You can now provide Google with information showing the author of an article or articles that appear on your blog/website and Google (sometimes) displays this in information in its search results, although there’s no guarantee. Where authorship information is displayed in the results, the improved listing can results in higher click through rates, increasing your traffic – because it looks more trustworthy (case studies have shown as much as a 150% increase).
Here is an example of a result with the author details showing:
A further effect of providing Google with authorship information for content is that your reputation as the creator of that content could influence the ranking of search results. This effect is what SEOs are calling AuthorRank. Like most search engine ranking signals, it’s not something Google has told us about directly, and it’s thought that Google is not yet using this ranking factor. What we know comes from a patent that Google has filed, named ‘Agent Rank Patent’. Here’s an extract:
The identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings. Assuming that a given agent has a high reputational score, representing an established reputation for authoring valuable content, then additional content authored and signed by that agent will be promoted relative to unsigned content or content from less reputable agents in search results.
This excerpt states specifically that verified content by an author will be graded and it is that grade that influences the rank of content in search results. Replace the word ‘Agent’ with ‘Author’ and boom, you have AuthorRank.
Why are people so sure that AuthorRank is going to become a reality? Google might not have said it directly, but alongside their patent, they’ve dropped plenty of hints about what they’re looking for. At Pubcon 2011 Google Senior Engineer Matt Cutts said during his keynote:
“Social is a good way to create a reputation for authors. If the reputation of content authors is transparent, it will make the whole web better.”
In his post on SEOMoz’s blog “How to prepare for AuthorRank and get the jump on Google” (September 21st, 2012) Mike Arnesen explains: “Google’s emphasis on social, Google Authorship, their ongoing efforts to measure site trust, and their progressive devaluation of raw links as a ranking factor. People want to read content written by credible and knowledgeable people and using AuthorRank as a major part of their search algorithm just makes sense”. Mike’s article explains the steps you should take to prepare for AuthorRank and how you can start building your AuthorRank now, well in advance of the change.
AuthorRank and links
Like other ranking factors, if (or, as many SEOs will agree, when) authorship becomes a ranking factor, it will be only one signal among hundreds to Google as to the quality of your content. Authority, trust and relevance are likely to continue to carry just as much weight. However, whilst in the past Google has been able to depend on the quantity and weight of links that point at a site (like ‘votes’ for the site), this method of determining trust is no longer reliable. Links from high PR sites are valuable and so are easily traded – and whilst Google plunges millions into detection of such practices, its detection methods are far from water tight.
So Google have needed to find a way to verify that links are trust-worthy. AuthorRank is a probable way that this will be achieved. It’s thought that links from content with strong AuthorRank may carry more weight, helping to establish the authority and trust of other content. This is spelt out specifically in Google’s patent:
Intuitively, an agent should have a higher reputational score, regardless of the content signed by the agent, if the content signed by the agent is frequently referenced by other agents or content. Not all references, however, are necessarily of equal significance. For example, a reference by another agent with a high reputational score is of greater significance than a reference by another agent with a low reputational score.
So AuthorRank will be a signal in itself to determine a page’s value, alongside other signals such as trust, relevance and authority – but those signals can themselves be influenced by AuthorRank (links from other pages with high AuthorRank). Who is linking to a page is going to become a lot more important.
AuthorCrawler from Tom Anthony is invaluable in preparing for AuthorRank – it is a free, open-source tool which you can download, and it pulls the backlinks to a URL, crawls the authorship markup on the page, and gives you a report of who is linking to it. In his article “How Authorship (and Google+) Will Change Linkbuilding” (April 15th, 2012) Tom explains in more detail exactly how the tool is beneficial.
AuthorRank and social shares
Another consideration is that it may not only be content that is matched to you as an author. Back in September 2011 in his post “Social network spam and author/agent rank”, John Doherty suggested that AuthorRank might also be used to determine the value of your social shares (as well as topical TrustRank). John suggested that Google might use a scale on which to pass link juice from their social shares or not. Although this is speculative, it would certainly make sense as a way for Google to filter ‘social spam’.
