People will judge a book by its cover (instantly, too). If you’re trying to sell or promote anything online, no one is going to buy or listen unless they feel they can trust you.

Trust and credibility aren’t measured in absolutes and sometimes it’s just a feeling (yes, I brought up feelings, and no, I’m not a hippie) that your website elicits when people see it for the first time.

Having a professionally designed website is definitely a brilliant first step on your part. It gives your business a cohesive visual language. But design is only one aspect of establishing trust.

The web design is as important as the photography, which is as important as the tone and content, which is as important as the actual offerings, which are as important as how the website actually works. If you do one of these things badly, the whole site can fall to pieces. Your credibility goes out the window if your site looks amazing but features poorly lit, MySpace-style self-portraits taken in your bathroom.

There are a few general guidelines that can help you establish trust (see the following points). Your website needs to prove your expertise and its purpose before you can get anyone to sign up, read or buy anything. Your authority and knowledge must be instantly showcased.

You have a website because you have something to offer that you believe kicks serious ass—so make sure people know that when they view it.

Twelve ways to make your website more credible

  1. Is my messaging clear, simple and honest? Does it make sense to first-time visitors?
  2. Am I showcasing what others think of me through testimonials or reviews?
  3. Is there evidence that my business exists elsewhere on the Internet (guest posts or reviews on other websites)?
  4. Do I have any endorsements from industry authorities or a well-known source (i.e. I’m featured in O magazine)?
  5. Do all my links work? Are my social media feeds working?
  6. Do I give reasons for actionable items and not just ‘click here’ or ‘buy now’?
  7. Are there spelling or grammar mistakes?
  8. Is my contact information easily found?
  9. Do I have an email address @mycompanywebsite.com (and not a @gmail.com or @aol.com address)?
  10. Does my site load quickly? Even on mobile devices?
  11. Am I showcasing real-life examples or case studies that prove the benefits of what I’m offering?
  12. Does my website look alive (with fresh blog posts, social media updates, new testimonials, etc.)?

This is an excerpt from my book, Be Awesome at Online Business.I wrote to help folks starting/running a business and for web designers to share with clients, so projects run better. Use the code “medium” to get the book for $10 (instead of $17).