We have an online shopping cart and we sell products to all 48 states. We've been fortunate that we've been able to instill trust in our customers, particularly those who are far away from New England! Our goal back when we started optimizing our website was to not only become a presence for people in need of tools, but also create a sense of trust so that they would actually buy from us, once they found us! How do you determine if a website is credible?
1. Page design / presentation is a huge one. It's not necessarily a dealbreaker if the site isn't quite as polished as you might like, but it can influence whether people decide to stay and look around - much like a store front! If it's clear that time has been invested in maintaining it (an ecommerce website might have a large volume of products, and lots of detail about those products e.g., customer reviews, videos, support and documentation), then that is a good sign!
2. Are there a lot of misspellings on the site? Another indicator it may not be on the up-and-up.
3. Has it been updated recently? Do they have a blog? Blog entries are usually dated - a good way to tell if the business is actively updating their website.
4. Is there a shopping cart? Do you see https in the search bar when you are in the checkout section? The "s" at the end of http means the site is secure.
Here is a screen shot of our website when you add something to the shopping cart:
You can see the lock image along with the https:// to indicate secure shopping. Is the company or business connected with the Better Business Bureau or other reputable business-vetting entities?
5. And lastly, my own personal favorite: Google the website in question! I find that Googling the website / company name with words like "reviews" next to it is a great way to determine the legitimacy of the business.
Interestingly, we worked with a not-so-reputable SEO company a couple of years ago and, at one time, Googling their name along with "fraud" or "scam" brought up their own website. They added their own content with keywords a business wouldn't normally want associated with them - because they were trying to practice "reputation management" - basically, bury any bad reviews by creating their own content using these same negative keywords. So their website rises to the top with their own, controlled content. Here's an example of how this works. This is an actual line from their website, I've removed their name: "With so many scams out there, you should instead turn to our leading SEO company, __________, to help with all your Internet marketing needs. " I'm happy to report, after Googling them again, that their own content has sunk down again. Google has done a great job managing these underhanded tactics. So I would recommend using words like "scam" and "fraud" to see if you can uncover any dirt on a company you are considering working with! If you see their own website pop up with these words, that's probably a bad sign, and I would encourage you to dig deeper..
Do you have any tactics for determining if a website is legitimate? Please share them in the comments section below!