The value of social shares could in turn be relevant in determining AuthorRank. As noted, authorship information could be a great way for Google to reassess the value of links, through weighting links from established, credible authors as more valuable. But Google will need a way to determine the credibility of an author. Back to Mike Arnesen’s article, and it’s likely that Google will factor in a whole range of data, including social signals (+1s and Google+ shares) and other social network sharing.
Providing Google with authorship information: how to
Google’s initial instructions (Nov 2011) were quite technical and a lot of people complained. Now there are two ways to provide Google with authorship information (last updated 21st Sept 2012) and fortunately they’re quite simple:
Option 1: Link your content to your Google+ profile using a verified email address.
Don’t have an email address on the same domain as your content? Follow the instructions listed in Option 2 below.
- Check that you have a email address (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org) on the same domain as your content (wired.com).
- Make sure that each article or post you publish on that domain has a clear byline identifying you as the author (for example, “By Steven Levy” or “Author: Steven Levy”).
- Visit the Authorship page and submit your email address to Google. No matter how many articles or posts you publish on this domain, you only need to do this process once. Your email will appear in the Contributor to section of your Google+ profile. If you want to keep your email private, change the visibility of your link.
- To see what author data Google can extract from your page, use the Rich Snippets Testing Tool.
Option 2: Set up authorship by linking your content to your Google+ profile
- Create a link to your Google+ profile from your webpage, like this:
[profile_url]with the your Google+ profile URL, like this:
<a href="https://plus.google.com/110277229174322328738? rel=author">Google</a>
(Note that I have cut off the /posts that normally appears on the end of the link). Your link must contain the
?rel=authorparameter. If it’s missing, Google won’t be able to associate your content with your Google+ profile.
- Add a reciprocal link back from your Google+ profile to the site(s) you just updated.
- Edit the Contributor To section.
- In the dialog that appears, click Add custom link, and then enter the website URL.
- If you want, click the drop-down list to specify who can see the link.
- Click Save.
- To see what author data Google can extract from your page, use the Rich Snippets testing tool.
WordPress plugin for authorship
If you have a WordPress blog, the easiest way to put this in place is using the Author Information in Search Results plugin (GPAISR) - by floriansimeth. This allows you to specify a Google+ link for each author on your site so it works just fine if more than one person writes articles for your blog. To implement the plugin, follow these steps:
- Create a Google+ Profile
- Login to Google+
- Open your profile and find your Google+ Profile link by visiting your own page (just click on your avatar and ‘view profile’) and copy the link – for example, mine looks like this: https://plus.google.com/110277229174322328738/posts
- Activate the GPAISR plugin
- Go to Users and select your profile – scroll to the bottom and paste your profile link where it says “Google Plus Link”
- Follow the instructions above (Option 2 step 2) to link your Google+ Profile with your blog
- Test your site using the Rich Snippets Testing Tool
- If you can see your profile picture everything is okay. If not, you have done something wrong.
Sources, useful links and more reading:
- AuthorCrawler from Tom Anthony
- Author Information in Search Results plugin (GPAISR) for WordPress
- Author Rank could be more disruptive than all of the Panda updates combined (March 30th 2012) A J Kohn
- How Authorship (and Google+) will change linkbuilding (April 15th, 2012) Tom Anthony – explains AuthorCrawler
- How to prepare for AuthorRank and get the jump on Google” (September 21st, 2012) Mike Arnesen
- How rich snippets can improve your click through rate (January 19th, 2012) Eddie@Catalyst Online
- Google’s Agent Rank patent
- Google’s Rich Snippets testing tool
- Google’s instructions on adding authorship
- PubCon 2011
- Using AuthorRank to future proof guest posting (SeachEnginePeople)
- Social network spam and Author/Agent Rank (September 16th 2011) John Doherty