Google AuthorRank: Heir to the Throne

Portent AuthorRank graphic

A bold ruler ascends—going by the name Google AuthorRank – and his reign will be a long one. Because, in the very near future, information will take a back seat to who supplies it.

We can no longer trust content – there’s just too much of it.  And many of “the facts” are flat-out wrong.  In an online environment, false information piles up, improving its credibility with every link, citation and reiteration, becoming exponentially more “trustworthy” despite an intrinsic lack of veracity.  It’s one big evidentiary “toilet bowl of death”*.

The danger in this climate is that repeating a lie makes it “true.”  Repetition = reinforcement = legitimacy.  And the situation only gets worse as the amount of information grows.

So, if we can’t trust the information itself, we will have to trust its source.  The sorter.  The filterer.  The “expert.”  Those we designate to vet our reality.  Thus, the evolution of Google AuthorRank.

Like Billy Joel says, “it’s a matter of trust”.

What is ‘Google AuthorRank’?

So just who is this new monarch?  Google AuthorRank is a system that allows the search engine to verify and rate sources of content by ascribing trust rankings to writers.

Rumored ranking factors include:

  • The average PageRank of the author’s published content
  • Engagement levels, both on the author’s Google+ page and the pages where the content lives
  • The number of contacts in the author’s Google+ circles
  • Authority across other G-trusted social media platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • The author’s inclusion (or lack thereof) on marquee authority indicators like Wikipedia
  • Posting frequency
  • More, etc., and To Be Continued…

AuthorRank will help readers by allowing them to be more confident in the content they consume.  And if you are wondering if it’s worth it to the writers, check out the following example of its predecessor Google Authorship

My amazing article in search results:

Fetting Rel Author Listing

Yoast founder Joost de Valk’s amazing article in search results:

Joost De Valk Rel Author

His listing is a lot more utilitarian from a branding perspective and, well… cooler.  Not only does the result direct readers to additional Joostian content, it includes his PICTURE.  (And since we writers are known for our matinee idol good looks, this is a definite plus.)

But I’m not alone: according to an August study, only 9% of tech blogs (TECH BLOGS!) have “fully implemented” Google Authorship.

How influential will Google AuthorRank be in SEO?

In 2011, Google’s Othar Hansson said the following:

“We hope to use [author] information and any information as a ranking signal at Google.  So in this case, we want to get information on credibility of authors from all kinds of sources and eventually use that in ranking.”

So I’m guessing pretty darn influential.

Potential issues

But you gotta take the good with the bad… And there’s certainly the potential for some bad:

  • Google AuthorRank gives the search juggernaut even more influence and muscle.  Monopoly ain’t just a boardgame.
  • AuthorRank is rather incestuous and self-serving: it requires connection to Google+, which assists the social media network in its endless quest to crush arch nemesis Facebook.
  • Like all SEO, this preferential treatment can prove self-fulfilling.  Writers who have become informational cottage industries can potentially spew content that, regardless of quality or accuracy, immediately goes to the top of search results.  Better researched, but ultimately less authoritative material is trumped.
  • Who watches the watchmen?  There must be a constant process of vetting and validating those who we trust – mitigating risk by absorbing a larger sample – but not too large a sample or all information loses perspective.

Our collective conscious continues to grow, but not all information is created equal.

It’s time to cybercircle the wagons around specific, legitimate, attributable human sources.

Consequently, in today’s world and moving forward, not only must you have content that matters, you must have writers who matter.

*™Ian Lurie.

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  1. Purely from the perspective that it will encourage humanizing of brand marketing, it’s kind of interesting. Authors as their own brand. Rand Fishkin from SEOMoz, Ian Lurie from Portent, etc.

    1. As an author, I’m a fan of the idea of ANY branding (ATTENTION PLEASE! :)… but as a smaller author, I worry that a third party sort will inevitably become corrupted by commerce, which is why it remains incumbent upon readers to be vigilant and not entirely seduced by the big names and their robust Google rankings (apologies to the bossman!)

  2. I can really see G+ reaching a tipping point because of this.
    This whole area around social scoring – like Klout, and now LinkedIn endorsements too – isn’t going away.

    1. It’s funny you mention this because for the past 6 months I’ve been lecturing everyone who’d listen on Google+ being the final Google miscalculation… that the “average joe” could give a flying turtle (just made that up) about a new social network. I only knew one person outside the web marketing biz who used it (and that’s because he loathed Mark Zuckerberg).
      But now, with the evolution of social scoring… and the fact that Facebook is nearing an expiration date (i.e. you can only be so cool for so long), something will need to step up and be the new Now.
      Provided we don’t all bite it Mayan-style on Dec. 21st, 2013 should be interesting.

  3. Hmm, I’m writing this comment and thinking about…comments.
    I wonder whether a comment from a writer with good Author Rank will eventually boost a page’s authority.
    I guess that’s the following stages, but it’ll be really interesting to see how Author Rank unfolds.
    Really enjoyed your post Katie. +1’d.

  4. Clearly Google need other people to help them as they have no idea how to index the content users need.
    It seems you need to be popular to rank high and when you do, you can steal other people’s idea’s and rewrite their content.

  5. Great work on essentially beheading the past king of SEO and thanks for your contribution in establishing Facebook as “social media lard ™” (I made that up too:).

  6. Is there any way to contribute content to more than one author? Imagine the results of a study issued by a professor (author #1) and his student (author #2) on a corporate blog (author #3)? Or an interview, which per se has more than one person’s content. Or an article of a guest blogger on a blog.

  7. I’m missing something big here so I might as well ask; which of the numbers in the examples you showed is the author rank?
    I’ve been approved by Google & I see my image next to many of my articles online, and it’s pretty cool. However, I don’t know if that’s the ranking or an association because I’ve been verified by G+. If that’s not the ranking I need to figure out what is, then I need to figure out what you’re looking at so I can use the same program, plugin, etc.

    1. From what you’ve said, you seem to be doing all the right things.
      AuthorRank is in its infancy — we (online content creators) are all trying to figure it out, but as I’m sure you’re aware, Google isn’t exactly forthcoming with information.
      Keep focused on creating good content, make sure you’re using rel = author on your posts, stay active on Google+ and your authority (i.e. AuthorRank) should increase organically.
      Thanks for reading and commenting! ~K

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