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Getting lost down a dark alley in a seedy, unfamiliar part of town is nobody's idea of a good time, so don't make your customers wonder whether they've visited the wrong side of the Web when they come to your website. That's particularly true of small business websites.

Brand trust is critical to converting site visitors into customers, but how is it created if your name isn't Apple or Coca-Cola? Here's a list of eight quality signals that, when implemented on your website, will increase not only brand trust but also conversions, which means more revenue for your business's bottom line.

1. Show authoritative sites in which you've been featured

Has your site been mentioned by authoritative brands or media outlets? When your site visitors see that you've been mentioned by brands they know and trust, they'll be more inclined to trust your brand by association.

Consider a "Featured In" or "As Seen In" section to your site that lists authoritative sites that have mentioned or featured your brand.

2. Join the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Signing up for the BBB and adding its badge to your site is a great way to instill trust in your business when visitors experience your brand for the first time. The BBB performs background checks on businesses it accredits, so questionable, underdeveloped businesses are typically excluded.

The BBB symbol also lets visitors know that your brand is subject to scrutiny if it operates in a less-than-ethical manner, which creates an added layer of trust.

A side benefit is that the BBB site will link to your site, which may benefit your search engine optimization efforts.

3. Include staff photographs

Nothing says trust like adding a photo of yourself or key staff members to your site. Why? Customers know that people engaged in questionable business activities typically don't want a mob of angry customers to know who they are and what they look like. Your customers may even develop a personal connection to your brand because they're able to put a face to a name, which is both valuable and uncommon for many Web-based businesses.

The "About Us" page on your site or the company directory is a great place for staff biographies and pictures. However, make sure the photos aren't amateurish, or the strategy could backfire.

4. Add testimonials

Actions may speak louder than words, but the words of your happy clients speak loudly nevertheless. Testimonials are incredibly powerful in building trust in your brand, especially for visitors experiencing your brand for the first time. Many people search for reviews on a particular product, service, or restaurant before making a purchase. I love Amazon and Yelp for that very reason.

Start building your brand through the words of happy customers. Gathering testimonials from satisfied clients is a great place to start. Also, although written testimonials are great to show off on your website, video testimonials are invaluable, because people know those are the hardest to fake.

5. Ensure your site is secure

If your business sells products online, then securing your customers' data is a must. Various products, such as Symantec Safe Site, scan your website to make sure it's not affected by malware; they also let visitors know that the identity of the site owner has been verified. Other companies offer similar products, and each provides a badge you can add to your site that tells customers you value and protect their information—a huge factor in building brand trust.

6. Add social media icons

Although social media is a great way to share new information or products for your online business, it's also a great way to build brand trust. If your site generates a fair amount of social buzz, consider adding share icons to your site that show how many people "liked" or "shared" your content. When people see that dozens or even hundreds of people have "liked" your product or page, they are more likely to feel the effect of safety in numbers and participate in your brand offering.

7. Clearly display your phone number

One of the biggest challenges that online businesses must overcome is convincing site visitors that an actual business, with real people, exists behind an online storefront.

New online ventures, which may not have adequate staffing, often subtly discourage visitors from contacting them in labor-intensive ways, such as by phone, by not adding a company contact number in an easy-to-find location on their website. But if your business gains by having potential customers call in, don't hide your contact information. Display it boldly on your site in an easy-to-find location. I like the top-right portion of the header. Doing so is a surefire way to let customers know that if they have a question or experience a problem with your product, real people stand ready to help. You'll build new customers and a lot of trust in the process.

8. Include a privacy policy

Similar to prominently displaying your phone number on your website, consider adding a link to your privacy policy in the footer of your site. People place considerable value on their privacy, so displaying your company's policy on sharing customer data is good practice. When customers see that a business cares about their information, it goes miles in building brand trust.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock: LCD monitor with handshake)

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Jeremy Schaedler is an economics graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles, who writes for his company,, and for other publications related to insurance and marketing.