The SEO community has been buzzing with speculation over Author Rank, Google’s biggest rollout since Panda that pairs authors and their content together regardless as to where the latter resides on the Web. Author Rank serves two purposes. First, it establishes the author is a real, living, breathing human being. Second, it allows Google to compile and rate the quality of content that author is providing.
Listed below is the specific language from the patent application.
Assuming that a given agent has a high reputational score, representing an established reputation for authoring valuable content, then additional content authored and signed by that agent will be promoted relative to unsigned content or content from less reputable agents in search results.
Similarly, if the signer has a large reputational score due to the agent having an established reputation for providing accurate reviews, the rank of the referenced content can be raised accordingly. Agents whose content receives consistently strong endorsements can gain reputation. In either implementation, the agent’s reputation ultimately depends on the quality of the content which they sign.
From the looks of it, Author Rank won’t replace Page Rank. The implementation of Author Rank means that the social graph, the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related, suddenly carries an additional attribute based on trust and authority. The higher the Author Rank, the better the ranking. Conceptually, this might reduce or eliminate the impact of manufactured link building efforts that manipulate ranking on Google search engine result pages (SERP).
While this may just seem like conjecture, the evidence for a big move towards social within SEO is mounting. The fact that Google+ is built around circles means “sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn’t be a hassle. Circles make it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another, and your boss in a circle by himself, just like real life.” One of the upsides is that even if spammers invent hordes of Google+ users, they’re useless outside of your circle. To further elaborate on that point, Google writes:
Content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers. For example, a movie review from an expert is useful, but a movie review from a friend who shares your tastes can be even better. Because of this, +1’s from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking, and we’re constantly tweaking and improving our algorithm to improve overall search quality. For +1’s, as with any new ranking signal, we are starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.
Therefore, as Google+ picks up momentum, we expect to see the signals it creates reflected heavily in search results. Teddie Cowell, SEO Director at Guava, says, “The value of social signals actually depends heavily on user authentication, which is a complex problem often overlooked… Fundamentally, search engines need to more reliably tell who you are, whether you are real or not, and combine that with your activity online; or else even with all the hype, without authentication mechanisms social signals actually are nothing but noise and have negligible value.”
That’s where the rel=author markup comes into play. To pair authors with blogs, articles, etc., Google checks for a connection between the aforementioned as well as a Google+ profile. Authorship markup uses the rel attribute, part of the open HTML5 standard, in links to indicate the relationship between a content page and an author page. Think of it as a digital signature. A.J. Kohn of Blind Five Year Old, an online marketing firm, has a comprehensive guide on implementing the markup onto your website which you can find here. Google’s guide is listed here.
“What does this mean to me?” you ask. It means that the growth of Google+ and use of brand pages will become increasingly important for companies wanting to cross-pollinate search and social activity. It’s difficult to say when Author Rank will be rolled out in its entirety, but there are some things you can do in the meanwhile. These tips are listed in a Bravo Design, Inc. entry on “Sustainable SEO,” but they’re worth reiterating. First, markup pages for search engines. There are two guides listed above. One is by A.J. Kohn, and the other is by Google. You can also check out Schema.org for other miscellaneous content element tags. Second, develop quality content, build links and promote. This is self-explanatory, and it never changes.
If you’re not following Bravo Design, Inc. on Google+, you should do so ASAP.