Healthcare sites have to live up to higher standards than most other websites online. Whether you run a practice’s website or a business selling health supplies, you have to live up to Google’s YMYL and E-A-T algorithms, which place stricter requirements on building authority and trust with your information and your writers.
What are trust signals, and what are the most effective signals for a healthcare business website?
Trust signals take many forms. Some of them are obvious, like using a logo of a payment processor in your checkout process to show users that you’re using a service they can trust. Others may be less obvious, like posting logos of companies that work with and trust your business.
Trust signals are tricky because you need to have them, but you need to be able to back them up. Trust signals are only worth trusting if they’re part of a site that seems trustworthy.
For example, using a payment processor’s logo in your checkout process is a good trust signal. Still, if your payment process doesn’t use that processor and doesn’t use SSL encryption on the checkout page, users will be less trusting of it.
That’s part of the problem; anyone can upload an image and make any claims about it, and it’s up to outside forces to enforce that it’s used correctly, often via legal action. Small sites can get away with a lot simply because no one calls them out on it.
Trust signals also need to be recognized to be effective. For example, many crowdfunding campaigns will create a giant wall of logos of news coverage they’ve received. Still, when you examine it more closely, you find that it’s just a massive pile of Indian, Chinese, and other “news” sites just publishing a press-release as-is, and there’s no actual coverage or inherent trust in it.
Picking the right trust signals to use is critical. Here are fifteen of the most helpful trust signals a healthcare business can use.
One of the most surprisingly essential aspects of trust on a website is the presence of “system” pages.
System pages are pages that virtually no one ever visits but that need to exist because not having them comes across as sketchy:
These kinds of pages prove to your users that you’re a legitimate business and not just a website that was thrown onto the internet with the intent of harvesting information or stealing payment info.
The name of your business and the name of your domain is surprisingly valuable. There are two aspects of a domain name: the actual domain and the TLD.
The TLD is, specifically, whether your site is a .com, .org, .net, or other more trustworthy TLD, or if you’re on a TLD that has less trust inherent to it, like a .io or a country code used to make a vanity URL like “heal.th”, or if you’re on a TLD that is known to be scammy, like a .vip, .biz, or other malware-infested TLD.
Domain, meanwhile, is more about branding and relevance. For example, would you rather buy medical supplies from www.triagesupplies.com or from www.buycheapmedsupplies.com? Chances are, the former is a legitimate brand, and the latter is a site using an exact-match domain to get an SEO boost for little effort.
Using SSL encryption for your website is a simple yet surprisingly important trust signal.
In the past, marketers generally recommended that SSL should be used on payment pages and any page that takes user information but isn’t relevant for other pages. However, in recent years, Google has decided to make “uses SSL” a search ranking factor.
Sites that use it get a boost, while sites that don’t will not. Moreover, using SSL requires interaction with a third-party certification agency, as well as encrypting traffic and securing user privacy. It’s also straightforward to set up, so there’s no excuse not to have SSL today.
A common problem with healthcare businesses, especially local practices and regional service providers, is that they are approached by a local agency that offers to make them a website if they don’t already have one. They do, and the site looks good, but there’s one problem: every other local provider was approached by the same company and had a website with the same design. Users, who research multiple companies before picking one, find ten identical websites and decide none of them are trustworthy.
Likewise, unique imagery is important. Specifically, this means taking unique photos and using as few stock images as possible since stock images are often recognizable and don’t add trust to your site.
If your healthcare business has a doctor or other professional on staff, that medical professional should have certification and accreditation from a relevant authority. For example, anyone can take a doctor’s information and look it up on a state licensing board. This way, a motivated user can verify that the person running the healthcare business they’re examining is a real person with a real license.
Additionally, any memberships to medical associations or authorities can be good to display as well. Displaying that you’re a member of the American Medical Association, for example, helps build trust.
One of the most common business trust signals is positive reviews and testimonials from other users. These can be tricky because it’s easy to fake them, and there’s not very much verification available to a user. However, by fostering reviews and testimonials on third-party sites, you can build a bit more trust.
Make sure to register profiles on relevant business directories and provider searches, and encourage your customers or patients to leave reviews.
One thing about trust signals is that they aren’t all restricted to your website itself. They often come from the aspects surrounding your site, such as social media profiles. Users may check to see if your business or your providers have social media if they keep them active, and, more importantly, what reviews other people leave on your posts.
You can always control the content published on your own website, but you have a much harder time censoring people leaving bad (or accurate) reviews on Facebook, for example. Maintaining a Facebook, LinkedIn, and possibly a Twitter account should be considered a baseline.
Users are extremely hesitant to use a payment process that feels wrong, even if the process works. Not all healthcare websites process payments; some businesses don’t process payments online at all. Some exist solely to be landing pages with a system to schedule appointments or a contact form for users who want to schedule or ask questions.
However, if your healthcare business sells products and takes payments, you want to use a trusted payment processor. This may mean using PayPal, or Stripe, or accepting credit cards in some way; whatever it is, make sure it’s encrypted and verified as protected.
Most industries have awards, third-party agencies that certify them, or other ratings from an authority greater than that of the business.
If you’ve won or earned any of these, displaying them on your site can be a great idea.
Managing our business’s reputation online is a key part of building up a trusted presence. If people search for your brand name on Google and, aside from your domain, many of the results are things like “is Brandname a scam?” or “My terrible experience with Brandname” blog posts, you’re going to have a hard time building up that positive trust.
On the other hand, if it’s sites like Yelp with a 5-star rating, you’re going to be much better off. Reputation management is a huge topic all its own, so instead of trying to run it down here, check out this guide.
Trust by association is a form of trust that comes from other recognized authorities who trust you. A new user might never have heard of you before, but if you’ve been covered in Forbes and a large hospital network recommends your business near them, they’ll be more likely to consider you a trustworthy business.
The easiest way to do this is to find a way to display the logos of companies that have written positively about you, are partners with you, or who use you as a customer.
Every healthcare business should register their Google Business Profile if possible. This account provides a central location for information relating to your business, as well as enabling things like Google Maps integration and the Google “three pack” of snippets that surround the search results.
All of this is useful for a business to have, especially if you’re a local business serving a specific geographic area.
When creating content for your website, it’s hugely beneficial to have an authoritative name as the author. That person can be the doctor who leads your practice, an authoritative nurse, or your CEO.
That person doesn’t necessarily need to write the blog posts themselves – you can hire a freelancer for that – but this person needs to attach their name to them. This serves to stake its reputation on the information on its site and helps it come across as more trustworthy.
The same person who has their name attached to writing on your site should try to build up their presence and portfolio in other places as well. Authoritative guest posts, interviews, coverage on news sites, and contributions to industry journals and resources; are all excellent ways to build up authority and trust.
It also helps if a potential new user or customer searches for the name of the provider. It’s a lot better if they can find a bunch of authoritative writing rather than a whole lot of nothing.
Having someone with expertise fact-check your content, and making use of the metadata markup for it, can also be a great way to build up some more trust. This way, users don’t have to rely on you being the expert; they know that in addition to your expertise, other experts agree with you. Fact-checking can be very valuable when done correctly.
So, there you have it; fifteen examples of trust signals that healthcare businesses and providers can add to their websites to build up a positive reputation. How many of these did you have already?
If you need assistance with any part of the process, from building up a website that has a relevant and unique design to implementing trust signals both on and off your website, feel free to contact us today. We’re specialists when it comes to healthcare business websites, and we know the ins and outs of SEO for healthcare businesses as well. Do you have any questions for me? Contact us today for a free consultation!