When it comes to search results do you want relevance or trust?

October 20, 2009

Just came across an interesting post by Bill Slawski on the subject of a patent granted to Google last week titled ‘Search result ranking based on trust‘. There’s been a lot of talk about trustworthiness being the next big factor to be considered in search engine algorithms but it makes me wonder how useful it would be in reality.

When I use Google to search for something what I’m really looking for is the most relevant result I can find which will answer my query. To be honest, I often couldn’t care less how much I trust the source as long as it’s reputable (maybe rep is a better factor?).

Where I can see a trust (or rep) factor being useful is with weeding out spam search results who have got themselves a really good natural search ranking. Beyond that I’m not convinced it’s required for normal web search (except perhaps as an option or it would be useful in a search through social streams like Twitter, but here I’m referring to the kind of search you do through http://www.google.com).

You see, to some extent trust is in the eye of the beholder and a very difficult thing to turn into a scientific algorithm. A source could be trustworthy to one person and not at all to another depending on many factors. So to really put an accurate trust rating on web pages is going to be extremely difficult (I think).

Would Google’s time be better spent working on relevancy ranking and using trust sparingly as a factor to filter out spam results? Or do you think trust has a bigger place in the future of search algorithms (maybe trust/rep on news/blog search)? Interested to hear your thoughts…

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