Domain Authority and Website Trust featured

37 Fundamental Factors of Domain Authority and Website Trust

BY | Last UpdatedJul 10, 2017 @ 1:45 pm

Do you think that ranking instantly in Google as soon as you publish an article solely based on high domain authority is reserved for big brands with huge budgets?

I thought so as well for a long time.

It sounds like a dream come true actually, not having to build links to every single page for it to rank.

Increasing website’s domain authority and trust is something mere mortals like you and I can do quite easily by following certain guidelines.

It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it in the long run.

Because, in the end, you can build links, tweak your anchors or write Pulitzer quality content all day long but you won’t rank until you establish both TRUST and relevancy.

I have spent last five months experimenting affiliate websites and the results are obvious:

Nemanja Mirkovic

Nemanja is 30-year-old entrepreneur from Serbia. Founder of Leads Fox and PBN Fox with 6+ years of experience in SEO industry. Enjoys writing, traveling and “occasional” beer with his buddies.

Do you think that ranking instantly in Google as soon as you publish an article solely based on high domain authority is reserved for big brands with huge budgets?

I thought so as well for a long time.

It sounds like a dream come true actually, not having to build links to every single page for it to rank.

Increasing website’s domain authority and trust is something mere mortals like you and I can do quite easily by following certain guidelines.

It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it in the long run.

Because, in the end, you can build links, tweak your anchors or write Pulitzer quality content all day long but you won’t rank until you establish both TRUST and relevancy.

I have spent last five months experimenting affiliate websites and the results are obvious.

Organic Keywords Jump on Trusted Site

Organic Keywords Jump After implementing elements that increase website trust.

In this article, I will go over 37 ways to improve domain authority of your website and create a trusted brand in the eyes of Google and your visitors.

Make sure you read the part on website branding if you are in a hurry and grab our PDF checklist. Otherwise, go through the entire article and I’m sure you will find a thing or two you missed on your site.

Note: You can use these strategies for any website (affiliate, business or eCommerce), but these factors have been tested mostly on affiliate sites.

Domain Authority and Website Trust

Domain Authority vs. Website Trust

It’s important to mention that I’m not referring to Moz metric (DA) they use in Open Site Explorer along with Page Authority. Yes, increasing DA will most likely result in better ranking on search engines since it uses some of these factors in its algorithm.

But, Google doesn’t use a single metric like DA to measure your domain’s trust and it’s important not to get too hung up on the number itself.

DA (metric) is mostly about backlinks, and these are just one part of the equation which can be easily manipulated. Google is getting smarter and can not be fooled that easily. They would most likely shoot themselves in the foot if they used a metric like DA in their algorithm.

What is TrustRank?

TR is a link analysis technique developed by Stanford University researchers Zoltan Gyongyi and Hector Garcia-Molina and Jan Pedersen of Yahoo published in their paper Combating Web Spam with TrustRank (Source: Wikipedia)

It’s based on setting a smaller seed sample of trusted and SPAM pages evaluated by experts. Once set, these seed sites would serve as a benchmark when comparing other pages (such as your site).

In layman’s terms, they want your site to be the next Wikipedia, Forbes or New York Times.

Since we can’t do that (yet), we can focus on feeding the TrustRank algorithm things it wants to see on your domain so we can get as close to the authority sites of this scale as we can.

What are the Benefits of High TrustRank and Domain Authority?

  1. Google ranks websites it trusts – One of the most obvious reasons to establish trust is because you will simply rank better. While this is one half (the other one being relevancy) you will still get a major boost in ranking when you implement techniques outlined below in this post.

  2. No Negative SEO – Try nuking Forbes with GSA and see what happens. Exactly, nothing. Google will never deindex or penalize a trusted source of information.

  3. Easier outreach – This one is more practical. You can easily leverage your authority to reach out to influencers and guest post on their sites, further boosting your domain’s authority. Handy, ha?

That was quite the intro, let’s dig in and see the exact strategies you can use to establish trust.

