It’s not easy for search engines to choose the 10 best results for your query from 4 billion pages on the web. It takes sophisticated algorithms to efficiently crawl, filter and sort the entire internet. Google evaluates websites, in part, based on the reputation of every brand, organization or individual its crawlers encounter.
Google favors the most reputable brands and organizations. They are rewarded with higher positioning in the search results and more organic traffic. Reputation matters to Google because it’s a signal that they can use to independently verify the quality of information and trustworthiness of brands.
If you sell a product or service online, Google is trying to figure out how risky it would be to do business with you. Is it likely your customers will get what they expect? Or are you a risk to your customers’ finances, health or happiness?
Google emphasizes independent and expert opinions of your organization or website to evaluate your reputation. And Google goes to great lengths to find this information and determine its authenticity. They are keenly aware that the information you provide on your website may be biased or misleading. Some websites even fake their product reviews.
Google weighs the information you provide about your brand or organization with the information it gathers from independent sources. They want to learn about the experience of real visitors to your website and the opinion of experts in your field. They seek to evaluate the information on your website and your brand/organization as a whole.
Important: To determine your authority, Google trusts 3rd party, independent sources first and the information you provide on your website second.
Google does not blindly accept the information on your website. They are skeptical about the information you provide until it’s verified by 3rd parties.
They are looking for experts in your field writing about you, reviews written by real customers on 3rd party websites, references in news articles, citations in industry publications, customer sentiment in forum posts and other credible information written by independent individuals.
Google can read the entire web and figure out what you are known for in your category. Is your reputation positive?
Case study: Negative Reputation
We did an investigation a while back into a European mobile phone accessories website. They sell tech gadgets and phone cases.
Their organic traffic has decreased steadily in recent years despite their best efforts to optimize their site and create compelling content. Our investigation revealed that Google had penalized them for their poor reputation.
Take a look at their reviews below on their Trust Pilot profile below. The fix for their situation is relaunch their business with a new brand (and new website) that treats its customers well. (Ouch. They don’t want to hear that.)
It’s hard to recover your organic traffic when Google thinks you mistreat your customers.
Building Authority by Improving Your Reputation
Now that you’ve got an idea what Google is looking for, what concrete steps you can take to improve your reputation?
First and most important…You must delight your customers with your product/service, publish accurate information and demonstrate category-leading expertise. There is no way around this and you can’t fake it for long.
You must demonstrate the positive attributes of your brand/website often on your site and 3rd party sites. We want your positives to be positioned where Google is looking.
Here are some specifics to think about:
- Are you recommended by experts?
- Are your product reviews positive or negative (or fake)?
- Have you won awards in your industry?
- Do professional societies write positively about your organization?
- What does Wikipedia say about your organization?
- Is your brand associated with any controversies or issues?
- What industry trade groups or professional societies are you affiliated with?
- Are there any high authority organizations in your industry that you are associated with?
- What are people saying on Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Amazon or Google Shopping?
- What is the press saying about your business in news articles?
- What other forms of recognition have you received?
- Is your brand associated with any misconduct, criminality or fraud?
- What is the reputation of the authors on your website?
- Can you say more about your authors’ affiliations, background, etc?
3rd Party Opinions
Google uses its vast resources to search the web for information about your organization. They use this information to determine your reputation. Google trusts independent opinions of your organization the most.
For example, US News published a glowing review of the Tesla Model 3 (see the screenshot below). The review even includes quotes from equally glowing reviews published by other news outlets. Google takes notice of these mentions and rewards brands with positive attention.
Insurify is a tech startup that simplifies the process of finding insurance. When browsing their website you will find a number of “trust factors” that bolster their reputation Google. For example, they have a number of prominent advisors on their board. They are licensed and in good standing with all 50 states. And they have received a number of industry awards.
They were smart enough to display all of these trust factors prominently on their website so Google can easily take notice. The “Awards and Recognition” section of their website (see the screenshot below) lives on their About page with many other important trust factors.
Google will detect these trust factors and seek to verify them with independent information published by 3rd parties.
Leverage the Reputation of Others
Can you hire authoritative authors to boost your reputation?
Websites that publish information written by authoritative authors in their industry can “borrow” reputation from the authors. Be sure to include critical information about the author in the byline. Take a look at the byline and list of citations below. This byline appears in an article published on an opioid addiction treatment blog.
This byline is a signal to Google that the information in this article was written by a qualified professional and the information represents mainstream medical advice that is accepted among professionals in the medical field. The citations further cement the legitimacy of the information and the author.
Building a positive reputation that Google notices starts with treating your customers well. Then, focus on building relationships in your industry. The next step is to show off your “trust factors” so Google sees the company you keep and all of the other reasons web visitors should trust you. The result will be an online image that Google rewards with rankings and organic traffic.