How To Determine If A Unfamiliar Website is Good, Safe, & Reputable
There are multiple ways to determine the overall security, safety, quality, and reputation of a website or webpage. This can be especially important when it is a website you are unfamiliar with or something you have stumbled upon and never heard of before. Specifically if it is an eCommerce site, that amplifies your concerns and warrants your concerns even more.
Today we will be discussing some online tools that make the process of determining the overall quality of web site or page easier and how it is considered by others. There are many tools that people use to make these hypothesis but you always want to make sure to watch out for the garbage spammers that might be aware of these tools and double check them or cross reference your findings.
These are the steps I use in determining the quality of a website and if I consider it to be good and safe or not.
- Have you ever heard of the website before? Chances are that if it is a really good site you may have heard other people or the news speaking about it before.
- Ask your friends, coworkers, and neighbors if they have ever heard about the site.
- Do a search in Google, Yahoo, or Bing and see what comes up about the site. Be careful, when performing search on the web to determine the reputation of a website many more advanced companies that have bad reputations have become very good at covering up all the bad press, links, and sites that normally are listed in the top 10 results of your search. So make sure you at least glance down to the 3th result or so. This way you can see if much of the actual bad reports on them have been covered up and pushed down to the bottom. Additionally you want to discard the top results or any results that come from their website about their company if you are looking for an outside or unbiased opinion. This can be done by looking at the website URL listed underneath the search result title for the site and/or sometimes the description. Any page on other then the home page would most likely look something like this: www.site.com/a-section/a-page-name or multiple other forms and variations of a URL string.
- Check Yelp, Angie’s List, and other directory sites that offer reviews on websites, sales, or services.
Alexa Rank and Google Page Rank
How Plugins Can Help Determine The Quality, Security, and Safety of a Website
Now that we have covered and discussed some of the basic straight forward ways of performing your own personal research and due diligence let’s look at some of the useful browser plugins, add-ons, or extensions that can really make a big difference for you. For these examples I will be using Mozilla Firefox. This is my preferred browser and it also offers some of my preferred plugins, add-ons, or extensions. Properly using Alexa Rank by Amazon and Page Rank (PR) by Google.
Alexa Rank & The Alexa Toolbar
The first plugin I would suggest using is the Alexa Toolbar. The Alex Toolbar is safe, sound, and secure. It is owned and powered by Amazon so you know you are dealing with a trusted company. The primary reason for using and referencing the Alexa Toolbar for for overall safety, security, and quality of a site is because they rank the website or webpage you are on. Each time you go to a site they provide an associated “Alexa Rank” that defines each site you are on. The Alexa Rank tells you how popular the website is in the world and the United States. The lower the Alexa Rank, the more popular the site. For example: a website with a 100 Alexa Rank is more popular and gets more visitors then a website with a 12,000,000 Alexa Rank. Install the Alexa Toolbar Here and test it for yourself. Therefore Google and Facebook respectively have a 1 and a 2 Alexa Rank because they are the largest websites in the world. The Alexa Rank of this site is 133,000 and getting more popular every day 🙂 Whether you us this browser toolbar or another plugin with the Alexa Rank you will want to check the rank of the site to tell how popular and successful the site is. This Alexa Toolbar Looks like this:
The Alexa Rank of the site you are on can be found at the far right of this toolbar and it looks like this:
Other example of what the Alexa Rank feature look like are this: and like this
Notice in the two Alexa Rank Examples Above ^ that the Alexa Ranks show different numbers. I used this example for a reason.
Using Alexa Rank to Assist You
Like I said initially, these plugins and tools are there to assist you, but they are not the end all iron clad answer. with a little due diligence, common sense, research, and observations you should be quite safe. The reason I make it a point to mention this again is because various Black Hat SEO and Traffic Brokers can spoof these numbers and make them appear as if their site gets a ton of visitors and traffic and is high quality and people love it when in fact it was just started a month ago and is total spam and garbage scam artists. Note the images above when comparing a new spam site on two different Alexa Rank Tools. The same site, in the same browser, at the same time returns two different Alexa Ranks. Fortunately when I first saw the site in question I new something looked suspicious. Like I said, common sense. If suspicious is you first instinct then you are probably not too far off. But Also, the Page Rank was 0/10.
Understanding Google Page Rank
Which brings us to Page Rank (PR) by Google. Page Rank is a feature that comes with various different browser plugins and is often bundled in many different toolbars. The higher the Page Rank the better. For example: a site with a 1/10 PR is far worse respected then a site with a 7/10 PR. It is good to know that you will rarely if ever find a site with a 10/10 PR. At one point Google, creators of the Page rank system, had a 10/10 PR and now they have a 9/10. So it is extremely rare to see an 8, 9, or 10/10 PR but they do exist. To this point in time I don’t think anyone has successfully been able spoof, spam, or fake out Google’s PR system when dealing with ranks 6/10 or higher. So basically if you see Google Page Ranks 4 or 5/10 or higher it is pretty safe to assume you are dealing with a good and reputable site that authentically earned their page rank.