Click to enlarge this infographic

how to increase domain authority

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Domain Based

Domain Based Trust Signals

Even before you build a website, you can think with the end in mind and how a big brand would think in a similar situation.

Domain Name

Choosing a domain name is tedious work. Exact match domains (EMD) still work like a charm. But, you have to be very careful because by going with an EMD you don’t get to brand that easily and you will miss out on several important factors. I’m a big fan of brandable domains but if you really want that relevancy boost, go with a Partial match domain (PMD) instead. Here are a few examples:

EMD – bestlaptopforkids.com
PMD – laptopsguru.com
Branded – cnet.com

Domain Registration Period

Have you ever considered registering a domain for more than a year? I know I didn’t until a year back when I read it was actually a ranking factor. I never tested it, but for the extra $10-20 I just register my domains for 2-3 years now, beats renewing them or god forbid forgetting to do so.

SSL Certificate

For quite some time it was considered a myth that SSL certificates increase rankings directly. Even though you might not see a direct benefit, think of it as a trust factor. It’s good practice, and there are some great data-driven answers that support this theory.

Setting up SSL certificate is tedious if you are going with commercial providers, but you can easily get one-click SSL with Let’s Encrypt or CloudFlare these days.

Domain Whois Info

Big brands don’t hide behind Whois privacy, and Google knows that. There is no direct correlation between having a revealed whois info and rankings but there is clearly a matter of trust. You can go a step further and place who is information in your website footer, contact page and your social profiles.

Combine these three things, and you will get a significant trust boost.

Of course, in some niches, it’s not possible due to a high level of SPAM but try to use this method if possible.

On-Site Authority Factors

You can do a lot when it comes to website authority without leaving your website and you should, ideally, do all of these steps. Build your site with your visitors in mind and think about SEO later.

Website Structure

The structure of your website plays a major role in user experience and search engine crawling. Good structure will improve your conversions too (which is important in its own regard). In most cases, especially with larger affiliate websites, it’s recommended to go with silo structure to get the best topical relevancy.

Website Silo Structure

Website Silo Structure

Website Size and Content Length

There is no doubt that Google prefers large sites when it comes to number of pages and content length. That’s mainly because big brands happen to be huge sites with a massive amount of content.

I’m yet to test how the amount of content influences rankings because in the affiliate world people are going crazy with 7000 words review posts, which is just ridiculous. Google wants you to cover the most important aspects of certain topics, not to write thousands of words of fluff. And the good thing is, it’s getting better at recognizing patterns, repetitive sentences, and topical relevancy.

Google tends to rank pages with 2000+ words of content higher. That doesn’t mean that your 300-word blurb won’t rank but it will take significantly more time and off page effort. You can’t cover a topic in-depth with 300-500 words.

Just don’t go overboard, diminishing returns are immense after a certain point (around 3500 words) and you will only waste money for minimal results.

Proper Legal Pages

Name me one brand site that doesn’t have legal pages. It’s easily overlooked and even if you think “I don’t need terms and conditions on my small niche site” you should do it anyway just to make Google happy.

For Amazon affiliate sites, make sure to create following pages:

  • Terms and Conditions
  • Privacy
  • Affiliate Disclosure

It’s easy, just do it.

Long and Detailed About Pages

Spam sites do not provide detailed about pages because the authors and the entire operation is fake and there isn’t much to say about it.

“Welcome to our site, I’m Bob from Atlanta, GA and I love writing about laptops. Have fun”

Bob is fake as sh*t and Google know that. It will give him the benefit of the doubt and rank his site if everything else checks out but considering how easy it is to create proper about us pages, we should all just do it. Take a look at our about us page. It has detailed Mission statement, principles and images of our staff.

More examples: 10 About Us Page Examples That Are Probably Better Than Yours – by Lindsay Kolowich

Update Frequency

We all know that Google’s “fresh content algo” requires certain update frequency on your site.

