The worst trust badge mistakes that send customers running (and how to fix them)

The worst trust badge mistakes that send customers running (and how to fix them)

After 15 years of research, testing, and continual product development, we’ve become trust badge experts here at TrustedSite.

Our journey began with our first product, the ScanAlert badge, then we took over the McAfee SECURE trustmark, then transitioned that into the complete TrustedSite suite of certifications and trustmarks.

Along the way, we researched online shopping behaviors and evaluated how consumer concerns impact their decisions throughout the buyer’s journey. When it comes to the best ways to address those concerns, we’ve learned what works, and just as importantly, what doesn’t work. We’ve used our learnings to help thousands of ecommerce businesses optimize trust on their sites. We’ve truly seen it all, and want to share what we’ve learned to help any site looking to increase trust.

In this post, we’ll review the common trust badge mistakes that we’ve learned can hinder conversions and create other negative impacts for your business. Whether you use TrustedSite or another brand of trust badges, follow our tips to optimize their performance on your site.

15 common trust badge mistakes on ecommerce sites

  1. Displaying third-party logos or trust badges that you don’t have permission to use
  2. Using trust badges that don’t require verification or monitoring
  3. Not linking trust badges to the provider’s website
  4. Using trust badges with an unclear meaning
  5. Displaying trust badges that are low resolution and not responsive
  6. Making your own trust badges
  7. Displaying unrecognized trust badge brands
  8. Using outdated trust badges
  9. Displaying too many trust badges in the same area
  10. Not displaying a trust badge on every page
  11. Not displaying a trust badge in high friction areas of the customer journey
  12. Only addressing one type of visitor concern
  13. Not displaying trust badges on mobile
  14. Not testing trust badges
  15. Using trust badges to mask deeper issues

Mistake #1—Displaying third-party logos or trust badges that you don’t have permission to use

We’ve seen it happen all too many times.

A new ecommerce site launches, and in hopes of getting their first sale, looks for a way to establish trust with customers. With a tight budget and little time on their hands, they go to Google Images and download the logo of a security brand that they know their customers already trust. They upload the logo to their site and carry on about their business.

Why this is a problem

At a minimum, this method of establishing trust is unethical, and is often illegal. Displaying a third-party logo or trust badge that you haven’t obtained permission to use could be a violation of intellectual property rights.

When customers try to click the badge and another window or tab isn’t opened to the provider’s site as expected, it may arouse suspicion. At that point, they may decide to search for the website of the provider to verify the site’s security. If they don’t find the evidence they’re looking for, then any trust in the site that they had at the start of their journey would then be broken. And without that trust, they won’t complete the purchase.

We frequently receive reports from consumers who have found sites that are misusing the TrustedSite trustmarks. In many cases, they report to us after something went wrong with their purchase from the site. At that point, we do our best to get the fake TrustedSite trustmark removed from the site and try to assist the customer in any way we can, but typically the damage is already done. Once a scam site has collected their payment, there’s little hope of recovering it. This is why we aim to educate consumers on how to identify safe sites, and encourage real TrustedSite customers to always use our trustmarks as directed.

What to do instead

Never display trust badges or logos that you haven’t obtained permission to use. Always go through the proper channels to purchase a badge and understand the requirements for displaying it.

If you’re working with a limited budget and are worried about the cost of a trust badge system, free trust badge options are available. TrustedSite offers a free floating trustmark that sites can display for up to 500 visits in a month once it has passed a security scan.

Mistake #2—Using trust badges that don’t require verification or monitoring

Some trust badge providers offer “pay to play” solutions. You simply have to purchase the trust badge and then you’re free to install it on your site. In some cases, there may be an initial security scan but without any follow up to check if issues arise later on.

Why this is a problem

Badges that don’t require verification or monitoring don’t offer your site, or your customers, adequate protection. Thousands of sites are hacked daily. If your site isn’t scanned for security issues by your trust badge provider, or was only scanned once on the day you installed it, you can’t be sure that your site hasn’t been hacked in the days since then. This could mean that your trust badges are advertising your site as safe when that actually may not be true.

What to do instead

Get peace of mind that your business and customers are safe by using a trust badge service that scans and monitors your site for security issues on a regular basis. This way, if one should appear, you’ll be notified and can correct it as quickly as possible.

Mistake #3—Not linking trust badges to the provider’s website

One of the reasons ecommerce managers add trust badges to their site is to utilize the brand recognition of a company that’s more well-known than their own. They hope that when a visitor sees the badge of brand they know and trust, that trust will transfer over to the site itself. Thinking that the name recognition of the brand is strong enough to build trust, they don’t link the badge back to the provider’s site.

