Have you ever wondered why Wikipedia always comes up in the search results for generic informational phrases in Google? Or why the BBC or CNN are commonly displayed for recent news stories and events?
This is because Google considers them to be authoritative sites.
What are the tell-tale signs for an authoritative site?
A site has a number of factors to be considered as an authority site.
Firstly, again, like Wikipedia for example, the site is usually displayed more frequently in the first set of results in relation to the topic of what was searched.
If you check the PageRank (Google’s system of assessing quality sites) you will also find authority sites have a higher PR than normal from around PR7 and upwards. Wikipedia, for instance, has a PR of 9 on its root domain.
A screenshot showing PageRank on Google Toolbar
You will also notice many people will reference the site, this is because it will have tonnes of informative content on the subject in hand or a leading source to cite it.
It is also important to note that an authoritative site is not the same as a trusted domain.
An authority site, in almost every case, is a trusted domain but a trusted domain does not necessarily have the features to be an authority site.
A trusted domain is likely to be a brand where, over time, it has been verified, in one form or another, for having a physical location or being linked to from other trusted sites and sources.
You can tell if a site is trusted in Google by typing its domain and the results should show an extra layer of links underneath the description text. These links are called Sitelinks (see screenshot below for example).
So what are the requirements for an authority site?
First and foremost that the site produces a lot of new and unique up-to-date resourceful content – an authority on a subject or useful in its nature.
The impact of the above distinguishes itself from the rest as it generates interest and encourages people linking to its individual resources.
Domain age is a factor, albeit a small one. Established sites are more likely to be trusted and for Google to show in their results.
User experience is another small factor, although it plays two parts. As well as Google recognising good site architecture such as link positioning, good internal anchor text, and reasonably unique Title tags, users to the site will also find new interesting content more easily and thus likely to promote and share its content.
In summary, for a website to become an authority site, in Google’s perspective, you will need a lot of informative and useful content on a particular niche or group; a good site architecture for users to find even more information and/or discover new content, hopefully resulting in content being shared and linked to.