: you need to understand the specific risks users face on a page–a 7-day money-back guarantee doesn’t matter if a user believes their card information is unsafe.
While trust seals can help, there are a lot of other page elements that can build or break trust. In other words, focus on delivering an all-around positive page experience and don’t rely on them completely.
Payment Trust Icons
American Express, MasterCard, and Visa icons are often used to show visitors which forms of payment a business will accept.
Really, this trust symbol is more about clarity and reducing potential confusion (and fear) about payment.
Use these in combination with trustmarks (like PayPal) to communicate a secure, easy checkout to users.
Customer logos are probably the most common trust single you’ll see.
It’s that way for a reason. Besides it being a huge trust booster, any company that works with a cool brand wants a little humble brag on their site.
In the example above, Domo wants its customer logos to demonstrate its range. Basically, they’re letting the logos tell Domo prospects that they can trust in the product’s versatility and relevance.
Customer logos also tell users, “this brand (with influence and credibility) invested with us. Since they trust me, you should too.”
Customer logos are extremely helpful for websites that are still working on strengthening the brand.
Membership Trust Badges
Like customer logos, partnership or membership badges show a relationship between you and a trusted organization, effectively “borrowing” their credibility for yourself.
Like our partner lineup on the home page…
To partner with these programs, we had to demonstrate a level of expertise in PPC management.
In this case, our qualification for membership programs with Google, Facebook, and Bing ad partnerships help proves the statement “ads ARE kind of our thing.”
Certifications are similar to membership badges, but usually require a bit more work and investment to achieve.
For example, to get “Great Place to Work” certified, your company has to go through a long process while the certification company sees if you meet their standard for a great workplace.
Certifications are a big trust signal to users because it says, “you can trust me because this credible organization determined that I meet their standards.”
Investment aside, it’s often worth it. Recipients of this certificate saw big improvements in close rates for recruiting teams.
In a survey of 9,000 global consumers, Bazaarvoice found that users are most likely to take product recommendations from “Every day social media users.”
In other words, it’s easier to trust information that comes from someone “just like you.”
This happens to be social proof’s superpower.
Instead of bragging about yourselves, social proof is a trust signal that lets your current customers brag about you through: ratings, reviews, testimonials, case studies, and performance data.
You often don’t get a lot of context around star ratings, but you can get a lot of them.
Set up business pages on 3rd party rating sites so you can present an unbiased view from real customers.
Verified Google reviews and reviews sourced from platforms like TrustPilot are both great resources to pull from and feature directly on your site, like Scribblr did here:
Testimonials are a little more formal than short ratings or reviews.
They’re often long-format videos, audio recordings, or written statements about their experience with a business.
They require more resources to produce, but are usually more engaging and informative than a contextless rating.
Case studies are powerful because they give a detailed, data-based account of a customer’s needs, how the business addressed them, and the actual results.
They’re more work than collecting ratings and reviews, but they’re essential for many B2B conversions.
Data & Numbers…
Again, trust signals aren’t always represented by logos or graphics.
Real metrics about your customers and their performance also increase trust. For example, this company highlights the number of homes they’ve helped sell, and the money their customers save.
You could also reference the volume of customers you’ve served or your breadth of experience.
Industry awards increase trust by showing site visitors that other experts and reputable sources think highly of you. Awards show users you’re competent and can reliably deliver what you’ve promised them.
Media mentions are effective for creatives and service providers…
As well as for tech and marketing-related products…
If you do list an award, make sure it’s relevant to your business.
And be sure to feature endorsements or reviews from industry experts or colleagues.
Guarantee Trust Signals
Guarantees increase trust by providing an offer or promise that reduces or removes transactional risk for your customer.
A few ideas for guarantees:
- Time-based trials
- Free or discounted trials
- Money-back guarantees
- Free or reduced shipping
- Free or easy returns icon
- A generous return policy
- A product warranty
Remember that guarantee trust signals aren’t limited to badges or icons. They can also include prominent headings or text on the page, like:
- “Try it Risk-Free”
- “100% money-back guarantee”
- “60-day return policy”
Example: Quran Academy
Education services company Quran Academy tested the impact of guarantee icons on digital course sales.
This is their original page…
…And this is the page with a trust badge promising a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The variation (including the guarantee seal) produced 32.57% more sales than the control page.
SEO Trust Signals
This article is focused on website and landing page trust signals. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention SEO trust signals.
After all, Google is kind of like a customer.
“[Google] behaves like our customers so we need to make sure that what we’re giving Google is the same as what we would give someone in real life if they came to us.” – Levi Williams-Clucas, SEO-Specialist on Adventures in Local Marketing Podcast
Trust signals are important to SEO because they show Google which ones have expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT).
Google will typically also prioritize high-EAT pages on the SERP.
This is an appealing incentive considering evidence that a search result is 10x more likely to get a click when it ranks first, compared to 10th. It’s absolutely essential when you realize you’ll miss out on 95% of all clicks once you drop past the first search result page, according to a study by Chitka.
While EAT isn’t technically a ranking factor (much like Quality Scores in advertising), Google rewards pages with EAT with better rankings.
“Our ranking system does not identify the intent or factual accuracy of any given piece of content. However, it is specifically designed to identify sites with high indicia of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.” – From How Google Fights Disinformation
The same report specifically mentions Pagerank and links as signals Google uses to determine page trustworthiness.
