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April 8, 2013

Google, SEO and Author Rank: It’s Getting Personal

In the competitive world of SEO, any edge up on the competition is a godsend. Here’s a word to the wise: If you’re looking to up your Search Engine Page Rankings (SERPs), you should start caring very deeply about author rank. A well charted content strategy consists of more than just well written, on target, audience-specific articles; nowadays it’s crucial to tie it all to a well-ranked author.

Consider this a similar notion to the spirit of link sharing; we now know it’s critical that we understand imperatively the reputation of everyone we link to, and those who link to us. In that same vein, it’s now a must that we equally consider author reputation. In a world of rampant social sharing, this is one of a few key ways search engines are cutting through the content clutter. And it’s your ticket to better SEO.

Consider this book excerpt from “The New Digital Age,” authored by Google Executive Chariman Eric Schmidt:

“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.”

Irrelevance?!? That’s a very strong statement. And that alone is proof that author rank should be on your SEO radar.

How Author Rank Became an SEO Darling

Every day, a staggeringly high number of “social events” are triggered by web users. “Social events” are things like Facebook Likes, Google +1s, tweets, and content shares. To that end, search engines can conceivably sort the relevance of this mountain of data by considering each author’s reputation (a little like Klout, a site that lets authors track their own ranking prowess, aims to achieve.)

It used to be that the key to SEO was in massive link building, but as this transformed into a less than stellar user experience, search engines shifted their strategies. In order to maintain credibility and track the quality of content in a more cohesive manner, author rank has become a much stronger focus. This is an obvious evolution for the algorithms, especially considering the astronomically increasing amount of data that must be tracked in real-time. Gone are the days when link directories and volumes of anonymous posts reigned supreme. As people, we have long since preferred to interact with other people, not bots or nameless, invisible beings – it turns out Google feels the same way.

Quantifying Author Rankings

SEO is not an exact science, but it does support common sense in considering how the algorithms might dissect a concept like author rank. Here are some key social signals to consider as you’re building your own ranking (please note these are ideas, and not guarantees… yet):

1) Social Media Profiles: This one is a no-brainer. If you’re going to have any credibility to the masses these days, you clearly need to be on the big dogs: Facebook and Twitter at a minimum, but ideally other sites like Pinterest and LinkedIn. Likewise, a Google+ definitely feels like a must-have, because it’s obvious Google is paying hyper-close attention to their own social darling.

2) Quantity of Social Events: The volume of content you create is certainly applicable, but what’s more relevant these days is the number of tweets, shares, +1s and Likes a piece you authored generates. Bear in mind search engines are not looking at how many social events you trigger, but those of your content instead.

3) Frequency of Social Events: It’s not just about volume, but how often your content generates a Like, share, etc. Both Google and Bing have already admitted that they measure social velocity to help identify high-ranking news; it’s reasonable to assume they are tracking the same for author rankings too.

4) Publisher Credibility: Remembering that quality still trumps quantity, the authority of the site where the content appears is also integral to your success. We are therefore reminded to choose our publishing partners carefully while building SEO rank, because mass publication on sites with bad reputations – or none at all – can actually hurt your cause instead.

Ways to Improve Your Author Rank

So now that you’ve embraced the importance of author rank and have started understanding how it might be quantified, let’s talk about some real-world strategies to improve your results over the long term.

You obviously need a great social media and SEO strategy for the content on your actual website. Consider unifying your marketing efforts and having one cohesive voice write the majority of your content. This may go against the grain of large teams of marketers and writers propelling forward various styles, but given the increased importance of author rank, it’s advisable that you seek an authority to lead the charge – not just a snazzy copywriter. This means you should consider hiring an author with expertise in your field, so that you may utilize the social following and clout they’ve already established. By all means, leverage the audience these experts have already established. The more you personalize the messaging from your brand, the more likely you are to make a personal connection with your customers. (Seriously, who likes impersonal sales-y sounding social signals and marketing materials?). Likewise, it now seems SEO is gearing towards the personal too, so this is a win-win. Use sites like LinkDex to help identify the perfect candidate to author your content charge.

Next up is outreach – identify news sites, bloggers and related content hubs that feature information related to your business’s expertise. Once determined, don’t just go through the standard submission process for the site; seek out the authors you are most in tune with and ask them personally to consider featuring your business, content, inforgraphic or related media. See the personal trend here? It’s becoming as good as gold. (It always was for customers, now search engines are getting in on the action too.)

Finally, remember that diversity in content is also a key tactic. Don’t just focus on keyword-rich articles, have some fun and mix it up. Create compelling viral videos, interactive content, infographics and related visuals, and/or eBooks so that your offerings create a broad appeal. Above all, don’t forget to clearly delineate authorship on all the content you publish.

Author Rank’s Longevity

Considering all the current web trends, and Google’s most recent statements, banking on author rank as a growing SEO trend is a safe bet. Start utilizing the requested tactics straight away, and stick with them long term, as they are likely to become more and more critical to your rankings. As Google executive Schmidt clearly stated, staying anonymous may result in irrelevance. It’s clear Google can’t, and won’t, ignore the immense amount of social data out there, so make yours count as much as possible by tying content to credible authors. If Google wants to know all they can about who’s writing your content, you should clearly want the same.

Producer, game designer and freelance writer, Tina Courtney-Brown has been a bona fide web fiend since she discovered in 1994. Tina’s fort├ęs include all aspects of online business, social media, marketing trends, alternative health, digital production and many more. She’s a passionate truth-teller, a sincere advocate for the environment, and an obsessive dessert creator. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook.