One of the rarely mentioned aspects of search engine optimisation is building trust – not just with your users as a business entity, thus giving them confidence to buy from you – but also with the search engines and other websites you wish to link to you.

Trust is an important factor in establishing your website as a credible source of information, and showing integrity and respectability will assist you in achieving higher rankings both indirectly and directly. Indirectly, it will help convince any webmaster or marketing team from whom you seek a link that your website is indeed a valuable property to be associated with. More directly, it can help to contribute to your Trustrank or Harmony rank, which we are likely to see more of as the growth of dynamic content accelerates and the search engines are subjected to a vast increase in spammy techniques in order to dominate the SERPs.

Trustrank and HarmonyRank go beyond PageRank in adding weight to the value of a page or website through expert assessment or user behaviour. It is ‘people power’ PageRank in essence, where the value is assessed not by a complex algorithm per se, but by how humans who review and visit the site then value, use and distribute the content. This is then used to suggest pages or websites which deserve higher merit in the SERPs, or to rank sites based on user demographics and behaviour.

As the search engines and the world wide web evolve, we are seeing a return to core business and human values, rather than purely a reliance on complex mathematical algorithms to create relevant returns on searches. In order to win, even in search marketing, it is slowly but surely becoming obvious that you need to behave in a similar manner as you would be expected to in the ‘real world’.

Any bricks and mortar business which treats its customers impolitely or unfairly, who fails to deliver a quality product, or who does not focus on core values when conducting business will inevitably lose customers and market share. Any person who fails to adopt and adapt to the norms of society, treat others as they wish to be treated, and so on, will struggle to develop relationships. We are seeing this reflected now online.

Developing trust is something which takes time and effort. However, as we all know from the real world, it can yield results in all aspects of life that can often be far more than expected eg through networking, personal recommendations, partnerships and so on. One of the methods proving successful for building trust and relationships online, commercial and otherwise, is social networking, which is of course just a reflection of interaction in the real world. It is by being social, communicating, conversing, being open and honest, and behaving appropriately that trust is developed.

Some simple methods for ensuring that you build and establish trustworthiness are to ensure that:

  • all your contact details are out in the open
  • you connect or link to, as far as possible, with authoritative and respected sites only
  • you publicise any brands, names or authors so that they are cited on the web and recognised
  • and possibly, most importantly, you interact. Not just with potential customers, but that you also create the network of contacts who may provide you with unexpected opportunities, both for profit and learning. This means constructing a social networking strategy which includes sharing knowledge and expertise for the sake of sharing, rather than with a hidden or financial agenda. Involvement with barcamps and so on spring immediately to mind, as well as the tools available such as Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook, forums, blogs etc.

It is all about communicating and sharing, and building a sense of trust around you, your business and your website, as well as optimising for the search engines.

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About the author:

Phil Robinson is an online marketing consultant with over 17 years experience in marketing planning, internet strategy and online acquisition. In 2004, Phil founded ClickThrough, an ethical search marketing agency. He gives best practice training for businesses, runs seminars and writes books on digital marketing.