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