Hypothetical SEO: Author Rank For Comments

Could google use the author rank of commenters as a direct ranking factor for a web page in the future?

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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?

Implementation

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?

My Thoughts

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 😉

About the Author

I'm a web developer, programmer, blogger and SEO expert from Glasgow, Scotland, with over 15 years experience in the industry. When I'm not writing about marketing and SEO you'll find me strumming the guitar in my band or listening to Revolver on repeat. Follow me on twitter, connect with me on google+ and add us on facebook to keep up with all the latest trends in SEO and online marketing.

Leave a Reply 11 comments

Brandon Bear - December 4, 2013 Reply

I feel pretty confident that author rank is going to place an increasing role in SEO in the coming years. Even if its not some google algorithm — the idea of attaching a “real identify” to online persona’s/websites is exactly what they have been pushing for. (remember the integration of gplus into youtube…).

This seems like it could be a great way to combat spam — because legit influencers won’t attach their real name to spam… and crappy website’s will have a harder time faking relevancy.

On the other hand — it’ll definitely just open up a new kind of blackhat seo based around automating g plus metrics.

I think, on a global level, this is definitely a good change but I don’t think it’ll impact marketers too much once they start gaming g plus.

James H. - December 4, 2013 Reply

Hi Dave,

Alongside your thoughts about potential drawbacks, you have to consider the threat of hacking also. If a high-ranking author’s comments can upgrade your site, you best believe people will go out of their way to hack those profiles in order to boost their rankings.

Other than that, I do like that idea also. I suppose that’s why there is a big push on accrediting personal profiles. But still, verifying a high-ranking author’s profile doesn’t mean the threat of hacking disappears. We have to keep that worry in mind as well.

    David McSweeney - December 5, 2013 Reply

    yeah, I guess that is a concern. I wonder who the first high profile case of someone on G+ having their profile hacked will be?

SearchCap: The Day In Search, December 4, 2013 - December 4, 2013 Reply

[…] Hypothetical SEO: Author Rank For Comments, top5seo.co.uk […]

Jay Dorsey - December 5, 2013 Reply

Wouldn’t it basically be Disqus with a Google+ login?

I don’t think author ranking would help Google combat spam at all. It might make it more difficult to create spam, but it would still get created. Google doesn’t seem to recognize when a site goes from 50 backlinks to 5,000 in the course of a week. Even when the majority of backlinks come from websites that have the phrase “payday loan” or “casino” on most of the pages. They let the PR9 keep passing link juice.

Although, now that I think about it I can’t remember seeing much spam on Disqus… but not many people use it.

It’s a great topic for discussion though. I would like to see author rank added—even if it doesn’t reduce spam.

    David McSweeney - December 5, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jay, what I was meaning was that if your comments are directly tied back to your author profile then people will probably think twice about leaving spammy ones everywhere

Neena - December 5, 2013 Reply

It is an interesting concept and I see both pros and cons to it.

But I have to agree with your assessment that people with high author rank may start charging others for their comments. No matter what, people will try to game the system.

And it would really close the internet door for real people that have not yet established author rank. Blog authors might actually mark comments with low author rank as spam.

    David McSweeney - December 6, 2013 Reply

    That is a concern, but I think it would have to work in a way that low author rank comments didn’t effect you negatively, purely high author rank comments having a positive effect.

Lisa - December 6, 2013 Reply

Jay, I hope people would not game the system because of it but as Neena points out it probably would end up that way sadly. I don’t know if Google will really incorporate it into SEO for 2014 – but maybe in future years. An interesting topic and thoughts!

    David McSweeney - December 6, 2013 Reply

    Maybe not next year, but I definitely think it is something we will see in the future

muthu atek - December 11, 2013 Reply

Hi,
Definitely it will come one day and all blogs will get zero spam..

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