What is Author Rank? How will it affect my Content? How do I build my Author Rank?
If you’re into Content Marketing, chances are you’ve been asking yourself these questions a lot lately. If so, you can look forward to getting all the answers in this extensive guest post by Danish SEO Extraordinaire, Henrik Bondtofte – read more about the guest author in the bio at the bottom of the page.
Imagine a world where Google uses human aspects such as an author’s qualifications and expertise as ranking factors – rather than just looking at cold website stats.
Allow me to introduce AuthorRank – possibly the biggest change in Google’s algorithm to date. Bigger even than Panda and Penguin!
History and background on AuthorRank
In 2005, Google filed a patent for Agent Rank. The patent document describes how Google will use a number of parameters to determine an “agent’s” position within a given subject area. These parameters include how popular the agent is, and how much of an authority he or she is on the subject.
This gives us an idea of how long Google has been looking for a way to supplement the cold statistics of social interactions with human factors. Historically, Google hasn’t had access to enough qualitative data to justify using social interactions as a direct ranking factor. However, the solution to this problem presented itself in 2011 when Google launched it’s own social network, Google+. Finally they had the platform to warrant the activation of “AgentRank” (now known as AuthorRank).
AuthorRank – Introducing the human factor
In all its simplicity, the purpose of AuthorRank is to identify individuals, their knowledge within certain subjects, and what others think of the content they publish. The question is: “How do you make a qualitative measurement of such factors?”
Some of the factors that are likely to have an impact are: the number of followers the author has on social networks, how often the author’s content is shared, and how frequently the author gets acknowledgements from others in the form of links, pluses, shares, Likes, Tweets, co-citations, etc.
While these factors in themselves do not represent anything we haven’t heard before, the big difference is that AuthorRank ties these metrics the individual author who produces the content – not just the website that hosts the content.
An example of how AuthorRank will affect Content Marketing
Let’s say you’ve been running a serious website for the last 10 years. You’ve produced amazing content and become a trusted and popular resource within your field. In return, you’ve gotten inbound links and frequent shares on social media – in other words, you’ve received a ton of acknowledgments.
However, you decide to sell your website, and the people who take over fail to produce the same quality content as you did. And as a result, the editorial quality of the website drops radically.
Nevertheless, to Google the website will remain a powerhouse, and the new, poorer content will also perform well in the SERPS. Even with such a radical change, it could take years for Google to catch on because traditionally the only way for search engines to identify such transformations is via signals like lower influx of links/acknowledgements and lower levels of interaction.
Moreover, what are the consequences for you the author? You’ve spent 10 years building all this amazing content, but it’s all wasted now that you don’t own the website anymore. You might have a new website, but you’ll have to start from scratch building credibility, trust, and popularity.
AuthorRank will make this whole process easier because it allows Google to “remember” the authority and credibility you’ve built up around yourself as an individual publisher. You’ll of course still have to attract the regular acknowledgments and signals that Google relies on to identify quality content, but you’ll have a much better starting point. In fact, you as a person will be able to lift the level of an entire website and ensure that it’ll get traffic in much higher volumes than what would otherwise be possible. That’s the beauty of AuthorRank.
Some of the factors that impact AuthorRank:
Google has access to enormous amounts of data that it uses to get an overview over who you are, what your expertise is, and how popular you are. There are a number of different metrics available to Google. I’ve mapped out the most important ones here in this diagram:
How to build your AuthorRank:
AuthorRank will have major impact on online marketing in general and content marketing specifically. And the sooner you start building AuhtorRank, the better. Here’s a guide to increasing your AuthorRank.
The first step is to claim authorship of your content
In order to accumulate AuthorRank in Google, you’ll have to claim authorship (AuthorShip) of the content you’ve created. You can do this by tying all your content to a verified Google+ profile. In practice, your +profile must have a link pointing to the pages/websites that host your content – and vice versa, these resources should link back to your +profile.
You can claim authorship by inserting the tag <rel=”author” link=”your-googlplus-url” /> into your content. Most SEO plugins for WordPress – e.g. All in One SEO and Yoast SEO – already feature a copy/paste function allowing you to easily apply the tag all pages on e.g. your blog.
If you have several authors producing content for your website, you’ll have to tag each author in their respective articles and link to the website from the “Contributes To” field in their Google+ Profile.
If you write produce content for other sites – e.g. in the form of guest posts – you can simply add the tag under the author bio – or anywhere else on the page for that matter. Google just needs to find the tag somewhere in the individual piece of content.
A nifty little side effect of including your author tag in the bio is that your Google+ profile picture and link to the profile will be added to the snippet when the guest post shows up in the SERPs. This is awesome on many different levels – especially if you write for high-authority resources with natural potential for top rankings.
Here’s an example from one of the guest posts Michael has written for Unbounce.com. The post ranks well for many call-to-action queries, and there is no doubt of who the author is, so Michael will get credit right from the get-go.
For a more in-depth article on authorship markup – check out this article on Search Engine Land
For a more in-depth article on Author Rich Snippets – check out this article by Mike Arnesen
Create content that gets pluses
Every +1 your content gets, represents an signal to Google that your content is of a high quality, and that you’ve done a great job. Therefore, you should actively work on creating content that gets a lot of +1s.
One of the questions that spring to mind is whether creating content that doesn’t get a lot of +1s will have a negative impact on your AuhtorRank. Obviously you can’t hit a home run every time you write something. Nevertheless, algorithmically speaking, continuously posting articles that don’t get any reactions is a sign that your content isn’t all that good.
