Have you ever visited a website in a list of search results, only to click the “back” button on your browser lickety-split? You’re not quite sure why you left the site, you just had the feeling that something was… amiss. Don’t feel bad – that snap judgment is one that many others have likely made before you, and the blame for the mass exodus rests squarely at the offending website’s feet.
Without the right on-site elements and content, a website could be absolutely kosher, yet nevertheless give off a certain “untrustworthy” vibe. This is especially the case if the website in question doesn’t have good (or in some cases, any) buzz online. That’s why it’s vital to consistently monitor – and actively manage – you website’s credibility online.
On the other hand, a website could do everything spot-on – delighting every visitor that crosses its homepage – yet still come up short the credibility department. Why, you ask? Simply put, off-site issues play an equally huge role in determining the overall credibility of a website. You should care about your website’s credibility for one juggernaut of a reason – it’s the single biggest determinant of ranking power in the SERPs.
Website Credibility and Your Site’s Appearance
Your website’s appearance, content, and structure are all major factors in its perceived credibility. If you suspect your website is lacking in these areas, then it’s time for a massive site-check. However, before you set out on a crazy content-editing spree, begin by retooling your website’s architecture.
Focus on cleaning up aspects of your site such as cumbersome navigation, missing images, a messy internal linking structure, multiple error pages, and nonexistent sitemaps.
Next, it’s time to tackle the biggie: your website’s content. Spelling and grammar mistakes should be first on the chopping block. Then, find and eliminate every trace of keyword-stuffing or awkward-sounding prose from your content – it’s a telltale giveaway that your stuff was composed for search engines instead of people.
According to a recent iCrossing white paper, when webmasters and marketers discover on-site issues that are negatively affecting their websites, it’s best to focus attention on improving content instead of pointing fingers at the competition and assigning blame:
Essentially, the passage indicates that the benefit of content bodybuilding is twofold. First, you’ll immediately increase your website credibility factor by earning a rep as the “go-to” resource in your niche; a place where people can find reliable links and authoritative info about a topic all in one place. Second, you’ll convince the search engines that you cover the subject matter better and more comprehensively than your competition – even if you’ve linked to them in your piece! Talk about irony, right?
Building Offsite Credibility
Once your website’s in check, it’s time to move to part two of your website credibility makeover. If you (or that shady SEO you once hired) have ever engaged in link buying, link blasting, comment spamming, or all of the above to build backlinks to your site, then it’s time for some major damage control.
Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and add your website to the new account pronto. You’ll get an accurate picture of every website linking to yours in G’s database. Then, use the “disavow links” tool to begin systematically removing wayward links and spiff up your backlink profile. Warning: this process is extremely tedious and it may take months. Don’t get discouraged – it takes time to scrub away all that spam. In the end, when your website begins to bounce back in the SERPs, you’ll be ecstatic that you did all that extra legwork.
Once the spam’s gone buh-bye, it’s time to replace it with a shiny new set of authority backlinks. Ensure you choose sites closely related to your own, and check their stats to validate their authority status in your niche. Then, if you haven’t already, form relationships with the webmasters and begin linking to the sites as references in your own website content going forward.
When you do, the webmasters will be far more receptive to your occasional guest post request. However, if you play it right, you may not even need to ask. If you work to rebrand your site as an authority before building these relationships, you’ll begin to get the best kind of backlinks in existence: the kind that happen naturally.