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I have a client who insists on getting their website validated by Norton Security Verification and displaying the seal. However, I am skeptic and do not trust Norton products. I recall an impression where websites that have these seals tend to be dodgy.

I'm wondering if anyone could confirm, or counter my impression with past experience?

Update

Thanks to everyone for your answers!

Its been difficult selecting an 'accepted' answer, initially I decided to go for the most up-voted answer. However after re-considering I think tibocut's answer is the most suitable as it draws from past experience (which is what I have asked for). In addition, he also brings up links to counter-arguments.

From the answers, it would seem that that security seals do have a positive impact on conversion rates.

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It's like a restaurant advertising "6 months with no rats!" –  DA01 Jan 11 '13 at 5:34
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couldn't agree more with "do not trust Norton products" –  kmonsoor Jan 11 '13 at 6:14
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It is no surprise that dodgy sites like seals. The less well-known a site is, the more important it is to find some way to establish trust. If a customer already trusts you, adding a seal won't help (and might even hurt). –  Brian Jan 14 '13 at 20:13
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Norton Security Verification is an old product from Verisign rebranded by Norton. Make sure to understand which seal you’re buying from them.

A Norton Secured Seal is only shown to users of Norton Internet Security, Norton 360 and Norton Safe Web Lite in their search results pages. Sites that display Norton Secured Seal use VeriSign SSL or the VeriSign Trust Seal which indicates that their business has been validated as a legal business entity and the web site uses recommended security practices including best-of-breed SSL Certificates and daily web site malware scanning. To find out more about VeriSign SSL and VeriSign Trust Seal.

Criticism : It’s like DRMs they add a lot of hassle for the owner and do not stop the people who want to cheat. In this case you are not really protected and if for whatsoever reason your seal become invalid, welcome to the land of Norton administration process (or any vendor of seal for that purpose).

However on a user perspective : security seals still seems to work well like CJFranken and JohnGB pointed out.

From my personal experience : on an e-commerce website selling flights to Canada from UK, we did various A/B testing such as "text seals" versus the seals with their logo. Then no-seals vs text-seals and no-seals vs logo-seals. Each seals had a link "check me". From the stats, very few visitors clicked on those links.

The conversion rate always been much higher with the page with seals and their logo.

This experience was set in this particular context : selling flights. The seals displayed were the one from Verisign and the industry sector ones : ATOL, ABTA, IATA.

There is non scientific literature on the web where security seals do not always win the conversion : http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/surprise-surprise-having-no-secure-icon-on-a-page-increased-conversions-by-400/

and

http://unbounce.com/a-b-testing/shocking-results/

Looks to me it’s not the security you’re buying, it’s that fact you can put an image of a trusted brand on your site and it’s dependent on the context of the call to action you’re looking for.

On any case Norton is a trusted band and they are nagging users on almost every new Windows PC. I don’t think there is much confusion between Norton and security in the mind of users.

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The Wikipedia page on Trust Seals has a section on "criticisms" where they mention McAfee, but not Norton. They also provide a link to a 2003 paper by Atticus Evil et al. titled "On trust in the internet: Belief cues from domain suffixes and seals of approval". An extract from their abstract follows:

Students and non-students differed in their trust of .gov and .edu domain suffixes as well as several seals of approval (e.g., Verisign, Trust-e). In addition, the ratings of several fictitious seals were judged as trustworthy at levels as high or higher than actual seals. Participants who use the Internet for more hours per week showed significantly more trust for some domain suffixes and seals of approval than those who use the Internet for fewer hours.

The part of the Wikipedia criticism (linked to that paper) states (emphasis my own):

Trust seals can give a false sense of security as they are awarded at a certain point of time, unless the website is scanned on a daily basis and the scan date is displayed. When a site is not scanned daily, a change in technology and loopholes are not updated along with the trusted seal, so it does't represent flaws in the updated technology. The iconographical value is too high to mislead customers unaware about these changes.

If I read that correctly, it means the very presence of a seal is misleading enough that people will simply trust the site without bothering to check the "scan date" (if such a date is even presented).

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Excellent answer about the seals. The real impact on the user experience is not based on actual facts. Just like not so long ago many websites displayed w3c valid mark-up buttons, because it was in vogue, even if their pages were not at all or only partially complying. –  kontur Jan 11 '13 at 11:04
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Corey Rudl did some testing on this years ago, and found that (back then) anything that looks like it's a verification in the checkout process increased revenue. But then again he also is responsible for a lot of those dodgy single page websites.

My unsupported opinion is that anything other than a reputable SSL certificate is no longer needed since financial transactions have become common place online.

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Can you link to where this was referenced? If you're referencing studies / research then providing a link is useful. –  JonW Jan 11 '13 at 9:09
    
@JonW they were given in material as part of a paid course, so I'm afraid I can't. –  JohnGB Jan 11 '13 at 10:11
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