Has Google’s Author Rank Arrived?

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In this article I am going to provide a short review of the recent events related to Authorship and Google’s In-Depth Articles feature, and then provide my analysis as to what this means for Author Rank and the birth of “In-Depth Article SEO.”

Back in January of 2013, I predicted that Author Rank would become a real ranking signal during 2013. I wrote in more detail about Author Rank in March of 2013.

In case you haven’t seen Copyblogger’s recent articles about Author Rank, it all started to be something people speculated on when Google announced its rel=author intiative back in June of 2011.

It caused quite a stir in the online publishing world.

The rel=author tag was a way that authors could tag content that they created, and the short term payoff would be placement of the author’s picture in the search results similar to this one:


The benefits of having the author’s picture next to their article were obvious, but it also marked the moment when the world became aware that Google collects behavior on individual authors. People were fast to speculate — surely Google wants this information for more than just giving the ability to provide rich markup in the search results?

Not much was heard after that until Google announced In-Depth Articles. Here is how that looks in the wild:


What you are seeing is the bottom of the search results page for the search “US Constitution.” At the bottom you see a brand new search feature, a highlighted set of articles the address the topic in a comprehensive manner. Finally, there was an additional payoff to rel=author tagging!

A forewarning from Google’s Chairman

Just 19 days after my predictions for 2013, the Wall Street Journal published its comments on The New Digital Age, a book written by Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt. These comments included this quote (bold is mine):

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

This is a powerful statement by one of the most powerful people in Google. Schmidt makes it clear that Authorship will be a very material factor in search ranking.

Analysis

In-Depth Articles was the first time Google clearly showed one way that they could potentially leverage Author Rank to impact search results.

Frankly, I cheered at Google’s statement in the announcement of the rationale for this initiative: “up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic.” Yes, people actually do sometimes want to do real research, not just get a sound bite. Readers of Copyblogger and/or my writings know that we both have always believed that.

One of the more interesting statements about the initiative is on the Google Webmaster Tools Help page on in-depth articles:

Authorship markup helps our algorithms to find and present relevant authors and experts in Google search results.

This is the one statement made by Google in connection with In-Depth Articles that sounds like it is talking about Author Rank. Note though that the orientation of the statement has more of a “discovery” flavor to it. I think this is one big key to thinking about the true meaning of the in-depth articles feature.

From Google’s perspective, it is important that we think of in-depth articles as a new search feature, because this is what it truly represents.

The fact that they see 10% of user’s daily information needs demanding in-depth content is huge. How huge? Let’s compare that to other types of market segments that people normally think of as huge:


You can see that many market segments that we think of as having huge volumes (travel, education, insurance, real estate) pale in front of the 10% number. Yet Google has given special treatment to many of these smaller market segments.

Consider the results for a search on “rome hotels”:


This tells us something — 10% is a whale of a segment, and Google has ample reason to target it. It is not even out of the question that this was one of the primary initial reasons for creating authorship in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I think they will use it in other ways, but this use is a biggie.

The current implementation of In-Depth Articles, however, appears to be making more use of the publisher’s authority (“PublisherRank”) than AuthorRank. Personally, for a variety of reasons, I expect this to change in the future, but it is not playing a big role just yet. As Per Google’s statements, it looks like the current use is discovery oriented.

What does it all mean?

Let’s take a look for a moment at the local search segment. Here is an example result for a Google search on “rental cars”:


Hopefully, it will strike you the same way it did me. Google designed a unique search experience for local search, you can see that the results look different and where they show up in the overall search results page varies. In addition, what gets shown in the local search results is determined by a unique and different search algorithm.

Currently, the in-depth articles share all of these same attributes except the fact that they only show up at the bottom of the search page (i.e. their position on the page does not vary as it does with local).

The birth of in-depth article SEO

This is a new algo, and it looks like PublisherRank is the key to doing well in the rankings for this new category of search, and I would be shocked if Author Rank did not become a big part of the process going forward. That’s a mouthful right there, but it’s true. Why should you develop this expertise? Whatever market segment you are in, 10% is a huge chunk of it. Not only that, it is the particular chunk that communicates authority.

