What is Author Rank/Authorship?
Google Authorship is a digital handshake that you make between content you create (on your website, for example) and your verified profile on Google+. You have already seen authorship at work, when you’ve seen photos appear in search results like so:
Author Rank is the principle underlying authorship: that content created by a verified person is more trustworthy and valuable than ‘unsigned” content.
What Google Says About Author Rank
Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt, has stated famously,
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.
Google’s Webmaster Tools Help section advises,
Authorship markup helps our algorithms to find and present relevant authors and experts in Google search results.
How’s that for authoritative? The principle underlying it makes sense: trust the person and you can trust the content.
Google+, the “Map of People”
Marcus Tober of Searchmetrics, speaking at the 2013 New Orleans Pubcon search marketing conference said, “Google+ is not a social network, it is a map of people.” That’s the right way to think about Google+: it is a mechanism by which Google can establish the relative value and authority of authors and pass that authority to content. This fulfills Google’s original and sustaining mission in search: to deliver quality search results. So, participants in Google+ verify their identity through use across Google’s family of properties, through check-ins, reviews, sharing, following, and being followed. Thereafter, ranking content based on a verifiable link to a reliable author is easy.
What Google’s Patents Say About Author Rank
Google has been filing “Agent Rank” patents since the mid-2000s (Agent Rank=Author Rank). If you are brave, you can read Google’s Agent Rank patents at Google’s Patent Search, but the meat of it is right here,
The identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings.
Assuming that a given agent has a high reputational score, representing an established reputation for authoring valuable content, then additional content authored and signed by that agent will be promoted relative to unsigned content or content from less reputable agents in search results.
It’s reasonably well-settled that the impact of Google+ is revealing itself in search rankings. We can only assume the influence of identity-based trust factors will continue to influence search. Blind Five Year Old has a very detailed examination of the patents underlying Author Rank here. And any in-depth examination of Google’s search patents deserves some of Bill Slawski’s analysis at SEO by the Sea, like this article on Agent Rank.
- Danny Sullivan’s article, Author Rank, Authorship, Search Rankings & That Eric Schmidt Book Quote, at Search Engine Land.
- Google’s instructions for setting up authorship.
- Advanced questions and answers on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.