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In our weekly link building technique column I’d like to elaborate on last week’s post on ego feeding and introduce the concept of trust transfer. By definition links provide trust transfer to some extent. You link out to a site you trust in most cases, even if you disagree. There is even a so called Trustrank by Yahoo. Many people argue that Google uses a very similar concept to assign trust to websites. I don’t want to cover this aspect of trust on the Web. Instead I’d like to

focus on the more direct measure of trust we encounter on the Web.

When visiting a website for the first time visitors usually look out for common signs of a site being trustworthy. It’s not only clean usable and readable design it’s also about real signs like logos or badges.  In a way it’s about trust transfer by association. You might not know the site you visit yet and be undecided whether you can trust it or not but visible signs of trust like logos of well known brands can make you trust the new site as well.

You have certainly witnessed this kind of trust transfer on the Web.

  1. Usually in a list of clients a company attempts to place at least some logos you might recognize.
  2. The payment methods are also a way to display signs showing that other confirm your trustworthiness.
  3. Another way to make you appear trustworthy is the “as seen in” press appearances portfolio symbolized by logos of the publications that have written about you or your business.

On the Web there is also a newer version of this: badges. All kinds of sometimes wacky badges have been common for years on the Web. It has been an old school SEO trick to build links by letting websites win awards so that they will display them on their sites. Of course the number of meaningless awards grew exponentially over time so that soon enough webmasters got disenchanted with them.

The idea behind awards and badges is still alive

but today you have to offer real value to establish yourself as a website able to transfer trust. Of course you have to be trusted yourself to be able to transfer trust elsewhere but you don’t have to be the number one authority in your industry. You can transfer what trust you have to others and by doing it even multiply your own trust.

First let’s take a look at a badge that is commonly used in our industry and the site which is behind it: the AdAge Power 150. AdAge is one of the most prominent marketing publications and it has enough trust to spread you might argue. On the other hand it gets lots of the trust from the blogs that display the badges actually. In the same way that worthless website awards have earned links for the shallow award sites here the bloggers who take part, as you have to opt in, do it on their account because they seek the trust transfer.

The Power 150 goes beyond feeding egos, it provides not only trust transfer it also has a value on its own.

By clicking on your badge a reader can look some stats about the listed blog. The number on the badge changes depending on these stats. My two other blogs, SEO 2.0 and SEOptimise are already listed. As I shifted my time and focus over the years from the first to the second one SEO 2.0 lost my position in the top 150. At the same time SEOptimise entered the top 150. So the badge is a dynamic one that gets updated frequently. It’s not just frills.

Originally the Power 150 was an independent website. It was later on acquired by AdvertisingAge. So you don’t have to start from a well known and respected site. You can build it up yourself. Also some people, social media marketer Mack Collier for example, weren’t that happy with the “partnership” back then. They considered it a negative example of “just linkbait”. I don’t like the term linkbait myself. I have argued in the past that you have to rethink the term to be able to deal with the people you bait as people not fish.

You need link incentives. Personally I haven’t added the AdAge badge to my SEO 2.0 blog. I applied to be listed on the Power 150 but even at the time when I was in the top 150 actually not 300+ like now the temptation wasn’t enough. There are many others though who do insert the badge on their blog. SEOptimise does for instance.

In the best case your link incentive is so strong that you do not only get viewed as a linkbait attempt

but that people can identify with you and are proud to display you badge. AdAge apparently hasn’t done much beyond creating the badge but their success is already considerable. So the trust transfer and the value the stats offer is enough for many bloggers to link back.

Another fresher example of trust transfer is Alltop.

It’s a fairly new venture and wasn’t popular from day one. The founder had some influence to provide a good start for it but it wasn’t the most important factor in making it a success. Alltop is basically a hand picked blog RSS feed directory displaying the latest posts from a few dozen chosen blogs for each topic. There is a selection of SEO blogs, there are far more popular ones for web design or gadgets.

Alltop not only offers trust transfer and value for webmasters, it also has more than one use cases for the average web user. It offers a reliable curation of the best blogs in almost every niche and can be used as an RSS reader. In cases where you don’t know the authorities in each niche you can go to Alltop and find an overview of them. So the site has an actual function. I think you can also apply to get listed on Alltop but both of the SEO blogs I have written for until now, SEOptimise and SEO 2.0 have been added by the Alltop team.

I see some dark horses on that Alltop SEO page as well, where I’m not really sure whether they deserve to be there but as I trust the team on the whole I think they had their reasons to include them. Many bloggers also use Alltop badges on their pages. I consider doing so as well.  I may even add it instead of the AdAge badge which is huge and also shows that there hundreds of other blogs more important than mine. Also I don’t consider SEO to be about “ads”. The Alltop badge is a static one but as the site has a very strong use case is enough.

You don’t have to be a successful startup entrepreneur either to transfer trust though. Even a blogger can do it.

Tamar Weinberg has started to transfer trust with her by now legendary top 100 blog posts of the year lists. I’d be proud to show off such a badge just for the sheer expertise and name of Tamar. The yearly collection was so popular that Tamar made a monthly paid newsletter out of it.

In the search industry we also have the SEMMY’s. It’s also a way to highlight excellent blog postings but takes a bit more of work than one person can do. Still even the SEMMy’s are no multimillion dollars endeavor and I guess many advertising budgets are bigger than the costs of staging the SEMMY awards. Even many blogs just nominated for the SEMMY awards display the “SEMMY nominee” badge.

Link building by trust transfer is even better than simple ego feeding. You provide value and the trust transfer goes both ways. It’s another win to win link building technique both the linking to party and the linked one appreciate.

Btw. do you need a badge for trust transfer? I don’t think so but it simplifies the linking.

CC image by Nick Ford.