Would it be useful for your business, or your author, to be seen as the authority in your market? You bet. My last column here in Copyblogger was 21 Reasons Why You Must Become an Expert so you know where I stand on that question!

This new type of SEO will be extremely hard to game (hallelujah!). Claiming authorship for your site and establishing yourself as an authority in your topic are essential for success. Having a strong presence on Google Plus will probably also be a factor.

Google cannot easily pull comprehensive data from other social networks, but they can easily see all the data on Google Plus. Social engagement with content will represent a valuable signal for measuring overall authority of an author.

I am also going on record here to predict that over time you can expect the placement of in-depth article results to change. They will not always be placed at the bottom. If I am right — just like local search — you will have a unique type of search result pulled from a different data base, driven by a different algorithm, and with a different look and feel, and its position will be determined by Google’s sense as to how important in-depth articles are for that particular search query.

Consider the search query click through rate data released by Optify in 2012:


The 2nd postion in this study netted 12.5% of the clicks, and the 3rd position netted 9.5%. Compare that to the 10% figure representing demand for deeper levels of information and you will quickly see what I mean.

Conclusion

Taking Google’s statements at face value, Author Rank has indeed been born, albeit in a limited way, as its current application is as a factor for In-Depth Article SEO, but looking at examples of In-Depth Article results, the bigger factor appears to be Publisher Rank. It may be that Author Rank is a key driver of Publisher Rank, but we don’t really know.

As you consider these questions, keep in mind that Google does not rely solely on rel=author tagging to evaluate Authorship, or Author Rank. There is plenty of evidence that they use other sources to determine who authors are. After all, they can’t assume that all publishers know how to implement rel=author, or even that they know it exists. Also, keep in mind that Google has never used the term “Author Rank” or “Publisher Rank”, that’s a term that we in the industry like to use.

Over time, we will see Google experiment with the placement and presentation of in-depth articles. We will presumably begin to learn what some of the driving factors are in this type of SEO, but fortunately, these types of signals will be very hard to game.

Do you want to win at this type of SEO? Become one of the leading authorities in your field, and implement a smart strategy for promoting that expertise.

Author Rank will probably be used in other ways as well. As Eric Schmidt suggested in The New Digital Age, it may be used to determine who is irrelevant vs. who is not in way that can be a filter in basic search too. We will probably see some of these other applications in the coming months.

But, for now, know that demonstrating your (or your company’s) expertise is more important than ever.

About the Author: Eric Enge is President of Stone Temple Consulting , a digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) firm. He is also a speaker at industry conferences about SEO and Social Media. Get more from Eric on his blog, Twitter, or Google+.

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  1. “You can see that many market segments that we think of as having huge volumes (travel, education, insurance, real estate) pale in front of the 10% number. Yet Google has given special treatment to many of these smaller market segments.” I write for the travel and real estate industries. Good to know.

    Writers and business owners need to pay attention to Google and their algorithms because the one constant is change. What worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. You have to keep your finger on the pulse of technology.

    Thanks for this post on Author Rank!

    • Amandah, change is here to stay. I’m sure you read this post from Google last week stating specific verticals (like real estate) need to avoid Authorship attribution for products and “property listings”.

      (See FAQ #7: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2013/08/relauthor-frequently-asked-advanced.html)

      If any of your RE clients have set up their Authorship to flow “site wide” which would include their IDX, that “now” needs to be edited. Google wants Authors to confine their Authorship annotation to content that conveys “a real person’s perspective or analysis on a topic” along with a “helpful commentary about a product or listing”.

      Authorship annotation outside of these guidelines could be a dangerous tap dance with the wrong side of Google.

  2. I will be very interested to see what comes of the in-depth articles. I haven’t seen them too much in my day to day search but I can only imagine they will get more and more incorporated into the universal search results.

  3. Hey Eric,
    Great article. I’m a big fan of your work, but I can’t jump on board with your examples. I’m inclined to believe author rank is right around the corner, but I believe the adoption rate is too low to be used as an actual “ranking” signal.

