Six Degrees of SEO Separation : Can We Reverse Engineer TrustRank and Hilltop?

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Imagine playing the “Six Degrees of Separation” game, but with websites. The closer you are to having a link from Maclean’s magazine or Time, the better.

The ideal would be to actually be Maclean’s or Time, obviously.

But short of that, getting a link from either site is excellent (1 degree of separation). Getting a link from a site that was linked from Time is pretty good (2 degrees). Getting a link from a site that was linked from a site that was linked to by Time is good (3 degrees). A link from a site, which was linked from a site, which was linked from a site, which was linked from Time is OK…

TrustRank and HillTop are two search engine algorithms that are based on “seed set” of trusted sites. The closer you are to having a link (or several) from the trusted sites in the seed set, the more trust you have.

More trust means higher rankings. What if we could measure the trust our site has, or that of our competitors? Here’s an idea I just had to do exactly that.

Ironically, one of the most competitive keywords to rank for online is probably not something anyone has intentionally tried to rank for. I’m referring to “click here.” Those huge sites that have millions of links, many of which use “click here” as anchor text, end up ranking for that phrase.

And while the correlation isn’t perfect, the sites that rank for click here tend to be pretty well trusted authorities.

  • So perhaps by Googling “click here,” we can form a “seed set” of trusted sites?
  • Once you have that seed set, you can come up with search keywords in Yahoo Site Explorer that let you look for links from the likes of Time.com etc. This will show you any first degree links passing a lot of trust to the recipient.
  • If you build a scraper and get clever with it, you can even dig through some of those linking sites’ backlinks, and find 2nd degree trust relationships.
  • And while the use/benefit of this data may not have been initially evident, anyone using SEO for Firefox can look for .edu or .gov sites in a given site’s backlinks. Typically, these are pretty well trusted links too.

So SEJ readers, what do you think? Is this a valuable tip for finding out how much trust your competitors have? Is it too imprecise, or is an approximation like this better than nothing? Also, here’s a ping to @SEOmoz – Is this how your mozTrust metric works?

Gab Goldenberg writes on advanced seo for his blog, often sharing new techniques and ideas.

Gab Goldenberg

Gab Goldenberg

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Gab Goldenberg
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