Politicians ask voters to trust them without a whit of evidence supporting their imprecations. They say just “trust me.” Today, news is constantly being declared as “fake” even when there is substantial factual basis. In our current environment where trust in media is under attack, SEOs must look for ways to instill trust in their content even before the first click.
How can SEOs add to the credibility of the sites they work on? Here are two ways:
- Reduce content-to-query mismatches by carefully optimizing pages for what users want.
- For commerce sites, exploit customer ratings and reviews for validation.
Avoid Content Query Mismatches
It has always been my contention that the SEO’s job does not end at the search result. It extends beyond simply positioning the page to perform well on the search engine and only ends when the underlying business performs well.
When a searcher clicks on a search result and arrives at the page and leaves immediately because it does not answer the query, the SEO has done a poor job. The bounce is a signal that there is a mismatch between content and query. By frequently optimizing pages that do not provide an adequate answer for a searcher’s query, the SEO conditions the user to look past the site on the search result, because it won’t answer the query on the spot.
Very large sites that offer access to databases of aggregated information are my favorite example of this. They lure the user to the site through search and then require a subscription or charge a fee to obtain the information. Once the user knows that there will be a paywall or other barrier to the information, it does not matter where the site appears in the search results, the previous experience will prompt the user to simply overlook the site.
Google’s algorithm includes bounce rate as one of its vast number of ranking factors. Reducing the mismatches is in Google’s best interest, because a search engine’s very lifeblood is user confidence. The more confident the user is that the desired information will be delivered for the query, the more likely it is that the user will continue to use the search engine. It behooves the SEO to more tightly optimize pages to ensure content/query concurrence. As we move to a mobile environment, speed of access to information will become increasingly valuable.
Customer Ratings and Reviews – Your New Best Friend
A number of studies have shown that users rely heavily on ratings and reviews. When individuals do not trust the usual “trustworthy” sources, they rely more heavily on their peers for information. Neighbor-to-neighbor private social networking sites like nextdoor.com are witnesses to this phenomenon. In my area, this site is heavily used by neighbors looking for trustworthy local repair companies — plumbers, electricians, roofing, etc. The value is in the hyperlocal, validated experience information.
If you have a commerce site and have not yet implemented a system for ratings and reviews, now is the time to do it. Google has recently announced that it is closing the Google Trusted Stores program and transitioning it to Google Customer Reviews. The details are still forthcoming. By using structured data, you can already include your customers’ assessments of your merchandise in the search results. Your product pages will show up in the search result with stars that clearly indicate the number of ratings and the aggregate results. By monitoring the pages on the site that obtain the most reviews and ratings, the SEO can make sure that products top-rated by users are optimized most carefully. This improves how the content relates to the query, boosts trust even before the first click by clearly demonstrating that the product is of value, and increases the likelihood of customer purchase.