Understanding Visitor Trust: Referrals vs. Search

Assuming you have or do what they want, when it comes to website visitors, there are two main types...those who arrive based on a referral or recommendation and those who arrive via a topic search.

These two types of visitors arrive with different levels of trust. Understanding their behaviours can help you tailor your approach to greeting them.


Arrives at your website via Referral

Let's start with the visitors who come to your website based on a referral or recommendation. These folks have been directed to your site by someone they trust—a friend, colleague, or maybe even another website they rely on for good information. When they arrive, they already have a certain level of trust in you and your brand because of the endorsement they received.

Let's think about it. When a friend tells you, "Hey, check out this website, they have amazing products!" or "I found this website that provides great tips for home improvement," you're more likely to trust their recommendation and approach the website with a positive mindset. They'll give the website a benefit of a doubt and be more open to exploring what it has to offer.


Arrives at your website via Topic Search

On the other hand, we have visitors who arrive at your website via topic search. These individuals are actively seeking information or solutions related to a specific topic or problem they're facing at the moment. They turn to search engines like Google to find relevant websites that can provide answers or resources they seek.

These visitors are starting with a blank slate. As they haven't received a referral or recommendation (except from Google/Bing/etc), they may approach your website with a bit more scepticism. They're looking for signs that your website is credible, informative, and trustworthy. They rely on various signals such as well-structured content, authoritative sources, customer testimonials, and user-friendly design to assess the reliability of your website.


As a website owner, how can you address these different levels of trust?

For visitors who arrive based on a referral or recommendation, you already have a head start. Make sure your website delivers on the promise (and uses the words) that led them to you in the first place. Highlight the endorsements or testimonials that brought them in, showcasing the positive experiences of others. Provide easy navigation and clear calls to action to help them find what they're looking for quickly.

One strategy is to let your referral sources know what to say to people. You might coach them, or more casually, use your preferred terms when talking with potential referrers.


For visitors who arrive via topic search, focus on building trust from the moment they land on your website. Provide high-quality, well-researched content that addresses their specific needs and questions. Cite reliable sources and include statistics or case studies to support your claims. Make sure your website is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and mobile-friendly, as these factors contribute to a positive user experience.

Regardless of the type of visitor, you'll want to consistently deliver value that meets their expectations. Keep your content updated, provide accurate information, and engage with your audience online. This will not only help you build trust but also encourage visitors to share your website or name with others, expanding your reach and influence.

Trust (or rather, lack of trust) is what makes your website work for those searching for (and buying) your products and services.

By understanding the different types of website visitors and their anticipated levels of trust, you can create a website that not only meets their needs but also earns their confidence. Whether they arrive through a referral or a search, we all want to make sure our websites are reliable resources that leave a great impression.

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