Why this is a problem

Placing a trust badge on your site without linking it back to the provider doesn’t give visitors enough context to understand what it means. Though they may recognize the provider’s logo, they may not understand how you were able to earn the badge or what kind of protection it provides. They may even suspect that you stole the badge or are using it without permission. Whatever the case, unlinked badges aren’t conducive to trust building.

What to do instead

Make sure your trust badges are linked to give visitors more information. Ideally, clicking the badge should open an onsite modal that shows it is valid and explains how it’s helping to keep the visitor safe. Alternatively, the badge can link to the provider’s site in a new window with more information, but this is less ideal since it will redirect visitors away from your site.

When shoppers click a TrustedSite trustmark, this modal appears explaining the certifications the site has earned.

Mistake #4—Using trust badges with an unclear meaning

There are tons of options available when it comes to trust badges, but not all are created equal. Some designs communicate their message more clearly than others, and it’s easy to understand why—trust badges have a tiny amount of space to convey their message. Oftentimes the design can oversimplify the message and leaves visitors unclear on the meaning.

Why this is a problem

A picture is worth a thousand words, but for a trust badge, that’s far too many. If the design of your badges leaves too much up to the visitor’s interpretation, then the message you’re trying to communicate will be convoluted. Instead of understanding that your site is trustworthy, visitors will be left asking, “What is this badge? What does it mean? Why is it on this site?”

What to do instead

Use trust badges with a straightforward, clear design that doesn’t leave room for interpretation.

You can also add some supporting elements to ensure that your message is clear. Link the badge to a modal or page with more information about what the badge means and how you earned it. In some cases, you may want to add 1-2 sentences of text directly on the page to explain what the badge means. includes a block of text next to the TrustedSite trustmark in their checkout to reinforce its message.

Mistake #5—Displaying trust badges that are low resolution and not responsive

Ecommerce managers often wear many hats—you’re the customer service rep, the designer, the social media manager, the operations director, the web developer. But unless you’ve had special training or experience, technical skills may not be your strength. Without those skills, you may overlook certain details when adding trust badges to your site, like the image resolution and how they respond when viewed on different screen sizes.

Why this is a problem

We live in a mobile-first world. Mobile sales are expected to surpass over 50% of total ecommerce sales this year. This means that half of ecommerce shoppers will be completing a purchase on a screen size that’s around 20 square inches or less–far smaller than a traditional desktop screen. If your trust badge images are low resolution, they are going to be pixelated and difficult to read on mobile devices. And if they aren’t responsive to the device, they may not even appear on screen at all.

What to do instead

Ensure your trust badges are high-resolution images. Ideally, use a .svg image file so that it scales and adapts to the browser’s size and screen resolution. Avoid smaller images that can appear blurry if the screen isn’t large enough.

TrustedSite trustmarks load as .svg images, which scale and adapt to the user's browser size and screen resolution so they never appear distorted. 

Additionally, use a trust badge that can adapt to the width of its container. For instance, the horizontal version of the TrustedSite testimonials trustmark will always be 150 pixels tall, but the width will stretch or collapse depending on the size of the page.

Mistake #6—Making your own trust badges

Whether to save money or to keep them on brand, some ecommerce sites will create custom trust badges in house. In some cases this can work just fine, but it really depends on the message you’re trying to communicate.

For instance, creating a custom free shipping badge using your site’s font and colors helps to create a consistent aesthetic. And since the shopper can verify that you do, in fact, offer free shipping when they go to place their order, there’s no real issue.

Why this is a problem

The problem arises when you create custom trust badges that make claims that are more difficult for the visitor to verify on their own, like security or spam-free badges. If you’re making strong claims without any evidence, then you’re asking your visitors to simply take your word for it. If your brand is well-known, maybe they will. But if your site isn’t so well-known or is just starting out, asking visitors to believe your site is safe just because you say so is a tall order.

You also have to consider the fact that a homemade security badge isn’t offering your customers or business any actual protection. If your site is hacked after you claimed it was secure, you’re sure to lose the trust of your customers.

What to do instead

Use badges from a trusted third-party to show that someone else vouches for the claims you make on your site. And in many cases, this will also ensure that your site is being monitored for security issues so that your customers stay protected.

If you do decide to make your own badges, use ones that can be verified in other ways, like the free shipping badge example we mentioned earlier.

Mistake #7—Displaying unrecognized trust badge brands

As we’ve mentioned already, there are tons of trust badge options available on the market, both with big brand names and lesser-known brand names. While some of the smaller brands may be more affordable and attractive to new ecommerce sites, their trust-building power isn’t as strong.

