With a number of major recent tweaks to the Google algorithm, I wanted to touch on what Google currently values in a site to try to move it up or down in the rankings. This isn’t meant to be the standard “links are important” article, but more a way to get you thinking about what should matter. Why are links important and what else should be important? If you are thinking about the end user and how Google is trying to provide the best result to the end user, you can better understand why things are valued and how Google moves further toward more properly rewarding sites for their value.
What Does Google Trust?
Links: Google uses ranking signals to decide which page is more worthy of exposure than another page. Ranking signals include content, but also include user experience and user rejection. If Google sees a stronger page show up higher and then users all tend to leave it, they will downgrade it based on that “exit velocity”. The reason links have always been a huge ranking signal is it is a way for Google to see that others around the internet value certain content. If users find it valuable, then Google wants to reward that. Sites showing it has value by sending their hard-earned visitors to this other site is a major vote of confidence. That isn’t everything anymore. To be fair, it never was, but it was always a huge piece of the value of the content puzzle. Just being a certain length or having certain words doesn’t mean as much as user engagement, and other sites linking was a measure of that.
Reviews and BBB: However, now Google is figuring out other ways to measure how the world looks at your business. Though we all know there are fake reviews out there and disgruntled people that try to blow up a business with negative reviews, Google is finding more trust in the metrics and content of many reviews. They learn a lot about a business through what people are saying about it, and in large numbers the review scores and averages from around the internet, tell a story of whether the business does a good job and can be trusted. BBB is a huge example of this. In fact, it is one of the few sources Google has actually acknowledged as trustworthy. They have a defined process to become accredited and it speaks to underline your trustworthiness as a source. Of course that isn’t the only thing that matters as their are hundreds of ranking factors, but it seems to be increasing in value. I have seen activity from the recent updates where sites with poor reviews on the BBB dropped in traffic. Others have seen the same. Keep working at your reviews around the internet. Not just Google, but the BBB, Yelp, and elsewhere. Google looks at all of it and puts it together to measure your trustworthiness.
Content: Of course your content matters. It is king after all. However, your site is viewed as an entity with trustworthiness for specific topics. If you stay with your topic of relevance, that content will likely do better than venturing off to another area you aren’t quite as trustworthy in. So SEO people may talk about domain authority, but your domain likely has a topic authority as well and not just one overall strength. You need to build good content that people stay on and read to establish trust in a topic area.
Tech: Your trustworthiness is also reflected in your site. Can your pages be trusted to load quickly or even be there? Is your site loaded with 404 errors and forms that leaves errors. That hurts your trust levels as well. If Google regularly sees content on your site disappear or move elsewhere, there is less confidence that it can be trusted as the source the algorithm “thinks” it is, and if the page doesn’t load quickly, it isn’t trusted to be a good user experience, so tech is more important than ever.
Whether you are doing SEO or not, you want your website and online presence to display you are a trustworthy choice at what you do. Though you control your website, you have less control of the wild west of the internet and the reviews people leave, etc.. However, Google loves to put value on the way the world sees your business. Good reviews, BBB accreditation, speed, and great content, will help fuel the fire. Links are still a great linking signal and very important but always think of your customer and what they will value and do your best to prove your business is trustworthy, to Google and your customers.