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Enhancing the Credibility of Your Web Content

  |  April 2, 2003   |  Comments

Establishing credibility quickly is key to success on the Web. Three ways to do just that.

Establishing credibility quickly is key to success on the Web. If your brand is well known and respected, you're starting from a strong base. So much junk is out there, people are becoming increasingly skeptical of the Web sites they visit. In January 2003, a University of California Los Angeles survey found only 52.8 percent of people found most or all online information credible. Below are three ways to establish credibility quickly.

What's in a Name?

People like branded content. For news, they watch CNN or MSNBC. On CNN, they watch Lou Dobbs, Larry King, Wolf Blitzer. On MSNBC, they watch Lester Holt and Chris Matthews. These broadcasters constantly interview experts and witnesses.

The entertainment industry knows the value of stars. Whether music or film, having the right personality onboard can be the difference between success and failure. People like to get content from those they respect, admire, relate to.

In my experience, organizations are reticent to attach names to their content. For certain organizations, such as government agencies, naming authors is not always feasible. Much content, like the organization's history , does not lend itself to naming the author.

But some situations are enhanced by showcasing the expert. Bill Gates is the face of Microsoft. IBM promotes its employees in its ads.

If your organization has genuine experts, why aren't you promoting them? The Web is a very cold, formal medium. Putting a face on your organization is engaging. It can enhance your credibility.

Dating Yourself

Where appropriate, dating content can enhance its credibility. People are tired of finding outdated Web content. A date at the top of a content page thus provides important information.

Even more annoying is to begin reading something then finding, halfway through, it is out of date. Worse, when you read content, then try to follow its instructions, finding those instructions outdated can be infuriating.

Dating will not solve all problems related to outdated content. But it's a good start.

Stick to Your Knitting

Brand is a critical tool to establish credibility for your content. Just because you have a strong brand does not mean people will trust all the content you publish.

Too many organizations got carried away with the Web. They thought they could publish all sorts of stuff. They wanted to become "portals," meeting all their customers' information needs. Many of these portals are very expensive to maintain with minimal return on investment.

If people want general financial or industry news, they'll trust the places they get this information from already (newspapers, magazines, TV, etc.). Just because a customer trusts your product doesn't mean she trusts your view of the industry.

Organizations should "stick to the knitting" when it comes to content. General industry content can clutter your Web pages, making it more difficult to get your critical messages across.

Content -- credible content -- is indeed critical on the Web.. Trust is the foundation of publishing. Make sure you publish content people can trust.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gerry McGovern Gerry McGovern is a Web consultant and author. His most recent books are Content Critical and The Web Content Style Guide, published by Financial Times Prentice Hall.

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