In order to check website safety, you’d want to get answers to 2 major questions:
- Is the website secure?
- Is the website trustworthy?
The first question is answered in detail in the How To Check Website Security article. I won’t discuss it again here, but I want to remind you that checking that padlock is the browser’s address bar is the minimum precaution you should always take.
The second question is more tricky and subjective. The first step in investigating the website’s trustworthiness is to find out who owns the website. I’ll help you with the tips on what to look for in researching the owner, whether it’s a person or a company.
The individual website owners and bloggers will find the information here on how to set up their site in order to gain the trust of their visitors. You need to be honest, open and recognizable. You’ll find a video showing you how to add a user in WordPress and set a profile picture on Gravatar.
Please refer to the Table of Contents to jump to the topic of your interest.
What Makes A Website Trustworthy?
Why may you want to find out the trustworthiness of a website? The 2 most common reasons are:
- You came to a new website while researching a subject of your interest and want to know how accurate the information you read is.
- You’ve found in social networks or heard from some other not very reliable source of a company that potentially offers products or services of your interest and want to find out whether the company is legit or a scam.
Below, I’ll address both cases and show you what you can do in each scenario. In both cases, the first question that must pop-up in your head is “who owns the website”? What makes a website trustworthy differs depending on the type of the website and its owner.
How Do You Find Out Who Owns Website?
The place to look first is the website itself. Check top, sidebar and footer menus for the “About” or “Contact” page.
Sometimes, the website you are visiting is a product of a corporation that owns more than one product. The website could be named by the product name and not by the name of the company that owns the product. The owner company may have a separate website that is dedicated to the company itself instead of having company-related information on each of their product sites.
Most corporations owning several products, each one of which deserves its own website, would either nest product-related pages under their main domain name, use subdomains, or do both. They would have their brand clearly visible on the product’s website and have a link to their corporate website.
Thomson Reuters’ corporate website URL is https://www.thomsonreuters.com
Their tax & accounting products are residing on tax.thomsonreuters.com subdomain
ONESOURCE product is located at tax.thomsonreuters.com/en/onesource
Onvio product’s site is at tax.thomsonreuters.com/us/en/onvio
Thomson Reuters Legal Products are residing on legal.thomsonreuters.com subdomain
Westlaw Edge resides at legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/products/westlaw
Practical Law is located at legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/products/practical-law
Thus, if you searched for a product, and landed on a product page, you’ll know immediately to whom this product belongs by the logo of the owning company displayed in the header of each page and/or by the URL.
However, some products get produced by one company and then acquired by another, possibly even several times. Then, it gets a bit confusing… In most cases, products that trigger the interest of the buyers are popular and you’d be able to dig in who owns it at the present time just by googling the product name.
Jumping ahead, I’ll tell you that Cakewalk Sonar, popular computer software for recording and making music, was created by Cakewalk Inc. and recently acquired by BandLab Singapore Pte Ltd., which owns several brands and BandLab is one of them.
Let’s assume that you are unaware of the recent acquisition and you’re looking for the old product name.
At this time (February 2020), if you google Cakewalk Sonar, most likely you’ll find the old Cakewalk website.
This website is not secure and exists only to redirect clients to the new product site under the BandLab brand. I’m pretty sure that in a short period of time the old site will be taken down, and potential customers will be redirected to the new location automatically. If you click the “Learn More” button, you’ll land on www.bandlab.com/products/cakewalk page.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the website is secure. Phew, what a relief!
However, the new website is a brand product site, and it doesn’t tell you much about the owner – BandLab Singapore Pte Ltd. There is an About page, but it only offers a short description of the product.
This is not very helpful in researching the owner, is it? The word “FREE” should make you worried because Cakewalk Sonar used to be expensive software, and thus this sounds too good to be true. In this case, I’d recommend continuing your research.
If you google only one word: “BandLab”, you’ll get the full company name and the https://bandlabtechnologies.com page will come up in your search results. That’s where you can finally learn more about the company and read press releases.
After learning all of the above, the only doubt remains is that this FREE Cakewalk by BandLab is the full version of the former Cakewalk Sonar.
