Credibility is a seemingly obvious but extremely important puzzle piece for creating a positive online health experience. It helps health brands build trust and continuously connect with their audiences.
Last year, in a study commissioned by Verywell, research firm KR&I identified credibility — along with ease, relevance, and empathy — as a clear-cut factor for helping users feel better in their moment of need. This year, Verywell conducted an online survey of 2,065 adults with a chronic health condition to learn more about users’ perceptions and need for credibility.
The Need for Credibility
The need for credibility truly stands out when we take a deeper look at users’ mindsets during their online health search. We know from survey responses that 7 in 10 health searches have some level of urgency behind them. Users are coming to health sites to evaluate troubling symptoms, find solutions, and more.
In short, they are looking for help understanding and managing their condition, and the ideal help involves facts. Seventy-four percent of respondents cited “factual information” as the most important factor for an ideal search.
The Importance of Credibility
Credibility is so important for health users that they actively choose trustworthy sources of information.
Survey respondents said they most often turn to category experts for information — including credible health sites. Sixty-five percent seek help from a healthcare professional and nearly 40 percent connect with public health associations. Less credible sources — social media, celebrities, family and friends — fall much lower on the spectrum as a go-to source.
When it comes to health sites, a combined 59 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that they only go to specific brands that they trust. If they find themselves in a satisfying, trustworthy experience and feel that they found a “good website,” they’ll search more around that site rather than doing another search. In this way, credibility helps sites build a connection and continue to engage with users.
Credible information has its payoffs for the user, too. We know it contributes to a positive health experience and helps users feel better in their moment of need. Survey responses revealed that when users feel better, they’re more likely to take a positive health action — 39 percent scheduled an appointment with a healthcare professional, 49 percent bought a medication or tried a recommended treatment, and 38 percent talked to another person about what they learned. Forty-six percent of users took these actions that same day, and another 30 percent within a couple of days, directly working to positively influence their own outcome.
Room for Improvement
For the most part, users think health sites like Verywell are doing well with offering trustworthy, credible information. They view these sites as the second most trusted source of information, just behind HCPs, and 75 percent are generally satisfied with the credibility of the information provided. Only 10 percent of users surveyed were dissatisfied because the information was wrong, and nine percent because the author was untrustworthy.
That being said, it’s important for health brands to continue exploring ways to improve their credibility and how they relate it to users, especially now when health myths and “fake news” are much more prevalent and easily spread through social media and other channels. Verywell has made this a focus this year, making changes that drove impactful results and improved engagement.
Transparency is key. The brand took several steps to clearly highlight its credibility. First, we’ve updated our homepage to outline our process for creating trustworthy content — calling attention to who writes it, our review and fact-checking process, and the awards we’ve won for our work.
Credibility highlights from Verywell Health’s homepage. See more at verywellhealth.com.
At the article level, we’ve also taken steps to clearly detail the credible professionals who author and review our content, making it easier for users to learn more about them. A simple hover over their name reveals a snapshot of their credentials and role, and a click on their name leads to an in-depth bio of their work and qualifications.
We’ve also made it easier for users to navigate to the credible sources that informed an article — hovering over an inline citation offers a direct link to the source of information, most often a peer-reviewed journal or primary source.
Combined, these initiatives have helped Verywell build credibility with its users and in turn build deeper, longer-lasting connections that have made the brand a go-to source during users’ health-related moments of need.
Get in Touch
The Verywell family of brands, including Verywell Health, Verywell Fit, Verywell Family, and Verywell Mind, take a human approach to health and wellness content and are a welcome alternative to hyper-clinical health sites. More than 35 million people use Verywell sites each month to feel better and be healthier. Verywell is part of the Dotdash family of brands.