These updates can be:

  • New blog posts
  • New pages
  • Editing old content
  • Adding additional content to existing pages

There is an interesting correlation between update frequency and ranking (or trust).

Website update frequency study

Website update frequency study

I created a small test where one site received frequent updates on existing pages (no new pages or posts, only couple sentences every 2-3 weeks and sometimes an image.) Both had the same on-page elements and backlinks.

Result: Updated site ranked for almost 3x more (76 keywords) while non-updated site ranked for only (27) after a year. The updated site did end up with more content technically but without any additional pages.

On-Page SEO

On page SEO is one of the most important factors when it comes to ranking. A few years back we had certain rules to follow (like keyword density) and we could rank in 90% of cases and with just a handful links. These days it’s vastly more complicated and involves thinking like a big brand rather than like a SEO. Here are the most important things to keep in mind.

Keep your URLs short

Take a look at these two examples and let me know which one seems like more authority to you.

  • http://dogfood.com/top-10-best-dog-food-brands/
  • http://dogfood.com/brands

If you think 2nd one you are spot on.

Word of warning though. You will have to nail every aspect of your SEO, trust, and relevancy and it might take more time to rank if you do not have an exact keyword in your URL, but when you do, it’s going to be rock solid.

Good Read: 15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs – by Rand Fishkin

Content Quality

Google can read grammar and its getting better at it every day due to new AI technology. It remains unconfirmed that grammar and quality of content directly affects ranking but it makes perfect sense to avoid using $5 iWriter content for your money sites. Our favorite SEO person, Matt Cutts talked about this back in 2011, and you can bet your life that Google is much better at it nowadays.

No Keyword Stuffing

If you want to appear as a trusted brand, there is no reason to include your keywords in every single section of the content. Write short subheadings that do not necessarily include your main keywords.

Also, If you use your KW in heading or subheading, you don’t need to start your sentence with the exact same keyword. I believe they teach that in elementary school too.

Authority Website Subheadings

Authority Website Subheadings

Tip: Use LSI Keywords and synonyms to craft subheadings and sentences in a way that you do not repeat individual words or phrases too many times. My personal word density range is 2-2.5% (checked by this tool)

Internal Linking

If you have a big site with good topical clusters you will have many opportunities to link to other pages and posts. Don’t hesitate to link to other relevant (emphasis on this) pieces of content. There is no limit on internal linking.

Take a look at Neil Patel’s posts. They are ridden with internal (and external) links. As a user, I find it fantastic since I know Neil has awesome content and I’ll happily read more of his stuff if he thinks it’s relevant.

More on this subject:

Neil Patel’s Guide to Internal Linking

Outbound Linking

Take a look at Wikipedia or any other big site. They link externally to other relevant sites, and they do it a LOT.  Only spam sites want to keep their precious “link juice” within their site. And they don’t care about recommending someone else’s content. It’s all about them.

Since we don’t want to appear as such, the best practice would be to back every claim with proper studies, research, and references. If we cover certain topics within our site great, but for further reading, it’s always best to refer people to other sites in your niche. This doesn’t and shouldn’t always be Wikipedia. Link to other bloggers too if you think their content is great.

Further reading:

Outbound Links Tutorial – by Sean Si

Citing, References and Sources

Only the highest authority sites and scientific journals have sources and references sections. Not only that it’s illegal to steal someone’s content and claim it as your own, but Google knows that too and will consider your site more spammy if you do.

This is especially important for YMYL (Your money Your life) websites (Financial advisors, health and medical, pregnancy, kids etc) since all data has to be supported by proper research. Another acronym used alongside YMYL is E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) and that’s exactly what we are doing here.

In certain niches, including proper citations and outbound links will provide a huge boost in your domain’s authority and trust.

Read more about citing sources on hubspot blog.

Relevancy

It goes without saying that writing about dog food and SEO on one site doesn’t work very well.

But if you are planning on writing about dog training and dog food you will need to create two topical clusters. The reason behind this is that if you have 100 articles on training, you are already an authority in this niche.

