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Author reputations for sale? An SEO future?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 by Steve Masters tagged , , ,

@robert-burnsA few months ago, I suggested that social signals are the new page rank. Google and Bing have both stated quite clearly that they are taking cues from link sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and any number of social sites to get a better understanding of link popularity. In April, the Penguin filter changed the way search engine optimisation professionals approached backlink development. Suddenly it was clear, well documented and obvious to all, backed by the launch of Google’s Search Plus Your World (SPYW), that author authority was a new key factor in SEO.

Now, with a new udpated patent, specifically talking about author authority, we can see just how important the author is in determining position in search results. The full patent text (which I found in a post on Search Engine Roundtable, thanks) doesn’t state the workings of the Google algorithm but it does reveal the logic behind what many call Google’s Author Rank.

Here are the key points I have pulled out of the document:

  • Google validates an author by cross referencing available personal data “that relates to education or employment of the author and verifying that the received personal information about the author is accurate”.
  • The author’s ranking score will be “based on how many other online content items of the author have been published” and whether they have been “cited by one or more other authors with a high status level”.
  • The ranking of a piece of content will depend on not only the rank of the author but also the ranking score of any other known individuals who promote or review that content. The more high ranking people that promote, share, plus a page, in other words, the more that content is likely to rank well in search results.
  • Ranks also depend on recency of not only the item of content but the other items of content by the same author.

There are other elements in there, but what this means in a nutshell is that search engine results are now driven by the reputation of the people who create and promote the content. What does this mean for link building? Well, it reduces the importance of building lots of links from lots of random sites and means the vein of gold is now where the top authors are.

What does this mean for the future of SEO? I suggest we will see a growth area very soon. We have seen, over the past decade, robotic networks of directories and blogs appearing with auto-generated pages of computerised content, in order to generate an ever-growing stream of backlinks. The new growth area for SEO spammers, I wager, will be the selling of author rank. You’ve heard of buying and selling links for page rank? The next big thing will be the buying and selling of author reputations. We’ll be seeing fake personas appearing, who happen to have apparently real profiles on all the top social networks. These authors will be blogging like crazy on a number of sites which, mysteriously, get a lot of interaction from a lot of other mysterious people. These people will exist only through the efforts of factories of young and poorly paid people sitting at computer screens, creating these personas and growing their authority.

The next big paradigm shift by Google may just be a filter to weed out the Real McCoys from the Hoi Polloi. That will mean anyone really wanting to build author rank had better make sure not only that they do it properly but that they don’t appear to be fake. Remember the ‘false positives’ that many reported after the Penguin launch in April?

Tips for building author rank:

  • Have genuine profiles on Google Plus and LinkedIn using your real name
  • Have profiles linked to a website where you are clearly and regularly identifiable as an author.
  • Link to your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, Klout – anything popular that could be a good way for Google and Bing to validate you.
  • Write regularly, not only for one site, always where you can have author markup working, ideally.
  • Be active on social media, commenting on and sharing other authors’ work (only promote genuine content, not fake content). Build your Google Circles, interact with people on Google Plus and be responsive when they interact with you.
  • Give people a reason to add you to their Google Plus circles. This could improve the likelihood of your content appearing to a wider network of people in SPYW results.
  • Ensure you create content wherever possible that people share, link to or comment on.

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About the author

Steve Masters

Steve Masters

Steve is Services Director for Vertical Leap and its sister brands. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing. Follow on Google Plus and Twitter