Could google use the author rank of commenters as a direct ranking factor for a web page in the future?
Author Rank is a hot topic in SEO – is it here? how will it/does it work? how can you improve yours?
It is generally accepted that either now, or in the near future the author of an article will have a direct influence on how that article will rank in the search engines, independent of the normal rankings of the website. You can read about my thoughts on it here.
I was mulling it over last night and I started to think…
If social signals are so important and blog comments are a key social signal/sign of engagement, couldn’t the author rank of commenters be taken into account as a ranking factor for a web page?
Below I’ll explain how this could work and how it could be protected from spam.
How A Commenters Author Rank Could Influence Rankings
If I publish a new SEO article, then my initial author rank and topical authority would be taken into account when ranking the page. For the purposes of this example we will say that my author rank isn’t great and the page doesn’t rank particularly well to begin with.
Now let’s say that the article becomes very popular through social media and starts to pick up quite a few comments, including thoughts from big hitters in the SEO community – say Rand Fishkin and Danny Sullivan.
Couldn’t google then take into account the author rank of Rand Fishkin and Danny Sullivan (and the other commenters) and include them as a direct ranking factor, pushing the page up the rankings?
Surely comments from authors with high authority is a sign that the content is relevant and important within the niche?
Comments would have to be linked to the google plus account of commenters (and verified) in much the same way that authorship works at present.
Perhaps an attribute could be added to each comment on the page, or a notification could be sent to google when the comment is posted?
Dealing With Spam
Obviously the big issue here (as it always is) would be potential spam/manipulation, but I think this is fairly easy to get round.
Much like authorship for articles, the comments would need to be verified (otherwise everyone would just put Matt Cutts comments all over their page!) and there are three ways that I could see this being done.
1. Verifying Each Comment In Google Plus
From your G+ dashboard you would have a list of comments that have been attributed to you and a simple option to choose ‘yes/no’. This would be pretty straight forward, but could end up being time consuming.
Perhaps there could be pre-approved IP addresses, so if the comment is linked to you and comes from a pre-approved IP address it would be confirmed by default.
2. Sign In Through Google Plus
This is already implemented in quite a few commenting systems (such as Disqus) and would basically involve commenters signing in through Google plus to post a comment in the blog’s native comment system.
3. Google Plus Comments Widget
This would be the obvious way to implement it and I could see it being something google would want to push.
I think there is already a wordpress plugin for a google plus comments widget (much like facebook comments), but I haven’t really seen it used much so far.
With a google plus comments widget, users would require to login to their google plus account to post a comment on a page and it would immediately be linked to their account and therefore author rank score.
In fact, this would probably be helpful in getting rid of comment spam in general!
Why Comments Are So Important
It is often said that comments are the life blood of blogs and this is very true. Often an article can be just the starting point and the real discussion/debate takes place within the comments section.
With this in mind, I think when an article has attracted comments from thought leaders/authorities in a niche, it is fair to say that these will be valuable to the community and worth taking into account when ranking a web page.
And perhaps, attracting comments from high profile authors should also then help to boost up the author rank of the original content publisher…?
Surely this would also encourage publishers to focus on publishing high quality content and promoting it within their niche/building their community (the essence of white hat SEO) in the hope of attracting quality comments to boost their rankings?
A Potential Drawback
One problem I could see with the above is a new market developing in ‘comment sales’, i.e. if I had a strong author rank I could charge you $x for posting a verified comment on your page.
Although, if getting caught would mean losing your author rank would this be something you would want to risk?
I believe this is a logical future step in SEO/autor rank and something I would like to see implemented. As I said above I believe it would increase focus on high quality content/networking, which is both good for users (visitors) and what google wants!
What Do You Think?
Do you think that the author rank of commenters could/should be used as a ranking factor for individual web pages in the future? Do you think my suggestions would be enough to combat spam? Any other ways comments could be verified? Do you see any other potential drawbacks? Let me know by dropping a comment below… who knows maybe one day this page will get a rankings boost because of it 😉