What is Author Rank? Part 1

what is author rank

Update: As of August 2014 Google ended Authorship, so many of the benefits listed in this series are no longer applicable. I’ll keep the posts up for now for reference.

Have you heard of Author Rank (or Authorship)?

If not, you will. It has the potential to change a lot in the blogging world. We should all pay close attention.

What is Author Rank?

Author Rank is a Google thing.

(That reminds me, Google does not give up its secrets easily. Therefore, it’s important to mention that much of the following information, although based on strong evidence, hasn’t been confirmed by Google outright. Still, to ignore it is foolish in my opinion.)

OK, so Author Rank is a Google thing.

To get the most out of the explanation, let me set the stage. I think a little background will help clarify.

The background

We all know Google’s main forte is search, right?

You know the drill. You’re curious about a topic and you want to find more information about it, so you google it. In less than a second, Google gives you pages and pages of search results (SERP = Search Engine Results Page). These search results are lists of webpages Google thinks will provide the information you’re looking for.

Here’s an example of the first page of search results for the query “how to fly a kite”:

google serps

Of course, Google doesn’t just list all those webpages randomly. Oh no. Google wants everyone to keep using their search engine (they’re making a lot of money after all), so they have a keen interest in keeping all of us searchers very happy.

How can they keep us happy? By providing search results that are relevant and useful. How will they make us unhappy? By providing search results that are spammy, irrelevant or unhelpful.

So, Google goes to great lengths to list the most useful, the most relevant, the most trusted webpages on Page 1 of those search results. The sites that Google thinks are a little less relevant are on Page 2, and ones they deem a little less relevant than that are on Page 3. And on and on it goes.

How does Google determine which webpages should land at the top of the search results? Until recently, it’s been largely based on the popularity of those webpages. The popularity of a webpage is determined by a secret formula called an algorithm. An algorithm considers many factors, a big one being how often other high quality webpages link to this one. (This is all the basics of SEO. Read more here.)

Suffice it to say, Google has been on a constant hunt for high quality webpages to keep their searchers happy.

How search is changing

This has worked fairly well for Google in the past, but now things are changing in two obvious ways.

  1. The internet is getting more and more social. That is, the internet is more and more about people connecting to people, and less and less about people connecting to webpages.
  2. With the rise of social media, people are everywhere. Many of us have a presence on our own blogs, on other blogs as guests or contributors, on multiple social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and countless others. We have content floating all over the place.

These two new realities make the old way of searching–that is, connecting people to webpages–a bit outdated.

What if Google credited you for great content no matter where you published it? What if there was a way to account for this “person to person connection” in search results?

Google has already taken steps in this direction when they introduced Personalized Search. Now there appears to be something else on the horizon, positioned to make a huge impact on bloggers, website owners and content creators everywhere.

Enter Author Rank.

Actually, before we talk about Author Rank we have to talk about Authorship. The two terms are often used together and sometimes used interchangeably even though they’re not really interchangeable. It’s good to know the difference.

Authorship is the thing Google uses to determine Author Rank. As Mark Traphagen says, “Authorship is the tool, and Author Rank is the (potential) thing built with that tool.”

Google has always ranked webpages. Now it appears Google will rank individual authors too.

Many believe Google wants to keep track of authors, so that when they find a piece of high quality content, they won’t just reward the webpage where that content lives, they will also reward the person who wrote it.

You know that killer guest post you wrote for that big time blog? Guess what? Now it’s possible to tell Google you’re the author and boost your Author Rank.

You know your crazy popular Google+ update? Guess what? Now it’s possible to tell Google you’re the author and boost your Author Rank.

This is (potentially) huge. Now you can get credit for all the excellent content you write, regardless of where you write it. This could lead to more visibility in search results. More visibility in search results could lead to more traffic, more income, more a lot of things. Hello.

An example

Let’s say one day you stumbled across my How to Blog series.

Let’s say you found it very helpful.

Let’s say you liked my style.

Let’s say you followed the steps and were ecstatic that you created a fantastic blog of your own.

Let’s say you thought I was a ninja writer of how-to guides.

Now let’s say some time passes and you decide you want to write an ebook. So naturally, you google “how to write an ebook.”  And on the first page of those search results you see this:

author rank example

I’m not sure if you caught it, but one of these results is not like the other. :)

Let’s say you recognize me immediately and shout, “HEY! There’s Amy! She’s that ninja writer of how-to guides that helped me start my fantastic blog. It was so helpful! I love her style! I bet she can help me write an ebook too.”

Which search result are you most likely to click?

You see? This is a win-win-win. It’s a win for you because you already know me and trust that this will be useful.

It’s a win for me because I get more exposure and more traffic.

It’s a win for Google because they have made another searcher happy.

See how that works?

Author Rank how-to tips are on the way. Here they are… (You might consider signing up for my emails so you don’t miss ‘em.)

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Comments

  1. says

    Aside from revolutionizing the SERPs, Author Rank has the potential to empower writers and bloggers everywhere. More importantly, it may just be the death of sleazy content mills. If effectively implemented, marketers will be more inclined to hire writers with a high Author Rank score. This hopefully will place tremendous amounts of negotiating power in the hands of freelance writers.

    It’s important not to forget a huge part of the equation. Simply signing up for Authorship isn’t all it takes. Active participation on Google+ will be absolutely crucial. If effectively implemented, Author Rank will give Google+ a huge advantage over Facebook. Personally, I believe that’s a huge motivating factor for Google.

    Anyways, enjoyable blog post. I’ll have to subscribe to your RSS feed.

