AuthorRank & The Future of Guest Posting

AuthorRank – it’s no longer a case of if but when. It’s coming and it is going to be big.(AJ Kohn reckons bigger than all the Panda updates combined)

As webmasters, we’ve all got the ability already to implement rel-author but the full effect of AuthorRank is yet to be fully seen. To many it is still just a vague term coined by Matt Cutts and known by other Googler’s as AgentRank (see the patent filing).

What is AuthorRank?

We all know there’s a huge amount of content published to the web each and every day – AuthorRank is Google’s way of connecting the words with the people, determining just who is worthy of being visible and worthy of passing things like trust and link equity.

An explanation of AuthorRank (according to the patent)…

The identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings. 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.

There are a few things we can take from this:

  • Google will assemble a reputational score for you as an agent/author meaning that all your tweets, comments, answers, blog posts, web pages and anything else produced online will help Google build a picture about you – making it essential for you to develop and actively manage your personal brand.
  • Your reputation will have an impact on the visibility of your content.
  • Google may potentially filter unsigned content (perhaps unlikely?! Especially initially)

Why is AuthorRank important?

Ultimately AuthorRank will mean that content produced by a trustworthy writer will carry more weight than content written by an unknown or untrustworthy writer – that seems logical and almost fair. It will likely help reduce the amount of scraped content that appears prominently still (even after Panda) in the search results and should in theory help promote those individuals seeking to add value to the eco-system.

It could also change the face of link building because Google will likely use AuthorRank as a means to improve the accuracy of the link graph. They could reduce or even filter the equity of links from unsigned pages or from content that is written by a low trust author/agent.

Does it replace PageRank? From what I can tell, I’d say it looks like it will extend PageRank and act as a confirmation for Google either way…

  • High PageRank and High AuthorRank = the sweet spot obviously, likely a solid confirmation for Google that a particular page is worthy of being visible and passing serious link equity
  • Low PageRank but high AuthorRank = fresh content perhaps
  • High PageRank but low AuthorRank = possibly a manipulated link profile
  • Low AuthorRank and low PageRank = hmm, you might have a problem

What concerns me about AuthorRank is that it has the potential to introduce tremendous bias into the web because it requires to a certain extent active participation (e.g. Google+, authorship markup). There are great writers who are intelligent and savvy personal marketers, these guys will be fine however there are also equally intelligent and articulate writers who perhaps aren’t as digitally savvy (they’ve no idea what Google+ is perhaps) and they’re not as capable at marketing themselves.

This might mean in Google’s eyes they are less of an authority and if us as SEOs or online marketing consultants can’t get to these individuals in time then their voice could be lost. Perhaps no more so than is the case at present?

Anyway, I hope that Google builds AuthorRank to be smart enough to recognise the great voices out there not just the ones capable of marketing themselves online, although I suspect that just like Panda, it will take a couple of attempts before Google gets close to an AuthorRank metric that is reliable.

AuthorRank really is one of the greatest opportunities and also greatest challenges in SEO for many years. What’s stands out to me about AuthorRank is that unlike so many other “on the horizon” tactics in this business it simply cannot hurt to be ahead of the curve on this.

Making headway with AuthorRank will serve you well now and into the future.

How will this impact guest posting?

AuthorRank has the potential to change the face of link building, in particular content-driven forms of link building like guest posting.

Re-assess how we evaluate guest post opportunities

In the future even more so, it will be important to aim for websites authored by trusted agents not just a high PageRank blog. AuthorRank will potentially filter out the kinds of blogs that are essentially article directories that accept any kind of content in return for a link. It may also open up the possibility to generate value from guest posting on a newly established website because Google will see your high AuthorRank even if the site has a lower PageRank.

Careful management of your reputation

Guest posting will become even more so a reputation building exercise that should aim to boost and preserve the profile of the author. Google is likely to continue to dig deeper and deeper into the web and the picture of your reputation that it will be able to build will be astounding. Every touch point should be carefully managed to ensure a high AuthorRank can be maintained. Throwaway personas will fall off the radar in terms of effectiveness and it will be vital to develop persona assets in your business.

Why do I say “persona assets”?  Well, because AuthorRank to a certain extent puts the power back in the hands of the writers and I can see this leaving companies’ wide open to the demands of the individuals who threaten to leave and take all their AuthorRank with them to a new employer or as they set up on their own. Some would say the power belongs in the hands of the authors, maybe so but when a profile is built on company time and using company resources it is my opinion that this belongs to the company. Bottom line, ensure you have controls in place because you don’t want your search engine visibility to walk out the door with that key employee.

More considered selection of opportunities

The need to claim the content you author via Google+ is perhaps a subtle indication that Google suggests a handful of regular contributor spots could be more powerful than a slew of one-off guest posts.

Increases the scope of the pitch

We’ll be faced with bloggers and website owners that might only accept guest posts from high AuthorRank individuals so there will be a need to pitch the content, the company and your reputation as an author.

There is still a firm place for guest posting and link building in an AuthorRank-fuelled landscape, it will just require an upgraded, more intelligent approach.

How will we evolve our service?

Nothing is changing right away because we need to be certain of the impact of innovation before rolling out across client projects. We are currently exploring, developing and testing several phases of innovation for our guest posting service to ensure we can maintain its effectiveness long-term. These include:

  • Establishing “in-house” personas & helping you to develop long term persona assets
  • Securing regular contributor spots where applicable (even more than we do now)
  • Building the profile of the persona – including writing blog posts for your website, social media activities, comments and Q&A responses
  • Rel-author implementations – in more situations than we do already
  • Re-assessing volumes – in the future, it may become applicable to focus on much smaller volumes of guest posts so we may adjust our packages accordingly
  • Updating our link opportunity scoring system – we will always look to change the way we assess opportunities as Google’s methodology evolves.

