How to Determine if a Website is Trustworthy

Estimated Website Traffic

Through some very complicated methods, there are services that estimate how much traffic that websites get. This metric is decently accurate and in many cases is worth taking a peak at just to get an idea of the popularity of the site that you are questioning. I utilize a Google Chrome plugin that displays this information directly in my toolbar for every website that I visit. There have been a number of occasions when I questioned the validity of a website only to find it was one of the top websites on the internet! You can get free website traffic estimations on the Alexa website. The Alexa tool gives you the estimated ranks of any website based on popularity. As a rule of thumb: Most websites that get between 1-10 people per day will have a global rank under 14 million. If a website is ranked under 1 million, you are dealing with an extremely popular website (1 millionth = approx. 400 Р650 visitors/day) and the content is highly unlikely to be spam.

The estimated traffic for Diamond Pillar at the time of this post’s publication

SSL Certificate

This is hypertext transport protocol secure and is a more secure method of transferring data across the Internet. The conventional HTTP is slowly being versioned out. Google has been a large force behind the transition from HTTP to HTTPS and widespread adoption of this security protocol. Google first made news when it transitioned Gmail from HTTP to HTTPS a few years ago, and in recent times Google has announced it will be giving a rank boost to websites that utilize the HTTP protocol. The claim is that for some time now users have shown a greater level of trust towards websites that rely on https. This disparity in trust has become larger amongst internet users during the previous year due to the implementation of more easily identifiable SSL certificate authentication in the Google Chrome address bar. The final blow was struck when Google Chrome began labeling websites that accept user data over HTTP protocol as unsecured. Slowly, Google plans on filtering unsecured websites out of their search results completely.

 

Example address bar of a secure website in Google Chrome

Copyright Date

Check the website footer for a copyright date. Large websites and those that are frequently updated will keep the copyright date the same as the current year. Even the existence of a copyright itself can be a good indicator of site legitimacy. A website that contains information that the creator does not want to be associated with will not claim copyright in many instances. This is shady and shouldn’t be trusted. If a website presents itself as a representation of a company, this will often be noted in the website footer by claiming copyright 2017 insert company X.

Example of a trustworthy website’s footer

Sparse Content

Sparsity (density is also relevant here- it’s just the opposite) of information on a website can be calculated in many ways. Most Internet Surfers have developed a claimed sixth sense at identifying an untrustworthy website. At times, this sixth sense can be directly correlated to a heuristic calculation of information density. One type of information density would be the frequency of contact information and authorship attribution. Sites that don’t include authorship on blog posts can rarely be considered trustworthy since most people want credit for the information they provide — if authorship information isn’t directly in the post.

Contact Information / Form

Well developed methods of receiving feedback or getting in contact with the website content creators should be easily accessable. An exception to this rule would be gigantic sites like amazon.com they have such an overwhelming number of customer service inquiries. If no contact information is available, look for a help center or exhaustive documentation. If neither can be found, the site may be questionable. Note that If you find yourself sifting through hundreds of pages of pretty much any content on a website just to find a company’s contact information, you can assume that the site is an authority and its field. That brings us to another way in which information density can be used as a method to determine website trustworthiness: website size. Add a simple rule of thumb, the more web pages that website contains, the more that website is used and is updated, and can be trusted.

Registration Records

Every website has to be registered in an international database called Icann. This information is available publicly in most instances and can be easily obtained by visiting the ICANN Search. Here you will find information including the website owners name, address, and contact information. When registering a domain, website owners have the option to mask this information from display in the database. Although in many cases the absence of information identifying website owners can be an indication of a suspicious website, many well-meaning website owners pay this nominal fee simply because they actually don’t know what they’re paying for or they prefer to keep their personal and business information separate. This database is a well-known target for sales lead acquisition data since it contains freely available contact information on virtually every business owner in the nation and world. For this reason, the absence of identifying information within this database is it only really a reliable resource when you already suspect a website to be suspicious.The address information contained in listings that are publicly available is also useful because you can determine the size of the business. Simply do a search in the database for the website in question, copy their address and paste it into Google Maps. You’ll be surprised how many times a website that seems to be representing a large corporation is registered to a small townhouse. True, the information contained on such website can still be highly reliable, but again, this is just another indicator and a long article helpful indicators.

