The Writer’s Author Rank Cheat Sheet

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Editor’s note: On August 28, 2014, Google ended their Authorship program. To discover what this means for you as an online content creator, check out this post by Sonia Simone.

Mention the words “Author Rank” and online writers typically cock their heads or raise an eyebrow.

They’ve more than likely heard of it, but defining it is an entirely different animal.

That’s because it refers to a nebulous Google algorithm that seems more legend than reality and can often cause confusion.

Yet, if you’ve been following us over the last five posts in this series you probably realize that the developments behind Author Rank (Google+, Search + Your World, and authorship markup) will help you drive more traffic to your website, increase your online visibility, and establish your online authority.

In other words, there are rock-solid benefits to this thing called Author Rank, but taking advantage of those benefits can be intimidating. Maybe you’re asking questions like …

  • Where do I start?
  • Do I have the technical skills?
  • Will it work for me?
  • How do I know when it is working?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Do I have time for this?

Compound these worries with the notion that you could be leaving attention, authority, and leads on the table because you can’t (or don’t) have the resources necessary to work this algorithm … and the tension builds.

Hopefully this post (as well as the earlier ones in the series) will relieve some of that tension.

A brief summary of Author Rank

Let’s start from the beginning.

Author Rank was born out of a patent that Google filed back in 2005 called AgentRank. As I wrote in Seven Ways Writers Can Build Authority Online with Google+:

AgentRank is supposed to create digital signatures for “agents” (think writers and other content creators), which would then accumulate reputation scores based upon public reaction to their content (comments, social shares, links).

The important distinction here is that this score was “portable.” It wasn’t tied to a site (which doesn’t move across the web), but a person (who does). That’s impossible to do, however, unless you establish a platform to identify “agents.”

The one problem with the above patent was that the identity was not portable. It wasn’t mobile. So Google updated their patent to Author Rank, making the identity of the author capable of being traced across the web — as long as he has a Google+ account and authorship markup implemented.

Yep, just quoted myself there. Anyway …

Google was closing in on the PageRank loophole that allowed spammers to game search rankings. Content was definitely king, but the throne was empty.

So the goal behind updating the Google algorithm with something like Author Rank is to penalize anonymous players, while rewarding verified authors with higher visibility and clickthroughs.

As AJ Kohn said on his Author Rank post:

… you put together the launch of Google+ (an identity platform) with rel=author (a digital signature) and add in the acquisition of two companies (PostRank and SocialGrapple) who mine activity and engagement and it is clear that Google is anxious to use Author Rank to help it deal with the digital content avalanche.

Finally … the horse is in front of the cart.

What an Author Rank score might look like

While Author Rank remains a theory (with strong evidence in its support) I think it is safe to say that content creators will probably have a score much like pages have scores in PageRank.

What might your Author Rank (let’s call it “AR” from now on) score be based upon?

It’s all about the value an author brings to the table. And that value is based on who you are, who you hang out with, and what you create. Let’s start with your Google+ account:

  • Participation — More participation on Google+ could mean a higher AR score. Google might even evaluate the content you share in detail: Are you posting text, videos, or images? Are you creating original work or just re-sharing others? Are you liking and commenting? Are you replying to the comments you get? Are you doing hangouts? Joining communities? What does your participation look like in those channels? Have you fleshed out your profile and created Circles?
  • Audience size — How many connections do you have on Google+? How many people are connected to you? What’s the quality of those connections? Do you have thought leaders connecting to you?
  • Your interactions with content — Google is probably also looking at how you interact with other content. Are you leaving quality comments? Are people responding to your comments and reviews? Are thought leaders responding to those comments? Are your comments getting +1s?

Of course, your score wouldn’t be tied just to your Google+ account. Google would use factors for content external to their social network.

For instance, Google looks at:

  • Average PageRank of your published content — If you are new to the concept of PageRank, check out Danny Sullivan’s article What Is Page Rank? A Guide for Searchers & Webmasters.
  • Authority across other social media platforms — Google will try to factor in your profiles on other social sites based on the limited data they receive from those sites.
  • Top-level authority indicators — Mentions in authoritative websites like Wikipedia, The New York Times, universities, or government sites will suggest to Google that you’re a notable expert in your field.

