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How to Check If a Site Is Legitimate

Eleven signs to look for to determine if a new site is trustworthy. Then, a few links to services that allow you to find out how these signs apply to any website you choose.

How can you tell if a new, unknown site, is legitimate? You can't. But there are a lot of clues that will help you distinguish between those that are safe and those that aren't. Plus, there are sites designed to help you find the answers.

What to look for

Here are 11 things that give you more information regarding the legitimacy of a website.
  1. Do they have malware or other unsafe content on their site?
  2. Do legitimate sites review it well. Web search. You can learn a lot by just searching for them with your favorite search engine.
  3. How old is the site? New sites are suspicious. They could be created just for some scam. If it's been around a decade or more, it's more likely to be legitimate. Even a couple of years indicates credibility.
  4. Is site using HTTPS?
  5. Is the site popular? Alexa ranks websites by traffic. If a site is ranked in the top 500,000 then it is popular. In the top 5 million, it is active. Over 15 million and very little activity. 0 means no activity or at least Alexa hasn't found it.
  6. Where is the site hosted? There are some countries that might cause concerns depending on what you are doing.
  7. How many backlinks does it have? Backlinks are other pages that link to it. More pages linking to it provides some credibility.
  8. Referring domains are even better than backlinks because it counts the different places that are referring. However, a local store cannot expect to have millions of sites linking to it. Adjust your expectations to the sort of company you are investigating. If the site isn't posting content others need to point to, then it won't have many referring domains. However, if it has a blog or newsletter, then, if the content is good, there should be more domains linking to it.
  9. Security tests. These are important if you are using the company for document storage or financial transactions. This is different from whether they are legitimate or fly-by-night.
  10. Emails to domain? Does the website have email configured to go to it? For example, could you send an email to support@website.com? Generally, honest domains have email at their domain. It is concerning if they don't.
  11. Valid phone number? Is there a way to call them? This increases their probability of being legitimate.

Where to check up on sites

Everything I'm reviewing is available without charge.

This site reviews various indicators about websites.
  • It checks WOT trust rating. WOT is a domain trust rating site.
  • It checks the site against 8 website block lists.
  • Checks age of site.
  • Checks HTTPS connection.
  • Checks Alexa's popularity ranking, then explains it. Checks APIVoid which is a paid service that checks some security features on ecommerce sites.
  • Location
  • Whether email can be sent to the domain
This is a clean site that packs a lot of information. It is a great place to check.

  • This site checks with 36 other testing sites. This is much more complete than islegitsite.com
  • Also gives age of site and location.
  • It gives links to other information like DNS records and Whois lookup and reverse DNS.

This one if focused on how well ads would do on the site. It is a marketing tool. However, it gives a lot of useful information if you can wade through all the marketing an ad valuation information that may not interest you.
  • Alexa popularity ranking,
  • Where the server is located
  • A detailed traffic summary.
  • It has both backlinks and domain referring links.
  • It shows other domains listed at the same IP address. Smaller companies will share a server, the larger ones will have their own.
  • It checks SSL
  • Lots of other information regarding the site that you might find interesting.

Of these three, Islegitsite.com gives us almost everything we would normally require. Hypestat.com can fill in some blanks, but extracting the information we want from all the other information usually isn't worth it. Urlvoid.com provides a little more information and a nice format.

Backlinks and Domain Referrals

Backlinks and Domain links are very useful information. If lots of domains point to a site as an authority, then it isn't some fly-by-night huckster. I suggest always checking with ahrefs.com. For example, 892 different web pages from 354 different domains link to my site. This wouldn't be much for an international store. For example, Home Depot has 7.2 million backlinks from 199 thousand domains. However, for a sole proprietor, local business, it is pretty amazing. It is proof I've been around a long time and deliver respectable content. These factors get combined with how strong the places connecting to you are to form a Domain Rating. My domain rating is 17 on a 100-point scale. Home Depot is 90. For example, the OCCA has a domain rating of 23. Checking with other local businesses that are legitimate and are lawyers, counselors or consultants, I didn't find any with as good a domain rating. Don't expect local businesses to have high domain ratings.

This is a great Backlink checker. I could look through hundreds of domains that pointed to my newsletter articles. This is definitely the best. It presents both the numbers of those pointing to your site, and the specific pages. It also lists the domains. Excellent.

This also does domain and page backlinks. It presents the information a little differently.

Don't download any software from any site that you haven't checked out with both islegitsite.com and also ahrefs.com.

Concerned About Their Security?

If you want to know about whether the site itself is secure, this is the place to check. This is useful for purchasing with their credit card processor. If they just point you to Square or PayPal or some other processor like I do, then this isn't as important. It is also important for a site you are trusting with your documents.

This site is very different from the others. It is slower, taking 2-3 minutes to produce the report. It checks about 100 blocklist sites and SSL/TLS protocols. It also checks for many vulnerabilities, to see if they are hardened against various attacks. I refuse to download from any site that doesn't use HTTPS. I figure if they are slipshod on their domain, they'll be slipshod on their programming.

Other Possibilities

  • Trustpilot (https://www.trustpilot.com) is a bit like Yelp for national companies. It's worth a look if the company you are dealing with is large enough.
  • Reddit (https://www.reddit.com) often has great discussions about companies and their reliability. Often worth checking out.
  • Do a web search. You can do web searches for reviews on the company. Also, what are people saying about them?
  • Mobile Apps? I always check the mobile app for any product I'm buying which depends on one. Sometimes people have been complaining about how horrible the necessary mobile app is for the last few years. That indicates they aren't serious.

Date: December 2022

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