  2. says

    Great info Amy and of course you would be the person that I would go to for everything..and I had to so crack up because that little conversation you had with yourself up there..well that is EXACTLY what I would be saying! LOL That totally cracked me up!
    Thanks so much for always being there Amy!! Especially on the Google search! :)

  3. says

    Great post. Seeing someone’s pretty face, will definitely increase the click through rate of anything that we see online(even if it’s a fuzzy picture).

  4. says

    Thanks Amy. This is a great article. Thank you for recommending it to me. I think I have been trying to promote myself as an author, but didn’t realize it until I read this article.

  5. Karen says

    I have not started a blog yet. I am not exactly sure what type of content I should write about. Your post was great to read. I am excited about what this can mean for the marketing side of things. I have to wonder, what types of jobs this will effect, and what will it mean for the average person in a marketing position taking care of the social media aspect of things. I think this may also impact the crossfuctional aspect of marketing as well, with regard to brand awareness, image and positioning of the company. Thank you so much Amy for this post, I can’t wait to see what facebook’s response is.

  6. says

    This has peaked my interest and will be so beneficial down the road. I can’t wait to see this improving and giving authors their due diligence. Great post, I enjoyed it thanks!!

  7. says

    This is really intriguing. I’m interested to see what else the Author Rank encompasses and how bloggers (and readers) can better take advantage of it. I’m looking forward to your future posts and how-tos. Thanks for sharing!

  8. says

    this sounds amazing! it makes a lot of sense. how do you start on the road to ‘author rank’? where do you go to get set up? i can’t wait to hear all of your info!
    thank you so much for all of your help.

  9. says

    Totally new to me, thanks for the post and I’ll look forward to tips. FYI I also Google’d “how to write an ebook” just now. Good news is yours was the 1st post under ads (yay for Amy!), however now your picture isn’t there. So I’m curious how/why (probably algorithms!) it shows sometimes & not always.

    • says

      Yeah, I’ve noticed the same thing. They say Author Rank is still in the testing phase so it’s not 100% perfect all the time. I think it’ll smooth out over time.

  10. says

    Thank you Amy for writing a so great article on author rank. Finally I found something great, and I will send your direct link to my list, also, so that they can learn author rank better :)

    Thanks once more and see you soon!
    Alessandro

  11. says

    I keep coming across articles discussing the importance of this, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to implement it yet. . . so very much looking forward to your tips (since I know I’ll be able to follow them!). Hurry!! ;-)

  12. says

    Wonderfully written, Amy. I look forward to your series. One of my friends recently put her spin on the win:win – you ask your friends for help & you also google information all the time. Now Google has combined it for the best of both worlds, whether you’re searching or an author.

  13. says

    Amy
    Can’t wait to see the how-to. I’ve done every step I’ve been told but what I see instead of my image next to my article listings is a icon instead of my smiling face.

  14. Gareth Marples says

    Thanks for the great information. It’s always important to keep up with Google and their constant changes.

  15. says

    Thanks for the useful post, Amy. I got my authorship stuff set up on my sites about a week ago. I’m seeing my face appear occasionally, but not as much as I’d like. However from what I understand it can take a while before you see a lot.

  16. says

    I literally was up until 2:00 am setting this up last night because I just heard about it from another awesome blogger who featured me on her page. There must be something to this since I have seen it recommended 2x in 2 days! Great info – thanks!

  17. says

    Amy, I’m so glad you are going to do a series on authorship. I have been working on this for about 6 months now. Because my husband and I blog together, I have found it difficult to establish authorship when there are multiple authors. We finally got him verified and his pic is showing up in search results but mine is not. So there must be a trick that I’m missing!

  18. says

    I’ve tried to understand how Author Rank and Authorship worked for weeks now. Wasn’t sure if I should pay attention but thanks to your post, I see how important this can be. Thanks for explaining.

  19. says

    Thanks for the article. As a newbie , am slowly learning all about blogging and I find your articles very helpful . Though at times some words and terms sound unfamiliar to me , by reading your blog I am able to progerss further little by little . The simple way in which you explain a topic is really very good . And thanks specially for this article . Now I understand why my posts dont show up in google search in the first few pages!

  20. says

    Yep, me too……….how do I get my smiling face on my google search?

    PS. I just signed up for your posts and I can’t thank you enough for all of the wonderful information you share!! No wonder your face is out there!! Bless you!

  21. says

    I was seriously working on authorship for my blog this morning. I wasn’t super successful so I’m excited about your how-to tips. I found another tutorial online about establishing authorship and thought I did everything properly, but I’m not seeing my smiling face pop up with my search results :)

  22. says

    Nice post, Amy. It sounds like this is how Google is dealing with those who submit marginal guest posts in exchange for a couple of low-quality DoFollow links. It’ll make blog owners think twice before accepting a guest post from a low-quality author because the guest author’s low status would hurt the blog’s search engine results.

    • Carol says

      Is that accurate though? Couldn’t this be a win-win for blog hosts and guest post authors? The blog is still owned/ authored by the individual. The guest host content will be searchable by the owner AND the guest, won’t it? So the blog potentially gets more traffic because of the guest author (even if marginally so) -and the guest would build their author rank based on their content & the blog’s popularity. I’m not sure I see the down side. Please explain if I’m missing something (and as a newbie to this “game”, I wouldn’t doubt I have much to learn!).

      • says

        You’re right, it’s win-win for blog hosts and genuine guest-posters who write good content. As I understand it, Google’s trying to cut down on the search engine optimizers who submit guest posts that, at best, loosely relate to the host blog’s topic in order to increase the visibility of whatever content/product they’re trying to market. These kinds of posts aren’t very well written or useful to readers, and are stuffed with search keywords. The posts are designed solely to “game the system” and increase search rank, and Google doesn’t want searchers to find them because they aren’t relevant.

        A blogger will now think twice before accepting this kind of post because the low author rank might hurt the host blog’s rank. That’s my understanding of it anyway.