Let’s cut to the chase: The No. 1 SEO and marketing tactic that you need to focus on in 2007 is trust.
Not rankings. Not Diggs. Not PageRank. Not writing great articles. Not linkbait. Not social media.
The problem with this is that trust is not something you can easily quantify, and your supervisor will probably want to see hard data at year’s end. What do you normally measure? Rankings, traffic, inbound links, revenue, ad spend, ROI, profit…. All of these will be influenced in 2007 by trust. (They’re all being influnced now by trust, actually.)
“Trust? What’choo talking about, McGee?”, I hear you saying.
Okay. Let’s rewind a bit. Let’s talk about your site profile. Let me capitalize that: Site Profile.
Search engines have a lot of information about you and your web site. They can easily access your domain registration and get your
- business name
- when you registered the domain
- for how long
- where the domain is hosted
- how many other sites are hosted on the same server
- and much more
— just from the domain record. Type your domain into DomainTools.com to see how much info. is quickly and easily accessible about your domain. (Here’s my record.) Or check out Rand’s great post detailing every web site statistic publicly available.
That’s not all, of course. The search engines have copies of your web site and they track
- how many pages you’ve added
- when you added them
- when your pages were last updated
- who you link to
- who links to you
- how often you add new links
- how often you get new links
- and much more.
In short, there’s very little a search engine can’t / doesn’t know about your web site. All of that information, all of your behavior, adds up to a Site Profile that the search engines have for your site.
Why does this matter?
Your site profile defines how much trust the search engines have in you. It plays a big part in what you can do without getting in trouble, and what you can’t. A good analogy comes from the world of sports: If Kobe Bryant has a bad game, it’s generally okay because the team trusts him and knows it was just a fluke. If Kobe Bryant develops a pattern of having bad game after bad game after bad game, that’s cause for alarm.
In the SEO world, think back to Donna’s post talking about Google explaining this exact thing, when Adam Lasnik said: “…we’re not looking to penalize folks for a ‘bad’ link here and there. Rather, our algorithms are tuned to look for patterns of ‘egregious’ linking behavior….”
Google is saying, “If we trust you, a bad link is no big deal. But if you break that trust by doing it egregiously….”
An example: If you have a strong site profile with lots of quality inbound links — i.e., if you have a good reputation and have earned the trust of the search engines, a 3-way link trade will have less impact on you than on another site with a weaker profile. For example, it’s okay if Search Engine Roundtable links to Todd Malicoat, then Todd Malicoat links to SEOmoz.org, and finally SEOmoz.org links back to Search Engine Roundtable. All three are highly trusted by the search engines. If three unknown mortgage sites trade links to and from one another, the search engines would likely look at that as a “pattern of egregious linking behavior”; they don’t have the trust.
So, how do you build trust?
1. Get links from trusted (authority) sites, which generally occur when you…
2. Provide great, link-worthy content, products, widgets, tools, etc., but can also occur when you…
3. Get listed or talked about in trusted verticals, AKA “industry-specific expert sites” (as Google likes to call them).
4. Make yourself known. Did you notice in the paragraph above that I said “three unknown mortgage” sites? As a general rule, sites that are doing “black hat” or untrustworthy things are trying not to be discovered. So, in 2007…
5. Adopt Participation Marketing. Go out and find your customers, join their conversations, and get them talking positively about you and linking to you. This includes:
- bloggers in your industry,
- writers/reporters in your industry, and
- peers in your industry.
7. Expand naturally. Just as you have to be careful how many links you add in short period of time, so, too, do you have to be careful about adding too many pages too quickly (in relation to your existing page count). As you grow, try to grow at a similar rate over time. Why? Because rapid growth is a common spam tactic. Spammers create new sites with thousands of pages in a matter of minutes. You don’t want to do what they do. Remember what my mom said….
7. Clean up your duplicate content. This includes repetitious page titles, meta tags, and body copy. Sure, it’s probably accidental, or the result of a crummy CMS, but don’t give the engines reason to think you’re trying to get the same content indexed five times with five different URLs.
8. Don’t keyword spam. This covers a lot of things, like having too many keywords in your
- domain name
- directory names
- file names
- sitemap links
- image alt attributes
- keywords tag (if you use it)
It’s okay to use keywords in these places, but don’t overdo it. (see note above re: my mom)
9. Link out! (This should probably be higher on the list.) Don’t get caught up in trying to hoard your own PageRank. Link out when it benefits your visitors. Link out to other quality, trusted sites. Don’t be afraid to drink the hub/authority juice. Who you link to says a lot about who you are.
10. Use affiliate links carefully. If you start to create low-quality pages specifically for the purpose of putting affiliate links on them … red flag.
11. When you register or renew your domain(s), register them for more than one year and don’t use the private registration service. (Unless you’re using Google Apps for Your Domain, which has private registration built in, but that’s trustworthy in Google’s eyes since you’re using their service.)
12. If all else fails, buy an older, trusted domain. Trust, like most everything else in this world, can be bought.
Focus on trust in 2007. Trusted domains / sites can get away with things the rest of us can’t. When you have trust, you have freedom. And when you have freedom, it’s easier to make all those metrics you need to account for at year’s end look good.
What did I leave out? What other ways are there to build trust with search engines?
[tags]trust, seo, sem[/tags]