How to Make Your Website Look More Legitimate

In the most recent 12 months, Google has taken steps to reward websites that are brands, or at least give signals that they algorithmically look like brands. If you’re not a national, regional, ...
How to Make Your Website Look More Legitimate
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  • In the most recent 12 months, Google has taken steps to reward websites that are brands, or at least give signals that they algorithmically look like brands. If you’re not a national, regional, or local brand, here are some steps you can do to look more brand-like.

    Get a Real Address

    I’ve written about Google giving a bonus to websites that had a matching real world address on their website and Whois information. While the example mentioned in that article doesn’t rank as well as it did, it does still rank in the top 50 without any geotargeted inbound anchor text. IMHO having and using a real world address is still an important signal. A post office box isn’t going to cut it: you’ll need a real world street address. If you work out of your home, I understand not wanting to publish that. In that case, investigate using a UPS Store, Regus Business Center, or other local mailbox rental service. I’ve seen them charge as low as $50 a year in some places and as high as $1,000 in others, so shop around. Make sure there is some way for the mail to reach you if anything important gets delivered. Most places will “process” the mail for you for an additional fee. For bonus points, get a local phone number.

    Website Boiler Plate Pages

    Does your website have pages for about us, contact us, privacy, terms of service, disclaimer and other boiler plate pages? People look to see that that they are there and may glance at them to see if you are legit. They don’t want to see the page say “paste your privacy policy here“. If you’ve got a budget, having those pages custom written is never going to hurt you. If you are bootstrapping, use one of the online privacy policy or terms of service generators. Uniquify them by adding your company name, website name, and physical address in them. Personally I keep those pages out of the index with robots “follow,noindex” and the noindex protocol in my robots page, but that’s ’cause I’m anal and OCD about indexing, not because I’m trying to control the flow of pagerank or do any link sculpting.

    Press Releases, Press and Media Kits

    Hopefully your website is doing press worthy things on a regular basis. Hopefully you’re issuing press releases about those activities as well. Don’t worry about which press release services pass the most link juice, just be concerned about the citation and the secondary links that come from you actually doing something link worthy. Make sure you include that real world address and phone number too.

    Do you have a press page and media kit? Wendy Piersall, aka eMom, recently tweeted about a really good press kit she came across. I agree that was a nice press kit. But, while it’s not something you need to launch a website, you should have one soon after launch. Chances are good that it will be a PDF, so make sure it has active links and that real world address and phone number matches your information.

    Logo and Design

    Having a professional logo and design go a long way toward instilling trust in your website visitors. I’m a big fan of thesis (see thesis theme review) and there are lots of thesis designers who can take an out of the box thesis framework and give it a unique, non-thesis look. Again these may not be day 1 expenses, but they are 6-12 month must haves.

    Getting a professionally designed logo can run several hundred to thousands of dollars. If it’s in the budget, you might consider it. If your budget is a bit tighter, try a service like 99designs. You can run contests or choose from a wide variety of readily available logos that can be customized for a nominal fee. If you really love the design, you can pay more to get exclusive use of the logo. That’s your call. Personally I choose a design that has a square element that can be easily converted into a favicon. Make sure you make a transparent version of your logo available for people who want to use when they write about you. I’d also have a series of images optimized for your product, images, or location (see building links with creative commons images).

    Social Media Profiles

    If you still think social media is only a fad, you need to get your head out of the sand and step into reality. At the bare minimum, you should have an active presence on Twitter and Facebook and update them regularly. I’m not saying that you should let Facebook replace your company’s official website. If you’re going to put your eggs in one basket, it better be one you’re holding–not Facebook. Use them as satellite programs as part of your outbound marketing campaign. If you have the resources, and it’s a good match, use LinkedIn and YouTube as well. I also suggest using a service like KnowEm to protect your intellectual properties and trademarks across hundreds of platforms.

    8th Grade Teacher Test

    I went to Catholic School. I know–that explains a lot. My math teacher had been around as teacher for a while. In fact, she was actually one of my friend’s mom’s teachers when she was in school. Sister Miriam was a tough cookie to please. If you were REALLY trying, she would cut you some slack. However, if you were a slacker trying to pull one over on her and trying to take advantage of her kindness, she was merciless. She had been around a while, and she had seen every scam that students ever tried to pull to get out of doing work and not live up to their potential. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time in “detention,” and Sister Miriam took an interest in me. She had figured out quite correctly that I was a smart kid who was able to get by without really trying, and that just didn’t sit well with her. Her message didn’t get through then, but I do admire her for trying to get me to actually give a damn about making something out of myself. It may have taken a few years but I learned the lesson and appreciate the effort she took trying to straighten out an angry, mixed up, know it all punk kid. Hopefully you had your own Sister Miriam in your life who challenged you to be the best you that you could be. If Sister Miriam saw your website, would she believe you were legit? Or would she look down at you over a wrinkled nose and bifocals, knowing you took short cuts and tried to pull a fast one over on her? Does your website pass the sniff test? Would you give your credit card number to the site and be reasonably confident it wouldn’t come back to bite you in the butt? If your child was sick, would you trust the information on this website enough to use it?

    So what are the takeaways from this post:

    • Get yourself a real world address and phone number, then use it everywhere.
    • Get yourself the boiler plate privacy, about us, and other associated pages.
    • Make sure you are doing press worthy activities and issuing regular press releases.
    • Get a media kit, make it look really professional and embed links to web content.
    • Get a professional looking logo, then use it consistently in your favicon and social media profiles.
    • Secure your social media profiles and support as many as you can. Do one thing well instead of four things half-heartedly.
    • Make it easy for others to use and share your logo.
    • Make sure your website passes the sniff test and instills a sense of confidence and trust, not just an I-showed-up-but-I’m-napping-in-the-back-of-class feeling.

    Originally published at Graywolf’s SEO Blog

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