Topical Clusters

Topical Clusters

But if you plan to expand in the food industry you will have a problem since your training expertise means nothing when it comes to food. You will have to write additional 20-30 pages about food to get the same result.

Ryan Stewart from webris.org did a fantastic job explaining this.

Mobile Friendly Pages

In most niches in 2017, mobile friendly pages are mandatory since more than 60% of traffic comes from mobile devices. (Source: Searchengineland.com)

These days, most WordPress themes are mobile friendly and some of them even have options to appear as apps on mobile devices.

You can test your site with Google Mobile-Friendly Test and get some suggestions from G itself.

Design of your Site

This is not directly tied to Google algorithm and it doesn’t impact rankings, but it plays role in conversions, amount of shares and relationship with influencers. In that regard, it has an indirect impact on your website authority.

Let’s take a look at these two examples, the niche is “running shoes for flat feet” (not again ha?)

  • http://runnerclick.com/10-best-running-shoes-flat-feet/
    • It’s clearly a big brand
    • It looks very nice and professional
    • Someone bothered to create a tool
    • Proper about section
  • http://bestrunningshoesforflatfeets.com
    • No logo or favicon (:/)
    • Exact match domain
    • No about page
    • Flashing Amazon buttons (?!)

If you are the owner of the second site, sorry about this, didn’t mean to trash it but it was a perfect example of my point here.

I pay a lot of attention to design and overall look and feel of both my sites and our client sites as part of our service. It’s one of those things people overlook since it doesn’t boost rankings directly.

Site Load Speed

Even if you design your site nicely, create fantastic content, it won’t matter because people will bail from your site faster than from a burning ship. Google doesn’t directly favor sites with the best load speed. Rather, it penalizes those with very slow speed.

These days, anything more than 3-4 seconds is considered slow, and you should work on improving your load speed.

My favorite plugin for this purpose is hands down WP Rocket (paid) but you can use free options like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.

Other than that, consider switching to a better server since most shared servers will cause downtime and slowdowns.

To check on my load speed, I use GTMetrix and Google Speed Test Tool.

Take a look at this video on how to use it:

Bounce Rate

This is yet another but vital indirect ranking factor. Bounce is considered when your visitors click back button or close your website within a certain period of time without interacting or clicking on other links on your page (Source). It’s a clear indication of a low-quality page.

You can measure bounce rate in Google Analytics and it’s considered that anything above 65% bounce is bad for your site.

Here are some of the most important reasons for high bounce rate.

  • Slow Website Loading Speed
  • Landing page without navigation or internal links
  • Low-quality content
  • Bad design
  • Unreadable or small font

If you focus on all other authority aspects, bounce rate will naturally be low in most cases.

Branding

Branding and Website Trust

For me, the biggest breakthrough regarding how I build and grow my websites is branding. Most people disregard these factors as non-important while focusing their energy on more off-page efforts. I see their point, but I like getting the maximum out of my site before engaging in off page and link building. Here, I will mention some of the best branding strategies I tested over the last six months or so.

Google Authorship is Still a Thing

Google has stopped using authorship even for deep pages, and most people just quitted creating author profiles for their sites let alone working on their authority.

To be honest, they are missing out big time. Google is placing more importance on structured data than ever before. For example, if you manage to appear on knowledge graph it means you are an authority in your niche.

 

rand fishkin knowledge graph

Author’s rating is also one part of E-A-T (Expertise – Authority – Trust) and if you can show that you are an expert in your field who has authority and is recognized by other influencers, your articles will rank higher no matter where you post them.

Stay tuned, I’m writing a detailed post about this in a few weeks.

Building Brand Social Profiles

One of the most basic things you can do for your new site is to create social profiles. Nowadays, even plumbers and electricians have facebook, Twitter and G+. Google uses social data and activity to measure your authority on these platforms, and that grade goes toward your overall trust score.

