From Keyword Strings to ‘Things’: Some New Tidbits on Google Authorship

My daily Google searches – both personal and business related – have been generating more, and more, teeny-tiny heads in the SERPs, a sign that Google authorship adoption continues to grow and gain prominence in the search results.

It wasn’t too long ago that we covered some ways to improve Author Rank, but we’ve since been able to glean some new tidbits of information, speculation, and results.

This post will cover the current state of authorship, some best practices for optimizing your Google authorship, and what we can – presumably – expect in the future.

Google+ Profile PR and the Elusive Author Rank

Google authorship is an example of Google’s attempt to shift algorithmic influence away from keyword strings to “things” (i.e., web content authors), as Matt Cutts recently stated.

And along with this are some interesting consequences. By attributing authority to authors via Google+ profiles, Google has found a way to attribute authority to an entity on the web who doesn’t have to be directly connected to a single domain (other than Google+), or site authority.

What this means for ranking in the SERPs is that a piece of content tagged with the correct Google authorship markup can have influence on rankings, independent of the authority of the site. In theory, then, as we can’t confirm Author Rank yet, an authoritative author’s article on a low authority site can still have significant authoritative value and rank well in SERPs.

How can you optimize the use of Google authorship?

1. Implement Authorship Correctly

Link Your Google Profile to Your Content

Start by checking to see if you’ve properly implemented your authorship tag. You can easily verify this with the Webmaster Tools Structured Data testing tool.

If you haven’t done so already, you can verify your authorship with an email address connected to the domain you author on.

If you contribute on multiple sites, you must include a link to your Google+ page with the rel=”author” tag and, then, include a link to the site in the “Contributor” section of your profile.

Google also recently shared seven tips on using Google authorship.

2. Become a Subject Authority

The obvious next step would be to start publishing articles. But, of course, there are some caveats to this step. It’s important to pick a niche subject to write about and stick to it – become a subject authority.

Just as ranking factors shift, so do the methods of manipulation, and it seems that it will become an increasingly targeted spam factor if particular authors appear spammy – commenting and participating in all subject matters, guest posting on topics that are a far and few in-between would all appear unfavorable. So stick to what you know and do it well.

The second and equally important part of becoming a subject authority is to engage on Google+ with other authors.

It isn’t enough to have well-known authors in your circles (and vice versa), it is important to engage on Google+ with authors and in related groups. It matters who and where links to your profile page come from.

This can mean that other Google authors link back to your profile page on Google+ or a link to your profile comes from a high PR site (presumably where you’ve guest posted).

3. Google+ Optimization

In addition to making sure that all of the site you contribute to are included, Kristi Hines’ post, “SEO for Google+ Profiles, Pages, Local, Communities & Updates“, offers a good guide on optimizing for Google+.

Another important profile attribute is the profile picture. While we won’t get as detailed as some others have about the perfect profile image, it most certainly is an important consideration. With SERP real estate featuring more authorship snippets, a good image can provide some good value to a search result.

Some Foreseeable Predictions

While we can expect to see some more concrete results in the future – maybe one day we will hear the official word on Author Rank – there are some glaring bits and pieces that have made Google authorship a factor that should be monitored closely.

Google authorship is a testament to the influence of social signals on web content. And it is no surprise that Google+ has, in high magnitudes, more weight than Facebook or Twitter as a social signal.

While it’s difficult to accurately identify concrete figures or information, we are finding anecdotal evidence in the SEO community (as many of the articles linked in this post indicate) that Google authorship is affecting how content is ranking in SERPs.

There’s no doubt that attributing the authorship snippet to your content will have a positive affect on rankings, visibility, and click-through rate. If this evidence becomes more conclusive in the future, we could see content with the author tag ranking better than anonymous content.

Cristian Oana of nvi, an iProspect company, contributed to this post.

Related reading

SEO writing guide From keyword to content brief
Three fundamental factors in the production of link-building content
How to conduct a branded search audit
How to write SEO-friendly alt text for your images