But don’t forget that Google still looks at the content on your own website:

  • Content Quality — Is your content useful, original, and ultra-specific? When readers find you, do they stick around? Would Panda punish it? Who’s sharing your content? And how often? Are authoritative sites linking to it?
  • Content Quantity — How often do you publish on your site? What about other sites? And what’s the quality of that content? Are you getting the same quality signals when you publish on other sites?

So now it comes down to brass tacks.

Your Author Rank cheat sheet

In the following bullet list you’ll discover how to leverage the pieces behind Author Rank.

  • Create a Google+ account — This is the easy part. Make sure you create a solid bio. Use keywords that identify your area of expertise. And don’t forget to follow us on Google+.
  • Implement the authorship markup — When Google first rolled out authorship markup, it was intimidating. I wrote a couple of guides for clients trying to explain the process and it wasn’t easy. Google simplified the process with their authorship sign-up tool. However, you can pull it off in just a couple minutes if you are using the Genesis Framework for WordPress. Make sure you associate it with your Google+ profile, use a good headshot, and check your status with the rich snippet tool.
  • Boost activity on social sites — Put some quality time into interacting on social media sites, especially Google+. Focus on your top three. For example, for me that would be my blog, Twitter, and Google+. For you that might mean Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
  • Connect with influencers — Get in a habit of re-sharing content from your friends and thought leaders. “+1″ their posts and make intelligent comments. Write interesting posts on Google+ and quote these influencers by name. Build upon the content they’ve already created — add to or challenge their work in a re-share.
  • Continue to create and publish great content — This is what you will ultimately be judged upon, and is the core driver of the qualitative history of a writer that’s behind Author Rank. Keep writing and publishing those thoughtful, useful blog posts and building your authoritative bank of content.

Currently the rate of adoption to implement authorship markup has been slow, so there is a distinct advantage in having claimed your content. So don’t hesitate to benefit from higher clickthroughs.

The rest is up to you

Nobody is going to hold you underwater until you open a Google+ account. They’re not going to smack your knuckles with a ruler until you claim your articles with authorship markup. They won’t deprive you of sleep until you create great content.

Becoming a remarkable writer and getting credit for that writing is up to you.

So, do me a favor. If you’re a writer with just a smidgen of desire to be great, then pull a Cortez and sink the boats behind you, so there’s no going back.

Declare that this year is going to be the year you become the central character of the story … that this is the year you’ll run the show.

It’s up to you.


This is sixth and final post in my series exploring the power and future of Author Rank, authorship, and Google+. You can grab the others right here …

  1. Why Hunter S. Thompson Would’ve Loved Author Rank (And Why You Should, Too)
  2. How Google’s PageRank Algorithm Screwed the Online Writer (and What They Did to Fix It)
  3. Seven Ways Writers Can Build Online Authority with Google+
  4. Why Google+ Is the Best Social Platform for Content Marketers
  5. 10 Reasons Writers Should Claim Their Google Authorship Markup
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Reader Comments (66)

  1. says

    I think it’ll be a new concept for awhile, but any half decent SEO will use it. As well as major publishers, media outlets, reporters, etc.

    • says

      Thanks for the update , This copyblogger site give usefull informatiom on your content , The original, and ultra-specific? When readers find you, They do they stick around.
      Best Regard, Harold Pollard

  2. says

    I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around Author Rank for weeks (I’m admittedly technologically challenged). This piece helps me not only understand how it works and why it’s important, but also how, through my online presence, I can enhance its function – and you managed to accomplish all this in a way that doesn’t totally overwhelm me. Thank you very much for this cheat sheet.

  3. says

    Lots of information, your right Dermian for getting more visibility in google author rank is must need for a blog.I have implements gogole plus author code in my blog & waiting for google to crawl it.Is there any minimum circles for getting on to google & gain author rank.

  4. says

    The whole Author Rank concept is cool and I really don’t mind. It’s going to force content creators to step their games up a few notches, which is never bad thing. Let the cream rise to the top :-)

  5. says

    “Get in a habit of re-sharing content from your friends and thought leaders. “+1″ their posts and make intelligent comments. Write interesting posts on Google+ and quote these influencers by name. ”

    No man is an island, especially when it comes to social networking. Give credit where credit is due–include other thought leaders in your content and let them know about it! Have conversations, debates, dialogues!

  6. says

    I was talking to my mom on the phone last night about Google+. She’s a friendly Facebook user and had no idea what Google+ was until last night. She’s also a nurse and president of the Pittsburgh chapter for Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN).

