You must be able to stand over everything that is published on your website and say that it is all accurate and up-to-date. Trust is a fundamental building block of professional web content management. The Web has become an increasingly important source for information. The credibility of information on the Web is dropping. These two seemingly contradictory trends come from "Ten Years, Ten Trends", a recent major study by the Center for the Digital Future. The study observes that:
  1. Although the Web has become an important source of information, the initially high level of credibility of information on the Web began to drop in the third year of the study, and declined even further the current year.
  2. The number of people who believe that only about half of the information on the Web is accurate and reliable is growing and has now passed 40 percent for the first time.
  3. The study showed that most people trust information on the websites they visit regularly. Websites by established media were trusted by 74 percent, while government websites were trusted by 73 percent.
  4. Information pages posted by individuals have the lowest credibility: only 9 percent of people say such information is trustworthy.
The foundation of a brand is built by being useful and trustworthy. Many great brands begin life by reliably meeting a need that people care about. Only later, as the market saturates, and most products achieve equal reliability, does the need emerge to differentiate the brand using life-style and emotional attributes. However, a brand should never forget that its foundation is trust. Many websites are living off the credibility and trust that their brands have developed over many years in the offline world. For many organizations, there is a serious disconnect between how they operate in the offline world and how their websites operate. Some months ago, I was at the elegant head office of an organization that wanted me to audit its website. The website looked like a dump. The content was poor quality and out-of-date, the graphic design was pretty awful. Many organizations have a serious blind spot when it comes to their websites. Badly written, out-of-date, and often inaccurate content is left on the website for everyone to see. In fact, many web managers who I meet have difficulty telling me how many pages—sometimes how many websites—they have, let alone what's on them. As a manager of a website, you must take responsibility for every piece of content on your website. If you don't have time to do that, then your website is unmanageable. It is also quite likely that it is doing more harm than good to the reputation of your organization. Less than 10 percent of people trust information on the websites of individuals. The reason why established media and government websites have 75 percent of people trusting them is because they have already established trust with their offline operations. Websites can only drink for so long from the pool of trust that has been developed offline. Your job is to stop drinking from the pool and start adding to it by publishing quality content and by quickly removing out-of-date content. Trust is hard built, easily lost, and difficult to regain. --- Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.