In the business world, trust is everything. Get the pricing wrong or allow the quality to drop, and you could experience a gradual decline in sales, but if you lose the trust of your clients your business can be destroyed almost overnight.

Just consider Arthur Anderson as an example. At the turn of the millennium, it was right up there with KPMG, PwC and the rest as one of the Big Five accounting and auditing firms. Two years later, in the wake of the Enron saga, its reputation was in tatters and the company was history.

More recently, a scandal over emissions data threatened the very existence of Volkswagen, one of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers.

 A trustworthy website 

The above examples illustrate that when we say trust is important for a business’s website, we are not discussing some new phenomenon of the digital age. Trust has always been fundamental to business success, but when customers are pulling up your website on their PCs or smartphones, it is almost as if they are inviting you into their homes. How can you engender a sense of trust in your website? Here are some basics to get in place.

1. The right web design

A physical shop or office needs to look the part in order to convey a professional and trustworthy image, and so does your website. Think about the overall look and layout of the site. Headings that scream out to readers in upper case look like hard-sell advertising, while fonts like “comic sans” might be designed to appear fun and friendly, but they just give the impression that the site was created by five-year-olds.

Ensure the design is simple, slick and on-brand. And make sure you check and double-check the spelling and grammar.

2. Safe payment mechanisms

If you have any degree of e-commerce on your site, it is absolutely vital that you have a secure online payment mechanism. Here, it is not enough for you to know it is secure, you need visitors to know it, too. This means using a reputable and recognized payment platform, and ideally having third-party accreditation. Here’s a case in point – thousands play the California lotto every week, and need a trustworthy site on which to do so and to check the current mega millions numbers. The site makes it clear from the homepage that it places security, trust and online safety above all else.

3. Current content

What would you think if you walked into a shop in February and saw that they still had Christmas decorations up? It would not give you a fuzzy warm feeling about the professionalism of the business and certainly wouldn’t increase your trust. The same applies if you visit a site and the headline feature on the news page is about something that happened three months ago.

As well as keeping the news and blog pages well fed with contemporary content, ensure your product pages, contact details, “about us” and all the rest are current.

4. Be reachable

A website can sometimes seem a little anonymous, and less trustworthy businesses can hide behind that anonymity. People still love to engage with a real person, so make sure there are easy and transparent ways for visitors to reach you. Social media buttons, instant chat and of course the good old telephone and email contact details all show that there is a real face behind the site.

Also, don’t just wait for customers to come to you. Be active on social media, and reach out.

5. Don’t operate in a vacuum  

Don’t forget the “web” in website. Sites are connected by links, and they engender trust, both from visitors and from Google. In particular, make sure you link to review sites and show those links prominently. After all, telling a customer how trustworthy you are is one thing – other independent people saying it is something else entirely.

Building trust is key to success

In the modern age of SEO, click through rates and keywords, it is sometimes easy to forget that the fundamental things still apply in business. A trusting relationship with customers is as important today as it has ever been, and in some respects, even more so. Keep that in mind, and your business will be ready to thrive in the 21st century.