If you want to rank high in the SERPs with your website, you must have authority and domain trust, in other words, credibility in addition to other factors. A website is considered trustworthy or assigned high domain trust by Google and other search engines only if it is filled with valuable, useful information and is free of spam or unethical practices. Domain trust can also be increased through inbound links or domain age. Overall, there are many aspects which may affect domain trust.
For a long time, Google PageRank was used as proof of high domain trust in SEO circles and on the web. Based on a classification system from 0 to 10, major government sites have been classified with a PR10, while new sites customarily started with a PR0 for example. Webmasters could strengthen their PageRank by getting backlinks from sites with a high PageRank. In practice, however, it said very little about the domain trust of a website since websites with weak content could get to a high PageRank through link exchange. Consequently, domain trust must not to be confused with PageRank nowadays.
Domain trust itself can be described as the interplay of many factors which can prove the respectability and credibility of a website.
In contrast to pure link popularity, proximity to other credible websites is a crucial factor for domain trust. Backlinks must therefore come from trustworthy sources and there must be no connection to spam or untrusted sites that violate Google’s quality guidelines.
The basic assumption behind this is simple. Spammers link to spammers. So if many links of a website come from untrusted sources, Google considers that website, spam as well. In contrast, high credibility can be gained if the backlinks come from websites that already enjoy high credibility. Examples would be nytimes.com, zeit.de, Wikipedia, established big brand addresses or official sites of professional associations or political authorities.
Spam is not suspected on these websites, and a link from such a site can assist your own domain trust. If the concerned website is attacked with spam, it may harm their ranking considerably less than if no credible links were available.
Following the same spam to spam theory, you cannot link to spam sites yourself so as not to lose credibility. If it becomes necessary to mention an untrusted website address on your website, for example as a warning against spam, the nofollow link should always be used.
Google has access to the registration data of websites and can include them with the ranking. Google can see how many and which domains belong to one and the same registration address. If a majority of the domains that are registered under the same address are not trusted, the domain trust will be reduced for the remaining domains and vice versa. This procedure is also the reason why newly registered domains that are still unknown and whose registration data have no connection to other credible domains, often have to take the tedious hurdles of the Google sandbox, whereas websites that are registered under the address of major brand names such as Nike do not have such barriers. The length of time that a website has been registered can also have impact on domain trust. The longer the website has been registered and configured, the more likely it is that this is a website with respectable intentions.
Search engines also evaluate the behavior of visitors to a website. Through Google programs such as the toolbar or Google Analytics, Google can recognize the user data on a website and include certain user-behavioral patterns in the ranking. User behavior on spam sites differs from the behavior on trusted websites. A very natural user activity will be given a higher domain trust. For this purpose, the length of stay on the site and a low bounce rate are usually counted.
The quality of content on a website can be considered as a measure of their credibility. If unformatted text is published with many errors, these can be indications of a poorly maintained website and should not be granted high trust. The same applies to copyrighted content that is used without reference to the source or copied texts that have already been published on another website. Even the veracity of content could play a role in the determination of domain trust. Thus, for example data used on a website may be checked against trusted sources to determine the veracity of the content. Google is already researching this topic.
According to the German Telemedia Act, a commercial website must have a valid imprint. The person responsible for the website’s content must be named and a fast way of contact must exist. If the imprint is missing on a website, or it consists of false data, this can be an indication of a non-trusted site. One may assume that Google and other search engines have algorithms that can search the imprint for necessary trust signals. Because in principle, a commercial website with respectable intent should have nothing to hide. This also applies to the imprint in image form, as it has long been used by link exchange sites. The image itself is not readable by crawlers and can thus be included as a negative aspect in the evaluation of the domain trust. Moreover, it is possible that Google takes into account whether a site operator is registered in the public Whois database.
A website or brand name being frequently mentioned on the web could be an indication of high popularity. In the eyes of a search engine and in the eyes of users, this may represent a sign of the trustworthiness of the relevant website. It can therefore be assumed that Google includes mentions of websites and brand names on the Internet in the trust evaluation. In this context, it may be useful to register the domain name as a trademark since it is often the brand name as well. After Google’s Vince update, strong brands are preferred in the ranking because they already enjoy high trust through their popularity.
Whether social signals are ranking-relevant is repeatedly discussed in the SEO scene. It is assumed that frequent mentions of a site and links from social networks can result in a higher domain trust.
Domain trust is an important factor for webmasters and SEOs to classify not only your own website, but also to evaluate other sites. This analysis can be especially important if the link profile of a website is reviewed. If a lot of websites whose trust can be classified as low or that turn out to be spam pages in an analysis link to your site, you will have to take action. The inbound links should be canceled immediately through Google’s disavow tool and the webmaster should be asked to remove the link to prevent damage to your own domain trust.
To avoid damage to the credibility of your own website, you should do regular monitoring. Webmaster receives alerts through the Google Search Console if their website receives suspicious backlinks or may have been hacked. Individual trust signals can also be an indicator to users if a site is trustworthy or not. Especially in online shopping, domain trust denotes an additional factor, namely security. Signals such as a secure https connection or reputable payment options, clear and transparent shopping cart process provides the necessary security. Independently determined user ratings may provide better feelings for the customer, but can also increase domain trust with Google.