VETERINARY WEBSITE TRUST: WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO BUILD IT?

The trustworthiness of a veterinary website is not always the most pressing issue the website may have. Many veterinary websites are outdated (technically and internally—”that doctor doesn’t even work here anymore!”), contain broken links or processes, lack the required SSL certificates, not ADA complaint, do not contain effective SEO…and the list goes on.  In almost 100% of the prospective clients we talk to, they have the “build it and leave it” mentality.  Technically, these websites need to be updated long before the practice worries about whether the website looks trustworthy.

Letting your website become an outdated online brochure is one of the top reasons users may lack trust in your practice (and call your competitor).

But when the technical foundations are there, your content marketing/PR is on point, your staff is updating the website on a regular (at least monthly) basis and you are looking at the Google Analytics and rankings reports on a quarterly or semi-annually basis, considering whether your website is as strong as it can be from a trust perspective is a good idea.  

A great way to remember what is important in a veterinary website is through the acronym:  E.A.T*

  • Expertise – Does your website demonstrate your expertise?  
  • Authority – Does anyone else like you?
  • Trust – Are you secretly evil or incompetent?

Meaning:  Why should a pet owner pick your practice over your competition?  Why choose your practice? As you can see, trust is only a part of the mix in a good veterinary website, as trust usually comes from all three pillars of E.A.T. And while your story is important for your website, these 3 pillars are what pet owners want to know when selecting a trusted medical provider for their pet: Do you have the expertise to treat my pet? Do you have the authority my pet needs or should I go to Dr. Google? And do you love pets or are you secretly a non-pet lover, which makes you evil?

Our data shows that pet owners have one equating factor: pet owners love their pets as much or more as family members and only want the best for them. That’s why E.A.T. is so important. We want pet owners to know you have the expertise and authority to treat them so they should trust you.

How Trustworthy is Your Website–Audit Your Own Website (On A Regular Basis):

So how do we analyze whether our website is conveying trust–you can trust us with your pets? Use this FREE, six simple step internal process when assessing the trustworthiness of your website (and how to increase it):

  1. Use common sense when viewing your website.
  2. Competitor analysis:  how are other veterinary websites in your area (this is critical!) portraying trust and accomplishing E.A.T.?
  3. What is the user experience of your website?
  4. Signposting Trust
  5. Review Your Google Analytic Reports for information
  6. Using trust banners

 Use common sense when viewing your website.

Common sense is one of the best weapons you can possess when it comes to assessing how trustworthy your website is.  Spend an hour or two and go through your website (as if you were a potential customer), making note on things that really bother you or do not reflect your expertise or authority, such as:  

  • Rubbish/irrelevant photos or videos that DO NOT relate to your practice (this is the one that bothers us the most):
    • Stock photos that are on every veterinary website; stock photos that have nothing to do with your practice
    • Videos of dogs running outside with no apparent human in the photo or any reason to be running 
    • Videos or photos of anything not related to your practice
    • Interactivity for the sake of interactivity does nothing to increase the trustworthiness of your website and may detract from your authority
  • The age of your website:
    • How old is your website?  
    • Is the staff up to date with current photos?  
    • Are all the current veterinarians on the website? Bio photo and in action shots?
    • Are the services up to date?  
    • Is the layout current and meeting Google standards, such as mobile speed and usability?
  • Out of date social media icons
  • Aggressive SSL 100% SECURE!!1! icons
  • Aggressive BUY NOW!!1! CTA buttons
  • Color/font consistency (or inconsistency)
  • Busy, graphic stuffed pages
  • Annoying animations that the owner or website company insisted on adding to the site
  • Animations or cartoons depicting professional staff
  • Auto-play video/audio
  • Broken links or links to outside sources (pharmacies, apps etc.) that do not land on YOUR page with them … which in theory should be obvious, but not always. 😊
  • Anything else that is particularly disruptive to your overall impression of the site or affects your impression of the professional nature of the practice and how much you trust it

Competitor analysis:  how are other veterinary websites in your area (this is critical!) portraying trust and accomplishing E.A.T.?