Let me reiterate that our service is still as effective as it always has been and these changes are by no means a requirement at this moment in time. The aim here is simply to make you aware of how our service is likely to evolve in the future and also to let you know that we are all over AuthorRank so you can rest assured it isn’t going to take us or you by surprise.

18 Comments

  1. avatar
    Anthony Trollope April 10, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    One thing that concerns me about AuthorRank is that it seems relatively easy to manipulate. Say someone knows a competitors author ID and pushes out a load of spammy content with that ID attached — how is Google going to know if that is legitimate content or in this case, an attempt by a competitor to devalue that individual ID by pushing spammy content?

    • avatar
      Gary Marks April 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

      In order for the author id to be recognised, Google (I believe) validates it against a Google Profile…in my case my Google+ profile. This ensures the author is valid as you have to create links to and from your Google own profile to authored work. This still leaves you open if your account is hacked.

      Great article by the way James. I had a feeling this authorship stuff would/could be big.

    • avatar
      Granit April 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      @Anthony As i know, one of the requirements of implementing AuthorRank in your website it’s not only google+ ID but the site must be in your ‘Contributor’ list too. So if somebody post a lot of spammy content using only your ID but the sites where the content is published isn’t in your contributor list (at your google+ profile) then Google isn’t going to see that content as your work.

      • avatar
        James Agate April 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

        @Anthony – yes Gary Marks and Granit are both spot on since it is a two way validation so hopefully that allays any fear you have other spammy manipulation by competitors.

        Thanks for the comments guys

        • avatar
          Anthony Trollope April 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

          Thanks for the replies, folks. Certainly does clear up my concerns and glad that Google had considered this (realistic) eventuality.

  2. avatar
    Adam Veitch April 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Great read James,

    Author rank = exciting times in my opinion!

    This has the potential to be very dangerous for companies as the reputation shifts from the business to the author.

    From a content creator’s point of view however, this could be beneficial as their thankless every day task should finally get the monetary recognition it deserves.

    Content is apparently king so it would be refreshing to see the salaries of the content creators be brought up to those of their web designer/developer counterparts.

    How do you think companies should get around the potential blackmailing from content creators as they threaten to move companies and take the author rank with them?

    Should they create a company author bio and use that you think?

    It would be good to get your thoughts James.

    Thanks for the post!

    • avatar
      James Agate April 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi Adam,

      Very valid points so thanks for the comment…

      It is an interesting area and quite the challenge but in my opinion, the best way would be to create a persona for the entire team within a business to use (or a series of personas if necessary) and base them around the company rather than any particular individual. This could be something like Captain Skyrocket for example which could be our internal persona that is used regardless of who writes the post or comment etc that way we retain value should anyone leave.

      You could also look at creating company specific personas e.g. Tone Liam, Tone Adam etc and I think you could salvage some value should that individual leave as long as their public and business personas have been carefully separated.

      J

  3. avatar
    jayson April 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    AuthorRank eh! This is no surprise since we all see this coming when Google introduced authorship markup. I just hope that Google will be fair on giving quality score on strong author profiles against start ups. Reading this, I though of the influencer strategy of Hugo Guzman – authority and influence – http://bit.ly/p188rN

    • avatar
      James Agate April 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

      That post from Hugo is a great find Jayson – thanks !

      J

  4. avatar
    Courtney Cox April 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Great post. I think this is going to change SEO forever. For a long time, Google has been telling SEO companies to stop building spammy links with crappy, paid blog posts through sites like MicroWorkers, and most SEO companies didn’t listen. For those that did listen, they’ve been writing worth-while, relevant guest posts on reputable blogs. That means they’ve had more practice, and the SEO companies who are still building those quick and easy links are behind the curve. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how important AuthorRank becomes because it could mean a complete change in guest blogging strategy for many SEO companies.

    • avatar
      James Agate April 11, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Absolutely – No SEO can claim they weren’t warned about low-rent links :-)

  5. avatar
    Jim April 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    So people like me that don’t like to see their face all over the web and in search results are going to have a serious disadvantage.

  6. avatar
    Hugo April 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Thanks for sharing my post, Jayson! Nice post, James. I definitely think that authorship will become more of an influence on natural search results over time, and I have to pay it forward and give credit to a sharp SEO named Dan Cristo; he’s been on this tip for years (www.dancristo.com)

    • avatar
      James Agate April 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

      Good to have you commenting here Hugo – I’m going to check out Dan Cristo now :-)

      J

  7. avatar
    Gary April 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Hi, we have just launched our blog and have set up the rel=author tag from the beginning to ensure we are building up AuthorRank as soon as possible. It sounds more and more as though Google is moving towards a position where it is much more capable of determining good content through analysing the content itself and looking for other trust signals such as Authorship, social sharing etc and away from relying quite so heavily on links (although I suspect they will remain important, their importance is sure to deminish).

    • avatar
      James Agate April 20, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      Thanks for your comment Gary, let’s hope they can move towards understanding what constitutes good content but given the carnage in the SERPs of the last few days, I’m not so sure Google are there just yet :-)

  8. avatar
    Brett Warner April 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Great Stuff! I’m actually excited as a few of my clients have been properly utilizing G+ Since the beginning in regards to the author markup and I’m hoping that it will give them a boost over their competitors.

  9. avatar
    Jeff Bronson May 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    It sounds to me like if you are an individual, who runs multiple websites in different niches, branding yourself is the only feasible way to gain a decent AuthorRank. And I don’t mean affiliates sites.

    In my case, besides a day job, I run 4 eCommerce shops, 1 niche blog and a consulting service. Trying to build AuthorRank for all of these with different “personas” sounds impossible. Whereas, building your own credibility(as the owner of these projects) sounds more realistic.

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