SEO Tip of the Week: Offsite Trust Optimisation: Getting links from trusted domains

90 Digital CEO Nick Garner explains that getting a link from a trusted domain is generally a good thing in this episode of SEO Tip of the Week of

A refresher on theme for this series of articles.

Because link acquisition is becoming less and less important these days, there is another factor which is filling the vacuum: engagement rank. Engagement rank is the part of the Google algorithm which affects search results through user engagement. To improve user engagement, there is a process and it’s called trust optimisation. Along with on-site optimisation, link acquisition, there is now trust optimisation which helps you improve your engagement rank. On to the article!

Do you get links from trusted domains? Does it actually make any difference?

SEO Tip of the Week: Offsite Trust Optimisation: Getting links from trusted domains

Having done a lot of research by hanging out with the black hat crowd, it’s fairly obvious there is a split out between PageRank and user engagement affecting rankings.

Spammers will do things like reinstate dropped domains which have really good PageRank going into them. Have enough of these domains pointing at a particular site or page, and you will rank. The downside is you will also get a penalty at some point.

There are also link networks which are like a drug dealing marketplace where you can buy links off-the-shelf with agreed metrics and as with dropped domains, these sites will help you rank. Again, the downside is you will pick up a penalty.

Overall what I’ve come to realise is that PageRank is a fairly blunt instrument. It started out as a really blunt instrument, where PageRank could be manipulated very easily through mass link exchanges, directory links and so on. Fortunately over the last three years, Google has rolled out Penguin which has obliterated the value of these low quality links.

Today, for spammers it’s a question of staying ahead of Penguin to manipulate PageRank and rank their nasty sites.

I used to think getting links from high quality trusted sites was the main thing irrespective of PageRank, but now I believe it’s a case of taking a balanced approach.

The PageRank from complete spam sites will get wiped out by Penguin. But you won’t have that problem with high quality domains, simply because they are not in penguins target zone.

Ultimately, if you want to be sustainable then you need links from domains which fall into Google’s good books. If you don’t care about sustainability and your the kind of person who doesn’t care about making the Internet a better place, you can go and buy lots and lots of dropped domains and link network links to rank pretty easily.

The sad thing is this stuff works very well, but only for a while.

Therefore if you want to be sustainable, you will end up getting links from trusted domains anyway and in theory that has a positive effect on your rankings.


Links are far less important than ever before and expect this trend to continue since links are so easily gained and therefore such a bad signal in many ways.

Filling the vacuum is engagement rank, the thing which affects rankings through engagement. Provided you get enough traffic from search, if your content is genuinely relevant and useful then you get higher click through rates and engagement over other websites.

The data doesn’t come from analytics, it’s is derived through user activity on search results pages. What makes engagement rank so powerful is that it’s really difficult to game this across the hundreds of thousands of key phrases a given website will rank for.

My best advice, do go after links from trusted websites and… Double up your work on making your website the best it can be.

Nick Garner

Nick Garner is  founder of 90 Digital, the well-known and respected iGaming search marketing agency.  

Nick is obsessed with SEO and whatever it takes to rank sustainably on Google.