Understanding Google’s Author Rank and How to Use it in Your Content Marketing

Understanding Google’s Author Rank and How to Use it in Your Content MarketingWhat 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 Bondtofteread 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.


AuthorRank - How Google will use AuthorRank in it's Algorithm
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:

Factors that impact Author Rank

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.

Author Rank - How to use the rel="author" tag

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.


Author Markup in Guest Post Bio

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.

Unbounce.com example of guest post snippet

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.

Google+ - +1 vs. Share

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.

Author Rank - Interact with the right InfluencersUse 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.

Author Rank - Shares on guest posts

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?

We’ve got an open discussion going on G+ and would love to hear your thoughts. Join the conversation here >>

About the Guest Author: 

Guest Author Henrik BondtofteHenrik 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 ;-)

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  1. Great article, Henrik. The most useful I’ve seen on this topic so far.

    In terms of guest blogging – do I need to have a link to your Google + profile from my bio (I prefer having just a link to my blog to maximize subscribers) or could it be sufficient to add the blog to the “contributes to” section on Google +?

    • Hi Henneke, thank you very much for your kind words!

      When you do guestblogging, simply add the article to “Contributor to” section in you Google+ account. If you are a contributor to more articles on the same site, you could link to your authorpage on that webpage, to gain authorship on all your articles.

  2. A very nice article Henrik, Google author rank is something which can create an upside down effect in SEO industry. Author rank is going to be the most effective factor in 2013. Guest blogging and Google + sharing, they are very effective way to build author rank as well.

  3. The thing that stands out to me the most is , how dependent the quality of your author rank is dependent on Google+. For myself and many others I know, Google + never really stuck or became an integral part of our daily interactions on social media unlike, Twitter or Facebook. It would seem that in order to reap the clear benefits of this new metric, being active on Google’s social platform is not just suggested, but imperative! There’s something about that which feels a little manipulative, least to me?

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Stacey – I see your point. I does seem a bit manipulative.

      On the other hand, I think the benefits of AuthorRank totally make up for it.
      I’m super excited about the update ;-)

      – Michael

  4. Agreed Stacey. Google+ is the nerve of it all, connecting all hubs, this makes Google+ the most vital weapon for content marketeers (and SEOs) and it also makes us even more dependent on Googles platform.

  5. Hi Henrik, Great article! I have a question – does it matter wheter you link to your G+ profile or page? It’s hard work to get followers on the page, but right now, that’s what I link to from my website. Should I rather change that to my profile?

    • Hi Lise, thank you very much!

      You should implement rel=”publisher” that points to your brand page and take authorship on the articles you write. If you use to Google+ badge for pages on your webpage, this will hook you up with the rel=”publisher” link, if you do not use this, you can simply just add it yourself to your header or index file.

  6. I think that any algorithm by Google is more complex than we give them credit for. In Google’s recent X lab experiment in “human unsupervised learning”, engineers used a mere 1,000 computers (pocket change to Google) to engage in learning about imagery in YouTube videos. Un-prompted, the artificial neural network determined that there were cats and identified them as such- without any instructions to do so. If we should be tempted to think that any so called “Author Rank” can be simplified to the point of manipulation of SERP, we should remember what Google can do with a mere 1,000 PCs. Author Rank, if it is ever to reach official status at all, will certainly be capable of determining who is really the sheriff in town and will not be fooled by mechanical posturing. A previous commenter mused that Google may be manipulating us with Google Plus. To that extent, Google is “manipulating us” with Google. Plus is by no means the first player in this event. Google Plus is simply the best ID badge system to be given an opportunity to get on the stage in front of the judges. The rest of the performance is up to you.

  7. Hi Henrik, you are indeed a copy master. This is the best piece I’ve read on Author Rank. I’ve been publishing blog content for a couple of years and using Social Media to promote it. But I really neglected G+. When did you first start using G+?

  8. Outstanding article Henrik. For the first time I can start to understand why author rank is important. As I said, “start”. I’m guessing by the time I truly understand it and achieve a decent level of authority, something like semantic search will obsolete everyone’s efforts including mine. However, if this endeavor were easy, everyone would be doing it; and guys like me would have to find a real job. Again, thank you.

  9. This was an amazing post. What I simply feel is that, Google is all the way trying their level best to remove web spam. I have read one article at basicblogtips, and according to that post, SEO signals are much less spammy as compared to social signals. And specially after release of Google panda and penguin Google has pushed all those spammer all the way down.

