Search engine optimization has always had an aire of mysticism around it, fueled by theories, tests and results.
As an SEO consultant, I read a lot of industry blogs like Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Watch and Raven Tools, among others. I also like to keep my ear to the street, so I subscribe to the official Google blog and Bing's search blog, as well as monitor various industry forums to stay on top of possible changes coming down the pike.
If you're particularly adept at digging for clues (and a bit of an SEO geek), you can search for patents filed by Google for their search algorithms to see what sort of things they might be taking into consideration in the future.
In fact, one particular patent that Google filed around 2005 called "Agent Rank" may have been confirmed by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, in an interview with Gregory Ferenstein of Techcrunch:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”
Obviously Agent Rank was the precursor to what we now call Author Rank, which is how Google is likely ranking authors of content based on their authority, expertise and influence in their specific industry.
Think about your own knowledge on a particular subject. Would people call you an expert? Let's say you call yourself a "social media guru", but have your Twitter account set on auto pilot, and rarely read up on industry trends. If that's the case, the term "guru" is laughable. The same goes for your content on the web.
Author Rank Explained
When your content is connected through Google's Authorship markup (see Brian Jensen's post about that topic here), for better or worse you're building your reputation.
If Google's patent filing for Agent Rank is any indication, there are a number of areas they will be considering when determining your credibility within the web.
In a 2011 Webmaster Central blog post, Othar Hansson explained Google's backing of Authorship markup, and how they're experimenting with the data within the search results.:
"We now support markup that enables websites to publicly link within their site from content to author pages. For example, if an author at The New York Times has written dozens of articles, using this markup, the webmaster can connect these articles with a New York Times author page. An author page describes and identifies the author, and can include things like the author’s bio, photo, articles and other links."
The process of establishing your Author Rank, however, isn't very cut and dry.
Tips for Building your Author Rank
1. Establish Google Authorship for your content. You can add Authorship to your content using one of the following methods:
- Add a link from your Google+ profile page to your author biography page on the website where your content lives.
- Add a link from your author bio page, with a rel="me" tag on the link, to your Google+ profile page.
- Add a link from your content to your author bio page, with a rel="author" tag on the link.
- Add a link from your Google+ profile page to your blog.
- Add a link from your content, with a rel="author" tag, to your Google+ profile page.
- Add a link in your author byline to your Google+ profile.
- Add your email address with the same domain name as the website to your Google+ profile.
- Submit your email address to Google.
2. Use a good headshot for your Google+ profile. Cyrus Shepard at SEOmoz saw a 35 percent increase in traffic to his website, after testing different profile pictures. If you don't have access to a professional photographer, find an interesting background, set up a tripot and take a picture of yourself. Face the camera, look directly at the lens and smile. Crop the picture so your head and shoulders are framed properly. This is an important step, since your Google+ profile picture will be displayed on your content in Google's search results if you have implemented Authorship markup correctly.
3. Leverage Google+. You've probably heard talk about how G+ is a "ghost town", but from a content marketing perspective, the more you build up your profile, the more credibility and authority around particular subjects you will gain in Google's eyes. Participate in discussions, join communities, share relevant content, and encourage your connections to do the same. Keep track of influencers in your field, and start interacting with them.
4. Encourage feedback. Google may be using the number of comments your blog posts get, and the engagement on your Google+ posts, as a metric in determining your Author Rank. Even though there's more to this point than just the number of comments, such as the authority and relevancy of the person making the comment among other factors, make sure the content you're posting and the articles you're writing are relevant to the field you wish to build up your Author Rank in.
5. Write content for other websites. If you're familiar with the term "guest posting", you may think it's just another link building tactic. But the real benefit of guest blogging isn't just the link you get within the content, but the mutually beneficial relationship you are building with people in your field. Check out the plethora of blog posts written on the topic of guest posting.
What's your opinion of Google's Author Rank? Will it make the web a better place? Share your thoughts in the comments below!