You Can’t Optimize Cardboard

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There has been quite a bit of buzz surrounding the concept of trust these days. More specifically, how TrustRank is likely to have a strong correlation with search engine rankings. This is not a surprise to most SEO’s, as trust-building activities such as link development have long been commonplace for just that reason.

What seems to get lost in translation however is that the practice of search engine optimization is different from building a trusted website.

Take for example a brick and mortar store. You sell a great product, maybe even have a decent location, and all the words on your signs have been carefully selected and strategically placed. The problem? The store is made of cardboard. It sounds too far fetched right? Wrong, this happens (online) all the time.

Not only will potential customers not trust your cardboard store, but Google won’t either. The foundation is flimsy and there are no obvious ways to determine whether or not your products are credible or of quality. What I’m trying to say is that SEO is well worth the effort, but it can only go so far without a solid foundation that proves authority and credibility.

While optimization is a science to be executed by professionals appropriately leveraging content and ensuring technical elements are not a hindrance to search engines’ ability to rank content, building trust is time consuming and labor intensive. Anyone involved in the process of optimization for a site will need to make the distinction between SEO and trust building activities.

A Few Trust-Building Tips

  • Manage Expectations: make it known that the easy website optimization tasks usually have the least amount of impact. While these may provide some “quick wins” that will garner internal support, it’s not enough for long term success. Champion the foundational needs such as site architecture, content and link acquisition for true progress.
  • Link Development: Google’s entire premise is built around the idea that inbound links are an indicator of quality, relevance and authority. Ignoring the painstaking task of acquiring links from topically relevant and authoritative sites is nearly a guaranteed fail if rankings are what you’re after.
  • Authoritative Content: now I don’t mean slap some keyword-loaded articles on your site and call it a day. Meaningful content that is truly useful to your target audience is what will help to separate the good from the best. Comprehensive guides, how-to’s, comparison charts, whatever will add value to the customer experience. This is one reason why sites like Mashable, CNET and the NY Times do so well organically – they have clearly proven them as the authority in their respective fields.
  • Prove It: show your visitors how awesome you are. And if you aren’t awesome, SEO isn’t your main problem. Post testimonials, credible 3rd party reviews, blog buzz, and any other accolades that support your claim of awesomeness.

2010 is the year of trust. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get cracking because the competition is only getting stiffer. Remember that building trust requires a different set of skills and tactics that will make optimization efforts and organic visibility a cinch. It might be harder, but like all things in life the payoff will be much greater.

Rachel Andersen works for the Portland based SEM agency Anvil Media, Inc. She has expertise in all aspects of search engine marketing and specializes in SEO for large sites. Andersen has been responsible for the development and execution of dozens of search and social marketing campaigns over her time spent with Anvil.

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Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman works for the Jive Software, the pioneer and leading provider of social business solutions. She has expertise in all aspects of search engine... Read Full Bio
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