    So lets see what’s going to be their in our future ( SEO ).

    Thanks for the guide.

    • Thank you very much Vivek.

      I am not quite sure I understand the thing about SEO signals are much less spammy than social signals, could you elaborate?

      Yeah, they kinda killed all of that indian/asian based “linkbuilding” that was going on. Stil, it’s quite easy to manipulate, but they are trying to school us into just go with the flow and do it the “right” way. It had it’s impact, that’s for sure.

  10. Great article. How would this effect a more purely e-commerce site? How would you go ahead if you had a e-commerce site and were to take effect of the AuthorRank? To me it seems straight forward with blogs etc, but for my e-com site I´m not sure how to utilise it.


    • Anybody?

      • Michael Aagaard says:

        Hi Atle – sorry for the long wait.

        Henrik is the real expert. He’s been busy, but I know that he’s going through the comments today.

        – Michael

    • Hi Atle, sorry about the wait, been a very busy week. Its actually pretty straight forwarded on E-commerce shops as well. Lets say you sell wine, first and foremost you could provide great product information. Next, you could start up a blog about wine; this could be located on the webshop or on a completely new URL.

      The beauty of authorship and authorrank is that it follows you as an author and therefore it does not matter that you spread your knowledge on different websites, it all adds up. Do some great articles on wine and on the areas where the wine is from, some history maybe a nice infographic, video or what else falls in to mind. You can do this exercise on all kinds of products, if you are selling something like nails, it gets a bit tough though, but you could do articles on very close related subjects like, the best toolbox, how to put up a new wooden wall with only a board, hammer and nails, I hope this clarifies your question.

  11. Very informative. I need to set up my wordpress news site with google+. I’ve found G+ frustrating versus other social media options and emails from other G+ users are irritating as they don’t tell you what has been shared. But maybe I needto give it a go for the SEO benefits

    • Thank you John, I sure think you should. G+ is a lot different from other social platforms, but once you get to know it you’ll see the benefits this platform has to offer. The conversations are much more savvy and further going than on Twitter, it’s still mostly tech-guys in there, but G+ is gaining more momentum all the time.

  12. Thanks for the post, Google Author rank is going to be next big thing in coming year as per the SEO techniques

  13. Hello Henrik,

    Nice article… Hope this Google Author Rank has been created mainly for content marketing. As Google Panda update recently launched, many has been affected by this algorithm due to spammy and duplicated content.

  14. Thanks so much for this informative article. You have saved me so much time. I can focus on the best SEO techniques instead of endlessly commenting on unknown sites to get my ranking up. Overall, I enjoy spending time on my original posts which Google will apparently reward. How many posts per week should one make? thanks.

  15. Nice post.. Is there any method to find our current author rank like our page rank?

  16. I skimmed through the comments so I apologize if you already answered this question, Henrik. But I was wondering how come the link to your Google+ profile in your bio on this page doesn’t have the rel=author tag in it. Is there another way you are claiming this content. The Rich Snippet testing tool shows that you are the verified author so I know it’s talking to Google+ somehow, I’m just not sure how. Is there someway you don’t need the rel=author tag anymore?


    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Thomas – Thanks for the question.

      I established Henrik as an author here on ContentVerve.com and connected his rel=author tag to his author profile. So all content that he posts here will automatically be tagged. At the top of the post (just above the title), you’ll see Henrik’s name in the link to his author profile.

      If we only had added the tag in hos author bio at the bottom of the post it would have been overruled by my rel=author tag.

      Hope that explanation makes sense ;-)

      – Michael

      • Michael,

        Thanks for clearing that up! Is the rel=author tagged link hidden behind the scenes when you do it that way? Also, did you have to use the rel=me tag on this page so Google sees the connection from the author profile page to the post – or as long as the author has a Google+ link will it see the two and make the connection? Trying to figure all of this stuff out before I launch my own site and everyone seems to have different info.

  17. thanks for the heads-up, i guess i’ll have to encourage my readers to share my content more on Google+ than facebook and twitter.

  18. nothing explains this clear and detail about G Author rank. thanks a lot for the great write up.


  19. One of the very best articles on AuthorRank I have read…clear and concise and very easy to follow and implement (if not already completed). At this stage we are all playing a waiting game and watching to see when Google will “flip the switch” and turn AuthorRank loose. Ready or not, it is coming!

  20. Great article – time to get cracking getting this sorted on my site! I am currently in the process of launching a new site and 301 redirecting the pages over. I have not yet claimed authorship of the articles on the existing pages. Have you any idea of the impact that 301 redirects have on Google authorship? I would hate to claim my articles on the existing site only to have them not appear on the new site!

    • Hi Jason, thanks!

      No problems here, you just 301 away. No harm in adding rel=”author” attribute now and still do it when it’s moved to the new domain, just remember to add your new URL to your Google+ page, so they connect.

  21. This update will really help to rank better site above as many sites will only rank with expertise author that will depend on quality sharing. I really like this update that will really help to bad effect for spammers

  22. Thanks for this great article! It is the best I have read on the subject so far on the whole web. I refer to it whenever anyone asks me for good information on Authorrank.

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hi Gustav – Thank you very much for the kind words!

      I’m happy to hear that you like the article. Keep spreading the word ;-)

      – Michael

  23. nice article..really helpful..thanks for sharing..keep the good works going guys…:-)

  24. Paramesh Das says:

    Get lots of information form the post. The past and present of the author rank. Thanks for this post.

  25. Does all this apply if you are posting from a G+ business page? I can’t see how it will, maybe everything needs to be personal?

  26. Okay, I was having lots of confusions in my mind. Finally got to know how actually Author Rank works. Thanks a bunch Michael.

  27. One of the best articles I have read on Google ranking! Thank you Michael, I will share this with others.

  28. Thank you for this excellent article. I appreciate your having a Google+ button with a counter so that I can easily bookmark it to my +1 button: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LindaSherman/plusones

  29. Fantastic Article, Henrik! Google AuthorRank is really going to be a game changer. I, myself, have been working on a plugin to help calculate a person’s AuthorRank and I have to say that the factor of relevance that contribute to someone’s Author rank that you have mentioned in this article are right on as far as I can see and according to all of my research data. So, Kudos, Man! Good WOrk!

  30. Juicy stuff Henrik! This made us understand how Google authorship will be essential to SEO. I am sharing this to definitely to my team, and will be +ing this over as well. I think you’ve covered this much better than SEOmoz and SELand. :)

    Keep it up!

  31. Superb, really useful information. Thanks!

  32. Hi Henrik,
    Thanks so much for the excellent article! I am the content writer/manager and for a small but full service web marketing company. We design and produce websites for people as well as develop a long-term marketing strategies for them. So not only do I write all the content for my clients’ websites, but I also ghost write blogs and guest blog on their behalf in order to help them claim authority in their field. Is there a way to claim my own (actual) authorship with Google+ for everything I am writing for my clients, but also allow my client’s information and photo display on the SERPs? I would hate to loose all credit for the content I am writing for my clients, since it is all original (and I market myself as a copywriter). Thanks in advance for any direction you can give!

  33. Can Google authorship harm my traffic website?
    I am new using Google Authorship, (one week) and after seeing my Authorship working on SERP I have seen a dramatically drop on traffic.
    I am the only website in the first 3 pages with Authorship, and almost in all keywords I am in first page.
    Pinguin 2.0 didn’t affect my website.
    Any comments?

    • Michael Aagaard says:

      Hej Victor – That sounds strange. How can you be sure that Penguin 2.0 didn’t affect your rankings? It seems like your rankings dropped at the same time as Penguin 2.0 came out…

      – Michael

  34. When operating in different niches should an author use different Google+ author accounts?

    I have sites in the holidays and entertainment, politics, telecommunications, computing and automotive niches.

    Should I use one Google+ author profile for all my content or create multiple profiles, one for each niche, given that expertise in one niche is not equal to expertise in another niche?

    Using one profile would have more content for Google to consider but using multiple profiles would focus expertise in the subject?

  35. Thank you for this excellent article.

  36. hi !
    Do participating google+ pages Make my rank High

  37. Really comprehensive article with some great tips. A lot to think about for sure. This whole online thing just keeps changing and we have to change with it or fall behind. Embrace the change is my motto. :)

  38. Very good info. Lucky me I discovered your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

  39. Very much like will share on my web site with a link. Very impressed with the layout and info contained in the article. Here in my site if you want to check it out thanks again

  40. Finally I Got the answer thanks Henrik.
    After reading so many articles i din’t get what is author rank but after reading this article i got all my answer. The images clear all my doubts. Thanks Again.

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