"We're always looking to find a better trust metric." - Matt Cutts
“I found out the types of phrases that [a known BH] is targeting, including a few industries.” – Matt Cutts
Google registered a trademark for the word "TrustRank"
http://www.greatnexus.com/forums/post-7840.html (interesting post that also mentions "local rank").
Stanford has a whitepaper that refers to TrustRank as an algo at: http://dbpubs.stanford.edu:8090/pub/showDoc.Fulltext?lang=en&doc=2004-17&format=pdf&compression=&name=2004-17.pdf. Here are some quotes of note:
- Good pages seldom point to bad ones
- The care with which people add links to their pages is often inversely proportional to the number of links on the page. That is, if a good page has only a handful of outlinks, then it is likely that the pointed pages are also good. However, if a good page has hundreds of outlinks, it is more probable that some of them will point to bad pages.
- Interestingly, this approach leads us to a scheme closely related PageRank
What determines trust? How does G handle it? How does this effect SEO? I strongly suspect trust has everything to do with the “third entity” that we’ve been missing in SEO. And the sandbox.
Let me explain. There are two known methods of building placement in the SERPs: on page factors and backlinks. But I think there is a third entity which is trust. Trust is harder to determine than the other two areas but it does start pointing out a lot of areas that don’t really fit in the other two categories but do have an influence. Trust also overlaps with the other two areas and may supersede them both.
I further speculate that this trust ranking (or TR) is what gets you out of the sandbox and helps you in the SERPs. I posted a note for Matt Cutts to explain a bit more about G and trust but who knows when or if he’ll reply. So what do you think? Here’s what I’ve come up with as far as trust issues and Google, so far:
Domain Age – The older the domain is the more trust it gets. This isn’t really an onpage factor as you can’t do anything to age your site but wait.
Length of Domain Registration - Regging a domain for 10 years instead of one shows more commitment to the project.
"Regular" Updates - This doesn't mean every day or even every week, but a continuous improvement to the site. This could be adding content or adjusting layout.
Backlinks - This one is a hornet’s nest because there are so many different opinions. I’ll stay pretty generic here to avoid moving the post off-topic. Remember this is about trust, not a PR score.
My thought on this is backlinks are good. Backlinks that are paid for are not as good. Backlinks in directories are not as good. Backlinks that are reciprocated are not as good. Backlinks that are off-topic are not as good. Backlinks that are floating are not as good. "Not as good" does not mean "bad", just that they aren't as good as a link that appears natural and is surrounded by text.
On the flip side, backlinks from high PR sites are better. As are backlinks from .edu and .gov domains. And backlinks from sites that have a high measure trust. Human edited backlinks are also better (think: DMOZ). And older backlinks are better than new ones (there’s that age thing again!).
Unique IP - having a unique IP shows that you are serious enough and care enough about your site to pay the extra couple bucks. It also prevents you from being on a shared host that may contain "bad neighbors".
Contact Information - This is an obvious aid to building a geographic audience that is often overlooked. It also builds trust with customers if they know you have a physical address. I think this will help you build trust with G. Sites that list their contact info get more trust. A street address may be better than a PO Box. Note: I have no proof on this *yet*, it just makes sense to me.
Sitemaps - Including a sitemap helps G spider your site. It also helps visitors find what they are looking for. I think it also builds trust since you are considerate enough to help the viewer find what they are looking for. This isn’t about the ability to easily crawl, rather just offering the option to visitors shows you have their interests at heart. Note: Again, no proof, just an idea.
"New" Technologies – Think: CSS, XHTML and RSS. CSS and XHTML may have some onpage effects, but I doubt they affect trust. RSS may show a strong desire to get your quality information out. Does G detect how many sites have picked up your feed?
Reliable Uptime – Sites that yo-yo up and down lose trust.
Targeting KWs based on Traffic over Relevance – Your business is unique and even if you sell "widgets that jump" that doesn't mean you should target "widgets". The more specific you are to your market, the better conversion rate you'll get and G won't think you are targeting a KW based on popularity instead of relevance. This may be a major factor in the sandbox.
Spam - tricks like doorway pages, thin affiliates, (improper) cloaking, pointing multiple domains to the same site, duplicate content, KW stuffing, hidden text, comment spamming, pop-ups, pop-unders, and hidden links. Many of these are onpage factors. BH techniques would also hurt trust. Does anyone have any more examples of this stuff?
Security - Does having a SSL certificate help?
Trust by Purchase - What about being listed as a TRUSTe site or with BBBonline?
Going Off-Topic – Adding pages to unrelated industries or to gain affiliate sponsorship hurts, but Cutts says it best himself: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/step-into-my-shoes/
“Bad” Topics - Certain topics will hurt your trust such as alcohol and gambling. Anything illegal, pornography, hate speech and anything that may get filtered by G's SafeSearch.
Standards - Does adhering to standards help? For example W3C compliance, Bobby, etc. The idea being that you are showing care in your site to not only make sure it will display correctly across the board but also work for people with disabilities.
Site Submission Software – I can’t recall G ever saying directly to not do this, but I definitely get the idea they don’t approve.
Too Many Terms in the Domain Name or URL – For example: www.you-should-buy-all-this-stuff-right-now.com or www.domain.com/you-should-buy-all-this-stuff-right-now.html. This hits more with KW stuffed URLs.
Trust In the Air
There have been some posts that get a bit “tin foil hat” for me but I also realized I don’t have a clear answer.
robots.txt - Can blocking pages or directories hurt your trust?
Google API – Does applying for one hurt? Does using it hurt? Does using it at certain sites (like googlerankings.com) hurt? Using an API makes it ridiculously easy for G to track when you are breaking their TOS, especially the part about “automated queries”. Just by requesting an API you mark yourself a “more than average” web surfer and likely SEO.
Google Searches - Does searching for your site on G hurt? Especially the link: operator?
Posting in Forums – Just by posting in here, we often show a clear path to our SEO projects.
G Sitemaps – By signing up for G sitemaps you also reveal you are a ‘more than average” surfer. Also, some of the stuff G asks for in the XML version is a bit odd.
Meta – can some Meta tags help or hurt a site?
Templates – Does G recognize duplicate layouts like they do duplicate content? Also, what about common layout errors when working with templates like forgetting to replace “title goes here” or removing HTML generator Meta information?
Googlebar Tracking – And the “popularity” associated. It is in the patent.
SERP Tracking - Click-through rates plus "hang time" if visitors back out too soon the site gets devalued
Final Advice: Not Trusting Google Hurts Your Rank.
Trust Google to do what they do. By trying to outwit them you only hurt yourself in the long run. Google has the ability to detect all sorts of link and spam schemes and as time goes on they will develop better ones.
Also, Cutts mentions that Google is aware of who the SEOers and BHs are and has even started approaching them to present how they work to the Google engineers!
Comments on this post
- raz → agrees: Excellent Post; should spur a healthy discussion
- Jocelyn → agrees: Nice list of things to think of...
- randfish → agrees: Nice work RMC