Stanford has published their top 10 guidelines to establishing web credibility. Since I like doing things in a series I thought it would be fun to take these one at a time to discuss.
Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
You can build web site credibility by providing third-party support (citations, references, source material) for information you present, especially if you link to this evidence. Even if people don’t follow these links, you’ve shown confidence in your material.
Nothing bothers me more when people make factual statements that they don’t back up with facts or by citing their resources. Aside from typical marketing jargon such as “We offer the most effective” or “We provide the highest quality…”, which are often subjective, citing references and resources is extremely important to your credibility. Of course if you can back up your marketing jargon with a third party source that confirms what you claim, all the better. But if you’re going to cite a statistic or quote an authority, you’ll sound much more credible if you can link to what you are referring to.
Be careful on this, however, because many times you’ll find sources that are merely quoting other sources. Don’t rely on that as your reference but rather go back to find the original source of the material and link to that. Short of finding that original source, find the one that is most credible. Don’t link to some Joe’s website that cited a source from someone else, when you can link to a more authoritative source, even if they are merely repeating information themselves.
Don’t forget that often times you can be your own best source. If you are talking about how satisfied your customers are, link to a testimonial page on your site. If you make the point of how well your product or service does, link to another page that backs that up with your own research. Whatever you do, don’t make up your testimonials or research. Most visitors can see right through that. It’s also not a good idea to try to convince people how good your product or service is without being able to provide your references under the guise that it’s “confidential” or said users wish to remain anonymous. Again, you either have people and results that will back up your claims or you don’t.
The more of this evidence you can provide the better and more credible you will be in the eyes of your visitors. But don’t go overboard either, by thinking you have to link to every possible resource that you mention. This can lead to a convoluted site that loses it’s focus and ability to sell. Make sure your references help you make the sale, not hinder it.