    Your examples seem to show the combination of authorship, schema and depth of content. The Time post has no authorship. My take is the in-depth article recognition is taking into account the traditional domain authority metrics rather than author authority (at this time), as well as the “signals” listed in the Webmaster Central post (schema, authorship, pagination, depth). Rather than author ranking, we’re still dealing with domain authority, then adding in “article signals” to determine inclusion in the in-depth article listings (add a slew of other metrics of course). Those signals are more akin to content relevance metrics than an author vs. author showdown. I could suggest the sum of the article signals is the driver of in-depth, not author “rank”.

    The in-depth articles and the local results examples can be determined without any author rank considerations. Like I mentioned, I believe it’s coming soon, but the examples listed don’t prove author rank is here today.

    That’s just my take anyway. Again, great article. I agree the landscape is shifting and the need to become an authority in your field is paramount.

    Scott

    • Hi Scott – definitely more than just rel=author involved. I do think that rel=publisher is involved too. Also, keep in mind that Google is tracking Authorship in a very broad way that goes far beyond people who know to implement the rel=author tag.

  4. Eric, how do you suggest marketing professionals approach the rel=author tag when they are not writing for their own company? I do an extensive amount of content writing for my employer, but the CEO sometimes writes, too. Do I put my own name in the rel=author tag, or another author’s when they write the article? Or, do I put all the author tags down as that of the CEO, so that the expert status gets built around his name? I know there is also a rel=publisher tag, but I don’t believe it currently has much involvement with search engine ranking. Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

    • I think that various signals go into the selection of articles for in-depth articles. To be sure, there is probably a strong weight on “PublisherRank”, which like AuthorRank is not specifically tied to a given tag. To be specific AuthorRank is not just about rel=author, and PublisherRank is not just about rel=publisher.

      Most sites don’t use these tags, so Google cannot rely on their presence to make these determinations. They can be an aid with those publishers that know to use them, but Google will still try to figure the same things out for sites that do not use them.

    • Eric may have more to say on this, but I wouldn’t muddy the author tag waters by using the rel=author tag for multiple individuals. Each byline should have his/her own rel=author tag.

      I’d only use your CEO’s tag for articles he writes and articles someone else (maybe you) ghost write for him, not for articles written under another person’s name.

      • Thank you – that helps me clarify the strategy. We’re kind of building from the ground up at this point, so I want to get the details set up right!

      • Sonia – I agree on not using rel=author for multiple individuals! Should keep that clean.

  5. Another great reminder that I have to set up my G+ profile!

    Truthfully, it’s a bit scary how much sway Google has over the way that the internet is used.

    • I concur with you Daryl… it seems to be a huge push to make sure Google+ gets its foothold in the door by having users end up using it instead of Facebook, because they’re forced to.

      It seems a bit insidious, but so says the guy whose site has been destroyed by their updates.

      Sigh.

  6. Eric…what chance do you think bloggers who are not very influential yet (even if they produce a very well written in depth article) will have against the more well known bloggers…like Seth Godin for example.

    • For the smaller blogger, the key is to get focused on a niche area and establish authority there. If Seth Godin is your competition and you try to take on all marketing as a topic, you are in trouble. But, you can focus on one area in a lot more detail than he does.

    • Agree with Eric, it depends entirely on what you’re writing about. You need to think about what you can write about with more authority than Seth Godin if you want to outrank him on a particular subject.

      To continue with Seth as the example, there are about a quazillion tactical, specific marketing-related topics that he doesn’t write about because they don’t interest him.

  7. Eric

    For many freelance blog owners, this looks like a tough order to implement right now – unless of course you have a site that is powered by Genesis.

    I don’t personally like installing more and more plugins to do the job either.

    Nevertheless, I’m going to give WP Social SEO Booster a try – thanks to the recommendation of Ana Hoffman over at Traffic Generation Cafe.

    • It is possible to set up rel=author for a single author (non Genesis) blog without a plugin and without dipping into any php code if that is a concern.

      I haven’t checked out WP Social SEO Booster, but another plugin that works is AuthorSure.

    • While we certainly think going with Genesis is a smart move, there’s nothing here that depends on Genesis — we just try to make things simple and easy. The hard part is to write the content that’s good enough to build authority.

  8. There is no doubt, this has changed the game. Im usually a fan of short but very specific articles because I don’t like having to scroll so much. But knowing that in-depth articles accounts for 10% of users daily information needs, thats just something you can’t ignore! Thanks for the awesome post.

