AuthorRank: What It Is
The most visible– and simplest to understand– aspect of AuthorRank and Google+ Authorship is in the search results. Google is now linking an author to their content via their Google+ page, which appears in the search results like this:
The advantages of a highlighted search result like this are obvious- the picture makes the listing stand out from other results on the page, establishes credibility and entices clicks (and takes more real estate on the page). The “by (author)” attribution is clickable and takes users to your Google+ profile where they can find out more info about you (and quickly add you to their circles). The “more by (author)” link easily connects interested users to more of your content. And the “in XXX Google+ circles” highlights your influence in the community.
The other thing you need to know is that if I am in your Google+ circles, my content related to your search query is much more likely to show up at the top of your search results. As Danny Sullivan recently pointed out in a post he wrote about the evolution of Google’s personalized search results
“By the way, if you still haven’t gotten it into your head why Google+ is important, this is it. If people become friends with you (or your company), that can be the number one factor trumping all others about why you might rank well. Links? Title tags? All those various SEO factors? A Google+ connection can beat them.”
Google is using the biggest stick it has (search results) to make you deeply care about Google+, whether you want to or not.
AuthorRank: Why It’s Happening
AJ Kohn wrote an excellent piece last March all about the history of AuthorRank and why Google has been focusing so much on it over the last few years. I recommend you read his post, but here is a quick summary:
Google’s mission is to return the most relevant results for every query. To do that it needs to use various “signals” to rank content. Historically, the company has relied on links as one primary signal, “grading” individual domains and pages on a scale of authority and trust around various topics through PageRank. But increasingly people are endorsing– or “voting for”– good content through other paths than links- like shares, retweets, and likes through social channels. The explosion of content on the web in recent years– and the skyrocketing amount of spam and other low quality content pervading the web- means that Google has to find additional ways to sort the good stuff from the bad stuff. One clear way to do that is to tie content to individuals, and begin grading authors of content just like they’ve been doing for domains and pages. This is essentially taking PageRank and turning it into a form of “People Rank” (or AuthorRank). The bottom line–as AJ Kohn points out- is that Google+ is an identity platform that makes all this happen.
There are signs out there that Google will soon be “turning up the dials” on AuthorRank, putting increased emphasis on your own personal level of trust and authority related to specific topic areas in ranking your content in the search results. Google’s patent filings indicate that they have been working on this for years, and Google+ was a cornerstone in this whole strategy (and not just a grand plan to create another outlet for your cute puppy pictures).
AuthorRank: What You Need To Do About It
Setting up authorship connecting your Google+ profile is not difficult to do (here is an easy guide to setting it up). The harder part is that this clearly emphasizes that you are going to need to spend time on Google+ if you’re going to realize the maximum benefit these changes could potentially bring you.
Below is an excellent graphic from Mike Arnesen showing the signals that will factor into AuthorRank.
As you can see from this diagram, a whole lot of signals will be coming from your activity on Google+. Which means it’s time for you to go dust off that Google+ profile you created a year ago and haven’t seen since (you did create one didn’t you?), and get to work. You’ll need to set up Google Authorship as mentioned above, and then track down any content you’ve created previously and make sure all of it is connected to you (the process is outlined at that Authorship link). Then you need to get going on Google+ sharing great content, adding people to your circles, and increasing your influence.
So hopefully all of this info has hit home with you. Today is the day to start building AuthorRank for you and your business, before you find out the train passed you by….