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A perpetual three way game of cat and mouse is being played between search engines, the virtuous white hatters and the evil gamers of the system with the user standing by oblivious. This post looks at the state of Google’s move towards personas or AuthorRank.
Disclaimer: I like PageRank. I think, as a concept, it is wholly honorable. (I especially like that the Google Toolbar incorporates PageRank which in my naïve eyes confirms it matters still. To someone.) For a guide to Page Rank go here. That its reputation is battered thanks to bought links and link spams inflating the scores is sad; but time, I’m told, moves on. Which leads us to AuthorRank.
As Google originally placed merit on networks of links and then subsequently the quality of those links, so with AuthorRank it now seeks to reflect the merit of the content publisher, almost calling the bluff of the original instigator of the link sharing.
The theory of AuthorRank appeals to me. It has had the odd mention online so unless you’ve been renovating that rock you live under for some time, AuthorRank acts as a reputational score for all your published content; be it blog posts, tweets, status updates, comments, answers and so forth. Should you need more, read this for a full blown explanation.
And then watch this to see how you get yourself set up.
It works in conjunction with the PageRank measurement and works to act as a balance to sites that may have an artificially high score. The subtext is that it also allows Google to track your online footprint in greater detail; after all, why would you be too shy to add identity to your content if you’re taking the step of publishing it anyway?
It has a ranking influence we’re told but I’ve yet to see it quantified to a satisfying level.
So sell it to us Google…
Here starts a whole list of questions, the answers to which would help in broadening not just the adoption of the rel=author mark ups but the adoption of Google+ itself. The familiar drone of “Social signals are becoming a more influential ranking factor” is starting to sound a little lightweight now. We need some data, some cold hard facts.
Sell it to us Google…we’ve got the cheque book out, we’re on the brink of buying…
Give us visibility of Author Score. How can we measure and improve our AuthorRank? Does AuthorRank vary by associated domain? Let us know our worth at domain level. If a post is still being shared 12 months down the line, is that more valuable than a month after publishing?
Will it become part of the Analytics suite in the same way as quality score exists for AdWords? Unlikely as Google are not under the same obligations as they are with AdWords to disclose these metrics. Could there be AuthorRank integration with PPC Ads? That’s not going to leave much space on a results page page for much else if we head down that route.
AuthorRank serves to add a sub level of credibility to a link’s quality in addition to that gained from its own domain. Meaning for businesses consideration needs to be given to publishing and publishers – do you cultivate individual personas as Google would have you believe or do you create a central identity to pool the authority you build?
There is more to this than simply implementing rel=author as content is the accelerant. As a publisher you opt in to creating information that is useful and relevant, useful and relevant enough to be referenced and linked to.
It stands to reason that people won’t push out any old tosh if it’ll have their name against it, but until Google decides how much of an influence social signals should have, it’s not yet vital to implement rel=author.
We could get to a point where the the proliferation of ecommerce sites, review sites and word of mouth makes the mark up an essential element of the purchase journey (I suspect that’s Google’s hope), where a prospective visitor seeks that extra level of credentials. Who exactly is this person selling me this shed/bucket/holiday (delete as appropriate)…?
Well it might look like this…
This is Dean (handsome chap) and this is his publishing resume or Author profile, call it what you will. It contains all the published content Dean has put his name to. Great for his profile, great transparency for the user. Quite hard to get to though. Who outside of online marketing uses the “site” operator? I would hazard a guess that it has low cut through with consumers.
I think this is a potent proposition for a shopper to face. A well rounded Author profile can instill trust and take that person further toward the point of purchase.
It’s a shame its so hard to find.
So What Do I Do Next?
Google is heading down the right line with AuthorRank. If it could just be a bit more accessible. For now though, if you publish in any regular capacity, and have associations with quality websites, the first step is to get set up on Google+ and complete the “Contributor to” section of your profile. It’s very quick. Then continue publishing content of value and encouraging the sharing of it.
What are the limitations of this type of meritocracy? Is it a meritocracy? Can this be gamed? Is it better than the status quo? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments below)
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