Make Sure Lack of Authority Kills Isn’t Killing Conversions

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Conversion Killer Profile

The Authority ProblemUnderling

The Authority Problem

Uses lack of influence to deter people.  He gives directives and encourages website visitors to take action, knowing they won’t obey. He’s an expert in his field, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him.

This article explains how a leading American poet couldn’t establish authority with an audience, simply because of his unruly looks:

nobody could take him seriously. He simply didn’t appear to be a credible expert

The same is true for websites and the businesses behind them.  Visitors are less likely to follow directives – calls to action – on sites that appear to have no authority.  It’s like being given orders by a stranger in the street, as opposed to a policeman.


You need to build authority by proving you’re an expert in the field – someone worth listening to and taking advice from.  Here are some key ways to do it:

Use Authority Testimonials

Get a recognized expert to review your product.  Put their testimonial on your site, product and marketing material.  You’ll benefit from associating yourself with authority – providing it’s genuine and not some ‘TV dentist’ who’s obviously been paid to endorse you.

Influence book testimonial

Show Qualifications, Certifications and Achievements

Include any official material you have, typically on the about page, to strengthen your image of expertise.

Smart traffic achievements

Integrate with Authorities

Maybe your product is used by well-known companies on their sites, like a feedback, job application or restaurant booking system.  Maybe you’ve partnered with a big player.

If that’s the case, make sure visitors to those sites know about it.

GetSatisfaction integration

Publish Authoritative Material

Create articles, blog posts, videos and other material demonstrating your expertise.  Refer to credible sources that aren’t competing with you, like leading journals, commercial research and thought leaders.  You’ll inherit authority by associating with leading experts.

Reproduce evidence in your material where you can – rather than just linking to it.  Pull in quotations, and embed charts, images, videos etc.

A quotation in a speech, article or book is like a rifle in the hands of an infantryman. It speaks with authority.
- Brendan Francis

Look the Part

Finally, find out if visitors respect your site’s design.  Here’s a comment from a participant in one of my studies:

Anyone could create it…I’d say a little bit amateurish.

The site didn’t convince him to sign up – not because the content was weak, but because he didn’t respect the look and feel.

Robert Cialdini points out how perceived authority is a combination of content and peripheral signs:

We are often as vulnerable to the symbols of authority as to the substance - Robert Cialdini, Influence

He explains how clothing (uniforms), titles (PhD, CEO etc.) and trappings (fancy car, jewellery, expensive office) create perceived authority.  Think of your site’s design as its uniform.  Dress it up in one people respect.

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