Why Google Hates Your Site (Hint: It Has Something to Do With TrustRank)

Google TrustRank bannerI didn’t want to have to tell you this, but Google HATES your site…

Sure, you may be ranking now — but as soon as the next Google update hits  — you’re toast.

So go ahead and vary your anchor text, write “quality” content and build niche relevant links.

It won’t matter.

That is…unless Google TRUSTS your site.

In this post I’m going to show you how to get Google to trust you so much that you’ll never lie in bed awake worrying about Big G’s big bad scary updates.

Free Bonus: Download a step-by-step checklist that will show you how to quickly boost your TrustRank.

TrustRank Matters…Here’s How to Get It

Everything you know about Google Penguin is wrong.

Here’s why:

If you asked 10 SEO gurus what Google Penguin targets, 9 will reflexively spit out the same three words:

“overoptimized anchor text”.


Look at this:

Exact Match Anchor Text

What you’re looking at is the anchor text breakdown for a Penguin survivor, cabbage-soup-diet.com,

The site’s currently rocking the #1 spot for the keyword “cabbage soup diet”.

By my count, 65% of their anchor text is some variation of cabbage soup diet –with 30% exact match anchor text.

How could this be? Isn’t Penguin all about anchor text?


It’s all about trust.

The SEO community was brainwashed into thinking that anchor text is the end all be all of Google Penguin because of one post by MicroSiteMasters.com.

After comparing sites that were hit by Penguin with those that survived, they concluded that:

“…every single site we looked at which got negatively hit by the Penguin Update had a “money keyword” as its anchor text for over 60% of its incoming links”

In other words, if you were hit by Penguin then it MUST be from overly-optimized anchor text.

Everyone in the SEO community drank the anchor text Kool-Aid and agreed that Penguin was all about anchor text. And they changed up their SEO strategy to include “vary your anchor text”.

But they somehow ignored this quote from the same article, which raised my eyebrows:

“Having over 60% of your anchor text being a money keyword did not guarantee that your site would be hit by the penalty (many of the sites not affected had numbers just as bad“).”


It’s either about anchor text or it isn’t. You can’t have it both ways.

And when I did my own informal analysis of sites that got hit by Penguin vs. those that didn’t, there was only one thing separating them: (you guessed it) trust.

I’m not alone in my trust obsession.

Moz has their own metric for trust (called MozTrust) and found the following:

“A webpage with a high MozRank but large MozRank-MozTrust disparity usually performs poorly in search engines when it is compared against a web page with a lower MozRank but smaller MozRank-MozTrust disparity.”

I’ve found that MozTrust (and Majestic SEO’s TrustFlow) closely correlates to higher rankings.

In other words, not only does trust help make your site durable to Google updates but it helps you rank better in the first place.

Do I have your attention now?

Negative SEO=LOL

There’s no doubt that trust is the X-factor that bulletproofs your site from Google slaps and algo updates.

But there’s another reason for you to put trust on your SEO radar screen: negative SEO.

There’s a lot of talk about negative SEO these days, but it’s totally overblown.


Because like I said before (and you may want to consider tattooing this on your forehead):

“Google doesn’t penalize sites that they trust”

A competitor of mine recently blasted one of my sites with 250,000+ blog comments (I know, right?).

You know what happened?

Nothing. I didn’t even budge.


Because Google trusts my site and knows I’d never do anything to like that.

But if you run a low-trust site, you’re a sitting duck the next time one of your competitors feels like knocking you out of the top 10 with some spammy links.

With that, it’s time to get some trust.

Step #1: On-Page Trust Optimization

Here’s how to generate on-page trust for your site.

1. Link Out to Authority Sites: I know you’ve seen those lame paper-thin affiliate sites in Google.

Did you ever notice that they NEVER link out to other sites?

Can you say red flag?

But look at any REAL site, like The Huffington Post or NYTimes.com: they’re linking out to sites left and right!

And so should you. Linking out is a fundamental on-page SEO strategy.

Keep in mind that the sites that you link to reflect on your site

…so spread the link love to .edu, .gov and authority news sites early and often.

2. Privacy Policy, Terms: Make sure your site has a thorough privacy policy, terms of use and/or affiliate disclosure. These are “boring” pages that Google pays attention to.

