A website can have signals of trust where others often refer to the site.
A website could have a high conversion rate, but not necessarily be a credible site.
Or a site could be both.
What website elements are most important to consumers?
I recently came across a fascinating report (note PDF file) that tried to measure what aspects of a site (broken down by a few verticals) were more discussed when addressing website credibility issue. The chart is excellent (and pulled from page 23 of the previously mentioned document):
If this were the overall look and feel of a website, it’s a pretty good list to work from.
However, what if you have dedicated landing pages?
While affiliations only make up 3.4% of all comments regarding credibility; highlighting affiliations on a landing page can often dramatically affect conversion rates.
If someone has not done business with you yet, then 6.4% focus on customer service is immaterial.
If they are doing business with your company, I’d rarely suggest spending 8x more time on your website design than on customer service. Customer service, or past site experience, is paramount to increasing a customer’s lifetime visitor value.
If you are an educational site, and do not focus on Information Clarity (only 3.7% of comments) you might be considered credible, but you will not see many conversions. Information clarity is of high importance when trying to teach concepts.
Note on Aggregate Studies
Studies are good information to make you think and to compare your website against some larger benchmarks.
Never assume that just because the information is in a study that it applies to your business. Studies are often aggregates of information across several businesses and then the information is averaged.
Don’t try to be average, find the data points that matter to your business.
Are you a converter or credible?
Do you want to be both? Do you care if your site is credible? If you are in an industry with zero reoccurring revenue, no repeat buyers, and a limited product set – the conversion probably matters to you much more than being trustworthy.
If you have repeat buyers, create relationships with your customers, then being both credible and a converting site is important.
Are you a reference source that does not really have conversions? Your conversions are page views where you show CPM ads? In this case, focusing on credibility is much more important than conversions.
Take a look at the above chart and examine your website. Does your website have great content but an average design? That might be a signal that you could increase your credibility with some redesign work.
Take a look at the chart and ponder your conversion rates. If you’ve found that certain aspects affect conversions – do not lose sight of those statistics. If you rely on conversions to turn a profit – spend your time testing.
Determine your website’s positioning – then choosing which aspects to focus on (such as credibility vs. conversions) becomes a logical exercise.
And if you really want to dive into this study to get even more ideas, here’s the study’s home page (non-PDF).