Pretty much anyone can have a website or blog these days. With many of the barriers to blogging being lowered over the past few years, the rate at which new blogs are cropping up is absolutely mind-blowing.
But while this explosion of new content, ideas and resources can’t be anything but beneficial to the business community as a whole, it does mean business owners must be more choosy in who and what they rely on for information.
The tongue-in-cheek adage ‘it says it on the internet, so it must be true’ is a good reminder of how choosy we must be when looking for data or information online.
As content marketing continues to grow and expand, the ability to assess the reliability of information online will become even more critical.
But then the questions become: How does one do this? How do you evaluate whether a website is credible or not? Which websites should you, as a business owner, trust when it comes to growing your business?
How to Evaluate Online Resources
When doing any kind of research online, it’s important to be able to quickly evaluate and assess whether a site is offering reliable, credible information. Relying on erroneous information can be catastrophic for your business, so being able to quickly determine the reliability of information is critical.
Before we get to my favourite reliable online resources for business owners, I thought I would give you a brief outline of cues that can help you determine which websites to rely on.
5 Criteria for Evaluating a Source of Information Online
Who wrote, or is responsible for the content on this website? Is it a well-known, credible individual or organization? Does the extension denote authority, like .gov or .edu? Is this a companion site to a notable magazine? (eg. Forbes, New York Times, etc.)
What is the primary goal of this website? Is it primarily commercial or non-commercial in nature? Is this an advertisement or affiliate site? Is it primarily a resource and content-based site, or the website of a not-for-profit organization? Are the authors trying to push a particular agenda or point of view?
3. Age & timeliness of website
How often is the content updated? Is the information still relevant? Is the site being updated as new research or information emerges?
4. Social proof
How many social media followers or email subscribers does the site have? Do they have verifiable testimonials on their site? Do your friends or colleagues recommend this site? How much engagement is taking place on the site, including comments, ‘likes’ and tweets? I put a fair amount of weight on social proof as a factor when evaluating a website, as it can quickly give you a fairly accurate picture of the reliability of a site.
5. Design & professionalism
Does the site appear to be professionally designed? Are there numerous typos or broken links? Do there appear to be many affiliate links, or links that don’t appear to fit with the topic? Does the content reference credible sources?
Reliable and Useful Websites for Business Owners
The websites below are all great resources for small business owners when it comes to general business advice, digital marketing information, and online business and marketing tips. Most importantly, each meets the criteria for being a trusted source of information.
Please share your favourite ‘go-to’ business websites in the comments below!
General Business Websites
Entrepreneur Magazine – All the latest news and information related to starting and growing a business, specifically geared towards entrepreneurs.
Small Business Trends – Specifically geared towards small business owners, Small Biz Trends provides detailed ‘how to’s’ on everything from small biz management, marketing, budgeting, and technology news. Also has a great section on research and trends which can be really helpful when writing articles.
Inc. Magazine – Another website and magazine for small business owners. Great for high-level information on growing a business, as well as industry trends.
Forbes Magazine – With many industry-leaders contributing to Forbes magazine’s online counterpart, it’s a great resource for new ideas and up-to-date industry information.
Online Writing Resources
ProBlogger – Started by online copywriter Darren Rowse, the ProBlogger website offers excellent information on creating content for your website. You’ll find information and best practices for writing all types of web content: emails, social media, blogs, other website content, etc.
Copyblogger – Started in 2006, Copyblogger is another great resource for creating valuable web content.
Social Media & Online Marketing Resources
Social Media Examiner – When it comes to social media news, tools, best practices and research, Social Media Examiner can’t be beat. With blog posts from leaders in the industry, you always know you’re getting reliable information.
Hubspot – Perhaps the best resource for learning how to use inbound marketing for your business. The Hubspot blog is a packed with information on all aspects of Inbound, from social media, to email marketing, to optimizing your website. They also have a fantastic collection of ebooks and info products, including their annual State of Inbound Marketing report (2013 edition available here).
MarketingProfs – With a community of approximately 650K members, MarketingProfs definitely meets the mark in terms of social proof! MarketingProfs offers marketing tips and advice via their website, but also through free seminars, podcasts and webinars.
PPC Hero – For information on AdWords and other pay-per-click advertising, PPC Hero is an excellent and reliable resource.
Search Engine Land – A great resource for all things SEO, SEM, as well as some information on social media. One of the first places I look for breaking news regarding changes or developments in Search.
MOZ – Industry-leading information regarding SEO and inbound marketing, delivered primarily by their blog, ‘mozinars’, and Q & A’s.
Advice for Australian Small Businesses
Business.gov.au – An initiative of the Australian government, this website offers all the information you need to start a business in Australia. Complete with information about taxation, business finances, registering and licensing a business, etc., it will help you to ensure you’re meeting all the regulatory guidelines for running a business in Australia.
The Australian (with the Wall Street Journal) – For information regarding the Australian stock market as well as finance, the Australian business section provides perhaps the most up-to-date information and news available.
The ability to assess and evaluate the reliability of content is becoming more and more difficult, however by being careful about which websites you rely on, you can avoid many of the pitfalls other business owners may experience.
Which websites do you rely on for business information? Are there any other criteria you follow when gauging the reliability of the websites you find? Please share below!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles