If you pay attention to Google’s updates, you most likely heard of AuthorRank in August of 2005 when Google filed a patent for “Agent Rank”. In the patent, Googler David Minogue references ranking “agents” and using the reception of the content they create and their interactions as a factor in determining rank. The patent suggests that more well-received and popular “agents” could have their associated content rank higher than unsigned content or the content of other less-authoritative “agents”. Not much happened with Agent Rank because the idea of ranking “agents” is dependent on being able to identify them first. No real system for claiming an online identify existed at that time, however ranking agents has remained a goal for Google. In 2011, Eric Schmidt expressed that Google still had a desire and need to identify agents in order to improve search quality. The following month, Google filed a continuation patent referencing a “portable identity platform” which sounds a lot like Google+. Profiles on Google+ make an infinitely easier digital signature system than any previous attempt with the rollout of Google Authorship (tying a Google+ profile to pieces of content), it really sounds like that’s where we are headed. So now Google can start attributing content to specific “agents” and doing just what they set out to do in 2005: rank them. In February 2012, the term “AuthorRank” surface in the industry when AJ Kohn wrote a great post on AuthorRank and speculated that this development could completely change the search rankings. He also stated that it would be “bigger than Panda and Penguin combined”. AuthorRank, of course, would not be a replacement for PageRank, but would be used to inform PageRank, therefore enabling Google to rank high-quality content more appropriately. In Google’s never-ending mission to surface high quality, trustworthy content for their searchers, AuthorRank is the next big step.
Why You Need to Be Ready
Google will begin to incorporate AuthorRank into their ranking algorithm soon. Google’s emphasis on social, Google Authorship, their efforts to measure trust and their progressive devaluation of raw links all lean towards AuthorRank. People want to read content written by credible and knowledgeable sources. Using AuthorRank as a major part of their search algorithm makes sense. The launch of AuthorRank is not going to destroy site traffic like Panda, but the impact will be huge. While the rollout of AuthorRank obviously won’t be an algorithmic penalty, sites that have been prepping and carefully building AuthorRank for their site contributors will have a major advantage.
What Signals Will Affect AuthorRank?
Google considers over 200 factors when determining where sites rank in organic search, so it’s safe to assume they will be using plenty of signals to calculate AuthorRank. Here are factors that Google is likely to use in their calculation:
- The average PageRank of an author’s content.
- The average number of +1s and Google+ shares the author’s content receives.
- The number of Google+ circles an author is in.
- Reciprocal connections to other high AuthorRank authors.
- The number and authority of sites an author’s content has been published to.
- The engagement level of an author’s native Google+ content (i.e., posts to Google+).
- The level of on-site engagement for an author’s content (i.e., comments and author’s responsiveness to comments)
- Outside authority indicators (e.g., the presence of a Wikipedia page).
- YouTube subscribers and/or engagement on authored videos (speculation: multiple-attribution author markup for YouTube videos coming soon).
- Any number of authority metrics on social networks that Google considers trustworthy (Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, SlideShare, etc.).
- Real world authority indicators like published works on Google Books or Google Scholar.
Start by setting up Google Authorship before it’s too late. Aside from getting that sweet author rich snippet in search results, setting this up will give Google exactly what they need to assign you an initial AuthorRank. This is your between your online identity and the content you are creating.
Once you set up Google Authorship, track down all the highest quality content you’ve created on the web and make sure your rich snippet markup is correct by using the Rich Snippet Testing Tool. You don’t want to risk your best content not being factored into your AuthorRank. If you’re working on building your own AuthorRank, create exceptional content. Create content that establishes your expertise, demonstrates the value of your field and helps other by sharing worthwhile knowledge. If you’re a consultant working with a medium or large brand and you’re hoping to get a head start on AuthorRank, you have a tough road ahead. It can be difficult to get a CEO or head of marketing to highlight their people when they’re concerned about what it will do to their brand. It really depends on the company culture and some may never agree with AuthorRank. Here are some strategic ways you can build AuthorRank right now.
Create Content Worth Sharing
If you’ve been following what’s going down in the inbound industry (particularly, SEOmoz), you know that the definition of link building is slowly, but steadily, changing to “content marketing”. It’s all about creating content your audience feels is worthy of reading and sharing. It’s all about creating resources that will help them enough that they willingly want to share it. Those concepts are the equivalent to content marketing and they’re even more important for AuthorRank. If you are tying your author identity to content you’ve created for the sake of creating content or to earn links, you will be in trouble. Here are a few things that are certain to destroy your AuthorRank as badly as Penguin destroyed sites with questionable backlink profiles:
- Publishing content on blog networks.
- Guest posting through guest blogging communities (of course, there are exceptions).
- Writing content that’s keyword-stuffed or full of grammatical errors.
- Submitting content to article directories.
- Spinning articles. Create content that people will want to share on their own because they are actually interested in it and only post content to the best outlets that are available to you. AuthorRank will be much more variable than PageRank in that you can earn a different AuthorRank in different topic areas. Determine what you’re passionate about and create great content covering it. Don’t go crazy with different topics, since your AuthorRank will probably end up being fairly weak in a lot of different topics instead of strong in one.
Use Google+, As Much As Possible
If any of you don’t like Google+, too bad. Google is going to use your “in circles” count to determine your AuthorRank. That means you need to make sure people have a reason to follow you. A few quick tips:
- Post updates multiple times a day.
- Check in on your feed and on the global feed and +1 and comment on stories you find interesting. +1ing content makes people stoked and commenting (in a genuine and authentic way) adds something to the conversation. This will benefit you and your AuthorRank, in the long run.
- Fill out your “About” section and title. People use this information to decide if they want to put you in their circles.
Connect with Authors who have High AuthorRank
Find other authors who have a higher AuthorRank than you and work on getting them to encircle you. Aside from having them in your following, you can also put your content in front of them every time you create something impressive. Find them on Google+ and start to slowly and naturally build a relationship with them. You can use Twitter, Facebook, or any other means of communicating, just be sure they have a Google+ profile and AuthorRank. Promote your Google+ profile Your Google+ profile is the very hub of your authorship. It is what Google uses to tie all your content together. Building links to it and optimizing it makes a ton of sense. If your Google+ profile has a high PageRank (it gets its own PageRank) when AuthorRank launches, it’s a safe bet that your AuthorRank will be high as well. Make real connections Attend local industry meet-ups, offer free lectures at local blogging groups, and apply to speak at conferences. Be genuine and helpful. In your deck, link to a blog post you published earlier that day that they can reference for detailed information beyond what you covered in your presentation. Watch as that thing gets social mentions and links like crazy. That's a major AuthorRank boost. Also drop a few business cards with your Google+ profile URL on them. Build real links Building links to your content from within your own site doesn’t carry much value compared to a backlink from another site. You control that site so of course you will link to your own content. Having other sites link to you is much more meaningful because it shows you’re content is valued. It’s the same with AuthorRank. If you only publish blog posts on a site you control, you’re playing with internal links (or sites on the same host). Start guest blogging and building links by focusing on quality. Only pick high quality sites that care about content, because it ties back to you as an author. You don’t need hundreds of guest posts on low-quality blogs with no editorial standards messing up your AuthorRank. Instead, write fewer high quality guest posts on respected sites. Building AuthorRank needs to be an organic and gradual process. You can’t do it in a day, a week, or a month. Here are a few things you can incorporate into your daily workflow that will help build your AuthorRank over time.
- Check your Google+ feed interact regularly. 2. Maintain your weekly blog post. 3. Read a post on a site you’ve targeted for guest blogging and leave a quality comment.
Start building visibility and relationships with the authors and editors. 4. Look for two or three interesting people on Google+, circle them, and interact with something they’ve posted. Years ago, Google realized that providing their users with better results would hinge on identifying and ranking the very people who produced those results. Until the launch of Google+, they had a great idea but no viable way to get it off the ground. Now they have everything they need: the idea (Agent Rank), the identity platform (Google+), and the verification method (Google Authorship). Now all that’s left is to fine-tune the ranking and roll it into the algorithm. The impact of AuthorRank will be a significant penalty designed to punish low-quality content.
The time to start building AuthorRank is today!