One thing worth mentioning is that it’s not enough to just build the profiles. You need to actively use them and post new content, pretty much like you would on a new site. A beautiful thing about this is, you can increase page authority of your social profiles by building links to them and your overall domain authority will increase along with them.

You can take a look at our facebook page, although it’s not the most active one in the world.

Using Social Media Advertising

Using Facebook or other social media advertising is a fantastic way to increase your brand awareness. Not only that you will get likes and shares which indirectly increase your rankings but you will also get visitors and possibly sales.

Your ability to run advertising campaigns will largely depend on your niche. For example, if you have a pet’s shop you will have an easier time running Facebook ads than someone doing plumbing work.

Traffic is an essential part of Google’s algorithm and this is one of the best ways to get that initial traffic before your website ranks. Just don’t try to use fake visitor bots and think you are the first one that thought of that. Google is smarter than that.

Read more: Social Media Advertising: The Complete Guide – By Christina Newberry

Display Awards and Trust Badges

This is an interesting way to display your authority. It will certainly not impact your rankings but it will boost your credibility with your visitors and drive more shares and backlinks.

Bloggers and website owners naturally link to authority sites, and prestigious awards will clear any doubt they might have.

If you are running a business, service or ecommerce site, it’s important to make your visitors feel safe while browsing and shopping. You can do so with various badges from antivirus software companies, positive SSL or Trust Pilot.

Further reading: Which Site Seals Create The Most Trust? [Original Research] – By: Ben Labay

online security badges

Apparently, Norton badge kicks a** but is it worth it?

External Authority Factors

External Authority Factors

The website owner can influence most of the abovementioned trust signals. When it comes to links, at least those that you do not own, it’s crucial to try to keep your backlink profile clean and get links from trusted sites and create good relationships with influencers.

Backlinks from Trusted Sites

We previously discussed how Google considers some sites high authority. If one of these sites links back to your page it creates a tremendous trust signal to Google.

Even if you get a Tier 2 link from these sites it’s still worth a LOT.

Secondary link from high authority / high trust site

Secondary link from high authority site

In this case, you are getting a secondary benefit and trust boost. You can achieve this by guest posting on websites featured on these news outlets.

Google considers certain types of sites as the highest authority on the web.

 .Edu and .Gov sites

Yes, this again. If you are not that new to SEO, you probably heard of .edu and .gov sites. Government links are very hard to get and there is no real way to get them unless you have some mad connections. Educational links are also hard to acquire by conventional means. Affiliate marketers exploit scholarships a lot these days. which is sad, considering how great this really is and most universities will start refusing scholarship requests from crappy affiliate sites.

Large news websites (CNN, NY Times, Washington Post etc)

There is a strict journalistic standard which large news follow and Google considers them as the most trusted sources of information. The best way to get on one of those is to sign up for HARO and help a journalist who will happily include you as his source.

Recommended read:
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – The Ultimate Guide – By Lease Ref
The Complete Guide To Using Help A Reporter Out – by Maggie Hassler

Big magazine publications (Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc etc)

Even though it’s much easier to be featured on one of these sites these days, they are still one of the best sources of authority links. Most publications have contributors who will happily write an article for you for a hefty fee and sometimes publish it on a site where they contribute regularly.

Wikipedia

Even though you can sign up for Wikipedia easily and contribute by changing any page there, you can’t get a link that easily. You need to spend a lot of time editing and building your profile so that when you add an external link their algorithm won’t delete it and ban you. Wikipedia backlinks are nofollow and do not carry a lot of direct value but there is unpalpable trust factor we have to consider.

Read more: The Fastest & Easiest Way To Get Wikipedia Backlinks – by Matthew Woodward

Viral and Q&A Sites

Reddit is the first site that comes to mind when it comes to viral news and trends. Google trusts Reddit a lot because of its strict policies to spam. Mentions on Yahoo answers and Q&A sites like Quora are also great ways to increase your brand awareness further and drive some fantastic targeted traffic to your site.