Personally I believe that you will have to consistently produce content that gets recognition and +1s in order to effectively boost your AuhtorRank. Keeping in mind that not all content is inherently socially sharable, Google will in all probably never use AuthorRank exclusively to determine how to rank a piece of content in the SERPs.
+1 vs. Share
Shares and +1s aren’t the same thing, although they both have an effect on your AuthorRank. I like to think of it like Facebook’s “Like” and “Share”, in the sense that shares on Google+ are more important than +1s. Today the +1 function is similar to a Like on Facebook – Like is easy to click, but only the really good stuff gets shared.
Get more followers on Google+
In order to build authority and credibility around yourself and your brand, you need to build up a base of followers who find you and your content interesting. The number of people who have you in their circles on Google+ is a clear metric that Google will use to evaluate how ”important” you are.
Make sure to take part in discussions on Google+ that are relevant to your area of expertise. A great way to build up a following is to take part in relevant discussions on Google+ within the subject areas where you want build up or maintain authority. This doesn’t mean that you have stick to only one particular subject. However, the more time you spend on one specific topic, the easier it will be for Google to identify you as en authority within that subject.
A few tips for getting more followers on Google+:
1. Share content within your area of expertise that you find interesting as well as content that you think others will find interesting.
2. Funny pictures and videos are prime candidates for virality on social media, and Google+ is no exception. A funny and original angle on a particular subject is a great way of attracting a bunch of +1s and shares. And as long as you stay on topic, all the acknowledgements you get will be relevant and help boost your authority.
3. Create Google+ Hangouts where you answer questions or help solve problems related to the service or product you offer. Personally, I could start a hangout offering live SEO audits and use that to build a following. If you sell wine, you could help people estimate the value of their wine collection or teach them about the different wine yards their most treasured bottles are from.
Boost your AuthorRank by interacting with the right people
As we all know, the best links you can get are the ones from high-authority websites relevant to the subject matter of your content. The same principle can be applied to Google+ users. When high-authority “Agents” link to or share content that has been tagged with your author ID, it’s a clear signal to Google that your content carries a certain weight.
For this reason, it’s important that you map out thought leaders within your field that you could potentially interact with. Resources like FollowerWonk and LinkedIn tend are great for this purpose, because they rely on endorsements from real people and therefore paint an accurate picture of who the key influencers are.
Use links to boost your AuhtorRank
Every link, you get from a piece of content that has been created by a registered Google+ user and tagged with rel=”author”, will help boost your AuthorRank. However, the authority level of the “agent” behind the article will determine the how much of an impact it will have. In effect such links can be compared to +1s in the sense that they are signals to Google that your content deserves attention.
The same goes for links that simply point to content you have posted directly on Google+ or links that point directly to your Google+ profile. Not all links will carry a lot of weight but in the long run every acknowledgment will help.
Comments on your blogs and on Google+
The numbers of comments your content gets will in all likelihood also be a sign that Google picks up on. This goes for comments on your website as well as comments on Google+.
I share a lot of articles on Google+, but I rarely remember to throw in my own 2 cents. That’s clearly a mistake, and I should prioritize this aspect, because I’ve noticed that I get significantly more comments when I start out writing a few sentences with my own thoughts.
As the case was with shares, +1s, and links, the impact will depend on the profile behind the comment. Do the same profiles comment on your content again and again? Are they influencers within your field? Do you they have a high level of authority?
It’s easy to get a lot of comments on e.g. a picture of your new kitten, but the comments won’t be related to your area of expertise and will therefore carry very little weight – despite the positive sentiment.
Content on your own site vs. your content on other sites
In addition to creating content for your own website and sharing it on social platforms, you should focus on creating content for other websites. An obvious method is writing guest posts for relevant blogs and websites.
If your area of expertise is landing page optimization, a good strategy is to get your content posted on the top LPO sites.
Apart from the obvious benefits like connecting with a new audience and getting a link, getting your content posted on top sites will send a clear signal to Google that you are a respected resource within your field.
Another huge benefit is the fact that the Shares, Likes, Tweets, +1s, etc. that your guest post gets, will rub off on your AuthorRank. At the same time, the publishers will most likely promote the post via their own platforms and profiles thus giving your content the opportunity to get acknowledgements from influencers who normally wouldn’t see your content.
Moreover, readers will be much more likely to share your content if they come across it on a well known website that they trust. Also, both the number of shares and the quality of inbound links are likely to be higher on a high-authority.
As long as your rel=”author” tag is on the page with the guest post, all the interactions and acknowledgements the guest post gets will impact your AuthorRank. In Practice this means that you can increase your AuhtorRank and thereby your own website’s rankings without doing any work on the website itself.
When will we see the full effect of AuthorRank?
AuthorRank hasn’t been put into full effect yet. But I’m sure it will happen soon – my best guess is within 6-9 months. Google usually tests important algorithm updates in a “light version”, before they implement the full version. So chances are that they are testing aspects of AuthorRank right now. At the moment we’re probably experiencing 5-10% of the full impact.
But one thing is for sure: when Google does roll out AuthorRank for real it will impact the landscape of SEO significantly. So there’s only one right thing to do – start building your AuthorRank right now!
Join the conversation on Google+! What are your thoughts on AuthorRank and how it will impact SEO and Content Marketing?
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About the Guest Author:
Henrik Bondtofte is one of the leading SEOs in Denmark. He works full time with SEO and SEM and helps clients of all sizes boost their online success. Check out his Google+ Profile or his personal blog – if you think your Danish is up to par