After all, all Adsense publishers are required to have this info on their site, which tells me that Big G thinks it’s important.

3. Bounces and Blocked Sites: Google has confirmed that that user interaction is a ranking factor. They’ve even gone as far as to consider how many Chrome users block your site.

You can imagine how shady a site must be for people to actually block the damn thing.

And the same goes for sites with high bounce rate: if your site provides trustworthy information why is everyone in such a rush to leave?

So make sure you keep an eye in your bounce rate and “time on page” in Google Analytics.

time on site and bounce rate

Then, do what you can to keep people sticking to your site like superglue:


4. References and Sources: Consider having a list of sources and references at the end of your articles. This shows Google that your content is well-researched (and therefore legit).

Step#2: Size Matters: How to Look Like a Big Brand

Google has been VERY big on brands lately.

How can you –some guy banging out WordPress sites in his underwear — possibly look like a big brand –(even if you are just some guy banging out WordPress sites in his underwear)?

Easy. Build brand signals.

Remember: Google is just a site ranking machine (also known as an algorithm).

It doesn’t know that Pepsi is a brand because it saw their Super Bowl commercial last year. They identify brands from online brand signals.

And they take brands VERY seriously because they trust brands.

In fact, here’s what Google CEO Eric Schmidt has this to say about brands:

“Brands are the solution, not the problem…brands are how you sort out the cesspool”

Here’s how to step out the cesspool, take a long shower, and look like a big bad brand:

1. Branded Domains/Site Name: Forget exact match or phrase match domains. The EMD update made it very clear that exact match domains don’t do jack. Instead of  MostComfortableMaleThongsX.com, go for ComfyThongs.com.

Rocking a branded domain sends the message that you’re a unique brand…not some SEO-obsessed loser trying to rank for one keyword.

2. Thorough About Us Page:  Don’t skimp on your about page.

Real brands have MASSIVE about pages that talks about their company, mission statement, etc. Make an epic about us page that tells your story.

3. Active Social Media Accounts: All big brands are super-active on social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and the like. Even if you run tiny site, get your social accounts rocking and rolling (especially LinkedIn).

4. Site Name=Keyword: People search for brands, whether it be Ikea, YouTube or John Deer. You know that Google considers you a brand when you get sitelinks, like this:

google sitelinks

But you don’t have to be on the Fortune 500 to get the brand treatment.

Sitelinks appear when you build killer backlinks AND get people to search for your brand in Google.

How do you do that, you ask?

The simple answer: create an awesome site :-)

5. Brand Name Anchor Text: People naturally link to brands with brand name anchor text. So if your site is Thongs4Less.com, you better get some links with the anchor text: “Thongs 4 Less”.

Step#3: Trustworthy Domain Info

Did you know that Google is a domain registrar?

But they don’t sell domains.

Weird right?

The reason they went through the trouble was to spy on your whois info. You see, when you’re an ICANN-approved registrar you can check whois information all day long, unlike us mere mortals.

Here’s what you can do to get more trust from your domain info:

  • Register your domain for 2+ Years: Google wants to see that you’re in this for the long haul. Although the influence of domain registration in SEO has been debated to death, it’s something that can’t possibly hurt you and might help you…so go for it.
  • Make it public: No real company has private whois (check if you don’t believe me). Make sure that the address is real or this can backfire.
  • Put whois info on your contact us page: To really show Google I’m all about transparency and openness, I usually put my whois address and phone on my contact or privacy policy page. This is a another brand signal. Posting your address tells Google that you have an “office” somewhere (even if your office is your mom’s basement).

Individually, these may seem like tiny things, but look at it this way:

Which site seems more trustworthy to you?

Site #1: Private whois and no contact page that’s expiring in 3-months.

Site #2: Real address and phone number that matches their site’s official contact info…AND has 5 more years before the domain expires?

Thought so.

Step#4: Trusted Links

And here’s the big one. Like everything in the Google universe, trust revolves around links.

And they do it based on an SEO version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

The trust you get from other sites is often referred to as TrustRank.

Here’s how it works:

Trusted Links

Basically, there are a group of highly-trusted “seed sites”, such as .govs, .edus, CNN.com, DMOZ etc.

The internet’s most trusted sites get links directly from these seed sites.

