Don’t Let Uncertainty Put Visitors Off

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Conversion Killer Profile

The Uncertainty ProblemLonerous

The Uncertainty Problem

Deters visitors by making them feel completely alone on a website.  He knows people look to the behaviour of others for guidance, especially in times of uncertainty.  And so with no one else around, visitors take off for more popular destinations.

We view a behaviour as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.
- Robert Cialdini, Influence

People often look to the crowd when they’re uncertain – a phenomenon called social proof or herd behaviour.  It’s based on the assumption that others know more about a situation than you.  And so following them is the right move – like getting off an airplane in an unfamiliar airport and following passengers ahead of you to baggage collection.

People use the same cues on unfamiliar websites.  They ask themselves things like ‘Is this where everyone goes for XYZ?’, ‘Is this the most popular choice?’, and ‘Who else is using this site?’

If a website doesn’t show proof that others are using it successfully, new prospects will be hesitant.  They’ll feel like the first in line to trial a new medicine.  And in times of uncertainty, most people want to be sheep.  So the easiest option is to leave without converting and go where others have boldly gone before.


You need to overcome visitor uncertainty by building social proof.  Venture capitalist Aileen Lee, writing on the TechCrunch website, agrees:

I’m increasingly convinced the best way [for companies to grow] is by harnessing a concept called social proof, a relatively untapped gold mine in the age of the social web

Here are some common forms of social proof businesses use to influence their visitors onsite:

Quantitative Proof

Basecamp uses the number of recent sign-ups in the headline as social proof:

Basecamp headline

If 5,410 companies signed up in a week, it must be a good choice!

Testimonial and Review Proof

Moz testimonials

Recognized Customer Proof

Optimizely customer logos

Press Coverage Proof

Vouchercodes press coverage

Social Media Proof

Huffpost social media stats

Friend Recommendations Proof

FB friend recommendations

Comments Proof

Huffpost comments

Outside your site, acquire social proof by referral.  The article I mentioned earlier highlights the power of referral social proof:

Visitors referred by a fashion magazine or blogger to designer fashion rentals online at Rent the Runway drive a 200% higher conversion rate than visitors driven by paid search.


  • Write guest posts and articles on respected sites, with a referral link back to your site
  • Ask reputable bloggers, magazines and other respected sources to review your product/service
  • Tell news outlets about your business, hoping they’ll cover you
  • Set up a Facebook page or Twitter account, and get people talking about you

As a small business, you may not have much social proof yet.  But you need to work on getting it.

Start by identifying any social proof you already have.  If you got some press coverage from a prominent outlet, for example, make sure you show it on your homepage – using the outlet’s logo and a link to the article for validation.

Then go after new material.  Get in touch with existing customers and ask for testimonials.  You might have to offer incentives for feedback, like a voucher or gift.  But the social proof will be worth its weight in persuasion power.

Encourage visitors to follow you on social networks, subscribe to your newsletter and share blog articles too.  The more people following you, the more newcomers will think you’re worth following.  And so your snowball of social proof and conversion power grows.

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