Quality online brands include sites operated by university or local libraries, hospitals, medical schools and research centers -- these are the big names such as the Cornell University Library or Harvard Medical School. They include the newspapers, magazines and blogs we read, and all our favorite products. These are the names most of us will recognize as being experts in the field; we trust information from these experts online because we trust their established offline reputations.
So what should you do when you find yourself wondering, "Maybe this guy has a point -- what site is this, anyway?" When you don't immediately recognize where you've wound up online, you'll want to get some bearings: Go to the site's main page. A Web site's home page may not be the most important page on the site, but it may be the most useful when you're looking for credibility cues, such as a company name or contact information.
Author's Note: 10 Signs What You're Reading Online Is Bogus
To do my job well means I do a lot of online research, and since I do a lot of research I spend a lot of time determining whether or not a site is a solid, credible source of information or if it's just a bunch of hooey. In my own experience I've found that sticking with those three basic steps -- using intuition, heuristics and a little bit of strategy -- gets the best results, and it gets to be second-nature after you practice it a few times.
More Great Links
- Alexa. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.alexa.com/topsites
- Bertha, Mike. "These are the top 10 Google search terms of 2012." 2012. (Dec. 8, 2012)
- Blachman, Nancy; Peek, Jerry; and Tasha Bergson-Micehlson. "Advanced Operators Reference." Google Guide. 2012. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html
- Bort, Julie. "How Many Web Sites Are There?" Business Insider. 2012. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-03-08/tech/31135231_1_websites-domain-internet
- Columbia University Libraries -- Philip L. Milstein Family College Library. "Evaluating Web Resources." (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/under/eval.html
- Coughlan, Sean. "Spelling mistakes 'cost millions' in lost online sales." BBC News. 2011. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14130854
- Dell. "How to Spot a Fake Website and Not Get Phished." (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.dell.com/downloads/ca/support/spot_fake_website_not_get_phished_dell_en.pdf
- FactCheck.org. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.factcheck.org/
- Google. "Getting your ads above Google search results." 2012. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1722087
- Johnson, Thomas J.; and Barbara K. Kaye. "Cruising Is Believing?: Comparing Internet and Traditional Sources on Media Credibility Measures." J&MC Quarterly. Vol. 75, no. 2. Pages 325-340. 1998. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.aejmc.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Journalism-Mass-Communication-Quarterly-1998-JohnsonKay-325-340.pdf
- King, Danny. "Cornell students, professors design software to spot fake hotel reviews." Travel Weekly. 2011. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Hotel-News/Cornell-students-design-software-to-spot-fake-hotel-reviews/
- Ott, Myle; Choi, Yejin; Cardie, Claire; and Jeff Hancock. "Finding Deceptive Opinion Spam by Any Stretch of the Imagination." Cornell University. 2011. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.cs.cornell.edu/~myleott/op_spamACL2011_slides.pdf
- Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "Principles of Journalism." (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.journalism.org/resources/principles
- Rip-off Report. "Ten Things to Check to See if a Website is Real." (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.ripoffreport.com/common/pdfs/RipoffReportTenThingsToCheckForRealWebSite.pdf
- Scholastic. "Choose Credible Internet Sources." (Dec. 7, 2012) http://teacher.scholastic.com/writeit/essay/draft/crediblesources.htm
- SEOMoz. "Myths & Misconceptions About Search Engines." (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-seo/myths-and-misconceptions-about-search-engines
- Snopes.com. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.snopes.com
- Southern Vermont College. "How to Determine a Credible Website." (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.svc.edu/library/docs/credible_websites.pdf
- SSL.com. "How can I tell if a web page is secure?" (Dec. 7, 2012) http://info.ssl.com/article.aspx?id=10068
- St. Cloud State University -- LEO: Literacy Education Online. "Assessing the Credibility of Online Sources." 2005. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/research/credibility1.html
- St. Jean, Beth; Rieh, Soo Young; Yang, Ji Yeon; and Yong-Mi Kim. "How Content Contributors Assess and Establish Credibility on the Web." University of Michigan School of Information. 2011. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/90253/1/14504801163_ftp.pdf
- Stanford University -- Stanford Web Credibility Research. "Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility." 2002. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://credibility.stanford.edu/guidelines/index.html
- Stelter, Brian. "Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net." The New York Times. 2010. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/technology/05snopes.html
- Streitfeld, David. "In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5." The New York Times. 2011. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/technology/finding-fake-reviews-online.html
- Vedantam, Shankar. "Five Ways To Spot A Fake Online Review, Restaurant Or Otherwise." NPR. 2012. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/09/12/160755775/five-ways-to-spot-a-fake-online-review-restaurant-or-otherwise
- Whalen, Jill. "Ten Tips to the Top of Google." Search Engine Watch. 2003. (Dec. 7, 2012) http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2066301/Ten-Tips-to-the-Top-of-Google
- Yale University. Yale Information Technology Services. "Identity Theft and Phishing." (Dec. 7, 2012) http://its.yale.edu/secure-computing/Identity-theft-and-phishing
Many people believe that the number 23 has magical properties. HowStuffWorks looks at the number.