Ask content marketers and SEOs what they think will most impact upon their professions in 2013 and many will say without hesitation: Author Rank. But what exactly is this shadowy new metric rumoured to be making its way towards us, constantly slipping into conversations and popping up upon our screens?

Introduction to Author Rank

It is being heralded as the next big change in the wake of Penguin and Panda. But what is Google Author Rank? Google has long been discussing a way to improve the quality of search by linking it with the digital signatures of authors (or agents).

In May 2011, Google patented a new metric referred to in the patent documentation as “Agent Rank”. As we all know, Google then released its social network Google+ on 28 June 2011 and Google Authorship shortly after.

Google Authorship enables article writers to link their online content to their Google+ profile via rich snippets, which in turn enables Google to credit the authors with the content. It quickly became obvious that Google were making important moves towards creating a new metric in which content could be ranked according to the author who created it.

For those new to Google Authorship, here is a helpful video from Matt Cutts and Othar Hansson from the Google Webmaster Team discussing the tool and the concept behind it:

While it has yet to be rolled out, informed speculation suggests Google is readying what has been given the moniker “Author Rank” to be worked into their ranking algorithm, perhaps as early as 2013. This will obviously create a fresh challenge for content marketers and SEOs.

It would be unrealistic to think Author Rank will entirely replace PageRank, the long-serving metric. The two metrics will no doubt complement each other as indicators of the best content on the Web. However, it could arguably supersede it as Google pushes towards valuing quality authorship over the strength of the Web domain when identifying and ranking content.

How Will Authors Be Ranked?

We can venture to state that Google’s ranking apparatus is already in place. Authors will no doubt be ranked according to:

  • The number of people in their Google+ circles and the strength of their followers’ online presence
  • Social media activity such as +1s, likes, shares and tweets
  • The quantity and quality of comments and two-way engagement with their audience
  • The strength of the online presence of those making comments and interacting
  • The quality, consistency and volume of inbound links to the author’s content
  • The authority of the website and domain on which the author’s content appears (this is where the Author Rank and PageRank metrics will combine as an indicator of quality)
  • We wouldn’t be surprised to see Google issuing some kind of ‘top author’ accreditation at some point in the future or a showcase feed.

The Implications of Author Rank for Content Marketing and SEO

While the exact nature of Author Rank has yet to be revealed, Google’s recent activity and the direction they appear to be heading in makes it possible for us to identify ways we can adapt and evolve our practices in preparation for Author Rank. For an excellent article on this, read Mike Arnesen’s post How to Prepare for Author Rank and Get the Jump on Google on SEOmoz.

Keep Creating Killer Content

If you haven’t joined Google+, now is obviously the time to do so. We highlighted ways to Use Killer Content to Boost Business in two posts which can be read here and here. Remaining focused on providing your audience with informative and engaging content is essential to building up your Author Rank by building up a formidable Google+ profile with strong snippets of must-share content. Remember to mix up the media to give your audience a richer experience and guest post on the strongest websites with the most authority.

Focus on your specialist subjects and demonstrate your knowledge and experience by providing resources that are of genuine use to people in your circles. Engage with other authors who share your interests and continue to express your opinions on trending topics and suggest solutions to issues that arise in your field of expertise. Regularly using and updating your Google+ profile with fresh content is a must, as is commenting on other people’s content and +1ing what you find interesting.

Building up Your Internal Team’s Author Rank

Of course, if you have a team of content creators you will also need to make sure that they are doing enough to build up their Author Rank so that they have a strong online presence. It would be a good idea, if you haven’t done so already, to have a team meeting and identify every team member’s specialism, allocating coverage of a given subject(s) to each author to ensure a wide spread is regularly written about and gifted authors on the Web who write on any given subject are engaged and interacted with.
The following presentation by Chris Countey entitled Everything You Need to Know about Google Authorship in 8 Minutes is a great primer to show your team:

Building a Team of External Established Authors

When Author Rank rolls out the ideal situation for content marketing and SEO companies to be in would be to have a strong and co-ordinated circle of established online authors with whom you can interact on trending topics, approach with content commissions and share your own content with in a cohesive network of communication, ideas and quality content.

First, identify and reach out to authors with a strong Google+ profile whose content you find interesting, informative and engaging and, equally as important, that other people enjoy, as indicated by social endorsements and comments. Nurture an online relationship based around a common interest before approaching with a commission and if you can meet them in the flesh, all the better. Are they going to a conference you will be attending? That is the perfect place for a chat and the swapping of business cards bearing your Google+ URL.

In Conclusion

Nobody outside Google can foresee exactly how Author Rank will impact upon content marketing and SEO when it is rolled out. But we obviously need to be prepared for significant change. It seems that soon, securing the right authors for content creation and developing our own Author Rank will be more important than relying solely on PageRank, bringing a more human dimension to content marketing and SEO.

Online authors who haven’t already begun to do so should get working on their profiles in anticipation of Author Rank. In the not-too-distant future, only Thomas Pynchon will get away with not having his face and details beside his work.

Sam Applegate
Sam Applegate
F1 junkie, bacon lover and badass poker player.

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