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The Trust Signals Search Engines Look For

Search engines are as important as they are frequently misunderstood. Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t necessarily the larger or more highly trafficked websites that get the higher rankings. Instead, search engines have a number of criteria they use to make that determination: criteria that, in effect, help to level the playing field to let the little guys compete a little more effectively.

One of the most important of those factors is trust. The reasoning behind it goes something like this: while the popularity of a site is definitely important, search engines are also concerned with providing their users with a quality experience. Sites that are more trustworthy, then, are favored over those that are not.

Of course, it’s not all altruistic. Search engines that deliver quality sites are more likely to be used again in the future.

So what kind of signals are used to determine the trustworthiness of a site? For most sites that already employ good Search Engine Optimization practices, many of these will take care of themselves. Even so, let’s get into the details a little more.

Maintain Your Site’s Reliability

One of the most important signals of your site’s credibility is its reliability. This can come in many forms, but at its core it represents your site’s ability to remain in operation consistently, as well as offer stable performance.

We’ve all seen our share of “Page Not Found” messages, so we know how frustrating it can be. To help keep your own visitors from getting frustrated with your site, note that there are some useful tools out there to help you identify pages on your website that might result in a 404 message.

Another important aspect of reliability is your site’s speed. Your average Internet user is exceptionally impatient, which means that even the slightest delay in the loading of your site is going to push them to go elsewhere. We’re literally talking about a couple of seconds here. Since your site’s bounce rate will also count against you in the rankings, you might want to get some help with this one. Google has a useful site speed test that can help you get to the bottom of any speed issues you’re running into.

The final component of reliability is downtime. Some of this is going to be out of your control, or even the control of your host, but not all of it. Just as you want your visitors to trust you, you want to be able to trust your host service. If you think it’s time to look for a new hosting service, there are plenty of resources available to help you make an informed decision.

Improve Your Credibility

Let’s move on to credibility. When it comes to people, there are some fairly straightforward ways to appraise their credibility. Maybe they have an assortment of diplomas hanging on their wall, or they insist that you introduce them as “Doctor” or “High Admiral.” For websites, addressing credibility is a little less straightforward.

One of the most important factors to keep in mind are the quality of the sites that link to yours. If you run a health-themed blog, you’re going to be taken a little more seriously if WebMD links to your site than if some guy on Yahoo Answers does. Of course, the high-profile sites linking to yours should also be relevant to your site’s field of inquiry as often as possible.

Your website’s credibility will also be a direct result of your success or failure at establishing yourself as a destination for authoritative and helpful information. If you cater first and foremost to your users, and resolve to provide them with high quality content, then links to your site will happen naturally, without you having to push quite so much.

Testimonials are also a big thing to keep in mind. Search engine rankings don’t necessarily know how to factor user reviews into their rankings, but they’re still important for earning the trust of your visitors. How many times have you purchased a product without reading a single review about it? It probably doesn’t happen often, so don’t expect your visitors to make a total leap of faith either.

You’re Honest. Make Sure They Know It.

Finally, let’s take a look at ways that websites frequently misuse SEO practices, and how you can set yourself apart from them. Let’s get something straight: the purpose of SEO isn’t solely to be a blunt instrument in bolstering your site’s rankings. Your SEO campaign, at its core, should have the user’s experience in mind.

For example, stuffing keywords and getting neurotic about exact-match keyword anchor links may once have helped search engines with their rankings, but they’re getting better and better at penalizing websites that use deceptive SEO techniques such as these.

Again, SEO should first and foremost offer up a quality user experience, and making visitors wade through clumsy SEO-oriented language before they find the content they’re looking for is a betrayal of their trust.

As we said, Google and other search engines are pretty good at identifying deceptive SEO practices. Even so, there’s a chance your site might fall through the cracks. That said, just remember this: Google might not notice, but your users will.

At the end of the day, all of these signals work together to indicate just one thing: quality content. That is, and always should be, the mandate by which we operate.

About the author


Adrienne Erin

Adrienne Erin is a writer and internet marketing addict who loves to see businesses like Superior Notary Services succeed on the web.


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  • Thank you Erin,

    Just learnt a few thing especially on mobile friendly website and and how to improve on my site speed.

    Again, I also did learn that content is Key.

    Thank you

  • Never use SEO to deceive, since this will be seen as spam and Google will also be considered bad by the visitors when not getting what is wanted and needed in our website.

    Credibility also need to be improved and fast loading website that will make it easier for visitors

  • Building trust is really important so, Experts say Build Trust and Authority for Google which will boost PR, ranking and traffic. Building Trust is not easy as link building.

  • Now a days to people do one thing they make a website that contains the information and link or five or six website on same theme like a informative directory. And It easily got ranking in top 5 in first page in Google search results.

  • Let’s put the cart before the horse, we could also fend of investing in too much online effort and invest in tangible directmarketing. Using flyers, folders or other markting gimmicks you can be pretty shure the ROI will be great compared to any online ads or SEO, as the signals to searchengines will bring a lot of visitors sending out 20.000 folders in your district to potential clients.

  • One of the recent emerging trust factor in SEO is getting likes, tweets from authority profiles in social media. It signals google that your site is worth its popularity in social networks, hence it gives an additional help.

    • I am not so sure about this, I have my site images on pinterest which have taken on a life of their own, I have hundreds of repins every month.

      I got badly demoted in the last update with a new site with no spammy links (maybe not enough links as I was busy moving it)

      In theory the pinterest likes alone should have stopped me from going from PR3 to PR1.

      In a site audit I had a few errors that are fixed but the only issue I have is 35 smart phone errors.

      We did have a problem implementing the html snapshot so at 1 stage I had a mirror site and had them both linked so I think that was the problem, still very harsh as both sites were in WMT

  • Lets not forget Organic vs. Paid for placements, Search Engines are in the business of sell placements and some have their favorites.

    As mostly an organic SEOer your article is right on the money. Content is almost everything. And real seo work shows you are, or the page, is serious about being listed.

    Got-to wonder about responsive sites and how they are ranked. So many of the big SEs have put lots of money into being the SE of choice for mobile devices, are they ranking responsive sites differently?

  • I’m surprised of your phrase :
    Again, SEO should first and foremost offer up a quality user experience, and making visitors wade through clumsy SEO-oriented language before they find the content they’re looking for is a betrayal of their trust.
    Creativity will never make visitors wade… if you’ve got enough of it. Its like walking and chewing gum at the same time. Then again, you might simply believe Google and its rants. I and tons of people don’t.
    Google repeats that it ONLY TRIES to do stuff (Listen to their words), but we’re the ones that have to check what they’re achieving… if anything.
    With NO creativity, everybody looses.

  • I talk to our clients all the time about the idea that you are trying to build trust with search engines. Verifying their Google+ business listing, Bing listing, Yahoo, et cetera and also having active Facebook and Twitter accounts show that your business is still up and running. An active blog is an easy signal for a search engine to know that they can trust someone still has the lights on. Enjoyed your article, thanks!