During the coming months on SEO Saturday, we’ll be going through the what-makes-a-high-quality-site list presented by Google. Some of those upcoming posts may leave you wondering, “What does THAT have to do with SEO?” Most people think of SEO as some guruish techie skill that no one else can master.
Not true. In fact, just last week the Search Engine Land blog quoted a former Google guy made a statement that rocked the SEO world. Andre Weyher, formerly of Google, recently said, “…what I tend to tell people is the following; if you want to please Google with your SEO, then forget about SEO.”
So, don’t fret if the principles I’ll be sharing with you sound simple. Most of them are. And the best part is, they are principles any blogger can incorporate to make their site trustworthy, not only in the eyes of Google, but more importantly, in the eyes of your readers.
The first question on Google’s list is, “Would you trust the information presented in this article?” Note that the question uses the word “article,” not site. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, Google ranks individual pages within your site, which in turn gives the entire site authority. When I discussed Google’s article last week (“What does Google want from you?“), I went a step beyond Google’s question about trusting the information within an article and instead asked, “Is your site trustworthy?”
Today’s post will share 23 ways to make your site is trustworthy. While researching and compiling this list, I realized how lacking my own site is in this area, so I’ll be adding plenty to my to-do list as I make improvements to On Blogging Well.
- Use a domain-based email. A professional email address gives you instant credibility, thereby increasing your perceived trustworthiness. It doesn’t take long to set one up through your domain’s cpanel, and you can forward it to be read by whichever current email address you’re using.
- A clean, professionally designed site. If your site still sports the flashy, spinning .gif images that were popular in the late 90s, then it’s time to update it. Even my site is “dated” style-wise, and I’m working on a redesign. Websites have styles, just like fashion. Keep your site clean of clutter and up-to-date. You only have a couple of seconds to impress your site guests, and your design is the first thing they see.
- Great content. Spammy, low-grade sites scrape content from other sites, or they have little-to-no “real” content. If you provide fresh, original, useful, and relevant content on a regular basis, this will help paint a trustworthy image for your website. The amount of content also aids in your site’s trustworthiness. If the content to ad ratio is low, your site looks sketchy.
- Dependability. Notice I said “regular basis” in the above point. Pick a blogging schedule and stick with it if at all possible. People get accustomed to your posting schedule, and besides helping increase your website’s trustworthiness, it will help grow your audience.
- Security. Protect your blog by creating regular backups, using security plugins, and, if you do any ecommerce on your site, ensuring the security of the payment processor you use.
- Credentials. You’ve likely chosen the topic you picked because you have the credentials to blog about it. If you own a flower shop, you have the proper credentials to blog about all things related to flowers and gifts. Your credentials don’t have to be blasted all over your blog. Post them discretely on your about page and those who are interested in learning more will find them.
- Links. Link out to relevant, informative references. One of the things that gives great journalists integrity is the sources they cite. This makes their writing trustworthy, and it applies to bloggers, too. Besides, the outbound relevant links will enable search engines to get a better idea of the type of content your blog shares.
- Authority. Authority goes back to the basic writing concept, “Write what you know.” If you babble on about something you have no clue about, your audience will quickly pick up on it, and that will damage your reputation and you won’t be trusted. Authority is similar to credentials, but it goes beyond mere titles and pieces of paper. All the credentials in the world won’t help you if you don’t use them. For instance, I was a music ed major in college. Yet I don’t work in the music field. At my day job, I’m an operations coordinator for a digital services company owned by a large daily newspaper. I spend many hours each week consulting with small business owners about their online marketing goals and helping them develop strategies. Interestingly enough, I got that job because of my “authority” (from being self-taught) in the field, not through “credentials.” Although now, my position gives me credentials in this field.
- Clout. Again, different from authority or credentials, but all three fit together and help increase your online trustworthiness. In relation to online trust, clout is typically associated with social media. I shared a few weeks ago about a website that measures your social media clout in the post, “Got Klout?” Note: The more active you are in your social networks, the more your Klout score will increase. When I first posted about Klout, my score was in the high teens (embarrassing!), but I just checked it and now it’s in the 50s, so keep plugging away. Social media clout is becoming a huge factor in search engine results.