I’m now confident that I can SAFELY download the FREE software and check it for myself.
If that were not the case, and after performing all of the above steps, the owner remained unknown, I could make one more attempt to identify the domain name registrant by checking the WHOIS protocol.
(Please see the Case Study below)
If this last attempt didn’t help identify the owner either, I’d never come back to this website again and will continue my search for another product or service that offers similar features.
What Makes A Website Trustworthy?
Website security and its trustworthiness are two different concepts.
Security refers to the measures taken by the administrator to protect the website from cyberattacks.
Whether a website is trustworthy is defined by its content and intentions of the owner.
Of course, a properly secured website adds credit to its trustworthiness. It means that the owner cares about the safety of the personal data provided by the website users. Some inexperienced bloggers may have insecure websites due to the lack of knowledge or inability to pay for the secure and thus more expensive hosting.
It doesn’t mean that these sites are scams, but the visitors should be aware that any information they provide, including name and email address while submitting a comment to a post or for a newsletter subscription, could easily be hacked during the transition over the Internet to the server-side.
Viewing the content on such a website should not be a problem, but you may want to avoid interaction of any form with a non-secure website.
How do I know Whether I Can Trust A Website That Belongs To a Company?
For those of you, who are trying to figure out whether the company is legitimate or a scam, here are the steps you could take:
- Start by searching the company name and the word “review”.
Read several reviews, choosing not only from the first page on Google but also lower-ranked posts and avoiding ads as they might be biased.
If the opinions in the reviews differ significantly, it’s a red flag.
- Check out the domain name registration.
Use WhoIs LookUp to see when the domain name was purchased, when it expires and who is the registrar. The owner’s contact information most likely will be protected by the registrar’s privacy service and proxy contact information will be published instead of the owner’s. That is normal.
The information obtained from the WhoIs database does not give any guarantees, but if you see that the site has been registered several years ago, it’s a good sign. Scammers are usually on a run all the time and don’t stay in one place for too long.
The expiration date several years ahead does not give any assurance for legitimacy. It only means that the owner paid for the domain name several years ahead, but since it’s a matter of a couple of hundred dollars, the scammers could pay it easily and just cancel the registration when they need to take off.
However, if the site was recently registered and the registration expires in a year or so, it could be a red flag. Serious legitimate companies more often register their domain names for 5-10+ years as they plan to stay in business much longer. Though, it’s also just a weak cue as some companies are on yearly auto-renewal plans.
- Another place to check a trust score of a website is Scamadviser. Scamadviser claims that their trust score is created dynamically using 40 different data points to review a website. They do check domain age for you, and in addition, they check TLS Certificate, feedback on WebOfTrust (WOT), Alexa ranking, reviews on several authority sites and more…
I can’t promise you that Scamadviser’s data is 100% accurate and reliable. Scamadviser has a request on their site, which also acts as a disclaimer:
“As no computer algorithm is perfect, please help us improve our data by leaving a review, adding a vote or sharing your experiences…”
- Search Better Business Bureau for the business name.
If there is a record with no additional information, that’s a plus to the trustworthiness on its own because it means that the BBB is aware of the company and there were no complaints filed yet.
If there is a rating, that’s even better – now you have more info about the company to consider whether it’s positive or negative.
But if the company was not found on BBB site, it does not mean that the company is a scam. Here is what BBB says when it can’t find the listing of the company:
“BBB provides Business Profiles for as many businesses as we can, but we don’t have every business in our database. It looks like this is the case here. This isn’t either good or bad; it just means we haven’t yet had reason (like a complaint submitted, or a significant number of inquiries) to add the company or companies you’re looking for.”
- Check the company in the RipoffReport – the consumers educating site that provides reviews, filed complaints, lawsuits, reported frauds, etc.
Lack of a company record in this site’s database is a good sign of its legitimacy and trustworthiness.
- Check out Social Media links.
If the presence of the company in Social Networks is solid, then it’s a good sign. See if the business pages are frequently updated and the company representatives respond to users’ inquiries. If so, add a credit to the company’s trustworthiness.
- Look for legal documents on the website.
If found, read small text, policies, and disclaimers. Scammers may add this content to look professional, but knowing that nobody usually reads it, they could be sloppy in the concept and language style and grammar.
In contrast, the legitimate companies treat this content very seriously as this would be their protection in case of a conflict resulting in a lawsuit.
- Use common sense.
If the offers on the website are too good to be true, then in most cases they would turn out to be Not True, or there will be some “gotcha” in the offer.
As I said at the beginning of this article, the website trustworthiness is a tricky question and you should activate all your senses and investigate thoroughly before accepting any offers, downloading any files or submitting any personal information.
Case Study: Check Website Safety
Let’s take Wish.com as an example and investigate it…
Wish.com is an e-commerce platform that offers products at ridiculously low prices.
I checked the Wish.com website and didn’t find About Us or Contact Us pages there. Therefore, I went to WhoIs LookUp and the registrant was openly listed there.
Then, I googled ContextLogic Inc. and a Wikipedia article came up.
Wish.com is operated by ContextLogic Inc., Headquarters of which is located in San Francisco, CA. ContextLogic Inc. was founded in 2010 by Piotr Szulczewski (CEO), James Prendergast (COO) and Danny Zhang (former CTO).
Then, I looked up ContextLogic’s own website and found it.
The company had done a good job fulfilling its promise to “connect global users with global merchants”.
The Wish.com website is secure, easy to navigate, and well designed technologically and visually.
Can the company-owner of the Wish.com website be trusted?
So far, I don’t see why not.
The company keeps the information about itself open (though, not on their product Wish.com website). Per Wikipedia, it is in business for 10 years. At least, I now feel secure providing my personal information (name, email, shipping address) on this website. There is an option on Wish.com to pay by PayPal, which is also good, even safer.
I browse wish.com and find a “cashmere sweater” for $10.00.
Is this price realistic? NO!!!
Now the common sense kicks in, and I continue my research.
The website is secure, the owner seems okay, but what about the merchants?
I head over to RipoffReport and found about 45 reports, 20 of which were filed with the last 2 years. Some headings claim that wish.com is a scam and a fraud.
Keep in mind that the reports could be subjective too, and yet, they are definitely a red flag. 20 issues reported in 2 years is not a huge number, but not everyone who had a problem had filed a report to RipoffReport.
I decided to check the Better Business Bureau. Wish.com is a product. On the BBB site, I have to check the company owning this product – ContextLogic Inc., San Francisco, CA
There are customer reviews and BBB’s own reviews, excerpts from which you can see on the page in the screenshot below. On the BBB site, you can click “Read More” to read the entire report.
Customers give a 1-star rating to wish.com.
BBB rating is “F”.
I didn’t feel like I needed more info, but just for the sake of this case study, I’ve decided to google wish.com + review.
The “Customers’ Reviews” coming on the first page on Google from wish.com itself, has lots of 4- and 5-star ratings. Note, that there are no real photos in the screenshot (though, wish.com could argue that this is done out of respect to their customers’ privacy)
As I scroll down my Google search result page and visit a couple of other review sites, the average customer-given rating goes down to 1 – 1.5 stars as seen in the screenshots below.
Is this site trustworthy?
No, in my opinion, it’s not!
This site is what I call “hit or miss”. It’s secure, but your experience with the seller can be either excellent or horrible.
Having all the knowledge, I decided to go on with the experiment and put the “cashmere” sweater in the shopping cart. The price turned into $15.00 (I was prepared for this after reading the BBB’s “Advertising Review”!) The goods are shipped from China – so, add the shipping cost of about the same amount as the sweater itself.
Can you afford to lose $30?
Well, I could – my curiosity was too high.
I did shop similar sites before, and out of 5 purchases, at least 3 were actually of better quality than I expected. Thus, I purchased dance shoes for $25, when they usually cost $250, thinking that they should last at least for a year, and ended up wearing them for 6 years. I purchased winter boots for $35 and this is the 5th season I wear them and receive a lot of compliments.
I would not even think of trying to return back to the merchant the item that is not good – it isn’t worth the trouble!
