Google’s algorithm uses thousands of signals to align search results with a query. One is “trustworthiness,” a combination of signals to assess a page’s credibility.

Google’s Search Central portal mentions “trust” roughly 1,600 times. It’s a long-discussed topic.

In 2011, Google’s Matt Cutts addressed “trust” as a search signal and defined it as “how much we are willing to believe that this a high-quality page.”

But there are no clear metrics to measure or understand trust, making it difficult to optimize.

The good news is Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs) provide clues. We cannot assign trust numbers or compare multiple pages. Yet knowing those clues helps explain why one page outranks another despite fewer keywords or backlinks.

Here’s how Google’s SERPs convey trusted sites and pages.

Knowledge Panels

The presence in search results of a knowledge panel for an individual or brand query is the strongest signal that Google recognizes the person or site as a “known entity.”

Knowledge panels are hard to earn. An entity — a person, organization, or location — must be part of Google’s massive knowledge graph to trigger the panel.

The knowledge graph is an interconnected map of entities to help Google understand the context behind a search query.

A brand must be connected with existing entities to become one itself. The connection is more than links, such as a trusted partner or award winner, for example. It takes many mentions in Wikipedia and reputable publishers to become a known entity.

A person or brand search that triggers a knowledge panel is a huge signal of trust from Google and a disclosure of the related entities.

Screenshot of "ann smarty" search results including the knowledge panel.

Searching “ann smarty” triggers a knowledge panel, a trust signal from Google. Click image to enlarge.

Similarly, Google’s autocomplete indicates whether it considers the query an entity — with or without a knowledge panel —  and the classification or category. For…

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