Why this is a problem

Bigger brands tend to have stronger reputations. In the case of Norton and the Better Business Bureau, many people are familiar with those names because of the consumer products and services they offer. Because consumers already trust those products and serivces, when they see trust badges from those brands online, they inherently accept them as trustworthy.

Smaller trust badge brands don’t have the same luxury. If a customer sees a trust badge brand they aren’t familiar with, they may decide to research it further. If the brand doesn’t have a strong web presence or social media following, the customer may question the quality and effectiveness of their trust badge.

What to do instead

Use trust badges that have strong name recognition. If you’re not sure which brands your customers recognize, conduct a survey to find out.

Mistake #8—Using outdated trust badges

We've seen this one happen a lot with the now retired McAfee SECURE trustmark. Many sites that installed the trustmark when it was released years ago found great success with it and have left it alone out of fear that conversions would dip if they made any updates or changes.

Why this is a problem

The McAfee SECURE certification and trustmark were transitioned to TrustedSite Certification 2021. If your site is still using the McAfee SECURE trustmark (or other trust badge that has been retired), customers may think you’re using a fake trust badge and question your integrity as a business.

What to do instead

Schedule a routine (at least yearly) check to ensure that you’re displaying the most current version of your trust badges. If a new version becomes available, replace the old version as soon as possible. In many cases, trust badges from third-party providers will update automatically if you’re using the official code.

Mistake #9—Displaying too many trust badges in the same area

An example of trust badge clutter.

When too many trust badges are placed in one area, we refer to it as trust badge clutter. Some ecommerce sites will display a handful of trust badges in the checkout or footer believing that more badges will generate more trust.

Why this is a problem

They say there’s strength in numbers, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to trust badges. Trust badge clutter can make your site look spammy, and can actually be a distraction to visitors. If they have to look through a bunch of badges one by one to determine the message and the trustworthiness, it delays the action you want them to take, which is to complete their purchase.

What to do instead

Limit the trust badges you use in a given area to no more than 3, and make sure that those 3 badges address different visitor concerns. There’s no real value in having 3 or more badges that say the same thing. But if you have one badge that says your site is clear of viruses and malware, one that shows your business is legitimate, and one that shows the customer that their data is protected, then you’ve addressed 3 of the most common concerns consumers have when shopping online, and you build trust in all of those areas.

Mistake #10—Not displaying a trust badge on every page

While many ecommerce managers recognize that trust badges are important to include in the checkout, many overlook the need to build trust across every page of the site.

Why this a problem

Online shoppers have concerns long before they reach the checkout. According to a survey of 600 consumers we conducted last year, over 65% have concerns about business legitimacy when first arriving at an unfamiliar site. And the fear of making a purchase from a fake business or scam has led over 50% of them to abandon a purchase. If you don’t immediately establish trust when visitors first arrive to your site, you take the risk that they will leave to shop on another they trust more.

What to do instead

First time visitors don’t just enter your site on the homepage. If they find your site through organic search, they may end up on a product page first. If they come to your site through a Facebook ad, they may enter through a landing page.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to arrival pages, so it’s important to cover your bases and include a trust badge on every page. An easy way to do this is to place a floating trust badge in the bottom left or right corner of your site.

TrustedSite’s free and pro plans both include a floating trustmark to help you establish trust at the start of every customer’s journey.

TrustedSite's floating trustmark appears on every page of a site to help alleviate shopper concerns throughout the customer journey.

Mistake #11—Not displaying a trust badge in high friction areas of the customer journey

We’ve seen many ecommerce sites include a trust badge in one or two areas of the site, like the footer and checkout, but there are many more areas of friction throughout the customer journey.

Why this is a problem

The checkout isn’t the only place where friction arises. Customers face a hurdle on their arrival page when trying to decide if the site is safe to shop at. They face another hurdle when trying to decide if a product will meet their expectations before adding it to the cart. Another hurdle when deciding if they are comfortable sharing their personal information when asked to create an account. Trust needs to be cultivated at each step along the way.

What to do instead

Include trust badges throughout the customer journey in key places where concerns can throw shoppers off track. Some of the most important places include:

  • Product pages
  • Shopping cart
  • Checkout
  • Login and register pages
  • Footer

Each of TrustedSite’s trustmarks are designed to address concerns that arise in specific engagement areas. Follow our best practices for placing the trustmarks on your site to get the best results.

Trust badge placement tip:

On your checkout page, include a trust badge as close as possible to the credit card fields. Over 72% of consumers have concerns about their credit card information being stolen at this stage of the customer journey. If your trust badge is close to the payment fields, there’s less of a chance that they’ll miss this sign of trust.

