Graeme Benge

Is Authority And Trust Earned Or Given?

8th Feb 2013 Content Marketing Blog, SEO Blog, Social Media 4 minutes to read

What is authority?bigstock-Trust-10707392

Domain Authority has been a site metric used by SEOMoz for quite some time now. But I think this metric should actually break out of the confines of a bland calculation and become an aspiration for site owners.

As a concept, domain authority refers to the collective value of all indicators of trust and strength a site has earned. Domain authority could also describe a website as being a branded resource of influence, evidenced by social proof and quality inbound links, referencing quality content.

Bit of a mouthful, but let’s break that down.

  • Domain Authority reflects the trust in a site that a search engine has
  • It also reflects the success of a site for ranking well for multiple and long tail keywords
  • It highlights a scale of quality inbound links that once reached can generate a force field protecting your site from the Empire, Voldemort as well as nasty negative SEO-ers
  • Most of all though, Domain Authority should reflect the TRUST a site engenders from its user base

Why would you want it?

Seems a trite question as the answer is… well a bit obvious, but it’s not often people refer to their aspirations for a website as being “to become an authority”. Tends to be “rank first, get a bucket load of traffic and make a ton of cash” or words to that effect.

Taking a step back, a successful business is built and sustained on reputation and relationships and this simple fact is what should be applied to any business website. A reputation is built slowly (and tarnished quickly) through establishing yourself as a specialist in a particular field and the signals sent that attract consumers to your messages. Your content then becomes your recruitment tool; it will establish your brand and maybe generate some fans to help bear the load of promotion. Those fans will become the benchmark for how you handle your relationships and reinforce what perception there is of your brand as something to trust and go to. Repeatedly.

If that is at all desirable, applying it to your shop window…no not the real one, the 24/7 one now found on desktops, tablets and mobiles, right?

Why would you not do it?

There are cases where a site needs to be lean and mean. Get ‘em on site and get their wallets/purses open, quick smart. Having gawkers land on your site and not really interact is a big deterrent for site owners when the lengthy time and cash investment for a project is taken into consideration. That is a blinkered view as ultimately a user needs to trust you before flashing the cash; but it can be a hard view to overcome without some timelines to signpost the route to success.

 How do you do it?

A point of reference would be good but there isn’t a list of what authority sites there are currently for you to look at in your niche. Technorati has its top 100 blogs but that’s just a segment of the millions of sites out there. SEOMoz has its monthly Top 500, but again this is dominated by news and publishing sites.

You need to take the high ground and become whiter than white. Keep on top of your back link profile. Welcome and expand on links from varied sources. Sources that themselves show strong trust signals, such as:

  • Thoughtful and targeted content being added frequently
  • Social engagement –people sharing from the webpage to their social networks, effective social recruitment and engaging by actively responding to comments
  • A mix of on page links; author bio links, external links to other authority sites, unpacked links
  • Off-page a variety of inbound links from strong sources

The best example of building authority through a user base over a hyper-technical solution has to be the Huffington Post. As well as the constant content, it’s a barrage of social prompts. No wonder it tops Technorati’s list:

Share or Follow: The HuffPo Authority Is Earned Through Users Not Wizardry

An authority site doesn’t rest on its laurels waiting for engagement to come to it either. Breaking what you know about your audience down can reveal the best ways to interact with them. There will be times when a carpet bombing approach might work, such as the announcement of an event. There may be other occasions when a more refined approach is required. This post highlights an interesting way to use Facebook’s Post Privacy Gating to promote to specific fan segments and not just all of your fans.

Features to consider are:

  • A range of content types; not just text but video and image based content too. People process information in different ways – don’t alienate
  • Value features; how to guides, tutorials or whitepaper downloads

Our range of Whitepapers have added an extra dimension to our offering and is extending our reach as we’re opening up the channels of communication to people that would normally seek, consume and leave.

Koozai Free Whitepaper "Facebook Pages - Creating, Optimising & Analysing"


Mia Hamm said “Success Breeds Success”, but that describes the tipping point. Before reaching this point, it takes a lot of graft and a commitment to understanding what it is that inspires trust in your user base. Conquer that and apply a considered approach to fulfilling their appetites and the search engines will follow suit.

The tipping point will come when the viral potential of your site starts to be realised. But it can’t stop here. Having understood your audience’s demand and your strengths, you must capitalise on this with a strategy that feeds that demand with unique content that can’t help but be shared.

Image Credits

Trust – Big Stock Images


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