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PageRank vs TrustRank: What's the Difference Between These SEO Metrics?

Understanding PageRank and TrustRank
An effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy requires knowledge of which metrics search engines use to rank websites. Although there are dozens of SEO metrics that can influence search rankings, PageRank and TrustRank are two of the most influential. But unless you're familiar with the mechanics of these SEO metrics, you won't be able to leverage them in your SEO efforts.

What Is TrustRank?

Scoring a top search ranking isn't as easy as tossing up a basic WordPress website and publishing a few mediocre-quality posts or articles. You must project your website as a credible, trustworthy source of information. Otherwise, competing websites with a stronger search engine optimization (SEO) will outrank it. By improving your website's TrustRank, however, search engines will view your website as being more trustworthy and credible than your competitors, leading to higher rankings.

Developed by Stanford University researchers Zoltan Gyongyi and Hector Garcia-Molina and Yahoo!'s Jan Pedersen, TrustRank is a computer algorithm that's designed to separate reputable websites on the internet from spam sites. It looks for signals, both on the website itself as well as other sites, to measure the trust of a website. If a website lacks the necessary trust signals, it's classified as spam and thus filtered from the search results.

Countless websites are used as spam to drive sales, leads or ad revenue. Some webmasters, for example, use content spinning software to automatically fill their web pages with text content. The content is typically copied from other websites, but the software scrambles it so that search engines think it's unique. Other webmasters simply create small, thin websites that feature a call to action (CTA), but no real content. TrustRank is designed to identify these spam web pages in the search results and separate them from their trustworthy counterparts.

Google hasn't officially confirmed the use of TrustRank in its search ranking algorithm, though SEO experts agree that Google's algorithm does in fact measure websites' trust to determine their rankings. In 2006, Google filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a search ranking algorithm based on trust. Since then, it's become common knowledge that Google favors established, trustworthy websites in its search results over untrustworthy sites. And the term used to describe Google's system for measuring a website's trust for search ranking purposes has become colloquially known as TrustRank in the webmaster community.

Whether Google uses the original TrustRank algorithm developed by Stanford University and Yahoo researchers is irrelevant. The fact is that Google ranks trustworthy websites higher than dubious, untrustworthy sites, and the metric used for this trust-based ranking is called TrustRank.

How to Increase Your Website's TrustRank

Because TrustRank is a non-quantifiable SEO metric that Google hasn't officially confirmed, it's unknown exactly what signals affect it. Looking back at the original TrustRank algorithm, as well as Google's current ranking algorithm, though, there are several signals that likely affect a website's trust.

Here are some tips to increase your website's TrustRank:
  • Create outbound links to high-ranking, reputable websites.
  • Secure backlinks from high-ranking, reputable websites.
  • Add a detailed and informative "about us" page that describes your website's operations.
  • Include a privacy policy page explaining how your website collects and uses visitors' information.
  • Use a recognizable domain name extension, such as dot com, and register it for at least two years.
  • Display your business's phone number somewhere on your website.
  • Create lots of detailed, long-form content that's relevant to your website's visitors.
  • Optimize title tags and meta descriptions for a high organic click-through rate (CTR).

What Is PageRank?

Like TrustRank, PageRank is a computer algorithm used to improve the quality of search results. It was developed by Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page in the mid-1990s while the duo were attending Stanford University. As part of a class project, Brin and Page sought to create a new algorithm that ranked web pages based on authority that's spread from linked seed pages. When a seed page links to another page, it passes down some of its authority in the form of PageRank.

Prior to the advent of PageRank, search engines generally ranked web pages by keyword density. Pages with a high density of a specific keyword were more likely to rank at the top of the search results for that keyword than pages with a low density. At the time, search engines believed that this was an effective and efficient way to identify the most relevant pages for search queries. The problem is that webmasters began abusing this metric by filling their websites with keyword-stuffed content to manipulate their search rankings. Brin and Page proposed a new search ranking algorithm that ignored keyword density and instead ranked websites by authority, paving the way to what would become Google's first search ranking algorithm.

PageRank works by giving each web page a zero to 10 PageRank based on the quality and quantity of inbound links the page has. If a web page with a 6 PageRank links out to three other pages, it will transfer 2 PageRank points to each of those three pages. However, a web page cannot transfer more PageRank than the amount it has attracted from incoming links.

Google used to allow webmasters to view their PageRank using a web browser toolbar or extension. In 2013, however, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller announced that Google was closing this program, meaning you can longer view your website's PageRank. With that said, Google continues to use PageRank as part of its ranking algorithm, so you should consider this metric in your SEO strategy.

How to Increase Your Website's PageRank

When compared to TrustRank, PageRank is an easier SEO metric for which to optimize your website. It's based strictly on the number of inbound links per page as well as the PageRank of the pages on which these links are published. By attracting more links from high-PageRank pages, you'll boost your PageRank for those pages.

Here are some tips to increase your website's PageRank:
  • Seek guest blogging opportunities to score backlinks on pages with a high Page Rank.
  • Aim for attracting backlinks that don't feature the "nofollow" attribute. When present, this attribute tells Google not to pass PageRank points to the linked page.
  • Publish link-worthy content that other webmasters want to cite as a resource in their own website's content.
  • Include more images in your website's content. Research has shown that web pages with images attract more links than pages with only text.
  • Use social media to attract more traffic and increase your website's visibility. This won't directly increase your site's PageRank, but the additional backlinks created from social media marketing may have a positive impact on this SEO metric.
  • Avoid using link farms, paid links, spam links or other black-hat SEO techniques.

Optimizing your website for a high TrustRank and PageRank is important, but it shouldn't be the sole focus of your SEO efforts. These are just two of many SEO metrics hard-coded into Google's algorithm. If you fail to target the hundreds of other metrics used by search engines, your website will likely remain stuck at the bottom of the search results.


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