How To Check Website Credibility + Why It Still Matters for Online Sources

Trust—the most valuable commodity for website growth. When a visitor comes to your site, it's up to you to prove that your website is credible. It's not always as easy as it sounds, though, so we're doing a deep dive into how to check your website's credibility and why it's still relevant.

We all look at large websites like Facebook, Amazon, or Target as trusted and credible. But just like Rome wasn't built in a day, this level of credibility didn't happen overnight. It took years of improvement. And that all starts with asking a few key questions.

  • Should you care about website credibility enough to put all that energy into it?
  • How do you assess where your site is now?
  • If you're ready to take the next steps in website credibility, what comes first?

Understanding website credibility and why it matters

We can define website credibility in several ways, but it ultimately boils down to the intent of your website design. Your website can't just be aesthetically pleasing—your design needs to meet an expected level of functionality.

It should be clear what you're selling, what you specialize in, and why visitors should choose your business over others. 

Types of website credibility

What most site owners don't know is that there are four main types of website credibility:

  • Impression. How does the website look? Does it seem credible?
  • Reputation. Well-known websites have a reputation for being reliable. So, customers tend to give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Referral. If a customer is referred by a dependable source, they're more likely to accept your website as one they can trust.
  • Proven. Once a visitor uses your site and finds it credible on their own, they have experience to back their trust.

The criteria for website credibility can differ across industries. After all, not all websites have the same goals in mind. For example, a company that sells baseball hats and beanies will need a completely different layout and design than a real estate company. And you wouldn't want to choose the same fonts or color scheme for a preschool website that you might choose for a financial planning website.

Still, no matter how different your industries are, there's a basic level of "credibility" that users expect you to meet. And we're going to walk you through what that looks like.

Does website credibility matter for online sources?

The short answer is yes; it absolutely does. With a cyber-reality that's riddled with scammers at every click, people aren't willing to spend more than a second on a sketchy page—let alone buy anything. While it may matter less in some industries, it's still important.

Customers are looking for a website that is:

  • Clear. Visitors want to know exactly what you're offering, how they can get it, and why you're the best choice.
  • Honest. No one wants to feel duped or scammed by additional fees, required add-ons, or confusing policies.
  • Appealing. Visitors are more likely to stay on a website if the visual layout is well done. And they'll click away quickly from an ugly or excessively flashy website.
  • Consistent. Potential customers want to see a website that keeps the same framework throughout. Don't mix and match designs. Instead, stick with a simple, straightforward layout that gets your message across in an appealing way.

These are just a few negative outcomes that can happen if your website doesn't look like a trusted source:

  • An increased bounce rate
  • Low traffic
  • Poor lead generation
  • Negative reviews

Who cares about credibility

As consumers, our concept of credibility affects us every time we make a purchase. And website credibility matters for several reasons. Overall, it shows that your company can be trusted and counted on.

Website credibility matters to people taking the following actions:

  • Making advertising decisions. Potential advertisers will not want to advertise on your website if it does not look credible. They will not want to associate with a business that looks unprofessional, sketchy, or unprepared.
  • Creating potential partnerships. Businesses won't be interested in partnering with your business if you don't look credible and professional.
  • Using your site as a source. When readers trust the information you share, they can use your site as a reference. This can help build backlinks and help promote your site.
  • Purchasing or subscribing. Most likely, the primary goal of your site is to attract customers and clients looking to make a purchase. If your website doesn't appear credible, potential customers will simply move on to one of the many other websites out there.

Site visitors need to see that you're an expert and an industry leader. If your website gives off that suspicious vibe, hinting at a scam or hoax, this can be devastating to your bottom line. And this is a huge problem, especially if you're building an e-commerce site.

You can demonstrate these features of credibility by showing customers:

  • Your site is secure and protects sensitive data.
  • You're industry experts, providing valuable information.
  • The site is well-built and regularly maintained.
  • You offer support for questions and concerns.

Ten tools to check website credibility

10 tools to check website credibility

Website credibility isn't as subjective as it sounds. There are many tools available to check your own website's credibility. While none of them are perfect, they each have different strengths. Try a couple of different options to get a 360-view of your site's street cred.

1. SEO analysis & website review

WooRank offers a great site review extension to help you catch all those little details that can make your site more memorable. It will give you a score and tell you what actions they'd recommend. You'll find suggestions from helping you increase speed to making sure search engines can find your site easily.

2. SimilarWeb.com

SimilarWeb offers a free version and a paid version. While the free version is somewhat limited, Similarweb can provide a lot of information about your website. It can show traffic, traffic sources, referring sites, visitor location, social media metrics, and other important data.

But the most interesting feature is that Similarweb allows you to compare your website with a competitor. With an eye toward credibility, you can track how these things are affected as you develop your site.

3. Moz Bar

Moz Bar is a chrome extension. It measures a page's credibility (or authority) on a scale from 1 to 100. Just like in school, you're trying to achieve as high of a score as possible. Moz Bar provides more information to website administrators as well, including where your visitors are coming from.

This site does have a free version, but it's somewhat limited in its insights. The paid version contains more features and can help you check website credibility more thoroughly.

4. Web of Trust (WOT)

Web of Trust is a little different from some of these other tools because it's based on visitor ratings. It's another chrome extension, and when visitors have WOT installed, they can indicate whether a website seems credible. WOT provides two different metrics to show this.

Because it is based on user reviews, sometimes the credibility reviews are sparse or nonexistent if the site is less popular. In general, the purpose of the WOT is to stop scammers and protect children from inappropriate content.

5. Quantcast.com

Quantcast helps website administrators understand their audience. It can provide information such as demographics, interests, and more about visitors to your site. Quantcast is often used to collect results from marketing and advertising campaigns.

In other words, if you have an online coffee store and spend money marketing on Facebook, Quantcast can show how well that advertising has worked. It can show what kinds of people are reaching your site and how they ended up there. When you really know your target audience, you can tailor your site to match what they're looking for.

6. TheHoth.com

Powered by SEMRush, The Hoth lets you know how your website ranks based on the amount of traffic. You can track competitor sites as well to know what they're ranking for. Creating an account with The Hoth can help you see what keywords your site is ranking for on Google. If you're not ranking for anything yet, it can help you kick off your first campaign.

7. accessiBE.com

Accessibility can be an important part of credibility for many users. Website accessibility allows support and functionality for users who are differently abled or restricted. They're able to rely on your site when they know it's purposefully designed for them to use.

With accessiBE.com, you can run a free report on your website to check for things like this:

  • Titles
  • Orientation
  • Menus
  • Graphics
  • Links
  • Forms
  • HTML documentation
  • Readability

Their responses will help you make sure your site is ADA and WCAG compliant. The result? More site users who can access the information they need.

8. Ahref's Backlink Checker

Backlinks are a good indication of your website's credibility. It relies on that referral element—when visitors on another site they trust see your link there, they feel more confident in turning to you, too. Ahref has a great tool to check your current backlink situation.

It will tell you your top 100 backlinks, your top 5 anchors, and the top 5 pages that they're linking to. This can give you a great insight into what aspects of your site visitors are finding the most credible.

9. SSL Trust Security Chec

Cyber security is everything these days, and a site dinged for not being secure can ruin your traffic. Make sure your site is considered "safe" for users to avoid site visitors turning away from warning messages. SSL Trust has a free website safety and security check.

You can enter your domain name, and it will let you know if they would recommend users to share information with your site. If it comes up red for malware or spam, you've got some cleaning up to do.

10. Website Trust Checker

The ultimate test of a user's trust in your site is when it's time to enter their payment information. People might give up their first name or email address, but they hold on tight to their credit card number. How confident do your site users feel when they go to pay for your products or services?

Producthunt.com offers a free website trust checking tool that lets people evaluate how safe it is to enter payment information on your site. It will give you a score and show you the issues it's seeing if your site is throwing any red flags.  

How to evaluate your website’s credibility

While these tools are valuable, they won't tell you everything. You must look at the bigger picture. You can evaluate your site yourself by following these steps. And it's always smart to test your site with users within your target market to make sure you're hitting the mark from their perspective.

Check on user interface and design

They say appearances aren't everything. But when it comes to your website, they are. The first thing a visitor sees on your site sets the tone. If a site looks poorly designed, visitors are likely to try another site. Other considerations when it comes to appearance include:

  • Layout
  • Typography
  • Graphic design
  • Photography
  • Color and branding

These choices should complement each other to make a functional, slick website that impresses customers. Choose colors, fonts, and a design to convey the aesthetic you want potential customers to associate with your business and product. Websites that look “busy” and have too much going on can be frustrating for potential visitors.

Web design mistakes to stay away from

A good-looking website is subjective. However, whether you're selling shoes, sharing recipes, or offering financial advice, there are several important factors to keep in mind.  

