Chapter 7: Trust, Authority, Identity & Search Rankings

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

ta - Trust & Authority SEO SignalsTa: 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 as covered below:

There’s little doubt that search engines try to assess authority. One only needs to look through the questions Google told publishers to ask themselves in building high-quality sites that should be immune to “Panda” updates. The words trust, authority and expertise are all frequently mentioned:

th - Trust & Site History as SEO SignalTh: History

Since search engines are constantly visiting your web site, 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 like 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, 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:

Ti: IdentityTrust Identity (Ti) SEO Element

Is that the real Benedict Cumberbatch on Twitter or someone impersonating him? Does a site claiming to be the ‘official’ site … really official? Who is the person giving legal advice on their blog? Are they even a lawyer!?

In the offline world it’s easier to figure these things out. We spot Benedict at a local coffee shop (no pictures please), we can tell instantly when we’re in a real Target store and you’ll likely take a look at the degrees on the wall when visiting a lawyer.

Search engines have found it increasingly important to ensure they’re dealing with the ‘right’ data. Amit Singhal, who oversees Google’s search efforts, made the importance of identity clear:

A good product can only be built where we understand who’s who and who is related to whom. Relationships are also important alongside content. To build a good product, we have to do all types of processing. But fundamentally, it’s not just about content. It’s about identity, relationships and content.

Identity takes many forms, from Google’s Authorship program to social profile verification on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. While there’s clearly a debate around the balance of privacy and anonymity, search engines continue to seek out those willing to stand up and behind the content they produce.

Below are Search Engine Land articles that cover authorship and identity:

Chapters: Home – 1: Factors – 2: Content – 3: HTML – 4: Architecture – 5: Links – 6: Social – 7: Trust – 8: Personalization – 9: Violations