When I completed my MBA dissertation on ‘Market entry strategies for eTailers (Online retailers)’ I recall much research suggesting how important trust is on the Web in relation to Online purchases. The challenge therefore for new Online retailers was how to gain the trust of Online shoppers; if people won’t buy from you because they don’t trust you then how do you get them to buy from you in the first place? (one of the solutions of course was compete ruthlessly on price as a market entry strategy and then increase prices as trust was won … however this is a strategy fraught with danger; not only does this price strategy hit cashflows just as a company goes Online but also there can be a customer backlash as happened to Amazon.com when they introduced discriminatory pricing).
Back in 2005/2006 the Online world was different to now. In some ways it is simpler now to gain the perceived trust of Online consumers; With Web 2.0/Social Media being so incredibly influential in purchasing decisions, and with Social Media being relatively easily manipulated, a Web 2.0 savvy entrepreneur can influence purchasing decisions through Online reviews, sharing self-published articles and the like.
An additional massively important influencer of trust has become Google, Yahoo/Bing and the other Search Engines; I was reminded of this when reading ‘Investigating customer click through behaviour with integrated sponsored and nonsponsored results’ by Jansen and Spink when they note ‘There appears to be an intrinsic trust value associated with the rank of a listing as presented by the web search engine’. That statement by Jansen and Spink is absolutely spot on; people do trust results that appear higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)! Of course a few years back it was far simpler to SEO a Page/Website so as to manipulate the Search Engines (through link-farms, keyword stuffing URL masking etc.) however nowadays Search Engines are far better at ranking and placing relevant and original content more prominently in the SERPs!
The take-away from all this then, from an SEO perspective, is that SEO is more important than it has ever been; but SEO shouldn’t involve trickery and deception but rather quality content for which people are searching!