Here are some pitfalls that you generally want to avoid:

  • Pop-ups. Website visitors may never return if you give them multiple pop-ups. These get the visitors' attention, sure, but it isn't the right kind of attention. Visitors get frustrated and annoyed having to click away from excessive pop-ups before accessing their information.
  • Auto-play videos. Allow your visitors to decide whether they want to view the video on your site. If their computer or phone starts playing a video, they're likely to close out (and never come back again).
  • Flashing or animation. Standing out is one thing, but flashing banners and poorly-made animation can make a website hard to look at. If your website isn't exactly easy on the eyes, you can wave goodbye to returning customers.
  • Clashing colors. When it comes to fonts and backgrounds, not all color combinations have enough contrast for visitors to read your site text. And some colors just don't go together. Others bring up associations we'd rather forget (green and purple are too reminiscent of a certain purple dinosaur).
  • Poor quality pictures. The bar for website photography is a lot higher than it used to be. There's no room for blurry pictures with terrible lighting. While personalized photos are always better, beautiful stock photos are easy to come by.
  • Weak CTA. The buttons and links you're using as a call to action should be bold, succinct, readable, and hard to miss.

Test utility and user experience

When potential customers stumble on your website (thanks to your marketing and SEO strategies), it is important that they understand what your website is for and how they can use it. Try to make this as easy as possible for your customers. Generally, this means your website should:

  • Use straightforward navigation - Adding breadcrumbs and a home page link assigned to your logo is a good way to help establish easy navigation.
  • Have reliable links - Be diligent in checking your website for link errors. Don't let customers get stuck in a “link loop” where they can't access what they need.

A website that doesn't function as intended can be extremely frustrating to visitors. Remember, there's no second chance to make a great first impression.

Review website policies and transparency

Website credibility is also determined by transparency. Customers should see clearly what you're offering. They should also understand what to expect.

Ways that your website may appear to not be transparent:

1. Frustrating customer service

From answering questions to product returns, you want to be available and upfront.  If you sell most of your products and services online, consider making a clear refund policy. This helps customers feel more confident in their purchases. Quality customer service shows that you're secure in what you offer.

2. Hard-to-close pop-up forms

Many visitors won't waste time looking through your website if they need to input their personal information first. Customers are wary of sharing their personal information. Be transparent with the customers about why you require their personal information before they can move forward.

3. Confusing payment information screens

It takes a lot for some people to make an online purchase from a business they've never used before. The last step for them (and you) is the payment page. A payment page that doesn't include any verbiage on how you'll protect their personal information can steer cautious buyers away.

4. Misleading advertisements

If you're going to have advertising on your website, vet them thoroughly. A banner that offers contradictory (or competitive) offers on your site will leave a visitor confused and reluctant to trust you or make a purchase. If you run a site that offers healthy recipes and tips to fight against diet culture, you wouldn't want your content flooded with ads for phony diet pills.

Update site content

Do as I say, not as I do—right? Content on your website has as much weight in calculating credibility as anything else. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you analyze your existing content:

  • Can visitors quickly see what your website is for? The name of your company and what you do or sell should be front and center.
  • Is the tone appropriate? Make sure your writing voice matches what customers expect. And it should be consistent on every page.
  • Are there any mistakes? A typo on your banner can send away potential customers running for the virtual hills. Proof your text. Ask someone to review it, making sure it says what you want it to.

Let's go over a few more tips for optimizing your content for credibility:

Use standard pages with clear titles

At this point, customers just expect websites to have certain pages. This includes a home page (where everything starts), an "about us" page, a contact page, and a frequently asked questions page. Depending on the nature of your business, you may have more, including client referrals, a list of products and services, and case studies.

Provide clear and accessible information

Visitors don't necessarily want to hear about every single detail of every single product or service you sell—at least right out of the gate.

A large block of text is not a great choice for most sites. It's difficult to read and relies on an online attention span that just isn't there. Instead, consider bullet points, short paragraphs, or numbered lists. If all the information contained in a paragraph is essential, place the text on a different page and link to it from your home page. That way, you have the freedom to format.

Make sure the information is easy to read and succinct, aimed at the right reading level. The more jargon you use, the more alienating you can be.

Don't exaggerate

You may have the best sandwich in western New Jersey for sale. However, if your site repeatedly uses phrases like “best ever,” “most delicious,” “greatest of all time,” and other hyperbolic language, visitors may start to think you're overcompensating. Consider sharing client testimonials instead of “tooting your own horn.”

Include case studies, experience, and social proof

You know your business is the best choice for your customers, but do they? Consider some of the following for your website to show potential customers your expertise and why you're the most reliable option.