However, YOU can get some of that trust by getting links from sites that have links from seed sites.

Or put another way:

Harvard.edu –> your site= best case scenario

Harvard.edu –>some other site –> your site = not too shabby

Harvard.edu –>some other site –>–>some other site –>–>some other site –>–>some other site –>–>some other site –>–>some other site –>–>some other site –>your site =not good

That’s why you should ALWAYS look at another site’s link profile before taking the time to get a link from them.

PR doesn’t tell you the whole story.

Let’s say you have two sites you’re looking to get a link from:

Site A: PR3, 1 link from MIT.edu and 1 link from CNN.com

Site B: PR5, lots blog comment and blog network links

I’d personally take a link from site A any day of the week…even though it has lower PR.

The sites in my portfolio that sport a lot of their links directly from “seed sites” rank better and are much more durable to updates.

In other words, you want the sites that link to you to be highly trusted sites.

Step#5: Google News Site Backlinks

in the eyes of Big G, Google News approved sites are some of the most trusted sites in the internet.

Think about it: news sites have to be trustworthy.

If you’re searching for “best rappers of all time” it’s possible that some guy will include Vanilla Ice on his list.

But news sites are held to a higher standard because their content has to be spot on.

If they post an article with the headline: “Justin Bieber Elected President of Ecuador”, then it better be true.

For a site to be included in Google News, they have to undergo a rigorous manual review before getting in (fun fact: I once submitted a site to Google News and was rejected).

That lends them a lot of trust in the eyes of big G.

The thing is, getting a real link from a Google News approved site isn’t easy. You have to spend time working journalists or HARO for weeks before getting your link. But that’s a link that can change your life.

Trust Me : )

If you’ve ever wondered how sites with lower PR can rank above PR powerhouses, you may have your answer.

And if you’ve been basing the quality of your links on PR or site age alone you’re blind to something that could keep your sites ranked for years.

If you’re ready to start using this information to improve your site’s TrustRank, download the free checklist that I put together.

TrustRank Checklist

  • Tim Love

    Good grief! I am so looking forward to getting this report now! If looking at it from a meat and potatoes point of view; potatoes being what you give away free on your blog, meat being the stuff you charge for… I can’t wait to see what kind of stuff you start selling. Most of what you’ve included so far would have been in someone else’s paid ebook. Surely you’ve got some tasty “Wagyu” beef steak information lined up?!

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for your support Tim and I hope you enjoy the report.

      Dude, my potatoes are just the appetizer. I’m working on the meat right now, and not to brag (Ok maybe to brag a little),
      but it’s gonna be some Grade A Kobe beef stuff. Get ready.

  • harsha

    Wow , awesome report .

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Harsha!

  • JC

    One of the more thorough SEO posts I have read since Penguin and I will be working on a lot of these recommendations over the next couple of weeks. It makes a lot of sense, thank you!

    • Brian Dean

      My pleasure JC.

  • Rachael

    Thank you! I was hit rather hard by penguin and haven’t really recovered. I’ve tried changing a few things that I read about but haven’t seen much of a result.

    It’s baffled me because I write unique content, some of which is long and “epic”. My links are for the most part natural (I haven’t gone out of my way to gather my own links except for may be a dozen articles in directories and about the very occasional blog/forum comment).

    I also am a staff writer for the 3rd most influential site in my niche (photography) and have direct links from my articles to my site. Still I rank poorly for most terms.

    I used to appear as a “brand” like in your example in Google search but not for months now!

    I’m going to implement all of your suggestions.


    • Brian Dean

      Hey Rachael,

      There were a lot of legit, 100% white hat owners like you that found themselves caught in the Penguin filter. In my opinion, that update was meant to send a message…not necessarily clean up the SERPs.

      In other words, they don’t care if there were a few false positives as long as they scared the bejeezus out of the SEO community.

      If you’re serious about recovering from Penguin you may have to go all-out. That means following the steps outlined in this post and cleaning up any links that look fishy. Even then there aren’t any guarantees.

  • David

    Great info! Glad I found your site!

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks for stopping by, David!

  • Dom

    Absolutely superb information. When is the Grade A Kobe beef steak ready:)?

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Dom!

      It’s still on the grill. :-)

      Should be up and running in in about 2-weeks. I’ll send a message to my list when it goes live.

  • Sy Trinh

    Dear Brian Dean! I have a question. How to check the trustrank of a website?

    • Brian Dean

      Hi Sy. There’s no “official” place to check TrustRank. The best two metrics I’ve found are Majestic Trustflow and MozTrust.

  • GraphicsLearning

    Great info sir,
    You mentioned “Trusted Links”, but we all know it is hard to get it. Any advices?

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks. There’s no doubt about it: it’s really hard to get trusted links. You can get them with guest posting, content marketing, broken link building. But you’re right: those strategies take a lot of work!

  • Goran

    Wow Brian I’ve found you searching how one can build legit backlinks that will last and found YOU on google. I’ve read your free report too and i’ve already started to work on it so we’ll see.

    What you’ve mentioned in this post so far i already have on the niche website I am runing at the moment. I like to know if you can reccomend any tips for how to get those Google News backlinks as i’ve already checked and the are very stricted in leaving any comment links or so, of course as you said: if for them is hard to be in google news how can someone get backlink from them.

    • Brian Dean

      Found me from searching? It sounds like that SEO stuff everyone’s talking about actually works :-). Besides press releases, there aren’t any easy ways to get links from Google News sites. If you can position yourself as an expert in your niche, sites like HARO can help you build relationships with journalists. Otherwise you’ll need to tap into old-fashioned PR.

  • Goran

    Ok, i got you now.
    Thanks a lot

    • Brian Dean

      No problem, Goran. Send me an email if you have any questions.

  • Pozivnice

    Hi Brian, thanks for this info. It’s awesome! And thanks for a response to my email and my questions, and to be honest with you, I was surprised when I saw your asnwer :).
    Also after reading through your blog, I realized I was missing some major points in both On and Off-page SEO. I’ll give my best in using your recommendations and I’ll get back to you with the result.

    • Brian Dean

      My pleasure! Let me know how the on and off-page strategies work out for you.

  • Tino

    Loved the post, gave me some further insight and some useful SEO gold nuggets.

    • Brian Dean

      Glad to hear that, Tino!

  • Esben

    Great post that delivers the message in an easy understandable way.
    Im lucky enough to have access to a tool that analyzes power + trust. Otherwise it would be hard to analyze the link profiles.

    • Brian Dean

      Thanks Esben. Is that an in-house tool?

  • Matt Powers

    Great post Brian. Trust is a big factor in my eyes too, but it will comes down to something I firmly believe in which is, SEO is common sense http://matthewlpowers.com/seo-common-sense/

    Its more than SEO, but every element of your site. Site looks spammy, your in trouble. Links look unnatural, your in trouble. Content is crap. WATCH OUT

    • Brian Dean

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Matt. You’re right: I see a lot of people in SEO run before they can walk. For example, I’ve seen people use Buzzstream to do outreach for a poorly designed site with mediocre content. It’s not going to work without the proper foundation.

      You need to get the basics right (design, content, UX, branding etc.) if you want to do well with SEO.

  • Charles Omotayo

    Google dont seems to recognize my at all but the post has really one a long way to enlighten me more. Indeed, trust is the key!
    Thanks for sharing…I really appreciate!

    • Brian Dean

      Glad it helped you out, Charles. You’re right: trust is super important!

  • quinn tyler

    Thanks alot for the info. It really opened my eyes and it was just what I was looking for. Good job!

    • Brian Dean

      My pleasure, Quinn! Let me know if you have any questions about implementing these techniques on your site.

  • chris

    Wow impressive thinking it’s deep but true. My question is if you have already seen the google drop how can you rebuild your rep? I feel like it could be time to tear down and start over. Do you consult or do work on the side my friend?

    • Brian Dean

      Nice to hear from you, Chris.

      Recovering from a drop is a tough thing to do because there are so many potential reasons behind the drop. As you said, it sometimes makes more sense to start from scratch. I do some consulting, but I’m actually booked until 2014.

  • Bruno

    Thank you so much man!

    • Brian Dean

      Sure, no problem, Bruno.


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Brian Dean is the founder of Backlinko, the training hub for digital marketing professionals with over 90,000 monthly readers and a popular email newsletter. Continue reading