Those purchases that I make and they are not what I expect, I donate and count the price towards those that I do use: even double-price could still be cheaper than if I were buying from a reputable company. That’s my personal decision, and I take the risk.
I do leave negative feedback on the product when it’s junk or falsely advertised.
I don’t shop on such sites often because I don’t want to support the scammers, but on the other hand, there are many honest sellers too and they need to feed their families.
If you ever decide to take a risk and shop on sites like wish.com, read customer reviews not only on the whole site but on the product you want to buy. Choose to read low-star reviews and decide whether the issues people find with the product are going to be a problem for you.
Fortunately, on wish.com you can find positive and negative product reviews. You’d need to dig for them a little, but they are there.
If you can’t afford to lose $30 or whatever your order amount is, don’t shop on questionable sites.
I purchased my sweater using PayPal as a payment option. The sweater was shipped without delays – though, it’s a long trip from China, and the delivery time was close to a month.
The material was not even wool. I hoped that it would be some kind of wool even though the chance that it could really be cashmere was close to zero. There was no tag on the sweater that tells you what it’s made of. The sweater is wearable. The knitted material feels more like silk than wool, but I believe it’s synthetics or some mix. If I were to buy it in the store, it would probably cost below $30… maybe $20.
I knew what I was doing and therefore I don’t complain that I was scammed even though I was.
My point is that even a secure website owned by a legitimate company could be NOT trustworthy.
I’m sure that ContextLogic Inc. has a very strong team of lawyers working hard to redirect the responsibility for the scams to the merchants. Perhaps, some merchants are being kicked off from selling on this site if the level of complaints has grown too high, but then other scammers join in.
What Makes A Personal Blog Trustworthy?
The answer is straightforward: the owner.
If the owner is already well known and trustworthy, then the content must be trustworthy as well.
But what if an owner is just starting and not known yet? Does this owner have a chance to gain visitors’ trust?
It’s not easy and requires time, knowledge and hard work with none or little reward at the beginning. Experts were at first beginners too…
If a blogger is honest and thorough in delivering the information, attentive to his or her readers’ needs, and knowledgeable in his/her niche as well as in Search Engine Optimization, day by day more readers will discover this person’s blog. They will read the content and if it brings them value, they’ll start trusting the owner and the website.
Let’s look at a website and its content in terms of trustworthiness from both sides: a blogger’s and a reader’s.
If you are a visitor…
You landed on an unknown site that provided you with the information you were looking for. If the website annoyed you in any way, you would probably leave before you even read the information and move on to check another site.
Since you stayed and read the article, the website must have been pleasant enough for you to stay on and the content was relevant to your search and seemed valuable.
Now you want to know the author’s experience related to the topic and his or her level of expertise to figure out whether the information you’ve read was accurate and not too subjective (unless it’s an opinion sharing article).
But first, check the site’s security.
Do you see that padlock in the browser, or it says “not secure”?
A blogger, who truly cares about their audience will take good care of visitors’ data security before offering them any advice.
Secondly, learn all available on-site information about the author.
Check other posts and pages on the site keeping the following questions in mind:
- Is the site oriented on a narrow subject, or the posts are all over the place in terms of topics?
- Is there only one author per the website or there are many?
The author of the article is usually listed either at the top or at the bottom of the post.
- If the subjects of the articles are widely scattered and there is more than one author, do related posts belong to the same author, or each author writes in different topic categories?
- Does the content make you feel like the author really has a deep knowledge of everything he/she is talking about?
I feel more confident that the author is an authority when he/she addresses many different aspects of a narrow niche. I think many readers may feel the same way.
Besides learning about the author’s level of expertise, you’d want to know whether the author was driven by the significant personal interests and benefits from creating the content or his/her main goal was to help you find a solution.
Please keep in mind, that blogging and managing a website is a very time-consuming and uneasy job. Certainly, bloggers want to be rewarded for their work like any other professionals. The rewards to bloggers come not from your pocket, but from the companies, whose services you decide to use based on the recommendations received from the bloggers. Your cost for the products or services you choose to buy is not affected by the fact that you found them through a blog.
