"I need to be on the first page of Google", "How can I get to #1 on Google", "I need to improve my natural rankings"- these are all comments and questions that I hear on a very regular basis. Many people don't understand the correct and actual route to achieving better rankings on Google. There are many "experts" in the industry that claim that they know the absolute set of steps to ranking well in Google, the most popular search engine on the web. However, these "rules" seem to change often, resulting in confusion among clients and internet marketers alike.
The three elements of search rankings that have stood the test of time are: relevance, links and keywords. Some internet marketers seem to focus on Google Pagerank alone. While Google Pagerank is one of the many factors involved in a site's search engine ranking, it is also one the most misleading and inaccurate. Once the above three factors are considered (relevance, links and keywords), the next two most important factors are site "Trust" and "Authority". These are very important concepts to understand. Read on to learn more about what these terms really mean.
It is important to understand and know who Google "trusts". It is a common belief among web marketers that the search engine has a whitelist of sites that they trust. These are sites that have earned the trust of Google over time. Sites such as Wikipedia, newspaper sites, authority blogs, and social bookmarking sites are some examples of sites that are most likely on this list of trusted domains. We can't know for sure what sites are on this list, only the Googlers know and they aren't telling. The ultimate goal, when it comes to link building, would be to get links from these trusted sites.
Authority on the web is the same as authority offline. A person/site of authority is one that people trust to provide expert/sound advice and information on a certain topic(s). If there is a site within your industry that is seen as the authority on "insert your industry/product/service here", it is probable that Google also considers this site an authority. As more and more sites link to one particular site- the more authorative that site becomes. There are a number of factors that influence your authority within Google. These include: domain, quality/quantity of links, and traffic elements.
Now that you understand what each of these ranking factors are, let's discuss how to negatively, as well as positively, influence them.
Negative Influences on Google Authority
- Buying and selling links- Just don't do it, period.
- Linking with those that are involved in questionable linking strategies- You better believe in guilty by association (even on the web).
- Comment spam- Get rid of spam immediately, don't let it linger on your site.
- Unnatural growth patterns- Aim to grow your site naturally (content and links). Launching a brand new domain/site with 1,000s of links will definitely raise some red flags.
- Lack of link diversity- Are all of your links coming from other sites you own and your family and friends? If so, it is time to broaden your horizons. As your mom told you in high school- you need to "branch out"!
- Weak, limited or spammy content- Search engines want to deliver quality, so offer quality and you have a fighting chance of showing up in the SERPs.
Enough with the negative, let's move on to how you can improve your Google authority and trust.
Positive Influences on Google Authority
- Domain- Age, TLD (top level domain), registration period & details are some elements that are considered in domain assessment. In general, the older the domain and longer the registration period the better.
- Quality/Quantity of links- Remember, quality over quantity. Aim for links from "whitelist" sites and those with harder to acquire TLDs (.edu and .gov for example). Some other important elements to consider in regards to the sites that are linking to you and the links themselves include: relevant to the theme of your site, trustworthiness of the site, diversity of links, age of the linking domain, and the anchor text used in the link (keyword rich is best). Always keep track of the sites that are linking to yours.
- Site traffic- Quantity (actual # of visits), growth (the # of visitors increases the longer the site is live) and consistency (no large spikes and declines) of traffic to your site are extremely important.
- Your own site- this is completely within your control, so take advantage. Some important aspects to consider include: healthy amount of well written, original content; clear and easy to find privacy & contact information; usability and accessibility; load time; and time on site. Easier than all of that- you need to ask yourself honestly, "Is my site providing valuable content and information to web users?"
It is very important to understand the role that "trust" and "authority" play in search engine rankings. When examining your site for trust and authority, it is imperative that your site conveys certain things. These include: natural growth of content and links, sound promotion and marketing, original content written for users-not search engines, solid site infrastructure, human centered design, as well as playing fair in terms of link building and content creation. All of these things in unison will help build your trust and authority not only in the eyes of web users but in Google's as well.