Link building, blogging, content marketing, social media, site speed, and on and on—these are the things that most website owners today focus on because these are some of the things that help their website rank higher in search engine results. But the fact is that you can have the most professional-looking website, you can blog every day, you can have tons of backlinks, and you can be an avid user of social media, but if one important element is missing, your site will never consistently do well in search results. That element is trustworthiness.
You see, in order for Google and the other search engines to rank your website high, they must first be able to trust you. If they do not trust your business or your site, you will never be able to consistently rank high and stay there, no matter how hard you try. So what exactly do we mean by being "trustworthy" to Google? Here are a few things that Google takes into consideration about your website and your business, and some ways in which you can increase the level of trust that they have in you.
Can Google trust your business' information?
You would think that it’s a no-brainer to be as accurate as possible with your business’ information, but many businesses try to fool Google with dishonest or deceitful tactics. This is especially true when it comes to a business’ Google+ Local page. Some try to stuff keywords into their name in an effort to rank higher in local search results for those particular keywords and search terms. Others use their home address or even worse, a P.O. Box or virtual address, and then try to trick Google into believing that the address is a professional office building, a retail location, or some other property located in a legitimate business district. There is, of course, nothing wrong with using a home address, a P.O. Box, or a virtual address for your business. But when it comes to a Google+ Local page, you cannot use those to misrepresent your business’ physical location. Whether they were attempting to deceive Google or simply did not know the rules, many businesses have recently learned that inaccurate business information on their Google+ Local page will get their listing suspended and of course destroy their rankings in Google’s local search results. So it’s important that you first read and understand the rules for your Google+ Local listing and be as honest and accurate as possible.
One way in which you can help Google cultivate more trust in your business’ information is by listing your business in as many good online directories as possible. The more sites and online directories that list your business’ name, address, and phone number (also known as a "citation"), the more confidence Google will have in that information. And the more confidence and trust that Google has in your business’ information, the more willing they will be to rank you high. Just be sure that your business’ information is consistent and matches in all of your listings. But for starters, make sure that your business is listed on Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, YP.com, Localeze, CitySearch, Yelp, ExpressUpdate, and SuperPages, and then add your business on a regular basis to other online directories, especially niche and local ones. Again, the more that Google sees your business’ information listed online, the more they will trust it and trust you.
Can Google trust your website?
As a website owner, you can actually influence Google’s perception of your website a lot because you have the ability to tell Google what your website and its pages are all about. Much has to do with your page’s title and description tags, which you get to write. These are the blurbs that appear in search results. Google still uses these to understand what a particular web page is about, and then they use that information in part to determine your rankings for relevant search terms. Google’s goal is to populate search results that are relevant to its users. But many dishonest website owners and unscrupulous SEO companies will stuff these tags with keywords in an attempt to rank high for those terms, or as a deceitful tactic simply to get clicks and traffic.
Google has come a long way in being able to identify and filter web pages that are irrelevant or that offer little or no valuable content. So attempting to trick Google into believing that your website’s page is about something that it is not is pointless. Sooner or later they will catch on, and they will not trust that page or your site. It would be much better to direct your time and energy into creating valuable content for people. If you focus on building a website that is full of valuable, trustworthy content, good rankings will not only follow, they will last.
Can Google trust those who are endorsing you?
In the world of search engine optimization, it is a well-known fact that backlinks play a large role in helping a website or web page to rank high. For those unfamiliar with them, a backlink is a link on another website directing people to yours. Google and the other search engines view backlinks as basically an endorsement of your website or web page. So the more links that are being directed to your site from other trusted sites, the higher Google will rank you.
Today, some backlinks are very easy to obtain, others extremely difficult. The difference is in the type and quality of the backlink. For example, obtaining a backlink by means of commenting on some random blog is very easy. But obtaining a backlink from a high authority site such as Harvard University or the New York Times is very difficult. Obviously, a backlink from Harvard or the New York Times would be much more powerful than a backlink created on a website in which anyone can create backlinks on. These are all things that Google takes into consideration in determining how powerful a backlink "endorsement" is for a website or web page, and how much that backlink should help its rankings.
One way to make Google quickly lose its trust in you and in your backlinks is by creating backlinks on web pages that have no relevance to yours. Most dishonest website owners and SEO companies create backlinks anywhere that they can in an attempt to manipulate the rankings. However, Google is smart enough to understand the relationships between web pages and know which ones should logically link to one another and which links make no sense. They are also smart enough to know that if one day you have 50 backlinks and the next day you have 1200, you are obviously buying backlinks in an attempt to manipulate the rankings. Buying backlinks is a cheap and easy way to make Google lose their trust in you.
Another type of online endorsement that can really help a business’ website rank higher especially in local search results are online reviews such as on Yelp or Google Plus. This, too, is an area that dishonest website owners and SEO companies have targeted. Some have attempted to bribe customers into writing glowing reviews about their business in exchange for something such as a free meal or a discount. Some business owners have written their own reviews. And others have gone so far as to pay cash for reviews from people who have never even visited the business. Google and Yelp have taken steps to try to filter questionable or outright dishonest reviews. Those who get caught not only suffer a punishment in their rankings in Google, but most importantly, they suffer a loss of Google’s trust. It’s just not worth the risk. How much better it would be to focus on providing good service and obtaining reviews legitimately.
The lesson to take away from all of this is that while there are many strategies and tactics that you can and should be doing to help you rank higher in Google, everything should be done with the goal of becoming more trustworthy in the eyes of Google. Sure, you can try to game the system with dishonest tactics like many others do, and you might even be somewhat successful. But that "success" will be temporary, whereas the consequences will be long-lasting.
Kelvin Newman, a well-known and highly respected SEO professional from the UK, has a saying: "Google is not the enemy, they’re just the referee". In other words, they’re just trying to keep things fair in the game of search engine rankings. Your goal should not be to beat Google; it should be to beat your competitors. So instead of trying to trick, fool, or deceive Google into ranking you higher, it would be much more advantageous to befriend them. And the kind of friends that they’re looking for are the ones that they can trust.
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