While I encourage you to support bloggers and be happy if while genuinely helping you, they could earn a little something, I definitely don’t recommend to take the advice if it feels like the author’s main intention is to sell you a product regardless of its benefits to you. Posts that display their promotions all over and blogs that are overloaded with pop-ups and ads do not deserve to be trusted.
A blogger, who cares about his/her clients, will give them a lot of value even if there is no profit to the writer.
I’m a blogger. Take my site as an example and this article in particular…
I offer my readers a lot of valuable training and advice via this blog and on my YouTube channel. All my suggestions are based on my personal experience. Not a single word written so far in this article will earn me any money. I’ve written all of the above to make sure that you know how to be safe in cyberspace. I don’t want you to get scammed or your personal data to be stolen.
There are many bloggers and website owners like myself among my website audience. With the bloggers, I share how to keep their readers safe and their websites secure and how to build and grow their online businesses. I tell them where I received my knowledge from and how much other benefits (tools, support, and services, including fast and secure web hosting) I’m getting from that platform for my website and my online affiliate marketing business.
I will only earn a commission if some of my readers decide to join this platform, which I’ve joined 3 years ago and am still very pleased with. I’m getting so much training and support there! I’m confident that what I’m suggesting is of great value to them. If they follow my advice, they’d be able to see for themselves how beneficial the place is and how supportive the community is BEFORE they pay a dime or even provide their credit card information (or PayPal account). That’s because there is a free Starter membership offered – so, that people can feel confident that their money will be well spent before they decide to upgrade to Premium.
Only when someone decides to upgrade to Premium, I’ll receive a commission because they joined through my page. That’s the only time I get paid for all the work I do to help my readers be safe on the Internet and other bloggers to know better how to provide safety for their readers and certain techniques to make their websites more visible on the World Wide Web.
You’ll see my offer only at the very end of this article, in the section addressed to those who own websites or want to start their own blog for free at first, and then grow their business at the most affordable price!
Thirdly, check the comments below the posts with the following questions in mind:
- Is there much activity going on?
- Does the author respond to the visitors’ comments?
- How long does it take the author to respond to the readers?
There is usually a time stamp on the original comment and on the response.
In addition, you can perform the domain name check as described above in the chapter regarding the company-owned websites. You can also check social media presence, but individual owners may use their personal accounts rather than business pages – so, you’d need to check both: business name and the owner’s name if available.
You probably won’t find any reviews on the websites run by individuals and there will be no listing in BBB.
Don’t hesitate to leave a comment for the author, ask a question or share your own thoughts on the topic. You’ll get more perception on whether the website is trustworthy if, when, and what the author responds to your comment
Please continue reading: my suggestions to the website owners should help you understand even deeper what makes a personal website trustworthy.
If you are a blogger…
Put yourself in the shoes of the visitor of your website – you’ve been there many times. What would you like to see on your website if you were a visitor? Can you trust you?
When you are starting your online business as an individual, your main goal is to build a good reputation, gain trust of your visitors, and grow your following. It’s always hard at the beginning when nobody knows you yet.
Your first goal is to retain visitors long enough on your page – so, that you have a chance to even start building trust. I’ve explained in detail how to achieve that in parts 4 and 5 of my Guide for Beginners to Earning Money Online:
In short, you’d want to:
- Have the content thorough and convincing, focused on your readers’ interests and helping them resolve their problems and find solutions suitable for their situation.
- Have captivating headlines.
- Have a table of contents if your post is long.
- Write relevant content to your targeted keywords.
- Have your articles written in clear and simple conversational language, free of grammatical errors.
- Make sure that your content is well structured, formatted, and illustrated.
- Have your keywords appear 3-5 times and not overstuff them in an unnatural way.
- Not overload your article with promotions and not overdo with pop-ups.
If you’ve accomplished all of the above, and your visitors stayed on your page to actually read your content, then you’ve already gained some initial trust, which is awesome!
Now your readers want to know what kind of experience the author has in the topic and whether the author deserves more of their trust. They may want to learn who the author is.
Your visitors would trust you as a real person quicker than they would trust content on an impersonal webpage.