Maximize your “about us” page

Consider having an “about us” or “about the company” section on your website that can allow customers to see who you are and what you're all about. Introduce yourself and the rest of your staff to the customer. This is really a chance to talk about how good you are at meeting customer needs.

An “about the company” page can contain pictures of important employees, listing degrees, years of experience, and awards or licensing. This is a chance to brag about yourself and your team members.

Display client reviews and testimonials

These customers were satisfied and impressed with what your business offered, right? This means website visitors know that you have gotten the job done in the past.

Consider linking to Google, Yelp, or other outside sources to corroborate rave reviews from your customers. 

Get those positive reviews, and then show them off! This may just end up being that deciding factor when making a major purchase.

Name drop like it’s hot

If you're connected with another high-profile business, swap links. Explain how and why you're partnered and why customers benefit from your relationship. Just like your customers know they can trust your recommendation, the same goes for the other business.

Watch social media engagement

If your social media is active and engaged, you attract more followers. The more active you are and the larger your following, the more credible you'll seem.

Tracking the number of comments, likes, and shares on certain posts can also provide insight into the types of content you should share in the future. Not to mention that online commenters won't hesitate to let you know if your website is sketchy.

Avoid these common red flags

There are some things that customers will immediately want to avoid if they see them on a website. Your website can look far from credible if you make any of the following mistakes.

  • Choosing a bad URL. Select something as close to the name of your business as you can. It should be memorable and indicative of the purpose of your business. Make sure it's easy to type out.
  • Major errors and typos. A silly typo can make you look unprofessional or uninformed. And mistakes with dates, prices, or availability can leave customers with a bad taste in their mouths.
  • Political messaging. Remember that not everyone shares the same perspective. Presenting your political ideas as facts can scare off potential customers who may disagree. Stay neutral to help everyone feel welcome.
  • Overly flashy website. If a site is literally flashing in a visitor's face, they are likely to click away. Don't overdo it with cheap tricks to get attention. Let your content speak for itself.
  • Multiple negative reviews. If you're getting multiple negative reviews, customers may think you aren't credible. If possible, reach out to negative reviewers to see how you can improve their experience in the future. This isn't just good for your website credibility, but it's good practice for your business overall.
  • Excessive advertising. Be strategic and deliberate if you're placing advertisements on your website. Choose advertisers that make good strategic partners. Place the advertisements in an area where they can be seen, but don't take over the aesthetic or block information.

These are just a few of the many ways you can scare potential customers away.

Make it easy for customers to get support

For a website to be credible, customers need to be able to access the support they need. You can accomplish this in several ways:

  1. Include a contact page. This can be shared with the “about the company” page if you prefer. Just make sure that it is clear and easy to find. A contact page should have a couple of different options for potential customers to reach you.
  2. Make your site mobile friendly. Often, customers will access your website from a phone. This should not significantly impact the utility of the site. They should still be able to navigate it easily.
  3. Have a service team available. Text responses to simple customer questions can make a visitor feel more secure in their purchase (and the credibility of your website overall). No matter the time of day, 24/7 live chat services allow your customer to seek answers to help make a decision. Chat services help relieve some of the pressure on your employees throughout the day, so they can dedicate their time to things that will help them serve all of your customers better.
  4. Include a FAQs page. If you or your service team are routinely answering the same questions, a frequently asked questions page can save you a lot of hard work and your customers a lot of frustration.
  5. Make contact information easy to find. Many websites choose to have contact information at the bottom of the page. But you can include contact banners at the top or widgets that always show contact details.

In the end, make sure customers can get support and get their questions answered easily. This will make your website far more credible overall. While it can feel overwhelming, just remember that you don't have to do all of this alone.

Smith.ai can help boost your website's credibility

Several of the elements and steps we described take time—time to create and time to follow through. While they're certainly important, you have other important things to tackle too.

So, how can you do it all? We can help you improve customer trust for your website and your business. Many of our services are directly related to building website credibility:

Getting visitors to your website is challenging enough on its own. Don't let them walk away with a bad first impression. We can take over the tasks that need to get done but take away from the other projects that help you optimize your website and content. 

We know how important it is to keep your clients happy and find new ones, and it all starts with your site. If you’re ready to create a website that will deliver on your customers’ expectations, book a free 30-minute sales consultation with us today. We offer a 14-day, money-back guarantee, so email us at hello@smith.ai to get started now.

Tags:
Business Education
Elizabeth Lockwood

Elizabeth Lockwood is the content marketing associate at Smith.ai. She focuses specifically on writing and editing engaging articles, blog posts, and other forms of publication.

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