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The Challenges Facing AuthorRank…Sell It To Us Google!

Graeme Benge

by Graeme Benge on 5th July 2012

Author RankA 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…

Author Rank - Dean Profile

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)

Click here for Rel=author guidance for WordPress 
For Webmaster Tools advice click here
Click here for Webmaster Tools advice if  Author info is not displaying


Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge

With five years background in Travel, Graeme has built up strong commercial experience alongside online and offline marketing skills working with a variety of Travel Agents and Cruise Specialists. A passionate advocate of SEO and Social Media, Graeme has a strong interest in ROI and analytics in order to deliver the best level of returns.


  • Jim Seward 5th July 2012

    Hi Greame

    Firstly, nice post. Google has been selling us authorship for a while now and anyone who has introduced rel=”author” properly will most likely have seen a jump in clickthrough.

    But I agree that as a concept it’s still poorly defined, and what constitutes a good author is Google’s eyes is still open to interpretation.

    Reply to this comment

    • Graeme Benge

      Graeme Benge 5th July 2012

      Exactly Jim, I want to believe I really do but being in the line of work that we are, I feel a little data starved! Maybe we’ve been spoilt with the data we do have access to.

      Thanks for commenting Jim, hows chapter 2 of 50 Shades Of Grey Hat SEO coming on? You’ve got to keep the wife happy!

      Reply to this comment

      • Jim Seward 5th July 2012

        My other half said

        “I liked your steamy blog.
        I think I’d like you to tell me a story at bedtime!!!”

        Then admitted she tried reading past the first paragraph and got bored…..lol

  • Dan Holmes 5th July 2012

    I was under the impression that I had to use rel=”me” somewhere along the line. Is that not true? According to the Google video you shared, the link TO my G+ page should use rel=”author” – I had mine as rel=”me”. Can you clarify this?

    Good post

    Reply to this comment

    • Mike Essex

      Mike Essex 5th July 2012

      Hi Dan, rel=”me” works perfectly too. We used rel=”author” as we have multiple authors and it was recommended to us externally. It did the trick so that’s what we tend to recommend but both are acceptable.

      Reply to this comment

  • Dan Holmes 5th July 2012

    Thanks, Mike. I set it up about 10 days ago. Patiently waiting now to see when it starts working. Somewhere else is mention of a rich snippet testing tool. Is that something that will help me see if I did it properly?

    I have an author page on my blogs, and there’s a link from there to my G+ using rel=”author” and I have a link to G+ on each piece of content using rel=”author”. I also have links to that domain on the contributor section of my G+ account. Should be good, yes?

    Reply to this comment

  • Mark Traphagen 5th September 2012

    Google recommends, and we follow as a best practice, putting the link back from your G+ profile to all associated content sites in the “Contributor To” section of your profile. If you do that, there is no need to add a rel tag to the link, as it is incorporated automatically.

    Reply to this comment

  • Graeme Benge

    Graeme Benge 5th September 2012

    Thanks Mark – great time saver!

    I checked out and enjoyed your posts on the subject and will keep an eye on your blog. Also up voted you on Inbound.org.

    Reply to this comment

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