In order to present yourself as a real human being you’d want to have the following on your website:
- Each of the articles on your website should have the name of the author – not signed as “admin” but have a real person’s name or a pen name.
- You may want to have an image (preferably a good-quality headshot photo) and a short intro of an author or website owner on every page. It could be done in a widget on the side of the page or under each post.
- You may want to have a more detailed “About Me” page, where you shortly introduce yourself as a human being and tell your audience what your expertise is in the niche of your website.
- You may even go further and create a video introducing yourself.
I recently created mine and didn’t even add it to my About Me page. Speaking English in front of the camera is way out of my comfort zone, but I did it!
Click here if you are interested and want to get to know me better.
- You want to make sure that the “Comments” area under your posts is enabled and engage visitors in communication with you. Ask questions in your articles, request feedback, offer your readers to ask you questions.
- Do your best to promptly answer each and every comment, preferably within 24 hours
- If you are not the only author on your blog, make sure that other authors respond to the comments also in a timely manner.
- Have information available on your site to contact you privately.
Even the presence of all this information on your site will increase your visitors’ trust. Don’t you agree? It means that the owner takes responsibility for the content. You are reachable and transparent.
Your understanding of your readers’ questions and your quick response to them will give them a further idea of whether they should trust you or not.
If your reader left you a comment and provided a URL to his/her own website, I suggest that you visit that website and read a post or two. If this site is in a related niche to yours or in the niche of your other interests, make a connection by leaving your comment to the author.
- This act will make this person happy and perhaps, grateful. This blogger may visit your website again in the future. Next time, you are not just “somebody”, this person will feel like he or she knows you already. His/ her trust will grow and so will your community, your authority, and your leadership.
- You’ll leave your URL on that person’s blog, which will create a backlink to your blog so loved by the search engines.
When you are interacting with other websites, make sure that you have the same profile picture representing you as on your own website. Also, you may want to use the same exact image as your profile picture in all your social networks. This way, more and more people will start recognizing you, your authority will grow and your business will thrive.
Do you know how to add yourself as a user to the WordPress website instead of using the default “admin” account?
Do you know how to set your profile picture so that it follows you when you are commenting on other websites?
If not, click here for my free video tutorial. Your subscription to my channel will be a great reward for me. Thank you in advance!
Website safety is a broad topic.
To feel safe on a website you’d like to know that…
- Your personal information is secure while you are submitting it and later when it’s stored on the servers of the company that hosts the site.
If your concern was in fact related to the information security, click this link to read the post dedicated to cybersecurity.
- You can be confident that the products and services offered by the website are true to the advertisement and will be delivered to you as promised. In other words, you don’t want to be scammed.
- When looking for a solution to your problem, review of a company or a product, education on a certain topic, or an answer to any other type of inquiry, you want to be sure that the facts offered on the website are accurate and all the subjective matters are clearly presented as opinions.
I hope you found in this article the explanation on the aspect of the safety you had in mind. Remember that websites don’t exist on their own – there are always people responsible for them. One of the first steps you would want to take when checking the safety is to find out who owns the website and learn about the owner as much information as you can find.
If you are a website owner and you want to be sure that you’re doing everything in your power to provide your visitors with the safest experience and be confident that you deserve their trust, I invite you to join the platform that I’ve been using for almost 3 years – as long as I’m in this business.
I build my knowledge and my blog there from ground zero. You too will gain a lot of training regardless of what level you currently are at, receive expert advice, host your website on the fast and secure servers and have 24/7 access to incredible technical support – all of that, for an unbelievably affordable price.
This platform is called Wealthy Affiliate.
Click here to learn about the company
Join for free using the button below to explore it further through your own experience before you make a decision on upgrading to Premium membership. As a Premium member, you’d get up to 10 websites of any type: using your own domain names or free websites on the SiteRubix subdomain. You’d be able to take advantage of endless comprehensive training modules, tools, and services offered through the platform, and become a part of the awesome worldwide community.
If you have any questions on how to check website safety, have a story to share, or want to share your opinion on what you’ve just read, please use the “Comments” field below.