Making Sense of Google Author Rank
Google is all about content. It effectively separates internet wheat from cyber chaff, making it the search engine of choice for internet users the world over. The importance of achieving a high Google ranking has led to the development of the SEO industry, which is roughly divided into two camps – white hat and black hat.
White hat SEO is essentially based on tweaking valuable content to ensure that it stands the best possible chance of being noticed by Google. Black hat SEO is essentially about using technical trickery such as keyword stuffing and dubious link building to raise a site’s ranking. Google has been fighting a battle against this for years and their latest weapon is Google Authorship with its corollary Google Author Rank.
Authority and reliability of information
The theory behind the concept is simple. Sources on- and off-line come with varying degrees of authority and reliability. When speaking about medicine, a qualified and experienced doctor carries more authority than a carpenter, when speaking about home improvements, the reverse is true. Likewise anonymous sources, which cannot be verified, cannot be held to be as reliable as sources who are prepared to go on the record. Google has created the Google Authorship programme to encourage authors to build a Google profile, which will essentially act as a digital signature linking them to their work.
Perhaps it would be better to say a digital pen name, since the aim of the exercise is ultimately to give internet writers the same degree of visibility as their offline counterparts, thereby making it easier for users to judge the worth of their work and its relevance to them. In short, Google’s ultimate aim is to create a scenario, similar to that of the average book shop, where users have easy signposts to the writers and content that are likely to interest them, even if they are unfamiliar with the shop and its layout.
While Google is still being coy about the extent to which Google Authorship is affecting their search engine rankings, it’s known that there are ways in which the ability to make a direct connection between a person and their online output will influence search engine results.
Identifiable authors can include a photograph of themselves
Most people like to be able to put faces to names. Knowing what an author looks like enhances the human connection and creates trust. It remains to be seen how much of an impact photographs will make on click-through rate (which is measured by Google and does influence ranking), but it seems fair to assume that there will be some degree of benefit from it.
Google will be able to measure the number of people in author’s Google+ circles
Indirectly of course, this will encourage authors to devote more time to the management of their Google+ profile, which may help Google in its battle with Facebook. For authors, having a strong Google+ following is likely to be beneficial for moving up page rankings.
Google will more easily monitor user engagement
Google already looks at engagement during its analysis of a website’s quality and therefore its ranking. They already include measurements such as time spent on a site and pages clicked, or alternatively the number of visitors who click through to a site only to abandon it quickly. The new Google Authorship programme will enable Google to finesse this with the use of criteria such as social media engagement, including those from other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s entirely possible that Google will go further than just monitoring for likes, shares and retweets and will look for active comments relating to a particular author.
Google will be able to monitor authors who publish on authority websites
Google’s ranking algorithm already identifies websites which are authority sources in a particular field. It is fair to assume that they have reached this status by attracting authority writers and therefore this is likely to be reflected in an author’s Google rank.
In fairness to Google, while Google Author Rank is likely to increase the perceived benefits of using Google+ effectively, the overall aim of the programme should be of benefit to all legitimate internet users, both content providers and content users. By raising the rankings of writers who produce quality content and in particular of writers who regularly produce quality content, Google will make it easier for internet users to find their work and by extension will make life much more difficult for content spinners and the like, who add nothing to the internet.
What does this mean for content marketing?
Google Authorship is essentially working towards a situation similar to the world of publishing, where quality authors and quality content centres are able to build up a brand and a following. Everyone has heard of Jamie Oliver as an expert on cookery and everyone has heard of Dummies Guides, these names alone tell people what they can expect from the content they produce. Google would like there to be a similar situation on the internet.
This means that content marketers who produce quality material have the opportunity to gain a head start on their content-spinning counterparts, all the more so if they encourage their authors to build up their Google+ profiles to increase their authorship rankings.
In particular it means that organizations have the opportunity to push themselves up the Google rankings by establishing themselves as key go-to resources in their area.
Potentially marketing emphasis will shift from blogs to authors
Much of today’s content marketing depends on getting content published on authority blogs and websites. It is possible that Google Authorship will alter this dynamic by placing more emphasis on the author rather than on the blog.
Of course part of the way in which authors build up a reputation as quality source is by contributing to quality websites and it is only human nature for quality authors to want to be associated with best-in-breed blogs and websites, so it is likely that there will be a strong relationship between content marketing and blogging for the foreseeable future.
It may, however, become increasingly possible to leverage the power of authors with a strong Google Author Rank to build new websites, or to increase the visibility of established ones, essentially by lending the author’s credentials to the site.