    - Justin

  9. It’s getting spooky what happens on copyblogger. Tuesday, Andrew tries to explain (badly) to someone why Google Author Rank is important… Wednesday copyblogger sends me an article which (concisely) explains why, that I can forward to back up what I was trying to explain! This has happened two or three times recently, like someone is reading my mind. Great article Eric, thank you very much. Now… about this weekend’s lottery numbers :)

  10. hi Eric

    Can we use the “in depth article” option without having a Google webmasters account, and do we need to make our articles really in depth like 1,000+ words for Google to favor our content into the SERPs?

    In other words, what does G consider in depth content other than “broad” topics?

    Also, what’s the relationship between Author Rank and Authorship and G+?

    These are all new terms for me, although I’ve been reading a few articles on the topic lately… my business is building niche sites (I own a small empire… so it’d be interesting to hear what you have to say about it…)

    • Hi John,

      There is a lot that goes into answering your questions – could make full article by itself. So here are a few thoughts for you:

      1. You don’t need a Webmaster Tools account to help setup Authorship.

      2. You don’t even need a Google+ account for Google to try and figure out who you are either as an Author or a Publisher. They will try to evaluate those things regardless.

      3. We don’t currently know how long the articles need to be to qualify. What we can assume is that they need to be more comprehensive on a given topic than the average. Google may be using a specific article metric, such as article length today, but even if they are you should expect that to change.

      4. You should think of “Authorship” as the process of determining what you as a writer publish.

      5 AuthorRank then is a measurement of how value your articles tend to be perceived to be by users. We don’t have true confirmation that Google really uses this, though I believe some form of it is used in in-de[th articles.

      6. G+ is useful in setting up rel=author tagging for your site, which can make is easier for Google to determine what content was written by you, but is is NOT the only means it uses to figure that out.

    • John, you should enter your details in that big box below and get signed up for MyCopyblogger. (It’s free.) We have a couple of ebooks included with that program that will give you much more information about authorship & AuthorRank.

  11. Eric,

    Great article! How do you think the announcement from @mattcutts the other day – http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2290337/Matt-Cutts-Google-1s-Dont-Lead-to-Higher-Ranking affects your opinions on this? Obviously, you still need to become an expert in your field, but do you think the +1s have anything to do with author authority?

    Thanks!

    Jenny

    • Hi, Your comment tingled my SEO curiosity.
      what Matt says and what SERPS show are two different things.

      social signals help rankings. here is their efficiency rank:

      +1, Google comments share, Facebook shares, Facebook comments, delicious bookmarks, pins and finally likes.

      Here is my contribution about the topic. I’ve been using author markup for a while and swallow this. other than the lift in CTR. Links are the author rank. nothing changed.

      How Google would know that you create good content? semantic search? i say: easy to trick. So. if you get good links, you get good rankings. you get good rankings several times, you get high authority.

      it’s also a brilliant way to control people’s privacy and mass penalize spammers.

    • Hi Jenny – great question as always! I bet that Matt Cutts is pretty accurate in general. However, I believe that something is driving the in-depth article boxes, and that something has to be measuring perceived content quality, content depth (comprehensiveness), and the authority of the publishing site and author.

      These do not have to be directly tied to +1s or shares. We will see over time I guess!

    • Social sharing tends to indicate that people are finding your content valuable. Creating valuable content tends to lead to links, more sharing, mentions, and whatever other eye-of-newt ingredients are going into the algo at any given time.

      Don’t try to game +1s with any strategy other than creating damned good content that people find valuable and shareable. It may be a signal now, it may not be a signal now, it may be a signal in the future.

      Try to create content that will spur signals of value, whichever signals Google or other search engines may happen to be using at any given moment.

    • Hi Jenny! That’s a great question. We are truly in the final stages of our study on Google+ as a ranking factor. I think that AuthorRank and PublisherRank are driven by a number of factors, and it is very hard for us to know what they are.

      It would surprise me if social engagement was not a key part of that. But, I doubt that Google would rely solely on Google+ signals, as Google+ is not omnipresent.