If you want a quick assessment of how your practice is doing compared with other veterinary hospitals in your area, the easiest way to proceed is to Google your core keywords and see who is ranking highly.  Work with your website provider to assess what they have that you lack.

One of the main things to consider is, what do websites ranking in the top five all have in common? Are they heavy on text? Do they all feature videos?  Are they ranking for authority and expertise?

From answering these questions, and once again applying some good old common sense, you should be able to work out what you need to add to your pages to catch up with the pack.

 UX=User Experience (especially mobile users)

The first thing to consider is- what does the site look like to your average user? You can find these stats in Google Analytics- mobile or desktop? What screen size? What browser? What OS?  This will help you understand what the most typical user of your website experiences.  

ADA compliance comes into play when looking at UX.  This topic will be covered in a separate blog.  We just wanted to mention the importance of ADA compliance and UX.  

The next step is to consider the basic elements of the site, use them, and think about how they could be improved. For example:

  • Main navigation – is it easy to use? Is it clearly signposted? Does the ordering make sense? Do you have a clear main CTA (‘get a quote’/’contact us’)?
  • Forms – are they easily found and easy to use? Especially on a mobile device?  Are they as short as they can possibly be? Are they supported/surrounded by other trust signals such as user reviews?
  • Breadcrumbs – breadcrumbs are cool if you are either Googlebot, a user, or a pigeon.
  • Filters – does your website have a search bar?  Does it even work?  Easy to find?

Signposting Trust

Elements you can add to your site to further boost user trust, and in turn boost your conversion rates:

  • Meet the Team – this is an easy win.  100% of pet owners want to see a photo of who will be (or is) treating their pet.  It adds a layer of authenticity and makes your hospital appear more human/approachable.  Use your own photos and videos AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE throughout your site to build as much trust as possible.
  • Contact Page – By including a Google Map widget to your contact page you can showcase your real physical location which adds to the idea that you are a legitimate business.
  • Testimonials, Reviews and Ratings – everyone loves external validation, especially when it can earn you additional ranking on the SERPs (if you are using the correct markup).
  • Accreditations and Affiliations – if you are specially qualified to do something very technical/safe, tell your audience!
  • Explain Why and Your Calls to Action – ‘Sign up to our newsletter!’ is great, but why not try ‘Sign up to our newsletter for exclusive discounts and pro tips!
  • ADA Policy, Privacy Policy and Terms of Usage – If you do not have these 3 vital pages on your website, add them immediately.

Review Your Website Data

Your Google Analytics Report and Rankings Reports contain a treasure trove of data on E.A.T.:

  • High bounce rates – could be due to the first impressions you are giving users above the fold, before they scroll down. Site speed might also be playing a role here.
  • Low time on page – Does the content keep users interested as they scroll? Is it surprising enough to keep them on their toes?
  • High exit rate – Can you improve internal linking to entice users to stay for longer? Where are they supposed to go when they get to the bottom of a page, is there an interesting place for them to go next?
  • User intent – What pages are being viewed by users?
  • Geography – Is most of your website traffic coming from geographically relevant areas?
  • Low click through rate – Meta data is your best bet for improving click through rates from the SERPs to your site. Try to avoid using ‘homepage’ as your site’s main page title. 😊

 Using Trust Banners

Trust banners are a really great way to get your core trust messages across to users. And they are super simple to make:

  • Come up with 4-5 USPs that makes your practice stand out
  • Get some simple illustrations to support the USPs
  • Put these banners across your homepage, services pages, team pages etc.

The more you can repeat these messages in this visual format the better, as reinforcement is key.

This will give you a starting point for updating your website to become “more trustworthy” to users.  If you think your website could be better at—or fails any–of the points in #1 above, give Cheshire a call.

Or if you would like to have Cheshire perform a free analysis, give us a call. We would be happy to discuss ideas with you.

*Many thanks and credit to our friends at ScreamingFrog for this blog post

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