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.
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.
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.