- Advertising. Most bloggers would like to make a little money through their blogs, and ads are one way to do that. Be careful about the types of ads you post (make them relevant to the interest of your audience) and the amount and placement of ads. It was a LONG time before I broke down and put advertising on this blog, but blogging does require a monetary investment, so a little AdSense income helps pay the bills.
- Contact Info. Some people are so worried about identity theft that they won’t post any way for readers to contact them. Use a contact form, create an email address just for your blog. Do something – but let people get in touch with you. I will note that I’ve never posted my physical address on any of my websites. Do be cautious. I consulted with a client last week who had a stalker issue a few years back because she’d posted personal residence info on her blog. Get a post office box and use that address. Don’t put your home address online.
- Comments. Allow comments, but don’t let anyone and everyone post anything and everything. Here’s how I moderate comments, and it works great for me. In the WordPress dashboard under Settings > Discussion, I allow those who have had one previously approved comment to post without further approval. So, once you’ve made one approved comment on my blog, all of your future comments display immediately without you having to wait on me to approve it. This prevents spammer posts from displaying (don’t EVER put your settings to let all posts go live without any moderation) but it doesn’t frustrate my loyal readers.
- Social Shares. This goes along with clout. People notice how many shares your posts have. Some of my posts have been Tweeted and shared on Facebook dozens of times, some haven’t been shared at all. This also helps me decide what my readers are looking for in terms of content.
- Testimonials. If you provide products or services, post a few testimonials on your blog. You can create a testimonial page if you want. People do read reviews and testimonials. Endorsements people make about you on sites such as LinkedIn are another form of testimonials.
- Reviews. Speaking of reviews, collect links from your online reviews and post them in one place on your blog. This is especially important if you have a brick and mortar business. Check Google places and Yelp and Foursquare, then post links to the actual reviews so people will know you’re not making them up.
- Endorsements. Be careful of products you endorse. Try them out first and make sure they’re high quality, useful, and relevant to your audience before inviting your readers to buy them. A few dollars in affiliate commissions are not worth damaging your online reputation.
- Edit. Give your blog posts a quick read through before hitting the Publish button. Most readers will forgive an occasional typo, but if your blog consistently has errors that a little proofreading could have fixed, you’re hurting your reputation and losing trust.
- Check your facts. The Internet can be a big gossip mill. Make sure you post information that is accurate and if at all possible, link to your source. It’s always best to use sources that are credible, too, because anyone can post anything to the Internet – true or not.
- Social Media Profiles. This isn’t directly on your blog, but your profiles contribute to your online trustworthiness. Make sure your profiles are filled out as completely as possible. Include a photo of yourself. And do your best within the parameters of each platform to keep your profile information consistent across the web. Post prominent links to your profiles on your blog so readers can connect with you.
- Use your About page wisely. This is an area I definitely need to improve upon as I re-work my site. Your about page can eliminate a number of trust issues people may have with your site. We’ve already discussed listing credentials and testimonials. You can also use this page to list any professional certifications or associations you have. Put your picture on your about page so readers can get to “know” you.
- Supporting content. Add charts, graphs, screenshots, and statistics within your posts to help support the points you’re wanting to share with your audience.
- Insider Info. Share insider information about your industry with your readers. This step goes beyond building trust and adds to the why should you get your information from THIS blog instead of any other blog out there on this topic.
- Be friendly. Yes, an old proverb states if you want to have friends, you must first be friendly. That’s true when building online trust relationships, too. In effect, bloggers are “Trust Agents,” a phrase made popular by the book with that title written by pro-blogger Chris Brogan. Most people want to know and like someone first before they trust them. Be likeable.
This turned into a VERY long post, but I wanted to make sure you understand all the things you can do to paint a trustworthy image of your blog.