The biggest problem here is that you have to create meaningful posts and comments for them to stick. Spam is not tolerated and you will quickly get banned from these sites. Reddit is ruthless, one sign of spam and they will block your site for good.

Links from Google News Approved Sites

Many websites that are not as famous as Forbes are still included in Google news and getting a link from these sites is a fantastic way to boost the authority of your domain.If you are running a local business, it can be easier to work with local news approved sites rather than aiming for national ones.  If you can get approved on Google news yourself, it’s a step further and you will gain massive domain authority increase.

Good read: How to Get Your Website Added to Google News and Drive Real Time Traffic – by Neil Patel

Links from Industry Influencers

Google knows who are the leaders in each industry and getting links from their sites means your site is worth mentioning.

There are a few ways to get these links:

  • Guest Blogging – Writing for people in your niche, ideally influencers and high DA sites.
  • Sponsored posts – Google considers this against its guidelines but most people these days buy links instead of doing good old outreach and creating relationships.
  • Natural links – This is obviously the best way, and you can accomplish it by creating good content, small niche software and tools, infographics and videos.

Fantastic article by Brian Dean about Guest blogging: The Definitive Guide to Guest Blogging

Relationship with Influencers

If you are new in the industry, most people, especially influencers will be oblivious to your existence. The best way to start is to connect with 5-10 leaders via social media, especially Facebook and twitter these days.

After that, you can genuinely comment and appreciate their content. Don’t be generic like “Nice Article”, rather spend a minute or two and share your opinion with them, or even contribute and suggest that they add something if the article is fresh. Most bloggers will happily go back and edit it, even placing your link to you during the process.

Social Activity

Some niches and industries are highly active on social media. For example, you will get much more social activity with baby or pet products than with plumber client or work shoes ecommerce site. Social shares and activity are also one of the most important factors in Google’s algorithm.

Justifying backlinks with visitors and shares

Justifying backlinks with visitors and shares

You will need social shares before you can get backlinks because otherwise it might indicate spam and link manipulation.

Brand Mentions

Google can recognize brand mentions even if the text is not a hyperlink. For example, if I was to write Leads Fox here, Google can pick this up as brand mention. It’s not as powerful as a link of course but it adds up to your overall authority score. You can use services like mention.com to monitor your brand across the web, and if you notice someone mentioned you without linking, you can drop them an email and request that they add it. It’s called link reclamation.

Alternatively you can setup Ahrefs alerts whenever someone mentions certain keywords.

High organic CTR

Saved this one for the end, but it doesn’t mean it’s the least important. Google puts a lot of value on organic search Clickthrough rate for a good reason. When users scan search results they usually recognize brands they like and click on them even if they rank on #5-6.

The fact that majority of users are clicking on that site rather than #1-3 it will immediately push the site with higher CTR to higher position to see if how users react. If this site gets many more social shares and backlinks during that short window of opportunity, it will soon take the #1 position and will be there for quite some time.

Conclusion

Working on your brand and domain authority can be one of the best things you do long term. Any link building effort after that is amplified and gives results much faster. If I had to choose my favorite it would certainly be website and author’s branding these days.

Recap:

  • Focus on trust from get go – Grab a branded domain for 2-3 years with public whois info if possible and SSL certificate.

  • Tweak On-Site Factors – Website structure is key. Content should be well formatted, detailed and without grammar mistakes. Focus on On-Page SEO especially internal and external linking. Don’t forget to make your site user friendly while keeping the load speed in mind.

  • Branding – Work on your author’s trust and authority. Build and maintain social profiles and use social media advertising to increase your reach and brand awareness.

  • Work on External Factors Actively – It’s not enough to just leave your site and hope for the best. You must actively seek and create relationships with bloggers and influencers. These relationships will prove to be the best long term investment for your brand.

 

Give it a try, I’m sure the results will be great!

Your Turn

What is your preferred method to increase website trust and authority? Do you have any questions or something I missed you would like to add? Feel free to comment below and share if you like this article. Your contribution is much appreciated 🙂

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