Monday, January 07, 2013

Why we Can't Ignore AuthorRank, & why That Rocks

Gone are the easy days of the early noughties when the definition of content quality was based more on the 'authority' of a domain than who wrote that content (or it's virility). Google is moving the goal posts, again, and this time it makes sense.

Now it's all about the individual, and (in SEO terms) as individuals that makes our name a commodity. I worked for the Daily Mail in on-line info delivery for 7 years, and if individual contributors don't start making the most of this then it's a crime against journalism. This is a ranking you'll take with you - it doesn't belong to the individual website - and that rocks for original content creators.

Let me try and explain how this works:

Is your name now a killing word?

Authorship, or AuthorRank, is Googles way of examining the importance of a post by the reputation of the individual who wrote it. What does +reputation mean? Prizes. Essentially, justifiably preferential search engine ranking for people who produce good content and who's work has been distributed by others (in the past, or currently) via social signals.

So how do we gather AuthorRank?

Predictably enough we have to start with our Google Plus profile - by adding the blogs, Pages, and channels we contribute too to our profiles and letting the data filter down so that it recognises us. It really is time to stop being scared of giving over our relevant data - get over it, and get in the system. Go to your G+ profile, then go to 'edit' and link the websites you "Contributor to" in the section close to the bottom. You'll be given a code to embed into your posts to set up your 'author rich snippets' - here's a how to - and for businesses (and as individuals) there's a bit a faffing around with "rel=author" and links to G+ pages in footers etc. (doubly so, it seems with Blogger) then you can test it here. With Blogger you can link your G+ and Blogger profiles together (see over on the right) and here's a handy AuthorRank plugin for Wordpress that should see you right.

Content creators (and there's every indication this will soon work for YouTube too) are 'ranked' using a magical Google algorithm based on the 'engagement factors' of the content they produce. This is what we blanketly call 'social signals' and it covers tweets, retweets, comments, shares, likes, +1's, all the usual social malarky. Add to this the stuff we consider Googles typical measurement factors like inbound links etc., and from this it crafts a measurement that it can attribute to an individual to get a sense of their popularity (even, potentially by Circles and Google Communities etc. within a given topic). Presumably the more a content creator creates content on a topic, plus the more engagement with that content, the higher that persons rank is going to be for that topic. In this case specialisation seems like it might be a plus - it's always worked for insects.

Blogger identity is important.

This has the possibility to change the content landscape and shift the balance of power into the hands of the creator. Suddenly brands and marketeers are going to have to court authors. Specialists are going to have (SEO) value and search engine kudos within their chosen areas, and magazine brands will have to seek out the folks with strong AuthorRank to boost their reputation and flagging rankings. It's nice to think that journalists, writers, and content creators who have authority in a topic are going to find themselves a commodity in the very near future. Any companies who want to be seen as specialists and industry leaders - and it's a goal for many when we're creating online marketing strategy - are going to have to conduct 'author outreach' for their short-term content creation, and they'll need to boost and cultivate the AuthorRank of those who are already writing for their organisation to make the most of them in the long term (and don't forget, they'll take that individual rep with them if they leave). Very interesting.

In the immediate future it looks like outreach to find people who have AuthorRank on a given topic should be relatively easy. All we need to do is run a search on any relevant keywords and see what rich snippets show up and who they are attributable to. Right now, each of these has a grey line of info next to them saying how many Circles these folks are in. To begin with, in the absence of any proper tools for automating this research, it's a good start. Right now, these are the people you want writing your guest posts and these are the folks you'll need to contact and schmooze.

The hard working author in his natural habitat.

It's a great time for content creators, and in the future there's the potential for us to be paid - if they smooth out all this adding codes and messing about for the layman - to write on the things we have a passion for and a talent for. Though admittedly the origins of this were seeded back in 2011 - at least some good shit came out of 'Penguin' and 'Panda'. Google is fostering creativity here, and I'm feelin' this bodes well for the future of brand journalism, content marketing, and people with passion and talent.

Nice one Google. That rocks.