Sunday, January 17, 2016

What is digital trust and why should you care?

What is digital trust and why should you care?

Before we talk about DIGITAL TRUST,  we need to examine trust as an interpersonal issue, then using the insights of trust between people, we need to understand how a search engine may use these trust issues between different digital entities.

The big issue that we need to come to grips with, is SEMANTIC TRUST between different digital entities, and how this impacts on the SEOVI (Search Engine Optimisation Value Indicators), which are carried across with hyperlinks between different digital platforms, as well as the semantics and  related context of the content at each end of the link in question.

So what do you Understand about interpersonal trust?

This is a very loaded question, and everybody that I have spoken to during my research on the issue of interpersonal trust,  has come up with a different answer, using their own personal life experiences as a guide line for their answer.  There is no right or wrong answer here, as different culture groups, different religious communities, and different social classes all have their own rules and evaluation processes when dealing with trust.

People of the same groups will always trust each other before trusting an outsider, and past history of interpersonal conversations and interactions between individuals and groups or communities,  will always have a big influence on trust flow patterns. The difference in social standing and educational status between two individuals will also have a very large impact on the relationship and trust flow issues between them.  People of higher social status such as teachers, lawyers, managers or law enforcement officers will usually be trusted before ones peers or those lower down the social ladder.  Known persons would normally be trusted before unknown individuals, and family will usually be trusted before outsiders.

Now trust itself is a very delicate thing, and it does not just suddenly have a very high positive value without a long track record of positive interpersonal interactions.  Just one minor breach of trust, be it a true breach of trust or only a percived breach of trust, can cause a total collapse of all trust between two individuals.  Once the trust between two individuals is broken, it takes quite some considersble effort to repair the trust factors between them, and the breach of trust is not easily forgotten, though it may or may not be forgiven.

When any breach of trust is not forgiven, these two individuals may never have a trusting relationship of any nature again, and the individual who stepped outside of the trust zone and breached the trust between them may also have a host of new problems, The agrieved party may or may not inform other members of their commuity, and many others of the wrong doing, as well as requesting others to also  adopt a bad trust attitude to this specific individual.

Search Engines

Search Engines have evolved over the years and are constantly looking at new and novel ways to improve the quality of their SERP's (Search Engine Results Pages). During 2015 Google, as well as other search engines started using digital trust, as well as related SEMANTIC trust issues as SEOVI (Search Engine Optimization Value Indicators) in more aggressive ways.

Digital trust is like standard human trust in  many ways, except that there is no intuition, such as that when people look into the eyes of those who they are evaluating from a trust perspective, and then base their trust flow issues on GUT FEELING, either positive or negative.  Search engines do not have the luxury of being able to eyeball information in the same way that we as humans eyeball each other. That does not mean that search engines do not have tools and algorithms that evaluate information from a trust perspective, because many search engines have worked hard at developing AI (Artificial Intelligence) specifically to evaluate all online content for a large number of different trust signals.

Links used to be the primary source of digital trust, until the Black Hat Search Engine Optimization fraternity worked out how to game links through the use of link farms, and thin content, with many identical pages in the same website.  Google then developed trust factor algorithms like PANDA and PENGUIN which carried punitive implications for those on the wrong side of the trust equation. Both Penguin and Panda  have built in forgiveness factors, but they do not forget about your transgressions, and keep your web site listed as a past cheater within their trust tables and associated data bases. The forgiveness factors are directly linked to your SEO cleanup efforts  by doing things such as removing thin content, duplicate content and irrelevant links from your pages, and following the recommended procedure to have inbound links either removed or added to your "DISAVOW FILE" .

Links are still vitally important, and the REL = XXXXXXX HTML attributes carry many extra high value SEOVI (Search Engine Optimization Value Indicators) along with them when used in the right manner. It must be remembered that search engines nowadays look at both ends of the link, and evaluate the content on both sides (out bound link and inbound link) as well as the SEMANTIC relationships and context matching issues, for both sides of the link, among many new SEOVI.

AS an example if the REL = AUTHOR attribute is used properly
within the HTML structure of your online content it should  point to the Authors bio page, and have links to all other areas where the specified author contributes within the online environment are listed, and include but is not be limited to the following list:

·                    any Social media profiles that this individual may own
·                    Social media business profiles where this individual is a contributor, owner or manager
·                    blogs where this author contributes as a guest author
·                    web sites where this author is a copy writer, or where his / her work is shared and distributed.
·                    communities, groups and forums where this individual is active in some way, like a moderator, an owner, a manager or a major contributor.

This allows search engines to build a vast trust base, in the form of a trust table, which would allow the search engine to compare all online content associated with this individual author and then form an opinion on this individual authors trust factors and knowledge base, giving them individual trust scores for a host of issues ranging from subject matter to personal representational issues and inter personal relationships with other authors, publishers and general contributors to the online environment amongst the more important SEOVI (Search Engine Optimization Value Indicators)

Trust between individual pieces of online content is a complicated issue, where things like authors, publishers, contributors and information consumers (actual viewers) are all evaluated for semantic relationships as well as a host of other network related issues. The relationships between the platforms where each side of the link is hosted are important variables here, and the expansion of the conversation is the primary issue at stake.  If the search engine determines that there is no semantic linkages between the two linked pieces of online content, then the trust factors may be negative, depending on the inclusion or not of the NO FOLLOW attribute .

This is an important issue that needs to be clearly understood by your marketing team, which should be recommended by your SEO team, and implemented by your design team. Any non related links need the attention of the SEO team, who should have a clear marketing brief discussing the purpose, aims, objectives and intentions of the content in question, so that they can do thorough keyword and target market research.  Most websites and blogs carry advertising and marketing links that are not directly related to the online content that they are housing, and these may need to carry the NO FOLLOW attribute, and possibly also the NO INDEX attribute, or perhaps only the NO INDEX attribute, so as to give search engines very clear signals of the focus area and topics that your online content is offering the public at large. 

These two attributes are very powerful trust generators, as they indicate to a search engine that the linked content is not related to the IN-PAGE content, and it should be standard IPSEO (In Page Search Engine Optimization) PRACTICE to include the NO FOLLOW and NO INDEX attributes in all advertorial links, except those which promote the services, information  or products contained within the page itself.

In 2013  just before Google introduced the HUMMING BIRD algorithm they tried to encourage the use of the REL= AUTHOR and REL = PUBLISHER HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) attributes. The way that Google went about this was not well reprieved within the online environment, and very limited number folks actually used this extremely powerful SEOT (Search Engine Optimization Tactic)  At this stage of the game, in 2013,  Google was getting quite good at identifying individual digital entities, and they needed a tool to help them identify publishers and authors a lot faster than they were.

The Black Hat Search Engine Optimization crew picked up on this and abused the REL = AUTHOR and REL = PUBLISHER attributes to achieve better rankings for stuff that should not even be indexed in the first place. Google then advised folks that they were no longer making use of these two HTML attributes, and took steps to punish folks who they caught out abusing the REL = AUTHOR and REL = PUBLISHER attributes within the HTML code of links.  These two HTML attributes are however now used extensively to build trust factors between online content and specific contributors to online content, and those who break the trust through making use of BLACK HAT SEOT's are labled as cheaters who deserve to be lower down in the trust table.  The impacts of this are HUGE  If you are not using the REL = tags in all hyperlinks within your HTML code you are losing out on a vast pool of trust factor signals that would enhance your search Engine Optimization in many different ways, from the added author and publisher trust scores to the added tread depth of semantic footprints associated with the NO INDEX and NO FOLLOW attributes

The depth of a semantic footprint is dependent on the digital trust factors associated with the semantic context of each page that is linked to from a specific page (outbound links) as well as the semantic context of all inbound links. The digital trust scores between the in-page content of two linked pages is one of the primary factors that influence the depth a a semantic footprint.  You need to remember that SEMANTIC TRUST is just one element of the many diverse issues that make up digital trust.

Digital entities

Digital entities are a strange mix of all online stuff. Some digital entities are stand alone entities, but most are  actually a collection of other digital entities rolled into a new digital entity as a group.  Each and every HTML page within the online environment is a complex digital entity. some examples of stand alone digital  entities are

·                    PDF documents
·                    images
·                    music files
·                    videos
·                    text documents
·                    social media posts

Most web pages and blog posts are considered to be both stand alone digital entities as well as complex digital entities.  This may sound confusing, but needs to be interpreted from the perspective of a search engine, and not us as humans.  As an example a book is a stand alone entity, but it consists of typed pages that are bound together, which can be separated or torn loose.  When the pages are torn loose the book looses value, and may not make sense to future readers as some information will be missing. It thus follows that the pages need to be joined at the books spine, other wise the book has little value.  In the same manner all the components of a web page can not be seperated from the page, as they may not make sense on their own.

People who can be identified, through their online contributions as authors are also considered to be digital entities, which are a collection of all their identifiable digital contributions which can come from a number of sources, including but not limited to the list below

·                    blog posts
·                    web page copy-writing
·                    social media profiles
·                    social media posts     
·                    forum posts and contributions
·                    comments in social media posts
·                    comments to blog posts
·                    in app consumer education  matters

The various sources of information that link an author to specific content, such as but not limited to the list below help the search engine to build a trust graph of authors, showing their expertise and niche areas of interest, along with trust levels, which are used extensively by Google, and possibly all other search engines as well.

·                    A blog post discussing online content which the author contributed to, with a link to that online content, where the author is listed as a contributor, preferably using the REL = AUTHOR TAG within the HTML code associated with the hyperlink (LINK)
·                    A social media post within the authors profile, discussing the content in question, along with a link to that content.

·                    A social media post by a business page where the author is listed as a manager, a contributor or the owner

·                    A social media post by the authors profile within a group, a community, or a forum discussing the content in question with a link to that content

·                    An article or social media post by a third party which explisitly defines the author as  a contributor to the content in question.

·                    A social media profile page, aweb page or a blog page listing a profile  of the author as an author of online content through the REL = AUTHOR method , where links to blogs, websites and other relevant online content contributions by the author is discussed.


