By C. Jeff Oakes
What Makes a Website “Credible?”
When I first began explaining the Golden Triangle to clients, the one question that was posed most often was, “What makes a website credible? Who decides?”
That is a very good question.
The short answer is that Google decides. However, this does not satisfy most people, so after long thought and much research, here is an explanation that I believe all can agree on.
Years ago when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were first developing their algorithm that would change the way we surf the web, aka Google, they were looking for a better way to find information that was sound, accurate, and reliable. They wanted a search engine
that would return results that made sense, for at the time, if one were to use the search engines then on the web, the results were anything but useful.
For instance, in 1994, if you were to type the words “business events in Lubbock” into any search engine, you might come up results ranging from horses to apple trees or crossword puzzles to porn. In fact, you would likely have to scroll through page after page of results until you found one that was reasonably near to your search. You might find something like “sale on ladies garments at Dallas Mall.”
For those of you who don’t know, Dallas is five hours from Lubbock. Close, but not really that close.
Larry and Sergey Turn the Page with Rank
Page Rank was a means developed by these two Stanford PhD students to decide which web sites would fit the bill for containing reliable and credible information and so be worthy of higher ranking in the search engine. Using a complex algorithm that gave weight to certain on-site elements and off-site elements, they developed what became the best search engine in the world…Google.
When taken together, these elements would automatically give greater weight to more credible and reliable websites. A testimony to how good their search engine really was (and still is), Google grew strictly by word-of-mouth, with no advertising whatsoever.
The off-site elements included:
- How many sites linked to the site being ranked?
- How well the sites linking in were ranked?
- Are the sites linking in related to this site or the information linked to?
- How much traffic did the site receive in a given time-frame ?
Whereas on-site elements included:
- How many links leave this site?
- How many links cross the site internally?
- How accurate are these links?
- Does the site have a terms and conditions page?
- Does the site have a contact page?
- Does the site have a sitemap?
- Do the meta-tags of the site/pages match the material on the site/page?
Of course, there are other elements, but these were the primary and most important parameters as Page and Brin saw things.
Who are Page and Brin to Say How Things Ought to be?
Some take exception to the idea that two men can tell millions what makes a site worth visiting or not, but the reality is that this is not exactly what they are doing. All they are doing is saying that this is what THEY believe to be important and “if you agree, use our search engine.” And Millions did. Thus millions of us voted that they were right. And we still vote by continuing to use their search engine.
The old search engines that we did not like, that did not return good results, and that did not place such requirements on websites are still out there. We can use them if we wish, but facing facts, most of these have adopted Google’s way, for even they recognized the usefulness of this approach.
That is just how
it is with leaders. In business or otherwise, leaders set the pace and lead the way…all others must follow or take over. Thus far, no one has taken over, so Google still leads and sets the pace.
Google Search Engine Credibility Today
A couple years ago, Google updated their algorithm again to make results fresher and eliminate certain elements that were being abused for the sake of higher results on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This update upset many who had developed large businesses centered on exploiting the loopholes in the Google process.
Of course, many of the elements remain and though these may not carry the same weight as before, they are still just as necessary to
creating a credible website in the eyes of the Search crawlers that index websites.
Here at Oakes Writing Consultants, we teach our clients how to create the elements necessary to have a credible website without gimmicks such as those that caused many websites to be “slapped down” by Google. Although some of the elements may no longer carry the weight they once did, they are still important and have an impact on how your website is viewed by the search engines.
To learn what specific elements are needed for all websites, read Elements of a Credible Website.
Of if you would like to understand how these related to traditional business models, read What Makes Any Business Credible?