To achieve and maintain high positions in Google, it’s not enough to deserve visibility, you have to show that you deserve it.
The credibility issues that have come about from fake news and mis-leading memes don’t just affect publishers. Every site on the internet that hopes to bode well in the Google Index of the future (along with other search engines), will need to give further consideration to the signals they are sending to the algorithms.
It’s not just about quality content, it’s about building high levels of trust and authority within search engines, proving your expertise in the subject area, and proving that you deserve to be at the top. But, how do you send such signals? Before we answer that, we need to understand a bit more about the signals themselves.
Part of the reason why Google excelled (through what was originally PageRank), is how it passed credibility from one page to another via links. Certain pages would receive more links from other more highly linked-to pages. The cream would naturally rise to the top, with links acting like votes in a voting system. The best candidates would receive the most votes and win.
Part of what makes this system work well, is that it doesn’t count all links (or votes) as equal. A link from a page about 4x4s on a car website may pass more equity to a page about car tyres, than a link from an unrelated site. Because it’s more relevant, it has a higher value. Just as how if you’re looking for car advice in the real-world, a mechanic’s vote on how to fix your car is likely worth more to you than someone with no knowledge of cars.
But, it’s not just about relevance, some mechanics are better than others. A poor mechanic might give unhelpful advice and only care about making money from you.. It works the same way with the web. - Some car websites are just out to make money from ads, and will put hastily copied or poorly researched content on their pages purely to attract traffic..
That’s where the authority metrics come into it, with trust being passed from one site to another. Back to our real-world example, it assumes that a good mechanic who has proven herself as trustworthy, would not recommend a bad mechanic’s advice, only the advice of another good one. So, a reputable car website that has proven itself would likely only link to other good car resources.
That’s when links ruled the roost… things have changed now though. While such links are still very important signals to search engines, the number of other signals has increased, as has how much they impact the results. One major area that has increased in significance over recent years is usage metrics.
Usage metrics are made up of data such as the number of visits a webpage receives and whether users stay on the page for a considerable amount of time, rather than just bouncing straight off to another page on another site (because they didn’t get the answers they were looking for on the first page).
That’s where all this ties together and brings us back to our original question: how do we send the right credibility signals to demonstrate our website deserves to rank at the top? The answer is this:
The sites that are making high quality content that directly answer the multitudes of searched questions, will acquire and send the right usage metrics signals, which in turn will acquire and send authority and trust signals. The more that happens, the more each piece of content will support each other, spreading the credibility throughout the entire site.
This does however lead us to an even bigger question: What relevant questions are our users searching for, and how can we ensure that we answer them better than our competitors? The answer to that, is called Content Compass.