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Think search engines rank sites higher just because they’re popular? Wrong. A site doesn’t rank higher just because it gets a lot of traffic. Search engines actually care more about trust and authority than popularity.

But what does trust mean and how can you build it? It’s not easy to build trust online but there’s three main principles you should focus on: honesty, credibility and reliability.

Honesty

No one will trust an individual or a business that tries to deceive other people, so why should search engines? There’s those people who try to trick search engines by using spammy, deceptive SEO practices so they can rank higher on Google or other search engines. It won’t work. Your business will never be successful if your SEO strategy focuses on search engines and not on the audience you’re trying to reach.

With so many algorithm tweaks and updates, don’t be fooled – search engines know which sites deserve to rank higher so if you’re doing any of the following, you’re simply wasting your time and money:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Submitting your site to hundreds of low quality directories
  • Excessively using the exact keyword match for anchor links

Even if you do manage to trick search engines, it’ll only be for a short period of time. Soon enough your artificially inflates rankings will drop and then what? Better play it safe and be honest.

Credibility

Search engines, just like users, pay attention to elements that might point to a site’s credibility. Here are three main things that can help build your site’s credibility:

Links from authority sites

These links are like recommendations so if you manage to get some links from authority sites that people trust and value, they will carry a lot more weight than a link from a site few people have heard about. In addition, make sure those links are industry-relevant.

Positive reviews

Positive reviews as well as positive social signals from Google +, Facebook, Twitter can help a site rank higher, according to a Moz survey. Whether that’s 100% accurate and whether positive reviews can actually help your site rank higher on Google, you should still work on increasing these positive reviews as they can help increase your online credibility.

Your reputation

Do you consider your site to be a good resource for information and advice? If your audience considers your content to be helpful and interesting, they will share your links online without having to ask them. Then again, you can help build or strengthen your online reputation by guest posting once in a while on an authority site that’s relevant to your industry.

Reliability

Being reliable might mean:

Getting rid of those 404s

No one will trust a site if 3 out of 10 pages return a “Page not found” message.

Speed up your site

If a user has to wait for more than 3 seconds for your site to load, he will bounce and probably never come back. So, try to check your site’s speed regularly, figure out what’s slowing your site down and fix the issues quickly.

A little downtime is not the end of the world

So, make sure you choose a reliable hosting provider that also offers cloud hosting, thus reducing the possibility of downtime.

All in all, the only rule to building trust online is to share knowledge and add quality to the Internet. If you get it right, rankings and traffic will follow.

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