Google’s AuthorRank: A Search Results Game-Changer?

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If you’re familiar with SEO, you know that Google has a number of different algorithms to sort through websites and decide which sites rank where (if you’re not, take a look at this previous article to see how much you might need to know about SEO).

Google’s goal in ranking specific websites is to provide the most relevant content for its searchers: “Google’s search engineers design algorithms to return timely, high-quality, on-topic answers to people’s questions.” Seems simple enough, right? Not so much – to accomplish this for more than a BILLION searches requires a little planning (actually – it takes A LOT of planning).

There are many factors that go into organizing search results (I will name only a few here):

  1. How often search terms occur on a webpage (in the text, title, URL, etc.)
  2. PageRank i.e. how important your website is based on the number and quality of links on the website.
  3. Relevance of your website to a user’s search terms.

While these factors do continue to affect a website’s search engine rank, Google does make a continuous effort to change its algorithms to continue providing relevant information to users. Google Panda was one of those changes introduced in 2011 and had somewhat of a significant impact. Google Panda’s goal was to rank websites based on high-quality vs. low-quality – news sites surged in the rankings while advertisement-ridden websites’ rankings were lowered.

Another major update was put into effect April 2012 called Google Penguin. This update aimed to negatively affect search engine rankings for websites operate against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines through keyword stuffing, cloaking, intentionally duplicating content, and others.

Changes from Google are ever evolving, but experts are predicting something that could be even BIGGER than Panda: Google AuthorRank.

How Your Online Reputation May Affect SEO

Google is all about websites and content, but now your worth as an online content contributor may begin to play a role. Let me explain AuthorRank in the simplest way I know how: your reputation as an online content contributor could begin to influence your ranking in search results.

AuthorRank began in 2005 when Google filed a patent for something called AgentRank, ranking “agents” as authors. Nothing much came from that due to the difficulties in actually identifying agents. Thanks to social media (and especially Google+), identifying authors/agents isn’t as difficult anymore.

What Influences AuthorRank?

Much like any of Google’s other algorithms, AuthorRank basically attempts to decipher just how relevant and trustworthy your website is to a given search query. Below is a list of factors that affect your AuthorRank:

  1. Do people share your content?
  2. If so, how quickly/often do they share?
  3. Who is commenting on your content?
  4. Do you receive comments from the same people on your content?
  5. Were your comments on your content positive or negative?
  6. The number of Google+ Circles you belong to.
  7. Publication with Google Books or Google Scholars.

The list goes on and on, but also remember that Google+ plays a HUGE role in this. Given that Google+ is an easy way to identify an author/agent/person, it will become even more important once the AuthorRank update has rolled out (if it does). Your activity on Google+ will definitely influence your AuthorRank.

AuthorRank boils down to this: your experience as an author on the web may begin to affect your posts’ search engine optimization.

When Does AuthorRank Begin? Now!

AuthorRank is not affecting search results (yet), but Mike Arnesen over at SEOmoz has done his homework. He gives an awesome explanation of what you can do to prepare for the introduction of AuthorRank now. Even if Google decides to go back to the drawing board with AuthorRank and wait another 6-7 years, preparing for it now will not hurt. You want people to think you know your stuff already, right?

What are your thoughts on AuthorRank? Do you think it will be as big as Panda? Leave your thoughts and comments below!


Zach Katkin - Entrepreneur, Web Developer, Designer and Writer - is the co-founder of Florida Web Design Company Atilus. In business for nearly a decade, Atilus has more than 600 clients worldwide.