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There are a number of services that will scan a website for vulnerabilities and allow the display of a "trustmark" image if the site passes their tests. This allegedly increases the level of trust a potential client feel toward the website and therefore makes them more likely to complete a purchase. McAfee claims it has studies which show significant increases in sales. Should I take their word for it? What sort of increase should I really expect, if any? Are these types of services worth the prices they charge?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I agree and disagree with Andreas' answer. Yes, it totally depends on your userbase.

But my grandma sure as hell doesn't care if her favourite site has been 'secured' by McAfee. She'd want to know what a coffee company has to do with her website. And as a sysadmin I also know that those certifications are bogus to a certain extent.

However, I also webmaster a site that deals with lawyers and the storage of legal documents, where they have to enter confidential information. When it comes to this, as many stamps and seals you can get that are appropriate may help your clientelle trust you. Or so we thought. In one update I forgot to re-instate the seals (we had Thawte ones) and you wanna know how much difference it made to our sales? None. Zip. Zilch. So much so that we've since gone and ditched all the seals on our site and bought $10 SSL certificates rather than the $500 ones that come with certification seals.

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+1 Awesome answer. I had no idea how bogus most of the certificate market was (because I've never needed to use them) until I started reading more about it on this site. –  Evan Plaice Jul 9 '10 at 7:10
    
"She'd want to know what a coffee company has to do with her website" . Excellent :) –  ClawDuda Apr 21 at 6:35

In my opinion you could just do a nice looking hacker secure logo and it would probably do the same exact thing. It's nothing else than an image. That is unless you really want to pay 500$ for an image.

From my own experience, I have seen many website with those kind of sticker that have easy to find and easy to correct flaw. I wouldn't be surprise if those site were as vulnerable (or even more !) as the other website.

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Here is a very relvant article about a survey conducted asking users about trust in trustmarks. They presented users with a variety of trust marks and they asked which one they trust most:

enter image description here

Based on that and on other survey questions, they conclude:

  • Trustmarks do matter.
  • Only a handful are instantly recognizable.
  • If your trustmarks aren't recognizable, then you may be better without them.

The article also notes that trustmarks may not be needed if you have a brand that is already trusted. The article lists several other ways besides trustmarks help show users that they can trust your website.


Here is an article about an A/B test conducted with and without a trustmark:

In this case, the trustmark caused the page to perform worse. Possibly because users associate trust seals with payments and sales. When used in a different context, they may turn away users.


Here is another report of A/B tests of trustmarks that have mixed results:

[A/B test] including or excluding a trust seal/badge. Slideshop added a trust badge and increased sales by 15%, while ICouponBlog removed a trust badge and increased conversions. This shows there is no definite answer and you must A/B test.


So:

  • Some users pay attention to trust marks and trust a website more when they recognize the seal.
  • If you are going to use trust marks, only use the ones that users are likely to recognize and trust.
  • Using trust marks on eCommerce sites can be a good idea
  • Using trust marks on other types of websites can be a bad idea
  • You should A/B test trust marks on your own website so that you know for sure whether or not they are worth it.
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+1 for using actual relevant articles. Best answer. –  William D. Edwards Apr 27 at 16:13
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@WilliamD.Edwards I haven't seen you for a while... How are you doing?? –  closetnoc Apr 27 at 22:11
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I tried to up-vote this answer several times... but it won't let me. Bummer!! That should be a priv! ;-) –  closetnoc Apr 27 at 22:12
    
Hey @closetnoc, I'm fine, thanks for asking :) How are you? –  William D. Edwards Apr 27 at 22:30
    
@WilliamD.Edwards Still kicking! But my aim is not as good as it once was- missing about half of the butts I aim for. ;-) –  closetnoc Apr 27 at 22:32

This is speaking from my own experience (and perhaps I am VERY foolish because of this) but I tend to put way more trust in a website when it has lots of logos on it from TechCrunch, NYT, ZDnet, Time, etc. The following page on mint.com is an example of this. http://www.mint.com/product/awards/

I am not sure why this approach gives me more peace of mind than "Secured by McAfee" does, but it does.

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The difference with "Secured by McAfee" and awards from known and recognize website, is that you can't pay for an award and recognition. Anyone can buy up McAfee product even if your website content is horrible. –  HoLyVieR Jul 12 '10 at 19:33
    
+1 to both of you :) –  Jason Aug 14 '10 at 4:11

It depends on your target users.

If most of your clients are your typical grandma then yes, having that certification will help a lot because it gives a (somewhat false, imo) sense of security.

But, if most of your clients are - let's say - programmers then it won't do any good, because we know how little that certification really means.

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They can be worth it to help increase consumer trust. They are not a magical bandaid to guarantee sales though. No mark or security cert is going to help fix a poorly designed checkout or sales experience if that is what is causing you to lose sales though.

The effectiveness of trust marks really does depend on the type of site and the particular trust mark. Several studies from 2011 on e-commerce sites and trust marks showed that certain marks were more trusted and more likely to influence a sale than others. The most recognized and trusted marks were from PayPal, McAfee and Verisign with recognition and trust in that particular mark falling off rapidly from there. Many Better Business Bureaus and other sites such as antifraud sites, lawyer's and others are advocating that people do look for these trust marks.

That being said, will purchase of one of these trust marks increase your sales by a set number? That is impossible to say. No trust mark can guarantee that you will make more sales, or have better conversions as there is so much more that goes on. Whether the cost is worth it is entirely up to you and your company. This would be an excellent point at which a focus group study would aid you in figuring out if it is worth it, or if there are other problems with your sales site that even that mark will not be enough to overcome.

One thing to note from those studies though was that above and beyond the trust mark, consumers were most often influenced by the presence or lack thereof of the green lock in the address bar when making a purchase.

Link to site that provides more info on the study referenced and a link to the study: https://econsultancy.com/blog/7941-which-e-commerce-trustmarks-are-most-effective/

Updated study from 2014: https://econsultancy.com/blog/64459-which-ecommerce-security-logos-do-users-trust-do-they-matter/

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I recently wrote up a little thesis on the OpenCart forum about these badges, specifically the Norton one.

Firstly, a basic plan for "Safe Site" costs $299 a year and you wont find a feature list. http://www.symantec.com/trust-seal/ I asked a rep 6 times to show me the features, and he could not. So lets deduce the features are this: 1) You get a badge 2) Norton scans your site daily and 3) the site seal will show in Google search results beside the entry (bullsh*t). Seems like alot of money and a claim about SERPS that we know is false....

And the truth of vaporware website scanners is...you are already scanned and protected, for free:

https://safeweb.norton.com/report/show?url=webmasters.stackexchange.com

You can read the full text here: http://forum.opencart.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=142738#p553027

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