Just as authors have trust graphs and related info stored in a data base by search engines, so to do PUBLISHERS.  These trust graphs for publishers are considerably larger and more complex than the trust graphs for authors, and carry considerably more weight within the Search Engine Optimisation equations.  Publishers and authors are also linked up, and a single publisher may have many diverse points of publication, which include but is not limited to
·                    many websites
·                    numerous blogs
·                    a plethora of social media profiles within different social media platforms

Authors may write for more than one of these different publication points, as well as other publication points for other publishers. This allows search engines to gather more data and have a deeper understanding of the semantic linkages between the different publishers and diverstity of authors.  This understanding is enforced and complemented by the semantic trust that is developed over time between all these groups and many other digital entities.

Digital trust is built up over time where search engines keep track record of many different issues, and use these in complicated algorithyms to develop many individual trust facors which   are later worked on and processed by a final stage  trust algorithym that has feed back loops into  both the early stage search algorithyms and the final stage search algorithym where the search engines SERP's (Search Engine Results Pages) are generated from the search engines data bases.

Digital trust is thus a very important part of the current (Jan 2016) Search Engine Optimisation equation which you as an information provider need to manage and where possible manipualte through careful well managed cross platform marketing. 

cross platform marketing is a form of content marketing, where you market social media  posts,   posted in one platform, in a second platform, so that the orginal content marketing post can aquire larger trust factor signals, and in turn push these larger trust factor signals through to your original online content in your blog or web site.

Example of cross platform marketing.

1) you write a blog post and be sure to use the REL = AUTHOR attribute in a link to your author bio page within the inpage content.
2) you write about your blog post on your FaceBook page with a link to the specific blog post
3) you tweet about your blogpost, but use the link to your Facebook post as the destination URL (Uniform Resource Locator or web address)
4) you write a post in linked in discussing your blog-post, and include a link to
·                    your tweet
·                    your Facebook post and
·                    your blog post
·                    You write a Facebook post discussing your linked-in post with a link to your linked in post.
5) you tweet about your blog post but use the linked in post as the destination URL

Note here that you need to list your social media profiles and all places where you contribute within the online environment in your author Bio Page.  You need to take some time here and do all the home work... be sure to include every where that you have an active social media profile as well as all the blogs and web sites where you are an active contributor.  Your profile page which is accredited with author status through the REL = AUTHOR attribute needs to be well maintained and current at all times, remembering the query freshness issue.

The main purpose of cross platform marketing is to improve your OPSEO or Off Page Search Engine Optimization scores and trust factors within the online environment for all your content.  Cross platform marketing is the best way to grow your online trust factors, so be sure to remain on topic and reply to all comments on your social media posts, as well as comments on your blogs.

Replying to comments within your social media posts and having on-going conversations within the comment streams of other authors or publishers who discuss semantically similar topics to your web sites and blogs is seen in a very favorable light by most search engines. By showing an interest and keeping the conversations active you increase your trust factors within the search space considerably.

These issues of keeping the conversation alive and active within the social media space can only be seen and used by search engines when your profile is public and you post to the public domain.  Most search engines only have permission to see your public profile, how ever if you are a Google User and are logged into your Google account, then you will get a very different approach, as Google will then personalize your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) using your
·                    Google plus profile
·                    G-mail contacts
·                    Google drive documentation
·                    blogger profile and any blogs that you may own or contribute to
·                    Google sites, where you may have created, both public and private
·                    any other Google service that you may use.

These are all used to evaluate your trust factors, with a primary concern for your SEMANTIC TRUST FACTORS which will be used to determine your authority as an author, and your feilds of expertise where you may need some recognition as an expert or not.

Digital trust is a very complex issue, where there are many different parties invloved in supplying trust factor signals, which are interpreted, scored, ranked  and then transferd to a data base for future use by the many different algorthyms which are run to determine a match between a search query and a specific piece of online content.

Links,  both out bound and inbound are the primary sources of all trust factor signals, and as such both sides of the link are evaluated in a number of different ways to determine a host of SEOVI (Search Engine Optimisation Value Indicators) which are then processed to determine a new set of variables where the different areas of digital trust, such as semantic trust, network trust, context trust and many others are carried forward to other algorithyms.

Digital trust is divided into many components, some are burried within your in page content, while others are connected to the context and semantics of your Off Page Search Engine Optimization efforts.

It thus follows that digital trust is a very powerful Search Engine Optimisation value Indicator, that you need to manage and manipulate as best you can.  To be able to manage and manipulate this digital trust is no easy task.

One needs to keep in mind that SEMANTIC TRUST is one of the larger trust elements within the digital trust stock pile that accumulates over time.  Keeping your digital trust stockpile in order, and ensuring that the negative elements within your digital trust stockpile are constantly weeded out is a task that should not be taken lightly.  Here we are talking of addressing PANDA and PENGUIN type issues, as well as addressing your reputational issues through well policed repuation managment strategies.  These actions of removing the bad influence factors,  all add to the digital trust factors for all your online content where ever it may reside.

All you need to remember is that trust takes time to develop and grow, but is instantly destroyed by a single breach of protocol, or the use of Black Hat Search Engine Optimization tactics.