A few ideas to increase EAT on your page:
- Ensure your brand has “Verified” Google properties. Getting verified on Google my Business, for example, is key for local businesses.
- Maintain a strong social media presence. This includes creating an official company page on Linkedin or Facebook, creating engagement, shares, and brand mentions on posts.
- Focus on improving other Google ranking factors. This is a bit beyond the scope of this article, but this list from Search Engine Journal is a good place to start.
One Tip: Don’t obsess and overcomplicate SEO trust signals. Focus instead on creating pages that you think will be truly amazing and valuable to your clients. If you can do that, Google will likely be pretty happy too.
The Big Picture Design: How and When to Use Trust Signals to Improve Landing Page Performance
You’ve got the trust signals. Now how do you use them effectively on your website? A few tips below…
Trust is in the eye of the beholder: Account for demographic differences
With all this research about trust signals floating around, why are there no definitive answers about which trust signals users prefer?
Mostly, it’s because there are trust differences between demographic groups, even individuals.
For example, Conversion XL observed distinct differences in which trustmarks were most familiar and trusted, based on age and gender.
In their study, Gen Y was more likely to trust Google Trusted Store badges than older generations.
To use trust signals effectively, you need to account for the differences that make your audience unique.
For our clients, we start by doing research. We use that data to form hypotheses about which signals and other ‘levers’ to test on a page to satisfy their audience’s specific needs.
Past experiment results, audience or market research data, and industry trends are all great sources you can pull from to understand your audience’s trust needs.
Feature third-party trust signals on your website
We’ve established that consumers trusted third-party (aka unbiased) review sites to get information almost as much as they relied on friends and family.
But most of the ratings and reviews you collect won’t be seen by your website visitors.
By nature, you can’t house third-party trust markers on your website.
However, you can make users aware of them by linking to the sources, screenshotting, and scraping third-party reviews for your web content.
Specifically, feature trust signals from:
- Review sites (Yelp, Google My Business, Clutch, Capterra, G2, or other industry-specific sites)
- Social media (share posts, screenshot complimentary comments)
- From internal case studies or sales reports
Then host it on the most visited pages (the pages converting, or designed to convert)
Don’t demand too much information
Asking for too much information upfront erodes trust and kills conversion rates, especially for landing page form submissions.
In fact, asking for too much information is the top reason users distrust brands, according to Jebbit’s 2021 Consumer Data Trust Index.
The solution? Account for your users’ trust needs when designing your landing page.
User experience experts from Nielsen Norman Group summarized this principle with their ‘pyramid of trust.’
Before demanding more info from customers via a form or CTA, brands should meet the trust needs at the pyramid’s base.
“In our rush to collect and convert, it’s so tempting to skip ahead. But, as a result, users get put off and abandon the site because it has been too presumptuous and hasn’t yet covered the basic levels of commitment.” – Nielsen Norman Group
With the right combination of trust signals displayed throughout the page, you could guide them through all the stages on the page before they’re forced to make a buying (data entry) decision.
Example: Life Insurance Provider, Quility
In their landing page offering a free, instant life insurance quote, Quility gets a lot right when signalling trust.
It uses a clean, less-is-more design. The logo and contact information are clearly visible in the page header, and partner logos and social proof dominate the left panel.
However, the form has 10 fields requesting very personal information.
To demand less trust from the user, they could limit the form field to only the most essential questions–about 3 data points–and leave the rest for future user interactions.
But what if Quility truly needs all the data points collected on the form?
In this case, they could…
- Feature a statement guaranteeing data privacy
- Place a security trust mark at the bottom of the form next to the reCAPTCHA icon
…in order to help users focus more on the offer (a free insurance quote estimate) rather than the question, “how will Quility use my personal information?”
Trust Signals Checklist
If your ultimate goal is to create a kick-A landing page that maxes out the percentage of visitors buying, booking, signing up, or otherwise converting on your landing page?
You need to run optimization tests, otherwise known as CRO experiments.
(Here’s a quick resource on split testing to get you started.)
But first, perform a conversion rate optimization (CRO) Audit on your website. This will tell you valuable information about who your most valuable customers are (the type of person you want to trust on your page).
While you’re auditing your key pages, see if you’re checking these trust signal elements off the list:
- The landing page uses credibility design principles
- Your page has consistent, credible branding (logo, colors, placement)
- The page uses trustmarks, seals, or similar icons
- Customer ratings, reviews, or testimonials (social proof) featured
- Industry awards, expert testimonials, or other mentions from authoritative sources
- Show notable, relevant customer brands / brand logos
Where to Use Trust Signals on Your Landing Page
You didn’t think I was going to wrap this up without sharing a few trust signal placement tips, did you?
Here’s a list of common trust signal placements:
- At the top of the page (logo)
- Above the fold / easily visible
- Within the heading or other copy
- Near a form
- On checkout pages
Wrapping Up Trust Signals
While we have many trust signal options, your website won’t improve by adding a handful of security seals and random badges.
Effective trust signals should fit the user’s trust needs and be used in a relevant location–cohesive with the overall design of the landing page.
When we keep the design and experience in mind, trust signals become powerful codes that help a user trust your business and feel secure enough to engage with it.
Interested in how we could increase trust on your landing pages? Just ask our conversion experts by requesting a growth proposal below.
Director of Content
Ariana prides herself on always learning everything there is to know about pay-per-click advertising and conversion rate optimization, which is why she can create such excellent content. When she’s not writing fantastic content, you can find her hiking, swimming, or baking bread.
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