“If you want to know how to rank a website to the top of Google, all you have to do is think like the MIT graduates working on the algorithm for Google.”
(Paraphrased, and he may even deny he said it, but I remember it well when he said that me and a group of people in about 2003)
Whether or not he said it, it’s true, and the number one goal of Google’s team is to create an excellent user experience.
Do you remember how Google (n.) became Google (v.)? Back in the mid to late 90s, I was using search engines like “Excite”, “Lycos”, “Yahoo!” and MSN. In fact I had to login to my “hotmail” address just today for something because we subscribe to Office 365. In 1997, all we had to do for SEO at the software company I was working for was stuff keywords and “update” our website once a week and we were number 1 again nationwide for “document imaging”! At any rate, I remember hearing this buzz about “Google” back in 1999. People bragged about how you could find what you needed in the search results much faster-maybe even in the first page!
As a result, Google leapfrogged the other search engines and we all began to turn to Google as the easiest way to find what we needed or wanted to find.
That is what Google has always been about: creating the best user experience.
(You could argue making money is what they are about, but they don’t make money if we don’t go to their site.)
Without an excellent user experience we would never go back. We would look elsewhere. It may not ever get so bad we go back to the library (in person), but if it got more difficult to use we would begin to look elsewhere for what we want. If we don’t go back, we don’t click on the ads, and THAT is how Google gets paid for their search engine services, so user experience is vital to their existence. We “vote” for Google with our searches and clicks.
Therefore, it makes sense that the smart guys at Google would prefer, all other things being equal (which they never are), to rank trustworthy sites over non-trustworthy sites.
How do you create a trustworthy site? One way is by adding legitimate trust signals. The best part about it is that these are things your actual visitors care about anyway. If you have trust signals on your site, people stay on the site and convert more (relative to NOT having trust signals) which also has a positive effect on your rankings.
What are trust signals?
Trust signals are anything on a website that tells people and search engines you are “legit” or trustworthy. This could be a BBB logo (linked to the BBB page that proves it is legitimate), awards, testimonials, certifications, etc. Anything that tells people why you are a good and trustworthy company will certainly help your site convert, and more and more Google is looking for these elements on a page.
For example, on our home page we have our Google Adwords Certification, our SEMPO certification, our BBB logo, Hubspot and Google Partner. These are industry related and should convey trust to visitors and to the search engines.
Indirectly “trust signals” could mean just about anything that improves user experience, including great content people engage with. Off of your site it could mean having your content shared on blogs and social media. Come to think about it, EVERYTHING about SEO is related to trying to build trust on some level.
The bottom line is take pride in those awards and certifications. Not everyone will see or understand them, but the search engines may, and they do matter to the people that care about them.