A guide to credibility and proof

Highly effective ways to improve your company’s credibility (and sales)

(This is one of a series of articles, the first of which is here.)

What if your visitors don’t trust you? Sometimes, visitors don’t proceed because they aren’t persuaded that your company is any good.

This is usually because your website lacks relevant trust signals. There simply isn’t enough proof that the visitors should use you.

What kind of proof should you add? There are tens—maybe hundreds—of ways to show trust and credibility. Some of them are particularly suited to certain types of businesses, but most businesses benefit from the following:

Size and growth rate

Visitors are greatly influenced by the size and success of companies. For daFlores, Latin America’s largest network of florists, we gained a 44% uplift in sales by highlighting how many Facebook fans the company had.

daFlores’ Facebook likes
We demonstrated the huge size of daFlores by highlighting its army of Facebook fans. (See details here.)

Reviews and testimonials (particularly from authorities and experts)

In one experiment for a software company, we grew sales by over 20% by creating a page that linked to hundreds of customer reviews. (We gathered the reviews by surveying the client’s customers.) The visitors were persuaded by hearing the experiences of people like themselves. The following image shows how car-dealership Carvana took a bold approach to publishing reviews:

Carvana’s reviews
Online reviews: Carvana bravely highlighting its worst reviews.

Statistical evidence

Buyers are much more likely to believe your claims if you support them with hard data.

Ad: Melting glaciers with oil
This 1962 ad from an oil company supports its claims with statistical evidence. Though, with hindsight, perhaps it was the wrong type.


As we discuss elsewhere, guarantees don’t just reduce the buyer’s risk; they also act as a form of proof. A good guarantee tacitly promises that your business will be harmed if it doesn’t honor its claims. It effectively says, “Our promise must be true. Otherwise we wouldn’t be in business.”

Geeks2U’s third guarantee
Geeks2U’s new guarantee boosted calls to their sales team by 49% from the baseline.

Celebrity associations

Over the years, we have paired several of our clients with celebrity figureheads. Most of the celebrities allow their image to be used in return for a fixed fee for a specific duration. In one case, the celebrity was happy to do it for free, because she was a fan of the company. Before you commit to a deal, though, run an A/B-test to measure how the celebrity affects conversions. One of our clients had a celebrity figurehead whose presence actually reduced sales. The client’s branding agency hadn’t carried out A/B-tests (we’ve yet to see one that does), and so was oblivious that they had caused such damage.


Sometimes, the best way to prove something is to demonstrate it.

Muenster’s car-bus-bicycle campaign
A poster showing the space required to transport 72 people by either car, bus or bicycle. The photos demonstrate, better than words ever could, how single-occupancy cars take up a disproportionate amount of road space. (Image credit.)
Be careful what you demonstrate.

Social proof

In the case study about how we grew Crazy Egg’s conversion rate by 363%, our winning landing page featured some of Crazy Egg’s prestigious clients. Similarly, when we made over $1 million for Moz, one of our winning pages had the following headline, which incorporated the names of some of Moz’s prestigious clients: “When eBay, Disney and Marriott need SEO help, here’s what they do….”

Crazy Egg’s clients
Crazy Egg’s prestigious clients provided compelling social proof.

Two industries in which trust is particularly important

Trust is more important in some industries than others. Visitors to health-and-fitness companies and to financial institutions tend to be particularly concerned about trust—because choosing an unsuitable company could be calamitous.

  • Health and fitness companies typically benefit from being associated with medical professionals, celebrities, research institutes, and universities.
  • Financial institutions tend to benefit from displaying proof of their longevity and size, and from demonstrating flawlessness.

“Proof magnets”: a way of bolstering trust and credibility

The world already contains a vast amount of proof of your company’s merits, much of which you probably take for granted. Across the web, there will be a lot of content that would persuade your visitors if only they were to see it. Search for reviews of your company, testimonials, positive PR, etc., and you’ll probably find that only a fraction of this proof ever gets seen by your visitors—either because it’s not on your website, or because it’s tucked away in the corner of a dusty “About Us” page.

Make sure your visitors see this proof, by incorporating the best of it into your most-visited pages.

We have helped one of our clients, TopCashback, to win the FastTrack100 award three times in a row.

Top Cashback homepage
TopCashback’s homepage exhibits many types of proof.

TopCashback’s homepage features many types of proof:

  • Big brands that TopCashback partners with, segmented by category (e.g., fashion, travel, and hotels).
  • The tabs at the bottom of the image link to
    • Logos showing authoritative national newspapers and TV programs that TopCashback has been featured in.
    • Testimonials of members describing the benefits of using TopCashback.
    • TopCashback’s TV ad, which is both informative and persuasive. Plus, the fact that it’s a national TV ad is itself evidence of credibility.
    • The “fun facts” section, which is actually a showcase of compelling evidence that TopCashback is the best at what it does:
      • “We pay the highest rates: You’ll typically get at least 5% more cashback with us,”
      • “If you find a better rate elsewhere we’ll match it,”
      • “We were the first cashback site in the world to pass 100% of the cash to our members,”
      • “We have the most offers” (with statistical evidence).

Combined, these elements are enough to convince the most skeptical of visitors that TopCashback is trustworthy and authoritative.

Taking it a step further: Proof investment

Beyond proof magnets lies proof investment. Once you understand what would persuade your visitors, then you should spend time, money and ingenuity acquiring those things. For example…

  • If your visitors would be most persuaded by…
    • an association with a Hollywood celebrity … then invest in acquiring that.
    • rave reviews from experts … then work to gain them.
    • your rapid growth or huge size … then set that as a goal.
    • awards … then aim to win awards.

This illustrates an important point: Conversion is not an afterthought. Conversion is identifying what type of company your visitors would ideally love to do business with … and then becoming that company. This approach goes to the core of your business. It means that your customer research determines the direction in which your company grows.

As it should.

Hence, the company’s product strategy and marketing strategy should be led by its conversion team.

What if visitors trust your company but not your product?

Just because visitors trust your website doesn’t mean they have found a product that they trust. A visitor may be happy to use your online pharmacy, but they still need to be persuaded of the efficacy of a particular drug.

A visitor may lack trust for several reasons:

  • The product isn’t good.
  • The product isn’t described well enough.
  • The product isn’t the best choice for the visitor—perhaps because the search functionality or navigation has done a bad job.

In such cases, your job is to persuade the visitor of the merits of the product, but not at the expense of eroding their trust in your company. For example, Amazon explains the benefits and credibility of its products, but retains its trusted-advisor status by including impartial customer reviews.

One-star reviews on Amazon
Amazon’s product pages are great at converting, but not at the expense of eroding Amazon’s credibility—as demonstrated by the horrifyingly bad reviews of the children’s toy Bunchems.

The same types of proof that were effective for building trust in your company (see above) are equally effective at building trust in a product.

Just be aware that “lack of trust in your company” and “lack of trust in the product” are two separate problems. Both must be solved before a customer will place an order.

Read the next article in this series

This article is one of a series that began here. The next in the series is here.

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