    I mentioned Google+ to her because I really thought it could help her and the organization in a unique way. When she published content online – she would get credit for it. Both she and the AORN chapter wold benefit from it. She would establish herself as an authority in her field and AORN would benefit from the exposure. The organization would grow and become even more reputable, thanks to the power Google and Google+ give to those who are professionals in their field.

    Not to mention Google Hangouts and Communities. I honestly believe that Google+ could give my mom the recognition she deserves and build the AORN Pittsburgh chapter into something greater than it already is.

    It goes without saying that I’m going to use Google+, along with Twitter and LinkedIn, as my social media sidekicks for my writing endeavors.

  7. says

    Don’t forget to use the power of Google+ communities. Share valuable content, but don’t spam. Participate in Google+ community discussions or create discussions of controversial topics. Help others. if needed ask for help. Create your own community and bring people in your friends, colleagues, like-minded people.

  8. says

    In an earlier post in this series, you mentioned how PageRank got gamed. It seems like AuthorRank is a great improvement, but I wonder how it will be gamed….

  9. says

    Great info here, Demian. I absolutely think increasing your participation on G+ is going to help, because it gives insight into the author. Share content besides your own, add your thoughts to a discussion, and post questions in communities, and you’ll likely see your authority in certain subject areas increase.

  10. says

    Your suggestion to check out the “rich snippet tool” alerted me to the fact that I hadn’t linked my website’s Google+ page to my website. I had connected my personal Google+ account to my website, but not my Google+ page. I wonder if this will allow my photo to show up next to my website pages in search results. As of right now, I believe my picture only shows up next to my blogposts in search results.

    • says

      If you’ve associated your personal G+ page with your personal website (via authorship markup), then you should get your personal G+ head shot next to search results. When did you implement? It takes a few days. And isn’t always consistent.

  11. says

    I have been blogging for a few months now and these suggestions are very useful. After posting about 20 posts, dear to my heart, and having no one see/read them I started looking into how to get read. It is still very esoteric to me but these communities are helping make things clearer. The help I got from the g+ community was amazing.
    My big question now is “how to get followers?” Is there a ‘follow’ button to include in a request email, or is that inappropriate? Thanks for this page.

  12. Teresa Kay Williams says

    It’s true, just as Steve Martin said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you”. I really appreciate Copyblogger! It is proving to be too good to ignore for me as I work to become “too good to ignore” myself.

  13. says

    Thanks for this.

    I’m wondering about YouTube and Author rank, and what happens when you have more than one Google account. Can we connect those to our main account?

    I’m off to research this.

    • says

      I’ve linked my YouTube and Google+ accounts and can report that it has resulted in a modest uptick in my views and subs, enough that it made it worth doing.

  14. says

    Thanks Demian, this is great advice.

    I still haven’t totally got my head around Google+; I just started using the keyboard shortcuts to navigate, for example. However, when I get impatient with it, I tell myself that it took me just as long to become familiar with Twitter.

  15. says

    I still haven’t totally got my head around Google+ & Keywords; I just started using the keywords & shortcuts to navigate, However, when I get impatient with google adwords, I Switch with my own keywords with help from
    twitter & facebook

  16. says

    The idea of author rank is something I’ve played with since the authorship tool came forth. my view is that right now AR has no impact on rankings however it can help “optimise” your results by ensuring your content is rich formatted with your image and name and a link to your Google+

    It is very much worth implementing but don’t hold out on it being a free for all high ranker.

    There are 2 things to think about 1) optimise your picture ( and 2) remember signing up isn’t enough you must use google+ and more than this you must write great stuff on your blog.

    • says

      It may not be affecting ranking yet, but there’s been plenty of evidence that it’s where they intend to go. Not just in their public announcements, but in the caliber of people they’re putting on “the authorship project.” I see no reason to think it will stop with the current benefits of authorship markup. (Although those are well worth implementing.)

      Of course it’s Google, so they’re gonna throw a couple of curve balls. But SEO strategy that’s focused on quality content has consistently managed to stay on the good side of those curve balls.

      • says

        I think it will one day have some flux in ranking, but only in rankings of a current-ish trend … i suspect much as with how if you use G+ alot your results have flux caused by friends on there authorship will do much the same but for everyone?