  12. Hi Eric,

    It might be a little off topic, but I have a question about Google search that I haven’t been sure who to ask and after this post, I think you’ll know the answer.

    Almost every time I search for something in Google, the top website has it’s own box with six links to different pages of that particular website underneath. To be clear, I’m not referring to the Authorship box on the right side. This is a box on the left side that is a part of the search’s results.

    At first I thought this might be an aspect of Google Authorship, but it’s not consistent with authorship. Some large and influential sites don’t have this box pop up, but their Authorship photo does

    If it’s not clear what box I’m referring to just search “Copyblogger” in Google.

    In Firefox it’s actually in a white box. The box isn’t visible in Chrome, but the result is the same – the top website with six links to the website’s pages underneath.

    Thank you!
    I appreciate any help you can provide.

    Sincerely,
    Stephanie Carroll
    Author of “A White Room”

    • Hi Stephanie – what you are looking at is an unrelated thing known as “Sitelinks”. These are pages that Google thinks are of the most interest to users related to the site.

  13. Hi Eric.

    Your mention of rel=publisher makes good sense to me. Author Rank is a natural way for Google to sort out “the serious” from the “not so serious”, but a big fish is always going to get up there in the rankings due to their built in brand authority and the traffic that comes with it.

    Many brands don’t have a face yet get the traffic which I have always believed is a massive ranking factor.

    I think rel=publisher explains it well. Maybe there’s a hidden one called rel=brand for the likes of CNN, NYT, Red Bull, etc

    Meanwhile, I’m happy to be a humble Author. Cheers!

  14. Google hates anonimity because there’s nothing that can be sold about. Imho.

    But if author rank helps really to have more relevant results in searches it would be fine, unless it’s just another move to push AdWords in a way or another.

    Will this put an end to the neverending algorithm updates earthquaking the web once or twice per month?

    Also Google might like in-depth articles but most of the times they are boring to death so maybe readers don’t really like them most of the times. With an attention span of 2 seconds and having to process as much information as possible in a short time I guess few long articles will work. Again imho. :)

    • Sounds like you’re not part of the 10% who want in-depth material.

      I don’t particularly think it’s wise to make Google out to be some benevolent force for goodness, but I have to agree with them that anonymity on the web almost never results in high-quality content. If you produce something really good, you naturally want to claim your authorship of it, most of the time.

    • Hi Andrea – I afraid the never ending earthquake of Google updates will continue. :(

  15. The post is very informative! The benefits of having the author’s picture next to their article were obvious, but it also marked the moment when the world became aware that Google collects behavior on individual authors.

  16. Near as I can see, there’s zero evidence of the “new”, “wonderful”, “game-changing”, “in-depth” Google everybody is theorizing about, actually at work – as of yet.

    Using Google search (among others), just last week I did “in-depth” market research. Google Search turned up mostly single-page squeeze/landing pages, eHow/WikiHow’s, dead blogs (featuring zero content as far back as 2008), non-descript pdf pages and similarly worthless results. In short a stunning percentage of bs for an occasional piece of quality.

    The gap between actually USING G search versus READING about G search is HUGE. I conclude no-one knows, let alone masters, Google Search – possibly including the googly people at Google itself.

    From my vantage point, unless you make your decisions on actually USING (testing) Google – if you let yourself get seduced by prophesies about the wonderful new world of Google tomorrow – then you won’t have to wait till tomorrow to be up the creek without a paddle … it’ll happen today.

  17. With all due respect, “indepth articles” are hardly the reason to say AuthorRank is almost here. AuthorRank = Author info influencing the order of search results but “AuthorRank” is hardly the reason why any article is ranked as in-depth, which hardly makes “Authorship” a ranking factor… All we know the vague “Google is using Authorship to find authors” but it never says “Google is using Authorship to find indepth articles” – THAT would mean AuthorRank is born. I hate to disagree with you

    • Thanks for the comment Ann. As you know from our Google+ chat about this, I am making some changes to the article to include more on the concept of PublisherRank (coming soon), and soften the conclusion on AuthorRank. Part of what I think could be going on is that AuthorRank might be a key factor in determining PublisherRank, but that is speculation on my part.

      To me, the main point remains that if Google really believes that 10% of the daily information needs are oriented around in-depth research, that is a really big deal.

