Feature Article (Pub: December 06) What is Google Trust Rank and does it really exist? by Perry Rich

Pretty much anyone concerned with how well their website ranks in Google has heard of Page Rank. Page Rank is defined as the degree of importance or value that Google has for a specific web page. If you want to find out what the Page Rank of your website is then try our free online tool that will tell you, or you can find it as an option if you use the Google toolbar.

Page Rank is a mark out of 10 starting from 0, so if you launch a new site your page rank will start at 0 and then will change depending on the quality and Page Rank of the sites and pages that link to your site. Hey presto, next Page Rank update your site will have an increased ranking.

Page Rank is a factor that goes towards how well your site actually does rank for specific words and phrases, but it is far from the only factor, as the guys at Google are more aware than anyone else that you can purchase or rent a text link on another site to artificially increase your Page Rank. Therefore they aren't going to make PR the sole factor in determining how well you rank.

Defining Trust Rank

Anyway now we've refreshed your knowledge about PR or introduced you to the area, let's have a think about Trust Rank (TR). This is not quite as easy to define as PR, mainly because there doesn't seem to be any specific announcements or definitions of this term from the Google folks themselves, although I may be wrong on this, so if there is one please send me the link.

For the purposes of this article I'd like to define TR as the level of esteem that Google has for your website and website content. If Google were a human being, then it's the equivalent to Google letting you be it's buddy as it thinks you're OK.

So how do you know when you are Google's buddy? Obviously it is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when Google brings you into its inner circle of friends, mainly because there are too many factors involved in when they decide this, as well as no existing tool to actually track progress or measure TR (because we don't know every factor that determines it).

One thing is for sure is that Google doesn't trust easily and rarely gives its heart away, you have to be pretty special to make Google bat her eyelids. An obvious example of one site that makes Google swoon is the BBC site. This is the perfect example of a site with the highest level of TR available using whatever scale Google have in place, and leads on to what the benefits are of having a high TR site.

Benefits of a high Trust Rank

Quite simply, if 1000 site owners (including the BBC site owner / owners) all got together and added exactly the same page of content onto their sites, had the same code in the template, had the same Meta data, and had the page in an identical place in the site structure, with identical inbound and internal links pointing to the page, then the BBC page would rank highest in Google for any content / phrases that you typed into the engine that contained said phrase.

This is what TR is all about, it's Google saying "This site is great, the information on this site is just right for my customers, and so if it's published on this site then I think it's going to be the best place for my customers to read it". One way you can tell this is the case is that you have an entire website dedicated to, and built around, a single phrase with high keyword density and excellent optimisation coding, yet a page on the BBC site always ranks 50 places higher than you (usually in the top 10 of Google UK especially), with maybe two mentions of the phrase and minimal content on the domain to back it up.

This can be frustrating as Google is not always right, great information can be provided on sites that are new, that do not have 100 copywriters working full-time on it, or from companies that do not have turnovers in excess of £2 million per year.

So how do you get around the issue of are providing great content but not getting the high rankings that a domain with a high level of TR has? Well, if you can't beat them, join them. To continue with the human analogy the main role of the SEO is to make you attractive, to catch Google's eye, so we'll take your fundamentals, we'll tone you, sculpt you, pluck your eyebrows and give you a sexy walk. Deep down it's still you but we'll just be presenting you in a certain way to Google that we know it will like. Of course some SEO's use more drastic measures which are referred to as 'black hat techniques', this is where they try to fool or mislead Google, they lie to it hoping to gain its trust. Inevitably these tactics fail to win it over in the long run, and when discovered your site will be banished to the deepest, darkest place in the land and she'll never talk to you again.

But if you are patient, if you are interesting, if Google's customers love you... she'll take an interest. If her friends like you (e.g. you have a link to your website from a site with good TR such as the BBC site), then she'll start to like you and once she really likes you, well that's when you'll be getting 1000 referrals from Google per day!


Perry Rich is Assistant SEO Specialist at CommerceTuned.

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