Tom Rusling is the General Manager at iAcquire, a content marketing agency with offices in New York, San Diego and Phoenix.
This year, Google Authorship will truly take hold and begin to reshape the search landscape. With the bridge that it provides across Google’s products and services, Google+ has outgrown its social network pants and now serves as a platform for authors to verify their contributions to a website domain.
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On the online publishing side, the “rel=author” markup language enables publishers to add an author’s Google+ profile code to a published work and thus confirm who authored the piece. Now Google not only knows where an article was published, but who produced it. This bi-directional content verification leads to something transformational in the search world.
Historically, Google has ranked and displayed content based on trust signals of the publishing domain – largely driven by link volume and quality. Content was ranked in accordance with where it had been published.
Now, with Google+, we have a mechanism to authenticate authorship. By merging the “who” with the “where,” Google Authorship paves the way for a richer search experience. Google can choose to trust content based on who wrote it, not just where it is published.
Once a large enough pool of verified authors and associated content exists, new ways of determining trust emerges. Authors who publish frequently on trusted domains and garner significant engagement on these posts will establish a relatively more robust Author Rank.
Executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt wrote in “The New Digital Age” that the true cost of remaining anonymous may one day be irrelevance:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in the in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”
The pairing of the “who” with the “where” is possibly the most fundamental addition to the Google equation since the company’s inception.
Domain trust remains a strong signal
A website’s trust signals are still imperative, especially through high-quality link building and social media activity. Head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts, disclosed that Google has an internal test algorithm that does not use links as relevancy signal – and its results are inferior in quality. The key is that a new additional fundamental component (the “who”) is now integral in ascertaining the trustworthiness of a document.
In terms of contribution to organic search success, it’s reasonable to expect that links are destined one day to take a backseat to authenticated digital signatures.
Think of links as invisible strings that connect content. Those strings are destined to carry less weight in the algorithms that generate search results, while the pieces they connect carry more weight, especially if they contain digital authenticated signatures that have a history of trust.
Why rich snippets and markups matter
Why is Google Authorship catching on so fast? Beyond its eventuality to be a critical trust signal for algorithmic search, users recognize an immediate and meaningful value that authorship brings to content.
Rich snippets in SERPs display microdata in the form of an author image, byline and content blurb. Users are more likely to click through search results that have rich snippets. Both SEO BodyBuilder and Cyrus Shepard of Moz report that they experienced a 38 percent increase in click through rate after the adoption of “rel=author” tags.
Here’s something to consider. Let’s say we have two sites that are similar in topic, size, age and backlink profiles. Site A has trusted authors powering most but not all of its content, and site B does not. Wouldn’t it be logical to trust all pages on site A (even the non-authorship verified content pages) over site B?
If that were true, associating multiple trusted authorship profiles to a site would be an important mechanism not just to fuel a site with quality content, but to act as a key signal of trust and authority that affects all pages of the site.
This is not today’s reality but this should be the direction in which we are headed: category-level trusted authorship as a key signal for domain trust and authority. The old “just build great content” adage starts to take on more meaning with the addition of “just build great content powered by trusted authors.”
Focus on authoritative contributors
The question then becomes: Where do you start leveraging the power ofAuthorship? Focus on authors. Feature authenticated pieces from highly trusted, influential authors who create engaging content that garners social interaction, comments and links.
These high-profile authors tend to have strong social followings and will have incentive to promote their work in order to drive their voice amplification and influence.
Encourage the use of expert contributors, particularly if they offer expertise and unique perspectives in your industry. The easiest way to find contributors is to use a third-party content provider that uses only authors who have “rel=author” tags. Add the author to one of your G+ circles and Google just made it easy to then email the author and reach out with a proposal.