The modern website is becoming more about what have you done lately (content marketing, social content, and social signals), than what you did yesterday (backlinks from sites alone).
More to the point, the key consideration is who is doing it (author authority) rather than from where are they doing it (site authority).
With this massive movement to more of a Web universe where you are based on what you write and how people engage and share your content, what will become of the modern link as we know it? The incredible growth and buzz around authorship and using this tag, as means to determine true page value is definitely taking shape.
Clearly there is an argument to be made that the traditional inbound link model is still valuable, and that you can’t completely throw them out yet.
Links from good sites are still relevant to support that your site is relevant to a user’s search. A majority of the web and sites are based around this model. Good content on a site, whether socially shared or not, is good content.
With Penguin in place, there is better filtering to understand a good link from a bad link. It’s easier to create a more antiquated formula for a page, to evaluate links from the page, to gauge relevancy of the links, and to understand the page’s value to a user.
This “new model” must focus on linking from articles, as well as from the person writing them. The biggest concern right now is how much weight will Google and potentially Bing, in the near future, put on the authorship model?
To Be or Not To Be “rel” Active
What will Google do to evaluate the value of an author? Is it all based on virality of content and sharing, author tagging, and social status? This system has been gamed.
Twitter and Facebook are starting to crack down on fake accounts and visitors, but the numbers are staggering and will take some time to fix.
Recently, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo reported that there are a 140 million active Twitter accounts out of 500 million total accounts. This is huge ratio of inactive to active users. Also, for the top 10 followers on Twitter, multiple news sites have reported the number of fake followers to be around 27 percent.
Beyond this, Google+ has more than 400 million users; however, only 100 million are active. This 25 percent activity rate seems pretty low.
A couple months ago, RJmetrics.com reported that Google+ user activity typically boils down to one post and then little to no engagement thereafter. Clearly, there will be a lot of baby steps before the engines can truly vet this out and create real metrics to determine an author’s authority – which is what they will have to do ultimately versus trying to value them in the current format based off of made up accounts and fraudulent social up voting.
There are still a lot of questions to be answered on the balance that engines place of links, content, and authors of the content.
Does the system need some major steps to work? Yes.
Is authorship a relevant is way to measure page and site value? Yes.
Will Google favor its own properties to evaluate relevancy? Yes, all signs at this point say Google+ and Google accounts are the key validation of the strength and legitimacy of the author.
Slow Implementation by Brands
With that said, what will the adoption rate for brands to embrace this change and how content and links are shared? Probably very slowly.
In a recent Forrester Research survey interviewing 262 IT professionals the question was asked, “Is your company looking to adopt a Content Management system? Some 47 percent responded that they were either investigating one or not looking to add one. This demonstrates the limited ability a lot of companies will have for mass adoption of:
- Gaining a lot of SEO visibility for a large site.
- Being agile enough to adapt to an ever changing space (adding a rel=author tag).
In a recent Chief Marketer study published by eMarketer in April that looked at ways businesses are working to optimize their organic programs, the following items were listed based on the percentage of respondents:
This study shows businesses are still adopting the basics. If blog content is fourth on the list, obviously there is hope that more businesses will adopt blog content with rel=author tags down the road. We shall see.
In another recent study that adds to the last point, when a group of brands in August were polled on adopting a Content Marketing strategy, the overwhelming majority of 55 percent said they were planning to implement one. Hopefully, this means businesses would use a rel author as part of that strategy.
Just Do It
As the Nike slogan says, “Just Do It!” Google has obviously clearly expressed this will be an important tag now and in the future for valuation of content.
SEO practitioners should make all efforts to add this to relevant content pages. Hopefully, they can build it to really understand real people, real followers, and make the rel=author tag truly great.