Update your site's content often (at least show it's been reviewed recently).

People assign more credibility to sites that show they have been recently updated or reviewed.

Have you ever been to a website and you could tell the content was old and stale? Maybe it wasn't obvious right away, but as you browse through the site you begin to see things that perhaps don't align with other things touted on the website. Or maybe you see a "Valentine's Day Special" still hanging around a weeks after Valentine's day.

Small thinks like this can really turn visitors off. On the less obvious stuff you have a bit more leeway–until someone actually recognizes the contradictions–but on the obvious stuff, it can be a clear sign that you're not paying attention, leaving a potential customer wondering what kind of care or service they'll get from you.

Sure, you can make the argument that you're too busy working for your customers to worry about the small details on your own site like that, but then that's assuming you get the opportunity to make that argument. The potential customer might have already bolted from your site.

Something else you often see on sites is a "page last updated" blurb with the date. Things like these tend only to be important for sites where information frequently gets dated fast. For commercial sites this can be handy if you need to highlight new products added, but generally there are better ways to do that. The best thing to do is to simply make sure that your content remains current and relevant to your products or services.

Use restraint with any promotional content (e.g., ads, offers).

If possible, avoid having ads on your site. If you must have ads, clearly distinguish the sponsored content from your own. Avoid pop-up ads, unless you don't mind annoying users and losing credibility. As for writing style, try to be clear, direct, and sincere.

Let's set the distinction here between commercial sites and informational sites. Ads on informational sites and blogs are fine and a great way to create an additional source of income. Of course, this only goes so far. Even informational sites can lose their credibility if you have too many ads or utilize annoying popup/popunder windows.

On commercial sites, displaying ads that sell similar or competing products/services or directs visitors elsewhere to get what they came looking for, is just plain silly and a terrible marketing strategy. You might get a small stream of "additional" income from these ads, but undoubtedly it will be at your own expense in the long run.

Commercial sites should be focused on selling one thing… your own products or services. Anything on the site that pulls visitors away or interferes with that selling process is a bad marketing strategy that will inhibit your own ability to "sell" your visitors on what you offer.

When writing content for your site, be sure to keep your target audience in mind. If you customers are more technologically savvy or highly educated, then write accordingly. If your audience is the average John or Jane Doe Consumer, then write toward them. Whatever you do, don't write above your audiences head, and don't talk down to them either. While you won't be able to please everybody, knowing your primary target audience will ensure that you are not insulting the larger percentage of your audience.

You also want to be clear about what you offer. Don't write to try and keep your visitors in suspense about what your product or service is. If it's appropriate, you can use sales jargon that enhances the anticipation, but don't string it out for too long, otherwise your visitors will tire of seeking the payoff and go look for your product or service somewhere else.

The best sites are those that are informative, professional and don't resort to gimmicky content or designs. The bottom line is that you should treat your visitors as you would want to be treated.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

April 4, 2006

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Establishing Web Credibility - Part 4