I was sitting at home the other day, watching my Disney’s Recess (with my kids, of course) and I realized that in the playground hierarchy, TJ is cool but King Bob, who is older, more established and seemingly wiser, is way cooler. This reminded me of the debate among most SEO experts: PageRank vs. TrustRank.
Now PageRank is comparable to the most popular kid in the class, like my buddy TJ. However, in school, it’s not just about how many friends you have, it’s about the “cool” factor of these friends. You may have only three friends but if they are the three coolest kids, you are cool by association. Similarly, PageRank, a predictor of how relevant a web page will be for any given search, is said to be based on how many other sites link to you. And more importantly, if the site that links to you is popular themselves, you are even more popular by association. If plainer terms, if a site like the Huffington Post links to (or likes) you, you’re golden. So one link from the Huffington Post is better than 20 links from lesser-known sites. So, does a high PageRank mean a high SERP (Search Engine Ranking Position)? Well, not exactly.
To make things more complicated, the other important kid in the Google playground is TrustRank. Now if PageRank is the coolest kid in the fourth grade (like TJ), and all the kids like him and want to be friends with him, TrustRank is King Bob (leader of the Recess playground). He’s the oldest, wisest, most popular kid in the sixth grade, and subsequently, the whole school. He’s been around the longest, he has the most friends and he is the smartest kid in school. In SEO terms, this means the website that has been around a long time, that it has staying power and isn’t just a fly by night spammy site. It also means that the quality of the back links is high, coming from sites Google considers authoritative and/or relevant to your site, sites that have a very high TrustRank, themselves. As well, the content on your website should be of very high quality, original and interesting. Another factor that also comes into play in gaining TrustRank is the optimization history of your domain. Remember, Google knows all and has a memory like an elephant.
Lastly, the term “Sandbox” was coined as a way to explain why most new sites, after initially getting crawled by Google, fail to show up in the search results. Yet when a “site:domain.com” is performed you can find site pages indexed. This is because Google, to use the school analogy again, wants to make sure that when you start at a new school, as Gus (my favorite Recess kid) did, you’re going to stick around for a while. Your site has to earn its way out of the “sandbox” either through time or an increase in properly aged and respectable links. So Gus, who is still called “New Kid,” despite his stretch at Third Street School being his longest in a single school, will just have to keep hanging around with TJ and the gang and wait it out.