Isn’t the web an amazing thing? This blog would certainly be a different thing without the net. Because there is so much information online it is occasionally hard to know where to go for accurate financial information.
Peter just finished off a fantastic series on How To Make Money With A Blog. Non-bloggers can also learn some important information from some of those posts because a little insider blogging information can actually help you find good financial resources online..
How to Find Trustworthy Financial Information Online
Lessons from SEO and Niche Websites
Since I’ve started blogging I’ve learned a little bit about SEO – Search Engine Optimization. SEO is basically the best words and phrases to use to get people to visit your website through a search engine. In the process of learning about SEO I also learned that it can be lucrative to set up something called ‘niche websites’.
What is a niche website?
A niche website is a website that was designed specifically to appeal to a very small target audience. This blog, for example, is not a niche website. It deals with all things financial. If, however, this were a website that focused only on Christian Debt Consolidation and used those words in the name of my blog, then that would be a niche website.
Niche websites can get good traffic because they focus on a very specific keyword – Christian debt consolidation. Since that name is in their blog title they have added search weight. They then ‘manipulate’ the rankings by exchanging, requesting, or linking to that website.
Why offline wisdom doesn’t work online
If you were looking for a lawyer to help with your property tax issues you would want to find a lawyer who specializes in that topic. If you were looking for a doctor to operate on your brain you would want to find a brain surgeon.
However, the niche websites are often set up because they are profitable. Thus, the sole criteria for starting a niche website is – can I make money doing if? When you visit a niche website you are not getting an individual who specializes in a topic. Instead, you are getting a person who learned the least amount of information possible on the topic, wrote 30-40 articles, and is now just waiting to milk this cash cow. A person who does niche websites will have dozens or hundreds of websites.
Trust Financial Advice From Trusted Websites
Google (and other search engines) does try and help you find trusted material. However, they determine trust (rank) based primarily on the number of back links.
Let’s say I like an article at One Money Design (another staff writer for Bible Money Matters) so I link to that article. I’ve just helped One Money Design’s trust or rank. Those who set up niche websites exchange links with other ‘illegitimate’ websites. Joe is doing this niche website. Steve is doing that niche website. Joe and Steve exchange links – Joe links to Steve, Steve links to Joe, and both get an improved rank with Google. But, neither Joe nor Steve necessarily produced anything valuable. Joe can then contact another website and say, “If you link to me I’ll give you $10”. This link improves the trust of Joe’s site.
When it comes to financial resources I would not trust information that comes from a ‘niche website’. The site has only been designed with the intention that you would visit the site, click on an ad, and then go on your merry way.
How do you Find Trusted Financial Websites:
Of course on option is to visit professionally owned and branded websites – wall street journal, yahoo finance, msn money. However, sometimes these larger sites lack the personal feel most readers value.
Visit the Wisebread Top 100 Personal Finance Blogs (interestingly, a list with about 400). For sure all of the sites listed in the top half of this list are legitimate financial sites. This does not mean these writers are not making money. It does not mean they are right. It simply means they have dealt with a large variety of personal finance topics and real people somewhere find their information helpful.
Who is the author or site sponsor?
If a blogger maintains a blog, he or she is typically quite open about saying this is me and I run this site. Anonymity is a bad sign. For example, if you went to my about page you could learn some personal information as well as some information about the purpose of my blog. If there is not an about page or site sponsor information, it is more likely just a site designed to get you to visit for advertisement purposes.
What is the website title?
Again, a specific ‘niche’ title is usually a bad sign. If you search for bankruptcy you may see howtofilebankruptcy.com. Want to guess what this website will tell you? Instead, look for something like Should a Christian file bankruptcy on a site like Money Help For Christians. You know this is a person who deals with other financial topics who will present his or her honest opinion on the topic.
How often is the site updated?
Niche websites typically get a group of articles posted and move on to other projects. You know a website with updated information is still offering current and valuable information.
Look for comments
Comments are a sign that others are reading this information and at least on a ‘human’ level, people are interacting with the content.
Most blogs have a list of blogs they follow or read. Some blog rolls are set up on an exchange basis. The longer the blog roll, the more likely that is. The blog roll suggests other blogs that may provide helpful information on the topic.
What do other sources say about the topic?
When you look under the comments section there may be something that says ‘trackbacks’. A trackback means someone else out in cyberspace linked to that article. That is usually a good sign because another person online decided it is good enough to include it on his or her own site.
Time and Trust
It takes time to build a trustworthy site. Older sites should inherently get more trust. Under the archive section you can know how long someone has been blogging. While this does not mean you should ignore younger blogs, it does mean that, just like a friendship, trust takes time to build.
Do you have your own tips for finding trusted financial information online? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!