The domain trust of a website describes its trustworthiness and integrity. There is no single, accepted calculation method for this key figure. Google and providers of SEO software use several metrics to determine domain trust. The quality of the links as well as the quality of the content are considered important elements when calculating the domain trust metric. A high domain trust is considered a ranking advantage in search results.
What is domain trust?
Domain trust is a key element for calculating the trustworthiness of websites. The quality of content and links is considered decisive for the calculation of the domain trust, however, there is no uniform calculation method.
Domain trust background
Internet users are interested in using trustworthy websites that offer added value. For Google and other search engines, delivering a best-possible user experience is highly dependent on offering high-quality sites on the search engine results page (or SERP). Search engines generally earn their money with search engine advertising. Advertising links are shown alongside organic results in the SERP and in other places on the web. The quality of the organic results can in turn directly impact the advertising environment for advertisers. Bad organic search results impact the quality of the advertisements expected by the user. At the same time, paid search results with low quality (or spam) links would represent a poor brand image for Google & co. With the help of domain trust the search engine providers can offer up higher quality websites in the SERPS.
PageRank by Google as a unit for domain trust
Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, created his own calculation model for domain trust in the early days of the internet’s development. Sergey had the proto-domain score called ‘PageRank’ patented in 1997. To this day Google assesses websites using PageRank, though the underlying algorithms has adjusted to ever-shifting requirements over the course of time. Until 2016, Google made PageRank data available for webmasters or users on a scale of 0 to 10 for websites. 10 meant the highest value, 0 was generally given for new or devalued pages. Today, however, the PageRank data is no longer available to the public.
What contributes to determining website domain trust?
There are many different reference points for determining the “trust” of a domain. Here are possible criteria that can be included in an assessment:
- Domain age: On the fast-moving web, the age of a domain is an important factor that can indicate its seriousness. For search engines, older domains are not only interesting for continuity, but also because these domains offer a very long history. Using this history, for example, the development of user behavior, traffic or linking can be determined.
- Quality of incoming links: In the early days of commercial web search, link popularity was important for the ranking. To put it simply: The more links, the better. Domain trust, however, does not consider the mass of backlinks. Links of high-quality sites play a significant role. Furthermore, anchor texts, the content within which the link was placed, as well as the URL of the linking site, are also taken into account. Those that contain many links from spam websites or from websites that are active in a spam environment, such as casinos, porn or web directories, will experience a low domain trust.
- Quality of content: The value of content is determined by many individual factors: Does the website use high-quality images that are not pixelated? Are images without copyright infringement used? Do the graphics exist on other websites as well or are they unique? Various quality standards also apply to text. Text is considered higher quality if it is free of grammar or spelling mistakes and is sensibly structured. Content directly copied from other websites, for example, leads to devaluation.
Video by Matt Cutts on the influence of grammar and spelling on site quality:
- Seriousness of the topic of the website: Website operators can ensure domain trust just by the sector of their website. For example, those who operate websites in the gambling industry, for dubious investments or porn websites, will struggle to achieve high domain trust. Of course, the internet isn’t alone in considering these kinds of sites to be dubious. On the web these sites are often characterized by massive spam or unauthorized black-hat SEO techniques.
- Objective user ratings: Ratings or reviews by users can increase domain trust. Google takes such ratings into account when ranking websites. This is especially true for local search results and the Google My Business classified directory.
- Balanced relationship with advertising: As early as 2012 the Google update to the evaluation of page layouts showed what it thinks of too much advertising in the visible area of websites. Internet sites with massive advertising content that seems to overlay the actual content have since been devalued.
- Absence of spam: It goes without saying that spam websites cannot have high domain trust. Spam can occur in many forms. Alongside unnatural link growth, Google can also categorize the excessive use of keywords in content or in the meta information, such as the meta description, as spam.
- Verifiable information on the website operator: If the masthead of a website is stored as an image or if the operator obscures their registration details, these can be an indication of a dubious website. It can also be conspicuous if websites are registered in other countries to circumvent legal requirements in the target country. This is true for many casino websites that are directed at German users, but are registered in Malta, Cyprus or the Cayman Islands.
- User behavior: Domain trust can be greatly influenced by user behavior. If the visitors quickly leaves (or bounces), remaining on the website for a very short time, this is a signal to search engines that the website is of lower quality and therefore minimal trust.
- Outgoing links: Websites that link to other websites en masse are suspicious to search engines. They could be a link farm. The domain trust particularly suffers if the outgoing links do not have a nofollow attribute.
- Seriousness of the webhoster and registration information: Like any internet user, Google can call up the website registration details. This allows the search engine to quickly recognize in what environment a website is being hosted and if it may be a bad neighborhood, which leads to the devaluation of domain trust.
How can I influence domain trust?
Those who want to influence the trust factor of their domain have several options. Webmasters should look out for the quality of content and technology. Furthermore, the site should be continuously maintained. Lots of 404 errors, for example, can indicate inadequate care of the site. The webmaster guidelines should also be observed.
It is also important to regularly check your own link profile. Are there dubious websites that link to your domain? The Disavow tool by Google can be used to devalue possibly damaging links.
It is also recommended that you store your website in the Google Search Console. This free tool not only offers central data for optimization, but also informs the user of an accumulation of unnatural links, hacks or other website problems.