Aug 20, 2010 113 reads by Navneet Kaushal

Welcome! back to the final day of SES San Francisco 2010. Tim Ash presented the keynote on Day 3. The agenda was “ To understand, why it is important to build trust online to get improved conversions and how to do it successfully.”


  • Mike Grehan


  • Tim Ash (@tim_ash), CEO,

“The four pillars of building trust online is not about technology”, was Tim's first statement. Further he said, that the most critical things, that is known about marketing has nothing to do with technology. It is all about trust.

According to him, trust is something that is indispensable to the way we live. Human beings are social beings, who desire for companionship and relationships. All crave for trust, without which, there would be a situation where everyone would examine everyone’s actions with suspicion. Then the assumption would be that each person is working only for his/ her purpose. It is important to extend some trust to others, said Tim.

Talking about online marketing, Tim said, gaining trust online is a difficult task and it is important to overcome anxieties, especially in the most challenging situations. Online trust has to be developed without any face-to-face contact. It is necessary to instantly create the trust in those few precious seconds, when a website visitor evaluates the value proposition.

The problems that online marketers face, building trust online:

  • It is has to be created instantly. Literally 1/20th of a second to impress the visitor. Not even seconds, less than a second.
  • It has to be done anonymously. Nothing is known about the visitor. Browser, location hardly tell anything.
  • Visitors do not trust instantly, unless it is associated to a well-known brand.

So how to build instant trust online?

The Four Pillars of Trust:

1. Appearance
First impression matters. Appearance is a stand in for competence. The standards have been raised, so production quality matters. Latest research indicate that people form an initial impression of the landing page or the website within 50 milliseconds. It is as fast as visual processing that happens in the brain and is instantaneous and automatic. This initial reaction further extends to a more considered review of the page that impacts the desired conversion action.

Don’t get disqualified based solely on how you look! said Tim.


  • Professionalism of design – The visual design has to look professional, irrespective of the intended audience or business purpose. Fonts, colors, and graphical elements combined together must create an appealing single visual.
  • Sparseness and neatness – Less is better. Clutter is simply not acceptable. The page needs some room to breathe.
  • Organization and clarity – Clarity is crucial. A disorganized page adds to the visitor’s “cognitive load” and the visitors spend the whole time figuring out, how should they digest the information given, in an orderly fashion.

2. Transactional Assurances
70% people abandon their shopping carts and the major reason they give is lack of trust. The whole time they wonder – whether the site will deliver the promise? Will they spam them? Will they honor the return policy? So, it becomes essential to offer that extra assurance of trust at the point of sale. Trust symbols should be properly placed, so that they are noticed and not at the bottom of the page, where no one sees them.

Relieve point-of-action anxieties before they arise
The mechanics of the conversion action matter, believes Tim. Whether it is about collecting an e-mail for an online newsletter or making someone to purchase an expensive item, reassurance is the key.

  • Forms of payment and delivery: Most ecommerce catalogs show acceptable forms of payment and return policies once the checkout process is initiated. The point is to display them prominently above the fold on every page. Same goes for well-known delivery and shipping methods.
  • Data security and privacy: Displaying privacy policies and computer security trustmarks from well-known vendors instantly builds the trust.
  • Policies and guarantees: Warranties, return policies, and guarantees should be placed at those places where there are chances, that the user will notice.

3. Authority
In Tim's opinion, authority is powerful. So how does one transfer authority?
Borrow authority. It works well. Make the credibility big and noticeable.

Borrow trust from better-known brands:

  • Reviews and Awards
  • Marquee clients
  • Media mentions
  • Trade associations

The logos of the marquee clients (with permission) on the website can boost credibility. However, over- doing can back-fire.

4. Consensus of Peers
Consensus of peers and even word-of-mouth are factors that cannot be overlooked by marketers, said Tim Ash. People follow what peers do and are invariably influenced by the choice made by the group.
Support automatic compliance by demonstrating “social proof”
There are two important preconditions for “social proof” to be effective: Firstly, there has to be many people who are taking similar action and secondly, they must be as much like us as possible.

  • Objective numbers: “The many” can be presented by showing how many people have bought, downloaded, or started a free trial. Giving out the number of “That many” using large fonts can be effective.
  • Likeness: There is a need for creating affinity, by showing people that their actions are similar to the actions taken by other website visitors. Testimonials that discuss common situations faced by similar people, gives user a good reason to like what the site has to offer.

The four pillars of trust can give that solid foundation for improved conversions, resulting in improved ROI.

The Four Pillars of Building Instant Trust Online: SES San Francisco 2010, Day 3 Keynote by Tim Ash, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal
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