While Google’s Pagerank may have gone defunct and is almost meaningless there are other criteria Google uses to decide where to display a site in it’s search engine results. Trust and reputation, used synonymously for the purposes of this article, are what Google cares about now, in addition to how many other quality sites are linked to your website.
Google staff don’t come out and list all the things related to trust – and to what degree each variable affects trust of your website, over time we along with others have been able to make educated guesses about what are the important criteria a website must have in order to be displayed in the top 5 results at Google.
Some factors that go into whether Google trusts your site are listed below.
Matt Cutts is a Google spokesperson when it comes to all things related to the search engine. He’s like a tech slash public relations guy. What he says can be taken as the word of God as it relates to the search engine. To obtain trust and reputation in Google he recommends:
Be interesting. What this probably means is that if your blog is talking about what you had for dinner, what you watched on TV, or the rain outside you’re not adding anything of value to anyone’s lives. If you’re copying another website and just rewriting their content using different words – what are you giving to the world? Nothing of value.
We could read into it and say you should use multimedia to spice up your site. This makes a static website with just text more interesting – yes? Adding PDF, Powerpoint, photos, videos, and other types of files will make it a more interesting site that people will return to because you offer something of value that is interesting.
Another thing you might want to consider is the first few seconds a visitor arrives at your site. Is your site interesting enough to keep them there long enough to click one link? This is the “bounce rate” and it should be as low as possible, meaning visitors stay once they arrive at your site.
Update your site often. Add new content to your website often. Regularly added content is best because Google can schedule when to visit your site to pick up the new content. Having an RSS feed is even better.
Recently this factor seems to have a lot of influence on whether your website is found on the keywords you want. Recency of information is something Google is considering very important for a quality site.
Google will likely have real-time search at some point. The more often you update your site, the better off you’ll be in the near future, and probably the far future.
Find your niche. You need many pages focused on a narrow niche in order to be found in Google. Your website’s trust is focused around whatever niche you are focused on. If you don’t focus on one – you rank well for nothing because your site is too general. Define a niche and stick with that topic for nearly all of your posts.
Provide a useful service. Are you helping people with your site? If not, Google won’t give your site a high trust factor. If you’re in a niche that is generic and there are already many sites about this topic you need to differentiate yourself. Find a new way to approach the subject and focus on helping others accomplish something. Niches that are not found in Google’s index much are sure winners when you build a quality site about that niche. If you can target a new niche – do it!
“Useful” might also relate to how often your links are passed around the web. Viral content or flagship content will do best.
Do original research or reporting. What a huge hint this is to help us figure out what Google loves to see. Unique information is what Google finds important. There are hundreds of thousands of sites with much of the same information. Create a site that has unique information, news, research, uses new words to describe something – and you are on the right track.
Using reader polls is an excellent idea, as is interviews, news reports, updates, or publishing papers or books on a topic. Doing a meta review on some niche topic is probably an excellent idea.
Live blog. Any time you can do something in real-time, as mentioned earlier, do it. Live podcasts, Twitter updates, interviews, or breaking news accomplishes this.
Make lists. Top 10 lists and other lists are interesting, usually new content, and people read them and share them. Google loves to find things that surfers are sharing because it means it’s important. Lists are great because there isn’t any extraneous information – it’s razor targeted on some topic and gives readers short bits of information that are easily digested.
Create controversy. Maybe there is no easier way to get participation in your blog than by writing a few controversial posts that you know will polarize your readers and get them interacting. As long as it’s not hate-filled, racist, or goes against the boundaries of general good taste – Google is all for it. Google loves to see comments at a site. Controversy will also increase the number of links coming to your site from other places – another bonus of using this tactic.
Meet people on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed. If people around the web are referencing your site with links and conversations about your niche topic Google is recording that too. Gain followers at Twitter, Facebook, and the other social media supersites. Google’s list of what is important is growing to include social media in a big way. Google now returns Twitter conversation snippets in its search results. That’s proof enough – right?
In today’s web you need to be all over social media – especially Twitter and Facebook – at this moment. As more social media sites gain traction there will be more to be involved with. Try hard to stay involved in all the big ones.
Matt’s list stopped there. Here are a few more things I think can be deduced from all the clues Google gives about Trust and reputation.
Time. Time is most definitely a factor affecting the ranking of websites. Each year I notice a bump up in traffic with my sites that I can’t attribute to anything else but the anniversary of another year in business. Keep in mind that no one factor works by itself to give you good position in Google. All the factors must be in play to some degree in order to rank well. If you have a lot of competition on your chosen niche then you must really have optimized your sites well to be found in the top 5 Google results.
Mozilla.org and other major directory listings help a lot. At this time Yahoo’s Business directory listings, which are $299 per submission for non-adult sites is still giving good value. For how long? Nobody is certain. Mozilla.org is all but closed, though every now and then someone will get indexed there. If you can find a directory that lists sites focused on your niche and it is moderated and had tight submission guidelines, is reviewed by a person, and costs over $100, you should probably try it to see what effect it has. It may have a very nice effect.
Inbound trusted links. Having a number of inbound links (other sites linking to yours) from sites that Google already trusts is a solid means to building trust. Get links from a couple of the top sites in your niche and you’ll be set.
Optimize onsite variables. Trusted sites need these pages: About; Disclaimer; Shipping; Privacy; FAQ; Sitemap.
As you can see there are heaps of variables Google uses to assign trust. I’ve mentioned some here, but there must be dozens more criteria Google uses that we’re all in the dark about.
Focus on these areas and you’ll do pretty well, we do and have been doing well for the past decade.