But What is Google Page Rank?
Okay, so what is Google Page Rank (PR)? Well Google PR is a toolbar add-on, plugin, extension, etc. It is generally found residing in a toolbar that plugs into your browser. Google designed & created their PR system in conjunction with and/or based on and/or with their search engine, search engine technology, search engine algorithms, and SEO tools and SEO suites. I don’t think Google ever intended to have their PR system used for general consumers looking to find, identify, and clarify quality websites on the Internet. Or maybe they did and simply all the search experts and SEO professional and enthusiasts jumped all over it and kept it for themselves. Either way, it is a great tool and should be used in the determination process and well respected. Google updates their PR system 2-4 times a year generally so don’t hold your breath and never give up hope. It serves so many purposes and maybe if actual consumers start using it more they may update it more.
How Google Determines A Website’s Page Rank
That said, good and reputable website will generally have a good PR. Therefore a site with a 4/10 PR or higher is most likely a pretty good site. Obviously the higher the better. But understanding how Google creates these scores is the key to how you value Google’s PR and the suggested quality of the site you are looking at.
I understand. As you read this you are looking at the PR and Alexa Rank of this site and saying, “This site is no good“. Well time also plays a factor and so does the competition and intensity of the industry. Getting a good PR and Alexa Rank for SEO and WEB Development is one of the harder and longer roads traveled. This site at this moment has a 1/10 PR and a 133,000 World Wide Alexa Rank. But this site has only been really worked on for about a year and less then 10% of our time is spent on this site because we spend the majority of our time on other people’s sites.
So digging into how Google actually determines PR. It actually makes sense and is quite simple. They use an algorithm that analyzes the number of sites linking into you, the number of links to you, and the quality of those links to you. This is virtually impossible to spoof. You see anyone can make 1,000s of crappy sites and have them link to a site. Anyone can make 1,000s of links on a page and have them link to one site. But I don’t think without doing something illegal you can fake a quality link. In other words, how can I fake a link to my site from CNN so that the whole world and all of Google’s data centers and spiders believe it to be real. I don’t think it can be done. Thus and Therefore if CNN links to you, it is real! And that is a really good link. And that one link will improve your page rank drastically.
But there is not a lot of CNNs out there. So if you look at a website with say a 4/10 or higher PR without knowing all of the details and tools to analyze where the links came from or how many links they have or the quality of those links, you can feel safe to assume that if Google gave them a 5/10 they earned it and they are a pretty safe bet. Conversely, if Google gave a site a 1/10 they also earned that baring a few exceptions such as mentioned above.
Now is where we put it all together.
Combining Alexa Rank and Google Page Rank To Make Your Decision
So now is where we put all our hard work and preparation together to help us make a determination as to whether a website is actually quality and legit or not. Believe or not, after you have mastered these techniques you will be able to determine what kind of website you are looking at the majority of the time in a few minutes.
So now that you have the Alexa Toolbar Installed, I would also suggest you Quirk Search Status for Google PR. Quirk is a very unobtrusive plugin that lives at the bottom of your browser and doesn’t interfere with your daily browser operations.
Site Quality Case Study
Now start going to sites and analyzing the results. Start by going to Facebook, Yahoo, Google, TMZ, AOL, Google, Twitter, Bing, You Tube, New York Times, Washington Post, NFL, NBA, MLB, ESPN, Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist, Netflix, and many others…. Additionally and just as important, go to the sites you normally go to and know and trust. Do this so you begin to see what good sites Alexa and Page Rank look like together at the same time. Then you start to create a momentum and get an idea of what normal and good should look like.
Notice how Netflix (www.netflix.com)has a 7/10 Google Page Rank and an Alexa Rank of 93. You are not going to see that often and you are not going to get much better then that. Allow me to hypothesize on how this may have come to be and is a most likely the ingredients that created this wonderful PR and AR.
- The site looks good.
- They have been around for a long time.
- Perform due diligence on them and I’m sure you will find many satisfied customers.
- TV Advertising.
- Radio Advertising.
- Movie Advertising.
- Internet Advertising.
- Paid Search Engine Links and Search Engine Advertising.
- People you know, know about Netflix.
- You may know people that use Netflix.
- People talk about Netflix.
- Because many people know who they are people link to them.
- But not just small and normal little tiny websites, social accounts, and people link to them. But major fortune 500 companies link to them. Major top websites link to them. And they all link to them often and for free (organically).
- Without taking the time to check, they probably have over 10,000 different, unique inbound links (people linking to them).
- Netflix has a 7/10 Google Page Rank.
- Netflix has a 93 Alexa Rank.
Put that all together and you have a perfect example of a safe, reputable, quality website. Now you will have to learn how to discern for yourself about other site you visit.
Good Luck and let Us Know How These Techniques Worked For You.
* Please Note: These are the steps I use to determine if a website is good quality, reputable, safe and secure in MY OPINION. This doesn’t mean the site you may visiting is safe. Always make sure to use common sense and if something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.