When asked what’s the most important thing to a website owner for building their site, often the response revolves around ad revenues or social media management tools. But both of these answers ignore the most fundamental part of ensuring long-term growth: trust between the site and the visitors. Without trust, why should readers return? Why would they give you an email address or open an email from you? Trust is critical, and the best way to earn it is with quality website content that readers or customers can rely on.
Bear in mind that building trust with quality website content is highly dependent upon the kind of website you’re managing. If yours is a news site, make sure your news is trustworthy and reliable. If yours is a site with a strong voice — humor or opinion pieces, for example — deliver consistent results so the readers know what they’re getting every time. If your website acts as a storefront, you still need company and product information that shows customers you are trustworthy.
No matter what type of website or blog you own, though, all can benefit from following some important copy essentials. Use the checklist below to make sure the quality of your website content meets the goal of building trust with your visitors.
Basic Grammar and Spelling
If you want to avoid setting off warning bells with your readers right away, then please do a quick spell check and review for basic grammar. Your readers are smarter than you may think. They pick up on those issues, creating an immediate credibility issue for you.
Unless they are long-standing readers with whom you’ve already developed a relationship, you may find a strong correlation between high exit rates from your pages that have spelling and grammar problems. Most web browsers even have spell check, so there’s no excuse for bad spelling these days. Spell check does not correct grammar (such as using “their” when “they’re” or “there” should have been used), so either learn your weak areas and improve them or have someone with a strong grammar background review every sentence before publishing to your site.
Your site is its own brand. If readers skip from one page to the next and get a different sense of the kind of information they’re reading, they will be less likely to connect with your site’s brand or, in other words, your site’s unique message and way of presenting information.
No matter what kind of information your site contains — funny, informative, product-based — the presentation should be consistent. If you use images, make sure to use them consistently. If you have a distinct voice (style of writing) in your posts, try to deliver this voice every time.
Unless your website is geared specifically towards strong opinion or humor pieces, it’s important to keep a neutral tone. As soon as a reader is aware of a bias, they tend to immediately over-compensate and over-filter your message. So keep your message balanced when possible, presenting facts, points, and counter-points.
Keeping a neutral tone will mean something slightly different for sales copy. You want to make your product sound phenomenal, but do so without sounding pushy or overly opinionated. Instead, give facts, comparisons, statistics, and customer reviews to make your point in a matter-of-fact tone. Show how your product or services can improve a client’s lifestyle, using strong verbs and powerful words, but without sounding desperate.
Resources for Following
Make it easy for readers to stay in touch. Give them an RSS feed, social media links, and a way to enroll to follow your blog via email. Every site that provides a consistent stream of fresh content should provide a simple way for anyone to subscribe. If you have a WordPress or Joomla site, adding plugins to make subscriptions simple is a breeze.
Then you have to make sure you update your social media consistently. This means that any time you post new content or you have a discount or company update to broadcast, you broadcast it via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ (to name just a few options). Most of this can be managed automatically with plugins for whatever platform you’re using. Being timely with your posts and updates lets clients know that you are a serious, legitimate company that cares about informing and keeping up with clients.
Be sure that any content you place on your website, any posts you publish, or even your social media updates only contain information that is relevant to your readers and customers. If your readers keep seeing content that is not useful or is uninteresting to them, they will quit paying attention to you. Keep in mind, though, that you will inevitably post content that readers do not like. If this happens and you see a stream of negative comments, respond kindly to comments and know to avoid content of a similar nature in the future.
Also make sure the source of your information is something that your readers can trust. This includes resources you provide for your readers. Whether you provide a link to more information, an infographic, or just images on your posts, make sure the sources are trustworthy. This will depend strongly upon your readers and the type content on your site. News pieces should have quotes from respected sources and products should have reviews from trusted third parties (and real people).
Careful Ad Selection
When possible, be selective about what advertisements are displayed on your site. Just about every automatic advertising system, banner, or text, has a method for helping provide high quality ads. It can be incredibly distracting when someone is reading about one topic and the ads are completely irrelevant. This conflict unfortunately reflects on your company even if you have no control over which ads are displayed, since Google ads often look for the search terms or inbound links to generate the ad content.
But you can generally control which ads are displayed for sidebar banners and other key areas of your site since you may be selling these directly. The key here is to make sure these advertisements are ideal for your customers. Some companies will pay to put an ad on your site just to help with search engine optimization, but are these the kinds of ads that will help your readers ? This also goes for placing affiliate links within your content. Make sure you check out each affiliate before agreeing to a partnership. Then make sure the link fits with the content of the post. Finally, make sure that you limit that amount of affiliate links in the content of each page, since too many will make you look like a spam/scam artist.
Trust is the most important commodity for any website. The instant readers quit trusting your content, for whatever reason, you’ve lost them — probably for good. Trust is one aspect that can almost never be earned again with a reader or customer, depending on the level of betrayal. From proper spelling and grammar to careful selection of ads, everything you do should be to build trust. In turn, this trust will translate to long-term relationships between you and your readers or customers, meaning more revenue for you.
Trust image courtesy of Shutterstock