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08/19/2017

Author Rank – Is Google Using It

Google has stated that it is not using Author Rank and many academic pundits agree. However, there’s a few working SEO’s that think they see evidence of author rank, or at least anomalies is the search results that seem to point to some kind of scoring system for authors, similar to page rank, that gives some authors a boost in the search results.  It is not the intention of this post to either prove or disprove the existence of author rank.  However, I would like to just have a conversation about the likelihood of author rank.

Ripple demonstrating viral nature of post.Most people who use Google Plus are familiar with ripples as depicted by the graphic on the left.  A ripple tracks the viral activity of a Google Plus post.  At the center of the ripple is the creator of the post and each circle represents somebody who shared the post.  Emanating from the first set of circles are other people who shared the post, and it ripples outward showing everybody who share the post. As a result a quick glance at a ripple can tell you how viral a post is or stated another way how popular a post is. One might assume that if a post shared again and again that it is a great post that people like.

Now, I’m not presenting this as a proof of Author Rank, but if you were Google and your Google algorithmic bot was looking at two pieces of content with nearly identical keywords and other ranking signals, and Content A demonstrated healthy viral activity and Content B showed practically no viral activity which content would you think was of higher quality and deserved to be ranked higher in the search results.

Ripple 3It’s always been my opinion that if Google is tracking something it is doing so for a reason. And if Google is tracking the virility of a post, it just seems feasible that Google could use this data as one of the more than 200 ranking signals that it uses when ranking content in the SERPs.

Now add to the formula, that the creator of Content A had a long history of creating quality content on this specific keyword that frequently goes viral whereas the author of Content B has written very little about the keyword and what is written is rarely shared.

Since Google is so adept at measuring technical signals it really isn’t much of a leap that Google could be creating a score for everybody that has established an authorship profile. The score would obviously measure more than ripples.  It could also look at the other social signals like +1′s, comments, and of course sharing demonstrated by the ripples above.  The author’s score could function much like a page rank and give the author the same kind of credibility that page rank lends to content.  It’s a vetting process that allows Google to determine the reliability of content that is relevant to a keyword search.

Many of the leading SEO pundits will tell you that Google says Author Rank hasn’t been implemented yet.  However, I think, Google is parsing words like a politician.  We all know Google took out a patent to rank authors.  And it is quite possible that this author score that I described above doesn’t perform as described in the patent.

Nevertheless, I would like to implore a little common sense. Google wants to provide the absolute best search results as possible. In the past they have used page rank as a signal to determine the reliability of content.  They have over 200 ranking signals.  Why wouldn’t the collective score of an author be another ranking signal.  Why would they take a patent out on it, score it, and post the results on the author profile?  Why are they tracking ripples.

Argument Against Author Rank

The latest argument against Author Rank is based on John Mueller of Google, Switzerland stating that authorship is currently uses as a ranking signal.  I think this is another case of parsing words.  We’ve always known that the mere act of establishing authorship would not improve search rankings.  Authorship is just a mechanism to track an author’s content and the social signals that content generates.  It’s this score that could function like page rank and give an author credibility in Google’s eyes.  Also, when John Mueller was asked if he could definitively say there was absolutely no author influence on content he would not say yes or no.  Instead he made a vague reference to meta descriptions being used in ranking content.

For those not close to SEO a meta description is a paragraph you can enter into the html code that summarizes the content.  At one time this may have been an active ranking signal but Google has recently said that it is no longer a ranking signal.  However, although Google has said it isn’t an active ranking signal if you use optimize a meta tag it still can influence the search results.

The easiest way to see the impact of a meta description on the search results is by doing any search and reading the snippets of text that accompany the search results. In most cases this snippet is the meta description and you will see your search words in bold in this snippet.  So to help Google find your content for a search word it just makes sense to have your keywords in the meta description.

When John Mueller made the analogy to the meta description to me it was like saying, well officially it isn’t a ranking signal, but in reality, it can affect the search results.

Why is Author Rank Important

So why is it important to establish if an author is receiving some kind of score or author rank that might influence the search results?  In one sense it isn’t.  The results are going to be what the results are.  However, if you are waiting for the advent of author rank to one day be established and miraculously improve the ranking of your content in the search results you might be waiting for a long time.

Operating on the premise that some form of author rank is already here, if you are not seeing good search results now, you probably won’t see them in the future either.  Most people aren’t taking the necessary steps to establish a high author rank score.

Author rank is designed to measure expertise in a topic. Just sharing everything under the sun created by other people isn’t going to cut it.  An author is a person who write.  If you want high author rank you need to create original content and a lot of it about a specific topic.  Then that content has to generate positive social signals.  Ripples or sharing is a major signal. It means somebody thought the content was good enough to share with their circles or public at large.  Plus ones are another social signal.  Maybe not as strong, and the pundits say that it doesn’t directly influence search results.  But then also comment on how interesting it is that the content with lots of plus ones often rank very well in the search results.

The Take Away

So what’s the take away.  Reasonable people could believe that there is an author score that Google uses as one of the two hundred tracking signals. In fact Matt Cutts, prominent Google spokesperson, says they are getting better at determining experts.  However, whether author rank exists or not, one should act as if it does.

Rather than being concerned about being on every social platform out there, one should focus on creating content on a specific subject that is good enough to attract positive social signals.  And the ripples do not have to be as big as in the above graphic.  They just have to be a little better than the next guys.  Often that isn’t very much.  And with good content it is easy to do.  Just remember to use keywords and ask yourself if your content is a good answer to likely search queries.