  18. Hi guys,

    I’m quite a newbie here and in my business. At the moment I’m working for a small advertising agency as a junior copywriter, social media appointee, SEO agent, Google Analytics specialist, supreme coffee maker… Well you get the point…

    I do alot as it is small agency and we all have to work in different areas that we did not expect to ever work in. The upside is that I learned alot – really a whole lot! The downside is – I learned a bit in every field and am no “expert” in any of it. That is why I’m trying to learn more about copywriting and SEO in my “spare” time. My colleague suggested that I launch my own little profil website and after reading your Blog for more than a year now I’ve decided to add the profile to a Blog and a marketing strategy. I’ve gathered alot of information from you guys and I really want to thank you for it!

    But I also wanted to ask you something:
    If you were at the starting point right now, how would you build up that website? What tips can you give me to avoid major mistakes?

    My plan was to build that website/blog and center it around the subject of immigration (as I am a first generation immigrant), religion, racism etc. I want to use the author rank by creating a brand new Google Plus account. I wanted to add occasional Podcasts and maybe turn them into Youtube Videos if all of the previosly mentioned goes well. Its also important for me to make the site bilungual (german and english) as I want to emphasis my english skills (I’m from germany if you didn’t guess by now). What do you think of this?

    Looking back at the comment I realise that it may be a little impudent to ask for your advice for free, but I hope you’ll still give me some general advice or give me the link to some of your articles that may be relevant for me. Uhm, please…? :)

    Keep up the good work, I really enjoy your writing style and the information you give. It has already helped me alot!

    Atia
    FYI: I know I can’t expect people to realise that by looking at my name, but I’m a woman ;)

  19. It’s commonly assumed that Google should have a vested interest in providing ‘quality’ search results. Yet, since Google’s bottom line is always to make a buck, it will eventually revert to form by ultimately creating another product like ‘instant predictions’ that open to manipulation by the highest bidder. To me, ‘author rank’ seems to be just another ‘new dress’ slapped on the old whore. Obviously, appealing to one’s vanity, in this case with the promise of photos and authorship/expert titles, is a great marketing ploy to bring in the punters (aka Johns).

    I would be more concerned that a consequence of Google’s automated system is to pigeonhole content producers. As such, punishments will eventually be meted out to those who ‘color outside the lines’ by varying even the slightest from their super-focused niche. Therefore, the obvious caveat should apply: “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” … and your SEO strategy, as well!

  20. Well Sonia, I would suggest that my sentiment is less about reflexive hatred and more about reflexive compassion … in other words, give the readers a break. In an arena where ‘content is king’, what serves one’s business interests best is developing top notch content, rather than vainly tweaking one’s way to the top in a system that is specifically designed to prevent such an endeavor. Google’s lack of transparency ensures that, as with any dictatorship, the rules of the game are vague and prone to change, mainly to serve Google’s business interests, not those of article mills and an army of SEO ‘experts’.

    • We rank well for everything we try to rank for. Not by vainly tweaking, but by understanding both people and Google. Author Rank is something smart content creators should do their best to understand, while realizing that ultimately nothing has changed.

      • For the most part, I completely agree with you, Brian, and Copyblogger can certainly rest on its laurels – and I mean that in the nicest way! Yes, a little knowledge may go a long ways for some, as you wisely suggested. Yet, if ultimately “nothing changes”, then the point of some practices may be moot. After all, someone “smart” once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Smart content creators would be wise to take this to heart … as much as ‘dumb’ content creators would. The only thing certain is that honing one’s ‘art’ (and/or expertise) will eventually pay dividends one way or the other, and hopefully even play a part in gaining a better Author Rank, as well. :)

        • You may be interested in our book on SEO Copywriting — we essentially teach that you should always write for readers first, and make content work well for them, then make a few very minor tweaks to let the search engines know what you’re doing.

          Most people think SEO is about the tweaks, but in fact it’s 90+% about that highly valuable content that works for your audience. (And promoting it with other publishers so that new people can find you.)

          Over time, that tends to be what works best for search, but even if you never get a single reader from Google, you’ll be building a reputation and an audience that don’t depend on search.

