Security and trust-mark badges are important elements to display on your website. Lots of testing has been done on the subject and results have shown that badges are signposts that shoppers look for when deciding whether a particular online retailer is a safe place to make a purchase.

At Palo Alto Software we wondered, how much does the badge itself actually affect our customers’ decisions? So we ran the following test, which recently won a Gold Ribbon in the Header Banner/Icon Category for Which Test Won’s Online Testing Awards and will be featured in their Hall of Fame.

We have been using McAfee for years. One of the most recognized names in Internet security, they test and certify online retailers websites daily to protect consumers from identity theft, viruses, and other threats. When we launch a new web page, the McAfee badge is a “top of the checklist” item. Headline? Check. McAfee badge? Check.

But customers think differently than online marketers. We know they want to make secure purchases online, but does it matter to them who says it’s secure? A recent post at Actual Insights, Trust Logo Recognition Precedes Presence, indicated that it does matter, but we wanted to find out for ourselves.

Still fully protected by a variety of top-notch security software, we had our graphic designer create a new generic badge proclaiming our website “Certified Secure.” Like the McAfee trustmark, it displays the date to show when the most recent security scan was completed. The badge contains a shield, which invokes security and protection. The font is straightforward, bold, and clean. Here’s how it looked in our website header:

If a site visitor clicks a McAfee badge, they get directed to a landing page about McAfee’s services. So to provide a similar experience, we created a popup to give more details about the measures we take to keep our visitors safe.


We split the traffic to our e-commerce site 50/50, so half of our visitors saw the McAfee badge and the other half got our proprietary badge.

In most A|B tests, we hope for a clear winner and wait until we get to statistical significance before calling it. But we weren’t hoping to prove our new badge was superior, just that brand recognition didn’t matter for the badge. So in this case, we were looking for little or no change in the conversion rate.

After almost 90,000 visits and over 2,000 transactions, we were fascinated with the results. The conversion rate for those who saw the new badge was about 2% lower than for the McAfee badge. But on the flip side, visitors who saw the new badge spent an average of $3 more per transaction. The net result? No statistically significant difference between the two and a slight increase in revenue.

So what’s the takeaway? Not that you should just make up a badge and forgo protecting your customers. Continue to use the best security software you can, but know that the brand that you choose might matter less to your customers than you think. They just want to be safe. So make sure you tell them they’re safe by displaying a badge that instills confidence and trust, whether you make it yourself or use somebody else’s. And of course, make sure they actually are safe.

Trust photo by Joe Nangle via Creative Commons