A Crucial SEO Element: Web Site Credibility

100% Organic - A Column From Search Engine Land Part of making a site a success from an SEO standpoint is making it credible and trustworthy. Being trustworthy means a site is more likely to draw high quality organic links, more likely to be mentioned in the press, and more likely to convert for consumers in your target market.

Background research on web site credibility

What are some of the overall elements that go into creating a trustworthy site? We can start by looking at past documents outside of the realm of SEO that discuss web site credibility. In 2002, Stanford did a study on web Credibility (PDF), and in January of 2006 Karen G. Schneider published Beyond Algorithms: A Librarian’s Guide to Finding web Sites You Can Trust. Let’s dig into some of the ways to help make your site as credible as we possibly can.

Design & other trust cues

Is the design unique? Does it help convey a sense of trust? Design is an easy way to get more people talking about your site. My blog design only cost $1,500, and it was cited by Danny Sullivan as a good design. If I had to try to buy those sorts of citations I probably couldn’t, and if I could, they would probably cost more than the design did. And on top of more links, the design helps sell day in and day out.

Is the site easy to use? Or does it trap information under layer after layer of ads mixed with confusing navigation? If you feature ads above your content you are telling users those are more important and better than your content is.

Critical information

Do articles have publication dates and list the names of their authors on them? Anyone looking to get cited needs to make it easy for people to cite them.

Does a site have an about section and list a physical address on it? How old is the company? Lacking these details makes an organization seem less like an organization and more like a person sitting in their underwear in a basement somewhere.

Background information

Does the URL describe the offering? Is the site hosted on the name of the business or a third party URL? Being descriptive, unique, and memorable makes it easier to sell.

Does a site offer free useful information on it, or is it similar to a thousand other web sites? Why would people chose to cite this type of business over more remarkable competitors?

Does a site freely link out to other useful sites, or is it stuck thinking it owns the visitors? It is hard to look credible on the web if you never use a hyperlink to cite other sources.

Availability & user interaction

Do people have exposure to your site and a positive experience from past exposure? Do people freely recommend your web site to friends? Are media members citing your site?

Authority is not something you take, but something that is granted. Gaining authority makes it easier to gain more authority, and eventually it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. In many instances appearing as though you are credible is more important than actually knowing what you are talking about, especially on a network that has no respect for copyright and where just about everything is freely available.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | Search Marketing: General | SEO: General

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About The Author: is the author of SEO Book. He also works with Clientside SEM to help large corporate clients improve their search engine rankings. The 100% Organic column appears Thursdays at Search Engine Land.

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  • http://www.seo.hr/blog/ Bruno Šarić

    Aaron, you have a dead link: “a study on web Credibility [PDF]“.

  • http://www.usabilityeffect.com Kim (cre8pc)

    Here’s another link (not PDF) to the Stanford research:

    http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/dynamic/web-credibility-reports-evaluate-abstract.cfm

    For those who wish to learn more…searches on “captology” are helpful, as well as the resources and book by Fogg at (http://credibility.stanford.edu/) and (http://captology.stanford.edu/).

  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    I’ve fixed that first link.

  • http://blog.vortexdna.com Kaila Colbin

    Hi there,

    Sorry it took me a week to get to this piece. I concur with you 100% that credibility and trustworthiness are fundamental (see my post Trust is the new e-currency for my views on the matter).

    However, I must take exception with the conclusion of your article.

    You say, “In many instances appearing as though you are credible is more important than actually knowing what you are talking about, especially on a network that has no respect for copyright and where just about everything is freely available.”

    Now, I am naive in many ways, but not so naive as to be blind to the benefits that can be gained from acting like you know what you’re talking about. But surely these benefits outweigh the negatives! I’m really surprised that you’re encouraging people to ‘fake it til they make it’ in an article promoting credibility. How about encouraging people to be genuine instead?

    My own experience is that one of the surest ways to gain credibility and trust is by freely admitting where the limits of your knowledge lie. Just because some people have gained exposure by pretending to know more than they do doesn’t mean it’s a desirable objective.

    I wish you had ended with the previous sentences: “Authority is not something you take, but something that is granted. Gaining authority makes it easier to gain more authority, and eventually it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.”

    Now THAT I agree with.

 

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