More interesting SEO news from Rand at SEOMoz this morning. It seems to have the SEO communities all chatting it up in the forums (per usual). As Chad has pointed out, I'm getting sucked deeper and deeper into this. But I can't help myself. Here is the graph about the how Google's rankings algorithm has changed over time. Take a look and notice that the line for page rank has continued to decline in importance. Notice that the importance for onsite keyword density has been *about* the same over time. Observe the anchor text in external links WAS rising in popularity, but has reversed course since mid 2007. And finally note the huge increase in what SEOMoz is calling "Trust / Authority" (more on that later).
* This graph is an SEOMoz publication. See full story here.
So what, exactly, does this tell us about SEO? Chad and I had a quick debrief on it this morning and there are some positive take-aways and some ambiguous messages as well.
On the surface, this is a positive message to newcomer SEO people who are trying to get their feet wet. As SEOMoz points out, it says that you need to focus on becoming trusted in your field. Overall, this orientation is very constructive to SEO. Trust is a human emotion / cognition that is earned from repeated exposure and positive feedback. So the analogy here is that you can trust a website like you trust another person. But this will only happen if you have a positive experience on that website and wish to return. Overall, a good mindset for someone building a website or online business. The other lessons are that blatent attempts to manipulate page rank are no longer helpful. Likewise, too much concern about anchor text in inbound links may not be the right focus anymore.
Overall, there was no definition of trust / authority offered by SEOMoz. I posted on this point, as did several other SEOMoz members. A few of the replies stated things like "Google doesn't want you to know it's definition of trust." Point taken. This is their secret sauce and if every SEO services firm knew it, their search results may suffer from those in the field who would exploit it.
But what is trust to a computer equation? After all, at the core Google is a set of mathematical equations. It is a very large computer program (or set of programs), that creates the most relevant search results of the largest website database on earth. But trust? How can a set of equations feel trust? They can't.
So my criticism of this piece is that of the four factors listed, 3 are easy to operationalize and the 4th is completely ambiguous. Perhaps purposefully. There were suggests that on-site behavior may drive trust. Things like time-on-site, bounce-rate and return visits. This is intuitive, but Google doesn't have that data for a large percentage of sites. However, with more and more sites using the free Google Analytics, they are gaining more every day.
In the end, the SEO lesson here is similar to what we've said many times before. Website owners need to have a quality experience for their users. As we've often talked about at HubShout, SEO is a means to an end. You want the traffic to come for a specific purpose: Conversion, information exchange, community, whatever. And the post on SEOMoz today reemphasizes the importance of user experience - even if it doesn't offer us too much in the way of specific SEO tactics.