Please, stop talking about AuthorRank
Search Engine Optimisation

Please, stop talking about AuthorRank

19th June 2013

Last month I had the pleasure to talk at ISS London and to attend SMX.

Along the years I attended many conferences, but that was my first SMX; I have spoken in quite many congresses too, but that was the first time I was going to do it in front of an English speaking audience in UK, so I was quite nervous.

Luckily everything’s went fine, everything but…

Yes, there is a but, a big but.

In the SMX program was scheduled a panel about “Content” and, you should know it already, I am quite passionate about everything Content. And I was sure speakers were going to talk about Authorship and AuthorRank, which are two topics I am very interested about (my talk too at ISS was partly about them).

Unfortunately those speakers quite disappointed my expectations. Why? Because they were talking about AuthorRank as if it is something already here. And it is not.

I am sure they know that very well, nonetheless – for instance when moderating the Moz Q&A – I see many SEOs that are convinced that Authorship alone is already a huge ranking factor.

It is this misunderstanding, sometimes alimented by more mature SEOs, that irritates me.

So, let me put it very clear for the beginning:

AuthorRank is not a ranking factor (yet)…

Inferring - SEO preferred sport

AuthorRank will be one of the logics Google will use in order to give back authority to the link graph in a future, which is not possible right now to preview.

That means that the infamous Eric Schmidt phrase from his book everybody cite – 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. – is not something we should not consider as a confession of something already happening, but an objective Google may have for the future.

Said that, I really suggest you all to recover a post Danny Sullivan wrote, which explains well how that phrase is usually taken out of its original context.

What are the causes of this frenzy about Author Rank?

As many of you already know, back in a couple of years ago Google launched the Authorship program, with which every author can tie his editorial content to his Google Plus profile and so, having the opportunity to be prized with his rich snippet photo (and some other goodies) in the SERPs.

A couple of months later, then, Google refilled a old patent: Agent Rank, which purpose is to describe how it could be possible to use authors, tied to a profile online, their authority and relevance about a topic in order to improve the quality of search results.

And after came two important acquisitions by Google: Social Grapple and PostRank.

Finally, every mentally sane marketer had understood already that Google Plus especially was a digital identities acquisition tool for Google.

It was obvious that SEOs (including me) started inferring from all these events and… boom! We invented the AuthorRank.

But, what is AuthorRank exactly?

None better than AJ Kohn was able to offer a definition of AuthorRank:

AuthorRank means that your reputation as a content creator will influence the ranking of the search results. Not only that but AuthorRank can be used to make the link graph more accurate.

AuthorRank combines the web of people with the web of links to create a more savvy view of trust and authority that will be used to rank search results.

Unfortunately there are many people who are not so wise as AJ Kohn, who always stated clear how AuthorRank is a “potential” in the Google Search economy and not yet a reality.

Why AuthorRank is not a ranking factor yet? The answer is quite simple: Authorship is still something unknown to big majority of web owners, and Authorships seems an essential factor, because it is what links contents to authors.

Keep Calm and Optimize

The percentage of use of the rel=”author” is still under two digits, even though it is growing. And even though Google is starting to assign authorship also to documents like .Doc, PDF, Excel files and some other documents if it can find a “by line” in them, still the overall amount of connections between content of authors and their profiles is still too small to justify an impact in the SERPs.

Ok, probably now you are remembering what Matt Cutts said in his video about things that will impact SEO in the future. In fact, Matt Cutts told how Google was thinking of offering a little boost in the rankings to those sites/authors that are universally considered authorities in their niche, or how Google will try to present things Danny Sullivan may have said in a comment about SEO, because it should probably relevant for SEO kind of queries.

Yes, I remember those declarations too.

The problem is that possibly Matt Cutts was referring more to the improved ability Google have now about detecting the topical nature of a document combined with classic LinkGraph and Social Graph signals, more than to AuthorRank.

So, should we forget AuthorRank?

No, simply we should not obsess about it and we should start putting it into a bigger context, where Entity Recognition, Knowledge Base, Social and Link Graph and Personalization of search are synergically shaping the Google of the future.

And we should start preparing to it following those that are considered its best practices. Why? Because they already have a correlation with better ranking and/or better CTR, and not because of AuthorRank itself but because they are just that: best practices and a great way of obtaining a competitive advantage.

Let’s take Authorship. As written before it is not used that much but in our niche. Start implementing it in your clients’ sites, especially in the eCommerce space, where rel=”author” is almost unknown.

If you have a blog or, in the B2B and more “serious” niches (i.e.: lawyer, industries) a news section, you can have your post/articles standing in the SERPs thanks to the authors’ photos.

Because there are still studies that demonstrates that people instinctively is attracted by human faces.

And remember, Google is assigning authorship also to documents like PDFs… so optimize them also with the by line.

One of the advantages of Authorship, then, is also that users can click on the name of the author and see what other content he may have written about the topic they performed the search for.

Or they can click on the number of people circling him ending up in his Google Plus page and from there starting a relation with the author.

More over, linked to authorship are all the Author Stats we can find in Google Webmaster Tools, which are very useful for understanding the performance of your content. For instance, that question I answered in the Moz Q&A is quite impressive in its CTR, being it better than any CTR of my posts.

Webmaster Tools   Author stats   http

Authorship, as we know and have seen, is strongly linked to Google Plus, and one of the best practices of the AuthorRank, in fact, is also to use Google Plus in order to create a relevant and authoritative profile, which will be circled by other relevant and authoritative authors in our niche of interests.

But there’s also a more practical reason for using more and better our Google Plus profile page: it pass PageRank, as well explained by Mark Traphaghen at SMX Advanced few days ago.

But Google Plus is not only our own Profile. It is also Communities, which are right now also a very easy way to start creating those Relationship Marketing occasions that are now essential for any healthy link building (and I suggest it as a channel for international SEO link building).

Offering, then, to the users the option to sign in our site with their G+ profile and implementing the G+ commenting system should be another thing to do.

Finally, AuthorRank is all about creating relevant content, whatever it is posts, articles, guides, thoughtful comments et al, and not just in our own site. This leads to what is a correct use of the guest blogging tactics and, also, a recuperation of what should have always been the real nature of what once was define as “comment marketing”.

Relevant content that will allow us to create – again – relations with other relevant authors.

In the AuthorRank theory, all those connections will improve our AuthorRank grade, hence helping our own content becoming even more relevant for Google.

But right now, if we think at it well, isn’t this what we usually say we all should do for obtaining natural links and better Social Echo?

AuthorRank is not here yet, but its philosophy is what really counts in this moment.

So, please, stop talking about it and start doing what it suggests to do right now.


Written By
Gianluca Fiorelli is an SEO and Web Marketing Strategist, who operates in the Italian, Spanish and English speaking countries market. He also works regularly as independent consultant with bigger international SEO agencies.
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