For those with decades of experience with online content the question may seem ridiculous, because to us spam looks like spam. Over the years I’ve found certain sources I can trust and some that I skeeve … utterly. To those new to relying on the web for information, however, identifying trustworthy content can be far more challenging.

For those unfamiliar with the web, (the short-timers) here are some secondary cues that can be helpful to sift through the silt of spam and find those tiny gold nuggets of truth:


  • Citations from other trustworthy sources
  • Social media signals (people have liked it, tweeted it or +1’d it)
  • High-quality domain name
  • Clear indications of who the author and publisher are
  • A professional logo
  • Proper grammar
  • A modern, well-designed site
  • People are commenting on and discussing the information in the comments section


  • Misspelled words
  • Clip art and stock photography
  • No one is commenting on or sharing this page
  • Little or no information about the publisher and author
  • Content has no indication of when it was published or updated
  • Page links to unrelated, commercial content
  • An over-abundance of advertisements
  • No author indicated, no one wants to take credit

Whether you are a publisher or a reader, understanding these signals is important to productively operate in the online space. If you have a website, before spending thousands on getting people to your website with SEO and advertising, don’t forget the site itself! If people can’t trust it, they won’t use it, and you better believe that most Internet users are already well practiced at judging the trustworthiness of a website.