  17. says

    I think the actions outlined here by Demian are quite good even though there is no such thing as Author Rank right now. There might be in the future but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still conduct yourself in the same way.

    Because what we’re talking about now is building your authority by producing valuable and memorable content, and interacting and engaging with peers in your community – both on your and other people’s content.

    Those things will, over time, make you an authority which has is extremely powerful and beneficial for any business. Participate in the Authorship program but know that your goal is not to acquire Author Rank but to become an authority.

  18. says

    This is excellent! Author rank might not be crucial now. It never hurts to do little things to start building yours, just in case it does get more crucial as expected.

  19. says

    Great article. Question: How can we find our author rank?

    I noticed that you are superb in content writing but very poor in walking idiots, like me, through some of the things you are sharing with us.

  20. says

    I’m a bit confused. Do you mean you should build up your Google+ personal page more and not your Google + business page? I have completely neglected my personal page and just try to post good content and build up my business page. I haven’t used my real name in posts but instead use my website to keep that in the spot light. From what I read here is this wrong?

    • says

      If your personal brand is important, then yeah, you should be using your personal G+ page. But if the business is what you want to focus on, then you are on the right track. Brands have been using G+ business pages with great success, but in these articles we’ve been focused mainly on the individual content producer.

  21. says

    Excellent Post. I never imagined that Google+ has these much importance. Im Going to spend much more time in it from now on

  22. Alex says

    Good article. I would like to know what the best practice for my G+ is at the following scenarios:

    1. If I write blogs in Sweden as well as in the US.
    2. If i write about completely different blog topics (relationship and birds for example)

    I worry that combining both swedish and english on my G+ profile as well as writing about completely different topics will affect my author rank.

    • says

      Alex, it’s okay to build authority in two or three topics. But I wouldn’t go beyond that. I would recommend separate web properties for each topic (one for birds, one for relationships). You can associate both with your G+ profile. And as far the language you use, use the one your audience is most familiar with. That’s what matters.

  23. says

    Author rank removes the quandary I had about where to publish. I mean, you have a great idea for a post but where to put it? Your blog, a guest post somewhere, Google+, facebook, Squidoo etc. etc.

    Authorship markup in theory does away with the ‘where’ and puts it on the ‘who’.

    Just what we’ve all been hoping for really.
    Stay well

    lol! Spellcheck wanted to change Squidoo to ‘squidgy’, sorry Seth!

  24. says

    Excellent post. I use Google authorship on all my blogs and it does give you peace of mind. I also believe a small ranking boost is likely as I’m sure the Google Algorithm looks at this factor.

  25. says

    Thanks for this insightful post on Author Rank. I have several online businesses but I’m just creating my presence as a Life and Business Coach and Reiki Master / Teacher. This helps me know which steps to take next to build my online presence.

  26. says

    As an SEO I think it totally makes sense this move from Google. As the web keeps progressing, it is key for the big G to have these signals to directly influence the way pages, websites, authors,etc are ranked. If they get it right, search engine users will be even happier to use Google and trust his algos.

  27. says

    HEY Great info here guys. Thanks a mill! I am an author of 7 books now and really need to crank up my efforts with this so this article is just what I needed to take my stuff to the next level.

    As per usual it’a always a pleasure to read your work as it is so valuable to me.


  28. says

    Google Plus is becoming more and more important each day. The author rank feature has made it a must for every published to focus on Google Plus. I also think that actively using other Google Plus features such as Hangouts, and setting up communities will all contribute to your overall influence and author rank,

  29. says

    Interesting. Got me thinking about two subjecs:
    1. How should a company use author rank? Is it better to have an author like “MyCompanyName” or should it be a real person?
    2. What about co-authorship? I’m assuming it is possible to attributa an article to more persons. So if an article is written by two persons? Is it better to assign it to one? Or to two? I mean if it is only one then you get all the ‘worth’, but if it is assigned to two you could get more indirect traffic from the other author?

  30. says

    While I see this as a great step forward, I’m also a bit worried about the company profiles. While I do most of my stuff with my own name, and I do want to have AR on it for the future, I’d still appreciate building Company Author Rank as well, since those would be two separate things.

  31. says

    Please consider using dates on your articles! This techie SEO world changes so rapidly, that having a date point of reference on articles I read is something I find both useful and necessary when evaluating how to use the information I’m reading!


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