Understanding Google Authorship, Authority, & Author Rank

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had many conversations with clients and Google+ friends about how to set up Google Authorship.

During these talks, it became clear that there is still a lot of confusion around exactly what Google Authorship and the related terms Authority and Author Rank mean so I thought I’d write up a quick overview in layman’s terms.

This is not intended to be detailed pro-level coverage of the subject, the intention is to highlight the relationship of the elements that I believe that everyone should understand. If you have any questions after reading, please ask me in the comments. I’d be happy to clarify any of this further for you.

It Starts With Authority

My Google+ ProfileAs part of their move to a more semantic search engine, Google (in addition to traditional ranking signals) needs to be able to identify the authority of individuals within their respective topic areas across the web.

The main way Google is doing this now is by consolidating many of the activities you already do online into one entity – your Google+ profile. The main items Google uses to determine authority (at the moment) are the content you create on external web sites and your Google+ activity.

It’s the quantity, and more importantly, the quality of those activities that contribute to the authority of your profile.

Why Should I Care?

There are a variety of reasons you should care about building the authority of your Google+ profile. The most common are:

  • It highlights you as an authority in your field within Google+ and Google search
  • It can increase the visibility of your content in Google’s personalized search
  • It can potentially improve the ranking of your content in non-personalized Google search

How Can I Increase The Authority of My Profile?

You can increase the authority of your profile in two main ways:

  1. On Google+
    On Google+ you build authority by connecting and engaging with others. That is done by posting useful content, sharing the content of others, and interacting via +1s and comments.
  2. Outside of Google+
    Outside of Google+ you build authority by creating content – blog posts, articles, and web sites can all contribute to the authority of your profile. This is where Google Authorship comes into play.

What Is Google Authorship?

Google Authorship

Google Authorship is the technology Google uses to collect the authority you’ve created for yourself (or your business) outside of Google+ via blog posts, articles, and web sites. It’s also the same technology that highlights you or your business in Google search with your profile photo or logo.

Once you have established some authority by engaging on Google+ and having Google Authorship set up, that’s when Author Rank potentially comes into play.

What Is Author Rank?

Author Rank is the widely accepted term for the algorithm that Google may be using to rank content in Google search based on an individual’s online authority.

Your Google+ Profile authority appears to be the main metric of your Author Rank, but Google is also using (or looking at using ) many other signals as well as they continue to develop the algorithm. While there is some evidence of Author Rank affecting the search results, it’s fairly limited and the general consensus is that Google has not yet fully rolled out a ranking system based on Author Rank. Google’s patents and recent activities do indicate they are working on it though so I believe it’s important to actively cultivate Author Rank now by improving your Google+ Profile authority.

If you’d like to know more about Author Rank, I highly recommend Mark Traphagen’s recent Google+ post on Author Rank, and Eric Enge’s article that asks, “Is Author Rank Here?“.

Okay, What Do I Do With This Information?

You should be taking action to build your individual authority in order to benefit now and in the future as Google integrates Author Rank more deeply into their products.

To do so, if you haven’t already, you should set up a personal Google+ Profile for yourself and/or a Google+ Business Page for your business and start interacting with others in your industry on Google+. You should also set up Google Authorship so that your blog and/or web site will contribute to the authority of your profile. If you happen to be on WordPress, you might want to review my tutorial on how to set up Google Authorship and if you have any difficulty try my guide on what to do if it’s not working for you.

In Summary

Authority is the value you build in your Google+ Profile by being active on Google+ and creating external content on web sites and blogs. Google Authorship is the technology Google uses to measure the authoritative value of your external content and display your photo in their search results. Author Rank is the term used to refer to the ranking system Google is developing based on the authority of an individual.

I hope this helps you understand these concepts better, if you have any questions just let me know in the comments!

Image credit: Fanpop

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