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Privacy Policies And Search Engines
But it’s possible that a search engine might consider that the source of content is more trustworthy, and more authoritative if it does include such a page. And that may make a difference…
Beyond just appearing to be a credible business, you want to reassure potential customers that you are safeguarding their trust. Including a logo that transactions made on a site are secure is one step towards reassurance. Displaying information about membership in organizations like a Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce is another. Displaying security and privacy information can help to increase confidence in your business.
Privacy Policies and Paid Search
On the Google Adwords Landing Page and Site Quality Guidelines page, we are told that there are “three main components of a quality website: relevant and original content, transparency, and navigability.”
The word “transparency” refers to how you interact with your visitors:
In order to build trust with users, your site should be explicit in three primary areas: the nature of your business; how your site interacts with a visitor’s computer; and how you intend to use a visitor’s personal information, if you request it.
Visitors’ personal information:
Unless necessary for the product or service that you’re offering, don’t request personal information.
Give options to limit the use of a user’s personal information, such as the ability to opt out of receiving newsletters.
Allow users to access your site’s content without requiring them to register. Or, provide a preview of what users will get by registering.
Privacy Policies and Search
Carnegie Mellon University runs the CMU Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS), which has been exploring “privacy and security software and systems” since 2004. One of their projects is the Privacy Finder search engine and search bar, which lets you search both Google and Yahoo in a manner that pays attention to the privacy policies of web sites. Their Frequently Asked Questions page tells us this about how it works:
The CMU Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory also ran an interesting study on the impact of visible privacy information in a paper that’s worth spending some time with – The Effect of Online Privacy Information on Purchasing Behavior: An Experimental Study (pdf).
I was left with a couple of questions after reading about the projects happening in the Carnegie Mellon lab.
Phishing, Malicious Code, and Search Engines
Phishing is an effort to use false pretenses to try to gain someone’s financial or personal information. Google created a safe browsing plugin for Firefox, and has now incorporated the function into the Firefox toolbar.
Search engines are also branching out to learn about and block searchers from sites that attempt to download malicious code onto their pages. Three documents from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo explore those topics:
- The Ghost In The Browser: Analysis of Web-based Malware (pdf)
- Strider HoneyMonkeys: Active, Client-Side Honeypots for Finding Malicious Websites (pdf)
- Search Early Warning
Since the search engines are showing concern over phishing and malware in search results, perhaps the idea of delivering sites based upon privacy policies and trust isn’t a far leap, especially given the nod towards business transparency in the Adwords Quality Scores.
Bill Slawski is Director of Search Marketing at KeyRelevance, Inc., blogs at SEO by the Sea, and has been one of the Business and Marketing Forum moderators at Cre8asite Forums for the last six years. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.