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Chapter 5: Trust, Authority & Search Rankings

If search engines can decide to trust links or social accounts, can they learn to trust websites? Absolutely. Many SEOs believe that site trust plays a big role in whether a site will succeed or fail from a search perspective.

Ta: Authority

Is your site an authority? Is it a widely recognized leader in its field, area, business or in some other way? That’s the goal.

No one knows exactly how search engines calculate authority and, in fact, there are probably multiple “authority” signals. The type of links your site receives (lots of quality or “neighborhood” links?) or social references (from respected accounts?) and engagement metrics (long clicks?) may all play a role in site authority. Of course, negative sentiment and reviews may hurt site authority.

Google itself has downplayed the idea that sites have much authority, though it does say pages do. See How Google measures the authority of web pages for more about this.

Te: Engagement

A quality site should produce meaningful interactions with users. Search engines may try to measure this interaction — engagement — in a variety of ways.

For example, how long do users stay on your page? Did they search, click through to your listing, but then immediately “bounce” back to the results to try something else? That “pogosticking” behavior can be measured by search engines and could be a sign that your content isn’t engaging.

Conversely, are people sending a relatively long time reviewing your content, in relation to similar content on other sites? That “time on site” metric or “long click” is another type of engagement that search engines can measure and use to assess the relative value of content.

Social gestures such as comments, shares and “likes” represent another way that engagement might be measured. We’ll cover these in greater detail in the Social section of this guide.

Search engines are typically cagey about the use of engagement metrics, much less the specifics of those metrics. However, we do believe engagement is measured and used to inform search results.

More information about engagement is available in the following category:

Th: History

Since search engines are constantly visiting your website, they can get a sense of what’s “normal” or how you’ve behaved over time.

Are you suddenly linking out to what the search engines euphemistically call “bad neighborhoods?” Are you publishing content about a topic you haven’t typically covered? Such things might raise alarm bells.

Then again, sites do change, just as people do, and often for the better. Changes aren’t taken in isolation. Other factors are also assessed to determine if something worrisome has happened.

Similarly, a site with a history of violating guidelines and receiving multiple penalties may find it more difficult to work their way back to search prominence.

In the end, a good overall track record may help you. An older, more established site may find it can keep cruising along with search success, while a new site may have to “pay its dues,” so to speak, for weeks, months, or even longer to gain respect.

You can also read up on articles which look specifically at domain registration issues:

Chapters: Home1: Factors2: Content3: Architecture4: HTML5: Trust6: Links7: Personalization8: Social9: Violations