The SEO landscape is always in a state of flux, but we may be on the verge of an unusually radical algorithm change from Google with the implementation of Authorship and Author Rank. The focus is beginning to shift to who wrote a piece of content rather than where it’s posted and how optimized the keywords are. This is an important distinction, once the Authorship system is in full swing search results from Google will heavily favor sites with Authorship enabled and content written by experienced authors with authority in their industry.
What is Authorship?
Authorship began in July of 2011, it is essentially a method by which Google can verify the owner of a web page by linking it to their Google+ profile using a two-way handshake. The result is that any pages verified with Authorship markup will appear in search results with the author’s Google+ profile picture and link accompanying it:
Not only will this increase CTR (click through rate), but it will also improve the writer’s Author Rank (more on this in a moment).
In order to enable Authorship on a website or page, we’ll need to use the “rel=author” HTML tag (without quotes), which can be done by simply adding ?rel=author to the end of a URL. This method can be confusing for writers who aren’t web development oriented- I recommend using the AuthorSure plugin if you run WordPress or using Google’s email form.
When writing for sites owned by a client or guest posting, make it a habit to ask about enabling authorship and verifying any content you write as your own. This is not only helpful to you, but the webmaster will also see increased CTR and rankings in Google.
What is Author Rank?
Author Rank is a metric that goes hand-in-hand with Authorship that measures how credible a writer is based on their posts associated with their Google+ profile (yes, this does include posts and comments you make on Google+ itself).
Author Rank is evaluated based on the quality of the article and the amount of interaction in generates in the form of social signals and comments. This evaluation is then applied to the topic or niche being discussed, so the idea is you’ll have a different Author Rank for different topics and industries. This encourages writers to specialize in a certain area and stick to it instead of spreading themselves thin.
Why does this matter for writers?
As a writer, some may see Authorship as purely the domain of webmasters and developers and not something that a freelancer needs to bother with. That may be somewhat true at the time of this writing, at this point Authorship and Author Rank are still in the infancy stages and their implementation is still largely experimental. However, anyone who keeps up with the SEO industry will tell you that Authorship is going to be huge once Google has all the details worked out- identity is going to play a big role when determining authority in the future.
This matters for writers on the web because this shift in focus to Author Rank to achieve high rankings in search results means that clients are going to start hiring writers based largely on their Google+ profiles and Author Rank in a given topic. Why would a client hire a writer who doesn’t have their Authorship stuff in order as opposed to one who does (especially once it starts heavily impacting rankings)?
My advice to you: Read up on Authorship some more, flesh out your Google+ profile and start participating in discussions on there, and start enabling Authorship on your own sites and blogs to begin building your Author Rank.