Getting to grips with authority, relevance and trust for SEO

A well optimised and high ranking page has dozens of requirements

A well optimised page (and a highly ranking one) is dependent on dozens of requirements. The list of onpage and offpage SEO ranking factors is long and, if you’ve spent any time battling to increase your search position, you’ll know that getting the exact combination of factors, with the right weightings, to hit the Google sweet spot demands stamina, patience and perseverance.

From the obvious criteria such as having unique, topical content and a clean link profile to other calculations such as server response time and URL length, the list of boxes a page needs to tick to reach the highest echelons of search is long.

However, along with content creation, link building and social activity, there are three other key components that need to be factored in. It’s widely accepted that these three things are critical to achieving strong keyword rankings.

  1. 1


    Can you website be considered a genuine, recognised expert in its field?

  2. 2


    What is your site about? How relevant is it to the specific search term

  3. 3


    Trust can be thought of as a measurement of quality.

Let’s start with authority

“Make your site a genuine, recognised authority in its field”

Authority signals are somewhat shrouded in mystery but, it’s a good bet that a search engine calculates authority using both content and links as external validation. This is much the same way we calculate authority in the real world. If you were attending a lecture and listening to a speaker for example, you’d look for things like whether or not that person has conducted noteworthy research, is active in their industry, a thought leader, prolific commentator and has been around long enough to be respected by their peers.

They should be a person that gets invited to speak at lots of events, creates lots of content around their subject, maybe has a book or two behind them and is generally synonymous with their chosen topic.

  • Do you have lots of unique, informative and useful content created around the same topic or issue?
  • Are content pages rich in appropriate language and terminology, accurate, with statistics data and other relevant and useful assets such as videos, charts, figures and diagrams?
  • Does your site receive lots of traffic?
  • Generate good reviews?
  • Has it accrued lots of high quality links over time?
  • Are those links from respected and relevant sources in the same or associated industries?
  • Are the links located on pages with few other outgoing links (e.g. not part of a blog roll or similar)?
  • Has your site been around a while?

If you can answer yes to the majority – if not all – of these questions, chances are good you’re well on your way to having an authoritative site.

If you can answer yes to the majority – if not all – of these questions, chances are good you’re well on your way to having an authoritative site.

Now let’s consider relevance

“Relevance can be thought of in two distinct ways”

The first is what your site is actually about, which directly impacts on how relevant it would be for a search term. If your site is about pets for example, it won’t rank for women’s shoes. So, relevance is a measure of what your site, and the majority of its content, is actually about.

We also need to consider relevance in terms of inbound links. As we’ve already established, links are a crucial part of establishing authority because they’re a validation of your site’s expertise on a particular topic. A link from an external site to yours says to Google (or any other search engine), “I’m confident my hard won traffic should go to this site and read this information about pets. I recommend it.” If that link is from a dog owner’s magazine, a breeder, a kennel club or a pet blogger, great. However, if that link is from a site about women’s shoes, the relevance of the link is far less impressive, because the recommendation (the link) is far less relevant.

When we consider relevance from an SEO perspective we therefore need to think about the content on our site along with the nature of the site and the page linking back, as well as the anchor text of that link.

Finally, trust

“Trust can be thought of as a measurement of quality”

Moz has developed its own trust signal, called Moz Trust which quantifies trust as the trustworthiness of a site relative to others on the web. It makes this calculation based on how many trustworthy links your site or page has – if you have a link from a university website for example, that’s a signal that your content can be trusted.

This in turn indicates that your domain can be trusted. The more of these links you have, the more trustworthy your site can be considered to be.

Each of these three concepts is closely related – you can’t have authority without lots of relevant links for example and having lots of relevant content. And you can’t be relevant if you don’t have lots of trustworthy links pointing back to you.

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