I’m sure you’re aware of Google’s PageRank, but are you aware of the other Google rank, TrustRank? While it’s not exactly new most may be unfamiliar with it. It’s details may not be clearly defined and there is no toolbar for it. However chances are TrustRank is already just as if not more important than PageRank or soon will be.
What Is TrustRank?
A little over a year ago Google registered a trademark for something called TrustRank. TrustRank is meant as an effort to fight web page spam as too many web pages have been using a variety of techniques to achieve higher rankings than they otherwise should get based on relevance to search queries. The basic idea is to have experts manually identify some reputable seed sites that are evaluated to be trustworthy and from there follow the links to discover web pages that are likely to be good. The idea being that reputable sites would be more likely to link out to other reputable sites instead of spammy sites.
For those of you who like mathematical formulas and scientific papers here’s a PDF of the original research paper from Stanford University Combating Spam with TrustRank. It should also be remembered the close connection that exists between Google and Stanford University.
Why Use TrustRank
PageRank for all it’s good is easily manipulated by those who know how. The PageRank idea is a good one and helps to overcome spammy on page techniques like keyword stuffing, but with too many spammy pages still turning up at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) there needs to be something more to rank sites. The last few Google algorithm updates have been all or mostly all about eliminating spam. TrustRank would seem to be the direction they are moving.
There is no little green bar or red bar or blue bar for all of us to see a site’s TrustRank and given the way the PageRank bar has been so abused it’s unlikely we may ever see one. There seems to be little concrete information about TrustRank and how Google may be using it. The most recent article I found Google Sandbox vs TrustRank: Effect on SEO comes from Search Engine Journal this past December is certainly worth a read.
Given that search engines have a lot of motivation to eliminate spam and over the last year Google in particular has been doing a great job at removing spammy sites from the top of the result pages it’s reasonable to assume that some kind of TrustRank algorithm is being used. It may or may not be the same as in the research paper, but some kind of TrustRank algorithm is in effect.
Factors Affecting TrustRank
You probably want to know what might affect your TrustRank. Like I said only so much is concretely known about TrustRank, but some factors that could affect your TrustRank would be:
Domain Age: Spammy sites come and go so the longer a domain has been in existence the more likely it can be trusted. This probably has a lot to do with the ‘sandbox effect’ where it’s often difficult for new sites to rank well for a number of months.
Age of Backlinks: Just as with the age of a domain it stands to reason that links that have been in place awhile are more trustworthy than links that went up yesterday. An older link has given a continued vote of confidence.
Quality of Backlinks: Which would you trust more? A link from the human edited Yahoo or DMOZ directories or a link from an automated directory that accepts every site that submits. Many links can easily be identified as only existing to manipulate search results and won’t pass trust. Links from sites that use blatant tactics such as hidden text will mostly likely reduce your TrustRank and consequently your position in search results.
Remaining On Topic: Sticking to your site’s topic may increase your TrustRank by building authority for your site. A site that varies widely in the topic of it’s pages may be seen as not being an expert in any of the topics.
Regularly Updating a Site: A growing website that is consistently updated shows that the site is being attended to. It takes time to build a website’s content so it’s likely that a growing site is one that is planning on being around for the duration and not just in it for a quick buck.
Black Hat SEO Techniques: Since ‘black hat’ techniques exist only to artificially boost search engine rank they should be seen as less trustworthy than other techniques that have benefit beyond search engines. Most ‘white hat’ seo techniques would still be used even if search engines did not exist and thus are less likely to be an attempt to manipulate the search engines.
A thread started at SEO Chat entitled What Builds Trust with Google has more ideas about what can affect your TrustRank. Keep in mind that much of this is still speculation. Keep in mind too that while the details may not be known there’s no doubt that having a trusted site is gaining importance with Google.
The Future Of TrustRank
While much about Google TrustRank is still speculation it should be clear from the updates over the last few years that Google is working very hard at removing spammy sites from the top of the results pages. With each new update more and more sites that have artificially boosted their rank with ‘black hat’ techniques and link building through link farms are being dropped from top spots they once seemed to own.
Think what you want to see in results pages when you type in your search query as to where Google is heading. Most people want to see relevant results and be shown links to sites they can trust and that are authorities on a given topic. If you’re looking for information don’t you want that it from a site you can trust to provide good information? When you make a purchase online are you willing to give over your credit card number to any site or are you more likely to submit that form on a site you feel you can trust?
The major and minor search engines are working all the time to improve results and provide more relevant links to any given query. TrustRank is one way Google is doing this now and in the future. It’s time to stop thinking about artificially quick results and start working on building quality sites that build trust with both visitors and search engines. It’s time to for Google TrustRank.
If you liked this post, consider buying my book Design Fundamentals