Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 10 years and 269 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.
Firstly, it’s a Trustbox, not a Sandbox. “Trust filters” seem to be a large portion of what has most SEO’s in a frenzy over search engine’s currently. There are pros and cons to the trustbox for folks on both sides of the fence, and the best thing you can do no matter which side of the game you are on is understand what the filters mean and the reprocussions that they will create in the future.
So what is search engine trust?
For the purpose of keeping things simple, I would identify a site’s trust by 3 different simple criteria:
- Website Age – (most importantly the first time it was indexed)
- Total # of backlinks and the overall age of those links
- Total “trustscore” of other backlinks (How many .edu’s, .gov’s, high ACTUAL PR links, etc.)
Aaron just released an amazing SEO extension for firefox that gives some great insights to these areas.
Most trust criteria revolve around some dependence on age, which is actually a pretty good signal of quality. From things folks at Google have said in the past, the trustbox (or sandbox if you must) was the unintentional effect of some other filters that were implemented. Realizing that age was a great signal all the way around to defend against the overdependency on links, they’ve went buckwild with age variables ever since.
I’m sure there are plenty of other things that effect trust, but these are most likely tops on the list. Think age related to just about any of the search ranking factors and it could (or probably is) being used.
Just how important is being trusted right now?
I figured it was about time for a rant on the trust of domains (mainly in Google), and when I spent some time on a recent roadtrip listening to some excellent Strikepoint podcasts, I really knew it was time. DaveN has some fantastic commentary on just how important trust is in ranking in google these days. I’m not sure exactly which episode it was (I listened to three or four and they were all very insightful), but Dave, Mikkel, or JasonD talk about 85% of search rankings these days being attributed to trust, and about 15% being onpage, and it is painfully true. With a few links to a highly trusted domain, and some body copy a site can rank for just about anything whether it is topically related or not.
There are examples everywhere on the web of just how critical trust is right now to top rankings. Don’t get me wrong…trust is a very good thing, and a great signal of quality, but depending almost solely on it is not the solution, as depending nearly solely on links was not the best solution.
Two or three years ago:
SEO = Content + high PR links
Created: a micro-economy of link buying solely for google rankings Now
SEO = Crusty trusted domain + content
Will create: use your imagination.
Why the Overdependence on Trust Will Again Change the Web
The search engines are probably the most important aspect of the web. There are BILLIONS of pages of information available, but if you can’t find any of them, it makes instant access a WHOLE lot more difficult. The internet without search would be the equivalent of a library that was just a big pile of books that sometimes had a few similar books near each other.
“A link is a vote” has transformed the face of the web both for good and bad. It’s easy for SE’s to place all the blame on “spammers”, but to assume that there will be no manipulation with monetary stakes so high is somewhat naive as well. As long as the rewards are high, and the barrier to entry is low, there will be search engine spam. In addition to spam, there will always be folks who have a higher risk thresh hold for the potential of higher rewards. As everyone realized the value of a link more and more, it changed how every webmaster thought about the world wide web. The more motivated people were by money, the more extensive lengths they were willing to go for obtaining links that have their own inherent monetary value.
The over dependency on trust is the very same thing. It is going to cause trust to be abused in the very same way links were. We are already seeing the proliferation of subdomain spam, and after that is remedied there will still be the issue of hosting advertising space on a website.
One of the extremely big problems with trust filters is that they don’t seem to be retroactive…meaning that sites that were around and trusted BEFORE a particular filter was established can basically get away with murder (and they do).
The Trust Knob is Way too High…Please Turn it Back
One of the really great things about the web is that it has evened up the playing field for the little guys. The barrier to entry is constantly being raised, but for this unique window of opportunity, everyone has been given the opportunity to potentially start a successful online business if they are ambitious enough and spend time doing the right things.
Hey Google, remember when YOU were the little guy starting up in a garage ten years or so ago. Why not make the window of opportunity for little guys last just a little bit longer, and dial the trust thing back a bit eh? The trust knob has restored the balance of power right back into the hands of the big guys who can now do whatever they want with their “trusted domains” and be back in the index in days or never get removed at all. Why not give Joe’s ultra amazing toothpaste (the company with very little marketing budget because they spend their money making an amazing product) a chance to rank high for “toothpaste” for just a little bit longer instead of HELPING companies who’ve been spending millions of dollars on their “brand” instead of their product for the last decade or more?
Setting the barrier to entry so high just begs for abuse of the system. If SEO’s know that they can’t rank a new site for two years…why the hell would they bother to register a new domain…or take on a client with a brand new site? They are going to look for workarounds…and we all know what the workarounds are. The variations of these workarounds mutate and evolve to cause a whole new host of problems.
Please Google…turn the knob back before you make the problems even worse. The solution may be good in the short term, but you were great once because you helped the little guys that were hungry and cared about their customers. Focus on HELPING those people again and you will create great SERPS for your users and have to worry less about fighting spammers. Trust is a great signal of quality, but by moving so heavily to this model you are going to created the same problems that you did with the over dependency on link popularity.
Obligatory required reading on the Trustbox