Google Author Rank and the Importance of Content Marketing

There was a time when the best way to gain attention for a piece of writing, art or video was simply to make the best product possible. Then came the first 10 years of Internet search engines, when the limitations of computer algorithms made it impossible to get content noticed without stuffing it to the brim with keywords.

Consequently, a professional field emerged around the concept of essentially gaming Google: search engine optimization (SEO). The long-standing theory behind SEO is that in order to rank highly in search engine results pages, content must adhere to technical requirements of keyword density, visitor time on site, inbound links, intralinking, site structure, and a whole host of nearly 200 other qualifications.

Because of this, the idea of what writers considered to be “quality content” certainly changed. Instead of preferring clean, interesting and informative prose, search engines merely wanted articles and blog posts with variant spellings of the same words, redundancies (so as to drive up keyword densities) and content driven by buzzy, fad topics. The term coined for such writing was “word salad,” and some Web writers who moonlighted as poets even lampooned SEO with a movement called “Flarf.”

Thankfully, all of that is beginning to change with the growing importance of content marketing and Google’s use of Google+ to create an Author Rank index. Google Author Rank allows authors with Google+ accounts to insert code snippets into HTML headers, thereby telling Googles crawlers who wrote these pieces. Online interaction with a writer and that writer’s pieces – including links to them, mentions of them on other sites and blogs, reprints and curation of them on other high-ranking sites– now increase that author’s authority and, consequently, both that author’s Google Author Rank and the ranking of all other content that author has produced.

As a result, a new challenger to SEO’s supremacy has emerged: content marketing. In Content marketing, which draws from the Old Media system, authors receive attention for good writing, rather than the butchered writing of the SEO years. An improvement from the old system, content marketing brings together the best of old and new: good content that can be optimized to deliver fantastic search engine results. Plus, content marketing allows anyone with excellent writing skills and a free blog to build quality Author Rank.

How Google Author Rank Works

Google Author Rank is “query-independent.” This means that content from authors with high Author Rank ranks highly in Google search results, regardless of a particular piece’s topic or publishing site. In the old days of search, rankings depended on how pertinent to a specific keyword Google’s crawlers thought a piece of content was; this often had to do with how many times that keyword appeared in the text itself.

Because Google reasons that if you write great content on one topic or site then you probably write great content on all topics and sites, high-ranking authors will see a boost across all genres of content. Of course, it helps to specialize in a certain field; as your authority and rank for these specific sites and topics grow, your rankings for other topics will improve as well.

How To Start Building Google Author Rank

To start building your Google Author Rank, you’ll need a blog and a Google+ account. Make sure to completely fill out your Google+ plus account with all required information and link it to your blog. You should also backdate any quality content produced pre-Author Rank in order to associate these pages with yourself. You can do this by posting links to this content on Google+.

Moving forward, you will have to insert an HTML tag called an “Author Rich snippet” into the header element of every page your write. There are several tag formats, but the easiest to create is as follows:
     <link href="[Link to your Google+ Profile]" rel="author" />

Once you’ve inserted this tag into your new page, Google will add it to the library of work it uses to compute your Google Author Rank. As time progresses, all your ships (i.e., content) will rise together – assuming of course you continue writing for the Internet regularly.

Some Issues With Google Author Rank

As anyone who’s written for the Internet for a long time has probably already realized, Author Rank doesn’t really work for things you write for others because the writer of these pieces typically doesn’t have access to the publishing sites’ CMSes. For well-performing, existing content, of course, an author can try contacting the publisher to have them insert an Author Rich snippet into existing pages. But beware: as most work for hire is anonymous and many other online publications are run by Internet noobs with mean copy-and-paste-into-WordPress habits, this won’t always be possible.

Obviously, Google needs to address this issue by somehow allowing authors to claim pieces they wrote for others. After all, as with the old process of author promotion, having someone else publish their work says more about an author’s authority than publishing anything they want on a free blog, which can make a writer’s authority spurious.

Until Google fixes this problem – with, say, a crawler that can identify matching writing styles and voices even on anonymous pages – there’s very little an author can do about it. For now, your only hope is that the publisher of that viral piece you wrote 10 years ago will be willing and web-savvy enough to insert your Author Rich snippet into the piece’s header.

04/23/2014 at 09:26

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