August 7, 2019

What’s the Difference Between SEO Authority, Relevance and Trust?

You might’ve heard of “the three pillars of SEO.” Or, maybe you know them as “the three principles of SEO” or “the three keys to SEO.” Maybe you haven’t heard of them at all. Regardless of what you call them, the three elements authority, relevance and trust are integral to the success of your SEO strategy.

So, how do you leverage these elements? According to New Breed’s Head of Demand Generation, Guido Bartolacci, it starts with an understanding of what the elements are. 

What’s the Difference Between Authority, Relevance and Trust?

The easiest way to understand the difference between authority, relevance and trust is with an example.

Are you a sports fan? If so, you might be familiar with the National Football League (NFL) trade deadline. It’s a frenzied period of the football season where fan bases wait with bated breath to see if their team makes a trade before the deadline — bringing in players or draft picks from another team in exchange for players or draft picks from their team, hoping to improve their roster.

As fans try to track updates, they turn to a series of reporters who specialize in covering the NFL. 

One popular reporter is Adam Schefter. Fans have grown to trust his insights and analysis on the NFL trade deadline because of the accuracy and reliability of his reporting — in other words, his authority on the topic.

On the other hand, baseball fans wouldn’t go to him for information on the Major League Baseball (MLB) trade deadline. While he reports accurately about football, his authority on the trade deadline doesn’t extend to baseball. He doesn’t have relevance when it comes to baseball.

“Even though he’s trusted in regard to that space, it’s not relevant to that topic,” says Guido.

Download the Ultimate SEO Checklist to Learn How to Fully Optimize Your Content  for Visibility

If the sports example wasn’t your speed, think about determining where to direct a question at work. 

At New Breed, we have many talented employees with different strengths and knowledge bases who have authority in different areas. While I trust everyone on the team because I interact with them daily and know they have good insight, my teammates might not have authority in the specific area I need help with.

For example, if I was looking for information on a software we use, going to a member of the business operations team would be ideal because they have strong authority in that space. Alternatively, if I was looking for information about our sales process, I would ask someone in sales because their authority has high relevance in that space.

“Authority is topic expertise, trust is [consumer belief that you are] generally good at what you do and relevance is tying those two things together,” Guido says. 

Basically, relevance is where an audience’s belief in your sound knowledge overlaps with a specific topic you can speak about.

“The example I’ve seen before is [with the word] ‘mini,’” Guido says. “If you want to be found for cars and you sell Mini Coopers, then a lot of the information you have is going to be related to cars and engine parts, so your relevance gets associated with cars and the auto industry.

“Whereas, if you sell mini skirts, you’re going to be talking about attire [and] dresses, and your relevance becomes associated with that industry. Both are writing about the word mini, but they’ll get found for different things because of the way in which they’re relevant. They both are authoritative and trustworthy in their space, but they play well into that one thing.”

In this way, authority, relevance and trust can not only help you get found online but differentiate you from the competition. If you are using authority, relevance and trust effectively, you will climb search engine results pages (SERP) and rank better.

How Do You Build Authority, Relevance and Trust on Your Site?

Now you understand what the three pillars of SEO are, the next step is leveraging them to help your site rank.

“The way to actually go about building up your authority, relevance and trust within a space is by creating content that has the ability to be both linked back to and to provide value to your readers,” Guido says.

By crawling your site and finding links from complementary domains, Google will recognize you are trusted (since people are using you as a source), authoritative (because links imply they are positioning you as a thought-leader) and relevant (because your site correlates to others in the industry).

There are a number of ways to get links.

“It can happen naturally,” Guido says. “People can just come across [your content] and decide to link to it, but, in order to help facilitate that, there’s a few [additional] things that need to happen.”

Social media promotion

Social media presents new channels for you to access audiences. It provides individuals with a more relaxed, enjoyable way to consume content. People search social platforms for information just as they use search engines, so promoting your content on social media can help it get found.

Additionally, social media can help you reach new audiences. By effectively using hashtags and social networking, you can extend your message to the masses. 

“[Promoting your content on social media] will naturally get you some links because people will really enjoy it and decide they want to link to it,” Guido says. 

But, keep in mind other companies are more likely to link to your content if you’ve started to develop a relationship with them. So, you should actively network on social platforms and use your accounts to do more than drive traffic to your website in order to build a relevant audience and garner more trust in your industry.

Link requests

Another way to get links is to reach out to companies with websites that discuss complementary topics to yours. According to Guido, you probably don’t want to be competing against these sites, but they do need to be relevant to your business for their links to be most valuable.

Companies are more likely to give you a link if you offer something in return. Guido suggests potentially linking to their content before asking them to link to yours.

“That can help establish the relationship, and then the next step would be [to reach out] like, ‘Hi there, I came across your post on this. We have something really similar on that topic [and] would love if you linked to it. If you do, we’ll promote your original post on social media,’” Guido says.

Guest blogging

Guido also recommends utilizing guest blogging to facilitate link building. It’s a good idea to both accept guest posts on your site and submit guest posts to other sites. 

Doing guest posts on other websites can help spread out your content and associate the hosting site’s authority on a topic with your brand. If a site trusts you enough to host your content, it shows their audience that they respect your opinion and authority.

Allowing people to publish guest posts on your site can also spur links.

“Those people will be more inclined to link to the post that they wrote on your website from their own content,” Guido says.

In this way, you can continue to build relationships with other companies in your industry or in adjacent industries.

Key Takeaway

Getting links involves performing a number of tasks, but, overall, the end goal is building authority, relevance and trust. 

Link building is one of the main tactics of off-page SEO, which consists of the external efforts you make to increase your SERP rankings. You can also leverage on-page SEO, which involves changing aspects of your site to boost your search engine rankings. By using tactics like optimization, internal linking and technical SEO, you can bolster your domain authority.

Overall, combining on-page SEO with off-page efforts will help you build authority, relevance and trust, fostering SEO success.

Download your SEO checklist

Isaac Desranleau

Isaac is an Inbound Specialist at New Breed. His passion for the inbound philosophy of giving value to customers before extracting it brought him to New Breed. In his free time, he's an avid outdoorsman.


Ready to jumpstart your acquisition, retention and expansion efforts?

Request Assessment