Address concerns about credit card security the moment they arise by displaying TrustedSite's Secure Checkout trustmark next to the payment information fields in the checkout.

Mistake #12—Only addressing one type of visitor concern

Many ecommerce sites focus solely on security trust badges, which are very important to making visitors feel safe on your site, but there are a range of other concerns that need to be addressed as well.

Why this is a problem

Concerns online shoppers have when first arriving at a new website, according to TrustedSite's 2020 consumer survey.

According to our survey, nearly two-thirds of consumers worry about business legitimacy when first arriving at an unfamiliar site. But as you can see from the chart above, there are a host of other issues that shoppers are concerned about as well. If your trust badges only address one concern, like security, then you’re failing to ease concerns about other things like email spam, identity theft, and order fulfillment.

What to do instead

Consider all the possible concerns customers might have when shopping on your site. Think about what stage of the customer journey that those concerns might arise, then add a trust badge in that place to address the specific concerns. For instance, customers may feel uncomfortable when asked to share their personal information to create an account. Adding a secure form trust badge to your create account page can help to show that you take data protection seriously.

Mistake #13—Not displaying trust badges on mobile

If you’re doing most of your business on a desktop computer, it can be really easy to forget to consider your mobile audience. It happens to the best of us.

Why this is a problem

Like we mentioned earlier, half of ecommerce sales will take place on a mobile device this year. Though that number is growing, many people still are hesitant to complete a purchase on mobile. According to Monetate, global desktop conversion rates have always been consistently higher than mobile conversion rates, implying that many users still aren’t comfortable completing a purchase from their smartphone. Ensuring that mobile users can see your trust badges can help to reduce abandoned carts on your mobile site.

What to do instead

Before purchasing a trust badge, verify not only that it has mobile compatibility, but that the user experience is a positive one. Make sure that the badges properly adjust to different size screens and that they interact as expected.

All of TrustedSite’s trustmarks are fully mobile-compatible, adjusting to any screen size and opening the certification modal when tapped.

All TrustedSite trustmarks are mobile compatible.

Mistake #14—Not testing trust badges when possible

Maybe you’re fully on board with trust badges, recognizing their power to ease visitor concerns and decide to add them to your site. That’s awesome, but it’s just one step on your journey to build trust. If your site is getting a significant amount of traffic (at least 80-100k monthly visits), you should run an experiment to test the effectiveness of your trust badges.

Why this is a problem

We believe that not testing your trust badges is a mistake because you won’t know their true impact on your KPIs. To justify the budget you’re spending on trust badges, you should know exactly how much they help to increase your conversions and sales. Testing also helps you find the optimal placement for badges, since different audiences may respond to them differently from site to site.

What to do instead

Set up an experiment in Google Optimize, Optimizely, Hiconversion, or other conversion testing tool to put your trust badges to the test. If you aren’t familiar with these tools, or just don’t have the time, you can hire a conversion optimization expert through an agency to set it up for you.

TrustedSite works with a number of agency partners to test the trust-building power of our badges and we’ve seen strong results. See if you qualify for a free testing opportunity to try TrustedSite on your site.

Results that sites have seen when testing TrustedSite trustmarks.

Mistake #15—Using trust badges to mask deeper business issues

When your ecommerce business runs into trouble, and unhappy customers begin leaving negative reviews, throwing a trust badge up on your site can seem like a quick and simple solution to patch the problem. But no trust badge is powerful enough to hide some of the more complicated challenges many ecommerce sites face.

Why this is a problem

Yes, trust badges can show shoppers that your site is secure, your business is legitimate, and that you won’t spam their inbox, but if shoppers are unhappy because of things like product availability, product quality, and order fulfillment, a trust badge alone can’t repair that. Without getting to the underlying root of those problems, the negative reviews will keep piling up no matter how many trust badges you display on your site.

What to do instead

If you’re struggling with negative reviews, get to the bottom of your customers’ issues. You can use trust badges as one tool in your tool kit to help your site get back on track, but you’ll likely need to do more than that.

Think of trust-building from a holistic perspective. Every business decision you make contributes to your overall picture of trustworthiness. Strive to be as transparent as possible to earn your customers’ trust.

It’s time to reevaluate your trust badges

If you’re currently using trust badges, set aside some time to comb through your site and evaluate whether you’ve made any of the placement or design errors we’ve discussed. If you find room for improvement, be sure to measure the performance of any changes you make with A/B testing. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in our years of trust badge research and development, it’s that one small change can make a huge impact on your business.

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