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April 14, 2014

How Google Authorship Impacts SEO

There’s a lot of confusion around Google Authorship, Author Rank, and how both impact SEO (if at all.) If you’re a content creator or marketer amassing plenty of author credits, use this article to determine if the efforts of Google Authorship make sense to solidify your brand and expertise.

What is Google Authorship and Author Rank?

First we will demystify the meaning and relationship between each author-related concept. And no, they are most certainly not the same thing.

Google Authorship is all about connecting your web content to a personal Google Plus profile. Links to content from Google Plus will therefore create a more personal Google listing, which includes an author photo, link to the author’s Google Plus profile, the number of Google Plus circles the author is a part of, and a link to additional author search results.

Google Author Rank, then, refers to the credibility of a given author, and relates back to the search giant’s algorithms. Google is always looking for ways to better identify quality content, and author rank (or “agent rank”, the name of the patent they filed in 2011) aims to identify experts and influencers in all categories and niches. This absolutely therefore impacts search rankings.

To break it down, just remember this: Google Authorship is all about the rich search results snippet created when you link content from your Google Plus profile. Google Author Rank reflects the algorithm updates that may boost your results based on the credibility of your verified Google Authorship content.

The Benefits of Google Authorship

With the immense, almost limitless amount of information published daily on the web, Google obviously needs as many differentiators as possible to identify and highlight quality content. Authorship is a fantastic way to build credibility and consistency around your brand. It also stands to reason that Google will continue to leverage its darling social platform, Google Plus. The more content you have integrated here, the more you are building yourself as an expert in your field, at least in the eyes of Google.

Eric Schmidt, author of “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business“, puts it this way: “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.”

The Rise of Social Signals

One of the primary reasons Author Rank has been catapulted into importance is the relatively new prominence of social signals. Social signals are the conglomeration of “likes”, tweets, status updates, profile info, comments, and all related user-submitted content gathered through the myriad of social networks. Because this has become a primary way for contributors to share content, the search engines have naturally jumped into the game, and are attempting to use their relevance in the impact of rankings.

Google doesn’t have API access to Facebook, Twitter, and crew. But they certainly do with Google Plus. Therefore, they clearly will use the data on their own network first to measure any expertise or impact on rankings.

The Case Against Authorship and Author Rank

Not everyone thinks it’s really all that critical to focus on improving Author Rank. The entire system has an inherent flaw that may prevent Google Authorship from ever taking off.

Google’s main motivation is to get actual industry experts to link their content via Google Plus, which not only allows search results to verify content influencers, but also boosts the amount of content on the quasi-successful social platform.

Yet the verdict is still out regarding how much this will really benefit the actual authors. Many early adopters report little to no upticks in traffic or search results related to Authorship and Author Rank, despite the efforts required. Experts are experts because of the time and knowledge they invest in their given field; asking these individuals to then spend additional precious resources chasing down Google’s latest SEO trends is quite a tall order. And many content creators (like myself) have simply not made this a priority. Some of us are waiting for the bona fide statistics to prove it’s worth our time and effort, and those are simply not that convincing just yet.

Because of this conundrum, the current Google results are, for the most part, highlighting authors who have obsessively kept up with the Google Plus profiles. And by no means does this guarantee expertise in any given space. So it’s not clear whether or not Google’s insistence that top influencers follow their rules will have the impact they intend.

There’s no actual harm to focusing on upping your Google Authorship, but don’t expect massive SEO results to follow suit. Even if Author Rank becomes a more prominent aspect of the Google algorithm, there’s no guarantee your efforts will boost rankings.

If you do dive into the process, note that Google won’t just grant rich snippets to any piece of content. They still care deeply about quality, because the millions of searchers that access the site each day want the best of the best. Google search guru Matt Cutts has even stated that authors with lackluster content will not be granted the reward of a photo and links. In fact, he estimated that only 15 percent of Google Plus profiles might actually become verified, and therefore authorized to have the rich snippet feature. This increases the odds all the more that your Authorship efforts won’t have an SEO impact.

In the end, however, anything Google wants content creators to accomplish is rarely a waste of time, thanks to their omnipotence in the world of search. It’s always best to just assess your own landscape, determine the time and effort involved in upping your Authorship and Author Rank, and move forward with the best strategy for your personal brand.

Have you had any success with Author Rank efforts? If so, we’d love to hear about it!


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile