What Is Author Rank?

Author Rank is one of the big buzzes in SEO at the moment, but what is it exactly and how will it affect your rankings?

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If you are a regular reader of SEO blogs or forums you’ll almost certainly have come across the phrase ‘author rank’. I’ve been talking about it a lot recently myself (most recently in this article on using pen names for your SEO content).

It’s one of the big buzzes at the moment, so I thought now would be a good time to ask a few questions: –

  • What Is Author Rank?
  • Why Is It Needed?
  • How Will It Be Assigned To content?
  • How can you improve your author rank?

But first…

Does Author Rank Actually Exist?

Wait a minute… what am I talking about? This article is called what is author rank, so surely it’s a given that the dang thing exists right?

Well, actually, that’s still the topic of some debate.

There have been lots of articles proclaiming the arrival of author rank. Here’s a recent one: –

Is Author Rank Here? (copyblogger)

But what do google have to say about Author Rank?

The answer, at least in terms of the phrase ‘author rank’, is nothing. Nada. Zilch. It’s actually a phrase that has been coined by the SEO community.

What google do have is a patent for a thing called ‘Agent Rank’, which was filed back in 2009. Here’s an abstract: –

The present invention provides methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing techniques for searching and ranking linked information sources. The techniques include receiving multiple content items from a corpus of content items; receiving digital signatures each made by one of multiple agents, each digital signature associating one of the agents with one or more of the content items; and assigning a score to a first agent of the multiple agents, wherein the score is based upon the content items associated with the first agent by the digital signatures.

This is pretty to close to how we’ll be defining Author Rank (as I’ll explain shortly).

Additionally, Eric Schmidt (google’s executive chairman and former CEO) stated the following in his book ‘The New Digital Age’, which was published in April of this year (bolding from copyblogger).

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

So, something is definitely afoot and as author rank has been the phrase that has stuck and seems to be appropriate I think we can say with some confidence that it exists (or will exist…). Good. Next.

What Is Author Rank?

Ok, we are no longer agnostic towards Author Rank and have accepted it as something that we need to start seriously thinking about. So what is it?

You’re smart. You’re busy, so I’ll keep this brief…

Author rank is a trust score or ranking for an individual content creator (an author). Trusted authors can expect to see their web pages rank higher than pages created by untrusted, noob or anonymous authors. So, the final ranking algorithm for a page of content might look something like: –

Page SEO score (all the old stuff – links, pagerank, on page factors etc) x Author Rank

To clarify, author rank is tied to an individual, not a web site.

So if for example I secured a guest post from Rand Fishkin right here on Top 5 SEO (if only…) I would expect to see that article right at the top of the search results, whereas if I published the exact same article under my own name it might not rank so well.

If you are a trusted author, running a trusted web site you are clearly on to a winner! Pretty straight forward concept right?

Why Is It Needed?

Well, google has some… shall we say trust issues.

It wants to know who is creating what and where. It’s a bit like a jealous lover.

And I can understand why.

It’s estimated that there are around a billion new web pages created every day. That’s a pretty staggering figure really.

Unfortunately much of this content will be spun, stolen, scraped, thin spammy junk and additionally a lot of those who are creating this rubbish know how to play the old school SEO game. That is get a load of links and get their waffle ranked.

So, it is clear that something beyond on site SEO is needed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Social signals (twitter shares, facebook likes, G+1s etc) are a good starting point, but again these can be gamed to an extent.

The beauty of author rank is that all your content will be directly attributable to you as an individual. And if you are one of those who is creating spammy junk, then you can expect to see your rankings take a tumble. Across the board.

So, going forward, if you are putting your name to something, it better be good. And if you are not putting your name to it, then don’t expect it to rank!

How Will It Be Assigned To Content?

This is pretty straight forward and something google has been telling you to do for quite some time. Claim authorship for your content!

Every time you publish a piece of content on your own site, or guest post for another site make sure you use the rel=author attribute to link to your google+ page (there are a couple of other ways to implement this). To complete the loop add the site to the ‘contributor to’ list on your google+ profile.

Claiming authorship is one of the most important things for you to be doing right now, so if you’re not doing it yet, then read this and get it done!

Authorship will ensure your author rank score can be assigned to each of your content pages and you will also get your happy smiling face in the search results. It’s a win.

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How Can You Improve Your Author Rank?

So we know what author rank is, why it’s needed and how to assign our author rank score to our content, but how do we build up our score?

I think this is a question which deserves a post of its own, so I will put one together soon, but in the mean time here are some quick bullets.

  • Create great content – like everything else these days it all starts with great content, so make sure everything you put your name to is amazing.
  • Claim authorship for all your content – make sure everything you publish on site and off site has been correctly set up for authorship.
  • Start building your google+ circles – that number beside your name in the search results is the there for a reason, so get on google+ and build your network. You can start by adding me here!
  • Choose where you guest post wisely – if you are guest posting on glorified article directories then expect to see your author rank drop. Guest post on trusted sites in your niche and feel the google love for both your website and you as a content creator.

Conclusion

Google author rank as a direct search results ranking factor is going to happen (or is already happening…), so don’t ignore it! For more on whether it is currently affecting rankings, check out my guide to SEO in 2014.

Get yourself active on google+, establish yourself as an expert in your niche by creating great content and think carefully about everything you put your name to.

So, what do you think of Author Rank? Is it a good thing for SEO? Are google already using it as a ranking factor? Do you think it is a load of nonsense? Let me know by dropping a comment below!

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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 4 comments

Tom Jamieson - September 14, 2013 Reply

Great write up here David. Of course, Google has remained silent on the issue and has let Author Rank be a ghost for the time being. It’s a good idea though, to devalue the spammers and let good content rise. Although, all the ads and sponsored content will still take precedence and use up all the premier Google real estate on the SERPs.

    David McSweeney - September 14, 2013 Reply

    Thanks Tom. Yeah, it’s crazy the amount of space taken up with ads/price comparison etc now on google. There was a funny screenshot i saw on reddit for i think it was a search on lcd tv. Not one organic result above the fold, yet they go on about not going overboard with ads to us webmasters. Very much a case of do as i say, not as i do!

Denis D. - September 30, 2013 Reply

This sounds very interesting and can change how the whole SEO game is done in the future. If people want to become and authority now they really need to put out some good quality content, any junk just won’t work anymore. I’m very interested to see how all of this plays out in the future.

Anoop Sudhakaran - October 13, 2013 Reply

Author Rank seems pretty, But it can be gamed to a certain level I guess. Thanks for the brief explanation. 🙂

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