Google AuthorRank is coming—and it will change not only how and why we discover content on the web, but eventually it will change the relationship between brands and those who create content for and about brands.
For a very thorough overview of what AuthorRank is and how to prepare for it, check out this awesome post by Mike Arnesen on SEOmoz. In the post, Mike highlights how Google+ enables author visibility:
Profiles on Google+ make an infinitely easier digital signature system than anything that’s come before and, with the rollout of Google Authorship (tying a Google+ profile to pieces of content), it really sounds like that’s what we’re looking at here.
This digital signature combined with its search engine is what makes Google+ both powerful and unique. Already we’re seeing G+ profiles highlighted on SERPs next to the content they’ve authored.
But the full implementation of AuthorRank will be truly revolutionary because it will tie the authority of the author with the authority of the link. What that means is that a content creator can help brands (or media) get better search results by virtue of the strength of their online presence. There’s been some speculation as to what signals will factor into AuthorRank, but you can be sure that authority on Google+ (and other social networks) will be a major factor.
Therefore it behooves brands to choose authors who already have significant authority in the social space on their key topics. Individuals with influence will be even more valuable to brands than those that don’t have digital influence, especially as we move toward a brands as publishers model.
At first blush this may seem like another reason for PRs to slap the names of executives on thought leadership pieces that have been written by others. But because there’s a tendency by C-levels to ignore or undervalue social media activity, I’m doubtful that most of these executives will have strong enough social signals (and therefore AuthorRank) to have a positive effect on PageRank.
Folks with high AuthorRank will bring a built-in audience to their brands. In the past most often it was the power and backing of a brand that could give clout to an individual. But now we are seeing more and more individuals giving credence to brands. In some ways we can look at AuthorRank as the new Klout—albeit much more comprehensible and much more valuable than a simple score because it focuses on content creation, not content duplication.
But this rise of the content creator vs. the brand will pose challenges for brands. If the “rockstars” you want to hire will essentially be co-branded, what will happen if that rockstar moves on? How will companies attract and retain high-performing, high-visibility, in-demand individuals? Brands will need to be explicit about individual vs. company time and assets, diversify their stable of stars, and find ways to match up brand success with individual success and exposure.
In my opinion, these are positive developments and a signal that the ways social signals are interpreted are maturing. Digital influence will no longer simply be about “being good at Twitter” (though it will help). It will be much more about creating content that is forward thinking and has a unique perspective. Social signals (especially G+) will be authority indicators, but content will be at the heart.
A few other great reads about AuthorRank and content