Ever notice those little icons that dot the footers and sidebars of many websites? They typically denote certification, licensure or organization affiliation.
They show, for example, that a company or individual is a member of the Direct Marketing Association, approved by the Better Business Bureau, or skilled in Google AdWords. Do they really help?
I say yes. When you can show me that an unbiased, third-party has lent their name to your website I see it as an endorsement of your business practices. It means that you are a professional who has earned the recognition of other professionals. It also tells me that you know what you are doing. Even if I'm not sure what the icon is for (and am too lazy to click it and find out), I believe that it is important since competitors who do not have your designation will lose ground.
If you don't have such icons on your website, they're easy to come by. Joining an organization, earning certification, or applying for approval from industry watchdogs are simple and typically fast, depending on the industry. If your products, services or company have been featured in media, be sure to include “As seen on” or “As read in” icons from these publications and programs.
You can instantly beef up your web cred by including free icons from other sources as well. If you support Open Source software, have an HTML or CSS valid website or have certain political affiliations you can tap into resources from WC3, Mozilla and Creative Commons. While these icons might not mean anything to most people, the fact that you have them will tell visitors that they are important and that you offer quality.
Recommendations from trusted sources put you in front of the pack. Icons serve as visual queues that lend credibility to your company.