  21. Interesting read. I for one think that authorship will be come increasingly important which is why we should take it seriously now. Not sure how important it is at this time but it’ll definitely become more so soon enough.

  22. Great article makes sense for authors to matter more in content. We recently at Entrepreneur Handbook in the last few months upgraded most of our authors to Google Authorship which is tricky when you have 100′s independents but have seen a great result in ranks and promo. Recommend highly to be at the head of the trend!

  23. Great article, Eric! I’ve been convinced for some time that Google was already applying, to some limited degree, some aspects of authority rank. I’m also convinced that it’s a path they have no intention of wavering from. I’m betting we have some fun and interesting times ahead!

  24. Sheetal Sharma :

    Some real solid research has gone into developing this post, i was quite surprised on the way things are segregated and explained in this article. Must say, well written.

    Regards,
    Sheetal Sharma
    Synechron

  25. That’s nice review … Most people think SEO is about the tweaks, but in fact it’s 90+% about that highly valuable content that works for your audience. (And promoting it with other publishers so that new people can find you.)

  26. “Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

    Standing alone, this seems wrong; it sounds like verification is the only or most important ranking factor — more important than the quality of the content? I don’t think so.

    For example, let’s say I’m not an expert on SEO and I write a garbage article and I’m a verified author, and — for the sake of example — Eric Enge is NOT verified but he writes a superb article. The above quote makes it seems like my article will rank higher. That’s obviously wrong.

    The full context of that quote must be something like “information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification” ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL.

    Just my opinion, but I think that ALL THOSE OTHER THINGS, collective, are more important than verification.

    However, verification has a couple of important uses:

    1) it can improve click through rates from the SERP, and that is almost certainty a powerful single ranking factor, and

    2) let say I were to publish on copyblogger.com using the rel=author tag and my G+ profile links to my personal site that is also about SEO and copywriting, then my personal site might become — maybe, possibly — more relevant for the keywords ‘seo copywriting,’ seo’. “More relevant” means a page on my site might more organic impressions for those keywords. I doubt those pages would get higher ranking for those keywords.

    • Christoper, absolutely quality of content matters, first and foremost. I think the point is that otherwise quality content that’s anonymous (not tied to authorship) might be downgraded or not considered at all.

      • “otherwise quality content that’s anonymous (not tied to authorship) might be downgraded or not considered at all.”

        I think that’s probably too strong Brian. I can see a non-verified article falling in rank a bit relative to verified article, but only if those two articles are just about equal in every other respect.

  27. I agree with the general sense of where you are both (I think) ending up. If and when they truly apply AuthorRank (I believe they will, but it is not at all clear that they have done so yet), it can impact the ranking of content, but will not be the only factor. It will be “in the mix”.

    If I read through the lines in Eric Schmidt’s quote, what I see is that identity matters, and if your overall profile is anonymous, your chance of developing any level of influence is nil.

    But, if a prominent author published something somewhere that is not author tagged, Google will still try to figure that out, and credit that.

    In addition, the quality of the content and other social proof signals (such as links) still count for a LOT.

    • “if your overall profile is anonymous, your chance of developing any level of influence is nil.”

      I definitely agree with this Eric.

      In the end, however, “authority” can’t simply be “bestowed” on one, esp. by the application of a simple mark up tag (and you’re not saying that, but a lot of people might think it) — authority has to be earned, earned with a lot of clear thinking and hard work over an extended period of time. The author tag simply helps Google more efficiently tie all the work together.

      The real value of the author tag, in my opinion, is the second benefit I suggested above — it is just an educated guess, but it’s a good one, I think, because Google plus with the author tag then just builds on top of already existing on-page SEO (i.e., keywords) across different sites and it creates a new informative set of relationships between those sites defined by what you (the author) are writing about. I see this aspect of G+ as fitting more into Google’s goal of trying to “semantically understand” the web rather than just being another ranking factor.

      Hope all that made sense . . . :)

  28. Christopher – no question that authority has to be earned, not bestowed. This is one of the reasons that rel=author is just ONE signal in that process. Google can’t expect every one to know that tag even exists.

    The whole process is an identity process, and it definitely ties into the semantic web in a big way. What are you an authority on? That’s a big question too.