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.