The address information contained in listings that are publicly available is also useful because you can determine the size of the business. Simply do a search in the database for the website in question, copy their address and paste it into Google Maps. You’ll be surprised how many times a website that seems to be representing a large corporation is registered to a small townhouse. True, the information contained on such website can still be highly reliable, but again, this is just another helpful indication.

External URL Query Parameters

The next time you are searching Google for a third-party product review, think back to this paragraph. The information that you’re about to learn has been mind-blowing for many people that I have relayed it to. Believe it or not, the authors behind third-party product review sites are not always the well-intentioned Good Samaritans that you have imagined them being. Sometimes, there’s a monetary motivation behind positive product reviews. The first thing you should do when encountering an article that reviews a single product check other pages on the site to see if they are also only positive product reviews. Fake review sites that appear to be legitimate are extremely common and can often be identified by the overwhelming number of positive reviews that they have on their site especially when compared to the number of regular articles. Often times successful bloggers find themselves becoming full-time product affiliates due to the significant amount of money involved in affiliate product referral. An article bat reviews multiple products or is a list of best of a category can usually be identified to be illegitimate if all of the links to buy each product point to a single website, especially if that website is amazon.com. Amazon offers a percentage Commission to register website owners that refer Penn customers to Amazon. An Amazon affiliate link can be identified by it query parameters. Look at the end of the URL, if there is a question mark followed by a small term then you’re looking at an affiliate link.

Example affiliate site found by searching Google for “Makeup Reviews”

The URL From the Example (note ref=as_li_ss_tl- this is the part of the URL that tells Amazon who to pay the referral fee to when you buy this product): https://www.amazon.com/NYX-Mechanical-Lip-Pencil-Nude/dp/B005G9LPNQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1475003341&sr=8-1&keywords=NYX%2BRetractable%2BLip%2BLiner&th=1&linkCode=sl1&tag=totalbeaubo-20&linkId=e72050e315b0a79f7b81b30f73f0964e

An article that reviews multiple products or is a list of best of a category can usually be identified to be illegitimate (or at least highly likely to contain biased) if all of the links to buy each product point to a single website, especially if that website is amazon.com. Amazon offers a percentage commission to register website owners that refer paying customers to Amazon. An Amazon affiliate link can be identified by it query parameters. Look at the end of the URL, if there is a question mark followed by a small term then you’re looking at an affiliate link. This is exactly why popular websites run ads on their pages- they get paid a certain commission based on either the number of views, add clicks or actual product conversion through those ads.

Indications of Life Through User Interaction

Highly traffic blogs are very easy to identify based on the number and quality of comments on blog posts. It takes a very significant number of users or a highly dedicated group of returning users to establish eve a small amount of correspondence or blog post comments. You can often tell if these comments are fake by looking at the date and time that the comments were submitted. If a larger number of the comments on a single blog post where submitted within a small time frame, like the same day, for example, this is a good identifier of Fraudulent Behavior. The date and time submission trick works well when trying to identify whether or not business reviews on social media pages are legitimate or not. Yes it is true, some particularly psychopathic blog owner could create multiple accounts, and have conversations among those accounts on blog post comments while spacing them out in a timely manner as to appear legitimate, but in my mind if a website owner is going to go to that extent, they likely have a lot of time on their hands and probably went to that same extent or even much much further to develop high-quality useful content in the actual blog post itself. Oh also, remember that merchants that are selling through self-hosted websites always have the ability to manipulate every single review of every single product. Obviously, such reviews should be treated with caution, but particularly disregard any and all product reviews that don’t have a form/method to submit reviews.

 

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