Thanks to Emi Yañez for the photo!
I caught up with an old client recently. His name is Paul Cashmere and he owns a fantastic music news site called noise11.com.
Initially, we got him some massive traffic growth by getting his site ranked in Google News. Nothing that clever, just pretty much what Google outlines in their various Google news guides. When I was chatting with him last week though, he told me that he was breaking a lot of music news stories but Google was ranking other publications above his for the same story, even though he broke it. Like some sort of SEO nut, I blurted out: “Google Authorship!”
How to Claim Your Google Authorship
I’ve been banging on about Authorship since Google announced it over two years ago. Yep. Two years. They released Authorship before they launched Google+. One of the main reasons they cited for the release of Authorship was to reward original content and cut down on plagiarized content ranking higher than the original. I suspected at the time, though, that it would become a much stronger signal than that. More about that in a second.
Paul went to set up Authorship by himself using this simple tool provided by Google. Within 24 hours his traffic had doubled! Do yourself a favor and get your Google Authorship set up right now (it’s OK, I can wait).
What about PageRank and AuthorRank?
AuthorRank has been a fairly recent term bandied about by the SEO crowd. The idea being that the stronger your authorship, the more likely your content is to rank well. This is a little too simplistic for me, much the same way that the PageRank arguments used to be. Having said that, I am a big advocate for it.
PageRank was used as a tie breaker between pages. If two pages were equally relevant for a given search phrase then PageRank would kick in. I used to know how competitive a search phrase was if the results were ranked in descending PageRank order. It meant that the on-page elements were pretty much equal and the only way Google could separate them was through PageRank.
As the algorithm evolves with updates like Penguin and Panda, Google has had to be more selective with the value it gives to backlinks. The original reason Google used backlinks as a signal in the algorithm was because they considered it a citation for the content they were linking to. This was one of the main reasons Google became a search giant so quickly.
Even though the Penguin update has been devastating to a lot of backlink buyers, there are still some pretty clever schemes Google does not seem to be picking up.
So, what’s next? If it was my algorithm and I could not be certain of the quality of some backlinks, what better way to judge them than by who is giving them? Sure, there is a lot Google already does to assess the value of the link, but if you can also assess the quality and relevance of the person behind the link, it’d be so much better. I remember talking about that concept with Chris Brogan back in 2009 when we were on a speaking panel together. He called them Trust Agents. I think Authorship is Google’s form of Trust Agency.
Let me give you an example. If I write an article about left-handed screwdrivers and it gets shared by the inventor of left-handed screwdrivers, who has a well-respected body of work on the subject, then that should be a ranking signal.
PageRank was only ever a measure of the PageRank of pages linking to yours. I think so-called AuthorRank will function in a similar way but that is not why you should use it.
Don’t Try to Manipulate Your AuthorRank
If you go down the path of thinking about how to manipulate AuthorRank you will surely come unstuck. Remember your Authorship is attached to your Google profile and if you infringe Google’s Webmaster guidelines or break Google’s TOS they can take away a lot more than your ranking. They can switch off your profile. Google has recently added this FAQ to their blog on rel=”author”. I recommend that you read it, especially if you publish content on the web.
The reason Paul’s traffic doubled was not because Authorship added some sort of magical ranking juice. It was because Google was able to detect that he was the original source of stories that others were essentially rewriting and not giving him credit for.
Over to You
Have you set up your Google Authorship yet? What are your thoughts and questions? Please tell us in the comments!