Google Author Rank: What Small Businesses Need to Know

You may not have heard about Google Author Rank yet. But if you have a small business website for which you regularly create content, you need to know about Author Rank now, because its implications for search engine optimization (SEO) are likely to be huge.

In February at the Online Marketing Summit, Clayton Stobbs, director of client experience for Compendium, predicted that “2013 will be the year of Author Rank.” The rise of content marketing, plus the frequent Google algorithm updates that punish low-quality content, are just two reasons why Google Author Rank is becoming such an important SEO consideration.

Google Author Rank is Google’s “next big step” in its “never-ending mission to surface high quality, trustworthy content for their searchers,” according to SEOMoz. Author Rank, a ranking system like Google PageRank, can significantly increase search engine rankings for content attributed to a known and trusted author, such as a subject matter expert with an active Google+ profile.

In Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s upcoming book The New Digital Age, he spells out the importance of being a known, trusted author in the eyes of Google’s algorithms: “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.”

Put another way, if Google recognizes you as a trusted author, the content you create will more likely beat out in search result rankings content written by someone Google doesn’t recognize. For this reason, taking the time to establish yourself, or those writers who create content for your website or blog, as a “verified online profile” is well worth the effort.

The Back Story on Google Author Rank

Author Rank has its origins in AgentRank, for which Google filed a patent in 2005.

AgentRank’s goal is to create digital signatures that identify trusted “agents” (content creators), partly as a way to weed out spammers. As Demian Farnworth explains on, those agents’ signatures accumulate reputation scores based on public reaction, such as likes and shares, to their related content. In turn, digital signatures become another Google ranking factor.

In 2011, Google introduced its social network, Google+, which provides an easy way to create a digital signature system. That same year, Google came out with Google Authorship, which lets users link their Google+ profile to the content they create.

Anyone who’s done a Google search since 2011 has probably noticed that some results are clearly attributed to an author, right down to the writer’s photo. That’s because the writer has linked his or her Google+ profile to a website, blog, or particular piece of content.

Google Author Rank Ranking Factors

SEO experts believe Google Author Rank takes into account many factors when determining how to rank a piece of content associated with a digital signature, such as a Google+ profile. Among the signals considered are:

  • Shares, likes, +1s that your Google+ posts receive.
  • The quality of links that your content receives. As always with Google, the more links your content receives from trusted, authority sites, the higher your content is likely to rise in search result rankings.
  • Reactions to your content, such as positive or negative user comments, can play a role.
  • Freshness or timeliness. Google puts much emphasis on matching the freshest content to a user’s search query. So the more timely and topical your content is, the better its chances are of ranking well.
  • Authority on other social networks, like Twitter.
  • The average PageRank of the site where your content lives.
  • Mentions on authoritative websites, such as The New York Times.

How to Link Your Google+ Profile to Your Content

The first step is to create a Google+ profile if you haven’t already. Be sure to add a photo. Anyone contributing to your site, such as bloggers, should have their own Google+ profiles, too, linked to your site. Be sure to thoroughly fill out your own profile with areas of expertise.

Your Google+ profile has a section called “Contributor To.” List all the sites you publish on here.

Ideally, you should have an author’s page on each site that includes a bio and your list of posts. Add a link in the “Contributor To” part of your Google+ profile to your author pages, not just the home pages of sites to which you contribute, whenever possible.

The sites you contribute to must also point toward your Google+ profile, to complete the circle of trust for Google. This can be accomplished in several ways, which Google outlines in its how-to article on linking Google+ profiles to content.

To see if your linking efforts have succeeded, Google offers a structured data testing tool. After completing the two-way Google Authorship set-up, copy and paste the URL for an article you’ve written here and click “Preview.” If you’ve succeeded, you should see your Google+ profile picture in the preview.

Start Publishing Great Content

The next step: Start posting great content on your site or blog and publicizing it on Google+ as well as other social networks. Write original posts for Google+. Comment on Google+ posts from others in your circle and grow your Google+ circles. Join relevant Google+ communities and be active in them.

Most importantly, don’t ignore Google Author Rank. There’s no doubt it’s going to be an extremely important search engine ranking factor in 2013, if it isn’t already.

James A. Martin consults on SEO, social media, and content marketing for small businesses and enterprises. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter, @james_a_martin.

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