As search continues to advance, the concept of authorship and identity will grow in importance. Many opinion leaders believe that over time websites will begin to be ranked based not just on the keywords they contain and the inbound links they attract but also the people and authors behind the content being produced.
Earlier this year, Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt stated:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification”.
At the time, some commentators suggested that this statement was proof of ‘AuthorRank’, a situation where Google will give certain pieces of content a rankings boost based on the author of that content.
However, whilst there’s no definitive evidence to suggest that AuthorRank is in effect now, authorship mark-up is in place and may well play a part in any potential AuthorRank developments in the years ahead.
Developing a richer search experience
It’s already becoming clear that Google is using authorship to develop a richer search experience. By associating real people with content, we’re starting to see the end of the ‘faceless web’ and the beginning of more personalised search results based on the social connections and preferences of the user.
Whilst Google+ is Google’s ‘identity platform’, it’s important to stress that other sites including Twitter and Facebook, for example, may also be used to identify content producers within search results. However, for the purpose of this post I’ll be focusing primarily on Google and their efforts to develop an effective authorship programme.
So what are the advantages of authorship?
Authorship provides a number of advantages for both content consumers and producers alike. For content producers, authorship provides a number of unique advantages, including:
Increase Google’s understanding of your online profiles
As search engines have progressed, so have the various ways in which SEOs have attempted to ‘game’ their algorithms. At first it was about keyword stuffing before the manipulation of links became common practice. For years links have been used as a signal of authority – more links = more authority.
However, this isn’t always the case and so Google are attempting to use authorship to help them serve up results based on more trustworthy signals in addition to links, such as +1s, likes, mentions, comments, citations and associations.
Building a genuine profile, with a history and body of work, is very difficult to pretend – it takes time, effort and commitment. So if you take the time to focus on producing quality work, content can be accurately linked to a trustworthy profile resulting in an increase in the accuracy and reliability of search results for users and higher rankings and better click-through rates for the content producers.
Increase click-through rate from search results
By using Google authorship, content producers will allow Google to display their author information in search results and give them an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
Research shows that rich snippets within search results helps improve click-through rate (CTR) and further studies indicate that associating a (good) picture with your Google+ profile can help boost CTR from search results as part of authorship mark-up.
For content consumers, effective use of authorship also provides a number of advantages that savvy content producers can benefit from:
Adds credibility, context and meaning to content
I’m a big fan of Mitch Joel’s work. Over a long period of time I’ve read Mitch’s blog posts, articles and book as well as listen to his excellent weekly podcast. I’ve developed a deep admiration for his style, craft and experience and therefore rely on his opinion and insight.
So when I come across a piece of content from Mitch I immediately feel a sense of quality in what I’m consuming based on my knowledge about him. I’m not reading just any old post about thought-leadership. It’s a post about thought-leadership from someone I know has the knowledge, intelligence and professional background to talk confidently about this subject.
Provides a visible reputation behind content creators
Whether you’re logged in to Google or not, search results for certain topics will show an author’s profile picture next to a search listing if the author has chosen to link the published content to their Google+ profile.
For example, if someone were to search for ‘SEO best practices’ they might see the following results:
Whilst any of these results might be suitable, if the searcher is familiar with my work, for example, through my blog, Smart Insights or from a professional event, they may feel more confident that the content I’ve produced will answer their question rather than the other results (and of course the opposite is true if they don’t trust my opinion – reputation works both ways!).
Logging in to Google personalises search results
Searches are becoming increasingly personalised, especially for those that are logged in to Google. Search results are taking account of sites have been visited most frequently and content that’s been +1ed and favourited.
Authorship is playing an important role for those developing a following on Google+. For example, when I search for a subjects when signed in to Google, results are sometimes personalised and content prioritised based on my social connections on Google+.
Claim your identity!
There a number of great advantages to using Google’s authorship mark-up so make sure you claim your identity and get started.
Focus on becoming a known, credible topic expert of the subjects you’re passionate about and build your online profile and manage your reputation across multiple platforms.
A version of this post was originally published on Smart Insights on 16th October 2013. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure!