Want to Build Trust? Cozy Up to Google


In 2015, Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer study concluded that search engines had become the most trusted media source for general news and information globally with traditional, hybrid, social and owned media following behind. We all know that trust leads to sales, and that trust is transferrable, so if you are looking to grow brand trust, these stats would suggest that it’s best to start by cozying up to Google.

(For simplicity’s sake I’ll be focusing on Google as they control the majority of the market.)

Organic vs. Paid Results

Just to be clear, what we are talking about is trust relating to news and information, not paid search ads. And in case you’re wondering about the difference between organic and paid results —according to search engine land, organic traffic from search engines is responsible for roughly half of all website traffic, with traffic from paid search driving only 10% of visits. So, when it comes to performance of search marketing, trust in Google’s algorithm trumps money spent by brands 5:1.

Why do people trust search engines?

To determine how best to capitalize on this trust, let’s start by getting an understanding of the consumer mindset. Why do search engines top the list as the most trusted source for news and information?

  1. They provide access to ALL the public information on the web.
  2. They deliver relevant content on demand.
  3. They put a priority on what’s most current and authoritative.
  4. They consistently deliver the answers we are looking for.

Search engines are not publishers of content. They index and deliver content. They prioritize it based on what is deemed to be most helpful. With over 100 billion monthly searches on Google alone, it’s no wonder that when anyone has a question, “Google it” is the de facto next step.  People trust Google’s algorithm to determine the best source for the answer to their query.

How do you transfer this trust to your brand?

When a website makes it to the top of the search results it’s because Google has chosen it as the definitive authority on the topic. And a consumer’s trust in Google translates directly into click-throughs. According to Moz, the top organic result gets 31% of the page’s traffic and the top 5 organic results combined get 68% of the page’s traffic.

The traffic is indeed impressive and most marketers tend to focus on it, but it’s the brand implications that are most powerful. High organic rankings demonstrate the endorsement of Google. Google, the most trusted source for news and information. This endorsement is paramount and immediately establishes credibility and authority in a topic.

So, how do you get Google’s endorsement? There’s no silver bullet. Google’s algorithm is complex and ever changing, that’s a fact. What I know is that Google determines ranking of results based on many things, including but not limited to:

  1. Relevance of the content to the search query
  2. Quality of the content – is it unique, is it helpful
  3. How often new content is published
  4. Structure of the site – the ability of it to be indexed by search engines
  5. Authority of the site – number of authoritative sites that link to it
  6. Length of time the site has been around
  7. How much traffic the site receives

There are many firms solely dedicated to the technical side of search engine optimization. To get an understanding of what it entails you can review Google’s SEO starter guide. While the technical side of SEO is indeed challenging, I think the biggest opportunity lies in content, here’s why.

What You’re Selling vs. What Consumers Need

What I find more times than not is that brands invest 100% of their content effort in describing what they are selling. This makes for a sea of product feature focused content and a lot of competition at the product category level.

Instead, I suggest you start with your consumer. What problems are they looking to solve, what questions could they have? What’s going on in their lives? How can you help? Think about what information could be helpful.  Then validate it. I’ve built a propriety process in which I mine Google search data to identify high value topics and prioritize consumer demand for content.

Once you’ve identified these high value topics, take a look inside at your organization’s specific areas of expertise. What aligns? What knowledge do you have that would be helpful? On which topics are you an authority? (Whether or not Google knows it yet.)

Use this as the basis for your consumer-driven content strategy aimed at establishing brand awareness, trust and authority.

What if you ignore all this?

The cost of lost opportunity. There are people actively looking for the information you have, the solutions you offer and the help you can provide each and every day. If you don’t show up, they simply won’t discover you. (P.S. That’s a highly valuable activated prospect you are leaving in the dark.)

Being conspicuously absent. There is nothing more validating for a brand then to occupy the top organic search result for the topic they claim authority on. That said the inverse is also true. When a brand does not show up when they should, their credibility can be called into question. This is amplified when advertising stakes claim to a position that is not substantiated in Google search results. Ouch!

Try this test.

  1. What brand pops into your head when you think about toothpaste? For us it’s Crest.
  2. Ok, Google “toothpaste.” We’re seeing Crest as the second organic result after Wikipedia. Great.
  3. Now Google “cavities.” Where’s Crest? In fact, we don’t see any toothpaste brands or retailers. (Or dentists for that matter.)

Seems as thought this is a topic that a toothpaste brand should be an authority on. And with roughly 18,100 searches a month we know that it is of interest to consumers. (As a point of reference “toothpaste” gets roughly 14,800 searches a month.) Unfortunately, since it’s not what Crest is selling, it doesn’t appear to be on their radar. 

My advice?

Start with your target audience. Gain a solid understanding of their questions, concerns and overall needs. Identify your areas of expertise and determine how you can provide value. Show up when people are looking for help and demonstrate your expertise. Use Google’s position of trust to build trust in your brand. Learn more about my approach to content strategy.

* Average Google searches per month in the US.

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