Why Google+ is a unique proposition, and how Author Rank is your new currency.

As marketers or advertisers we are often asked of our opinion on the three social media giants out there. Which to prioritize and which to conquer. Consolidation or segmentation. Reach or engagement. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that there’s no shortage of good answers to all the above questions.

I’d be humble and admit that I can hardly do a better job if I had attempted to improve the existing base of information regarding the topic. Instead, it’d makes more economical sense if I zoom in on only one of the three social media giants.

Let’s talk Google Plus (Google+). Not too long ago Google Plus was daunted a virtual ghost town. Bloomberg Businessweek wrote an article that basically says how Google+ is “a lonely place and a virtual tumbleweed town”.

There’s little point in arguing about how Google+ is not doing well. First of all, there’s a plethora of sites doing that already.

Second, we’re missing the point.

Such comparisons between the different social media giants offer very little substance and is often misinterpreted, partial, or subjected to very selective bias. I don’t fancy commonly misused metaphors, and I’m not saying that the comparison between Google+, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are like comparing apples to oranges.

I’m saying that the measuring scales that we put these social medium on tend to be selective, bias and are often systematically designed to favor one over another.

Back to the second point. As we’re saying, if we think Google+ should do as well as, if not outperform, Facebook and Twitter. We’re missing the point.

Social media is what Google Plus is commonly known to be. What is not commonly known, at least not to the majority of us, is it’s deeper underlying purpose as a “portable identity platform”.

Google+ is a tool, if you’re so inclined, built to act and behave like a social media engine. But it’s ultimately an engine — like Facebook, like Twitter — and engines are built for many different purposes. Sometimes, very specific purposes.

Like to empower search engine in a very particular manner.

Like, to empower identification of web authors and content producers on a level that were never possible in the past.

Google Plus: Portable Identity Platform for Content Creators

Google Inc. filed a patent in 2005 claiming rights to several ranking techniques, among them include the practice of assigning “a reputation score” for each agent, with “agent” being content creators and content producers that can be identified. Patent 7,565,358 was issued in 2009, and is officially called “agent rank”.

If you’d like to read about the Agent Rank patent, here is the link.

In a nutshell, Google has thought about a radically different way to “sort” out good content from the rest. Google thought of introducing a system comprises of “digital signatures”, one that assigns “reputation scores” for its agents according to the reception of the content these “agents” create. The reputation score is then used to determine the “quality scores” for a specific content or document.

Seeing a pattern?

Now there is a catch. Google cannot accomplish a self-sustainable authorship system without first establishing a platform to identify web authors. Assuming authorship markup were to has become standard practice, the collective authorship has to be centered around a platform that would serve such functional purpose.

Credits to Bill Slawski on the subject, who also made association of Google’s recent emphasis on quality and freshness of content to the implementation of an authorship reputation system.

Google’s Panda updates emphasized the “quality” of content found on the Web, and an authorship reputation could easily be another signal of quality in ranking pages … adding an author reputation score, based upon contributions to social networks and through very recently published content, and meaningful interactions with others in social networks and through comments adds an element that doesn’t necessarily rely upon a link graph the way that PageRank does.
- Bill Slawski

See how things are getting interesting? Google Authorship Markup complements Google’s Panda updates and its heavier emphasis on content so much it’s not even funny. The introduction, or more precisely, re-introduction of a agent ranking system becomes naturally feasible when paired with a digital signature system.

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. So now Google can start attributing content to specific “agents” and doing just what they set out to do in 2005: rank them.- Mike Arnesen

AuthorRank: The search engine game-changer?

Here’s what we find on Google’s official blog regarding the launch of its Panda update:

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

I hope you’re beginning to see how the dots connect now. AuthorRank (a continuation of Agent Rank) is not a replacement of Google’s Penguin, or Google’s Panda, or whatever it is that Google has up its sleeves now.

It is a manifestation of precisely these ideology. When AuthorRank is fully implemented, Google will radically change how digital marketers approach the search engine game. Google will then be able to rank the quality score of content and sites at a much more fundamental level, one that takes into account the reputation of the content creator, credibility of source, freshness of content, and historical perceived value of the contributor through social signals.

John Doherty on the subject observed that in a one of Yahoo’s patent application, author rank can be succinctly defined as “a measure of the expertise of the author in a given area”.

Google picks up these tiny bits and determine the authoritativeness of each source. Or agent. Or author.

Will backlinks, anchor text, and other traditionally relied upon methods of on-page and off-page optimization be less-effective? Wait. It is already less effective. Among Google’s recent updates to its search algorithm, progressive devaluation of old-school techniques the search engine giant now deemed less relevant is clearly evident. Social SEO techniques are becoming a more reliable factor as they appear — at least in the eyes of search engines — as “votes of trust” in the quality and authoritativeness of the content.

Deeper look: Author Rank and Why Your Reputation Score Matters, Now!

We don’t know many things about how search engines operate. The SEO techniques, white hat practices and everything else that you read about search engine, in general, is really the tip of the iceberg. What’s worse? It is the ones who know slightly more than the rest who are most inclined to believe they knew more than what they really do.

It’s outright baseless to write about a future-proof SEO strategy.

But Google’s Author Rank isn’t about future-proof SEO. Google currently has about 200+ ranking factors for its search engine and there are clear evidence that Google’s Authorship Markup is already making a mark on its SERP (Search engine results page). Social signals, social media connectivity and other elements of the Author Rank will gradually gain significance in how Google ranks webpages and contents on the web.

If you’re a business or a brand owner, the shift of emphasis to authority and social credibility implies a radically different approach to how you manage your brand’s content strategy. As source authority and reputation scores become an integral part of Google’s ranking factors, content marketing strategies, inbound marketing strategies, and anything developed on the premise of driving organic traffic would have to be approached from a new angle.

If you’re a content marketer, a PR professional, or a digital marketer whom role inevitably involve contribution of inbound marketing content, author rank is your new currency.

google authorship and author rich snippet in search engine results

Investing in the strength of your digital signature

The strength of your digital signature is now recognized through the implementation of Google’s Authorship Markup and it’s portable identity platform Google Plus. Many can already anticipate that the authority of voice will, in the not too distant future, go beyond the current implementation — which is not half bad anyway, considering that you get your own author rich snippet in the search engine results page; For layman, that means search users actually see a thumbnail-sized profile picture of the verified content author — and carry a heavier weight in the search ranking algorithm mix.

Building up your AuthorRank

Finally, here’s 7 practical tips to building your reputation score in preparation of Google’s AuthorRank.

Critical steps to building up your AuthorRank

I figure I could elaborate on each of these 7 points, but on second thought I’ll have to save that for a future post. Note that the author rich snippet above isn’t the best example (only in 79 Google+ circles at that time the screenshot is taken!) but you get the point.

If you’re interested in Google’s AuthorRank and Google Authorship Profiles, here’s three very well-written articles/resources on this subject:

1. How Google Might Rank User Generated Web Content in Google + and Other Social Networks by Bill Slawski.

2. AuthorRank by AJ Kohn

3. Google Authorship Profiles: No Verification Needed? by Bas Van Den Beld

4. Sharing My Knowledge: Author Rank In 2013 by Jonathan Bentz

5. Our Guides to Google Plus for Business and Personal Use by Mark Traphagen

Alternatively, join the community that addresses and discusses all aspects of Google Authorship and Author Rank here.

Till then!
P/S: If you’re already on Google Plus, we should connect: Samuel Chan on Google+

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My musings that may, on a good day, worth your two cents.


Thank you very much for sharing my post - much appreciated! Definitely going to be throwing you some social signal love for this post - well comprehensive and well-written. 

Jordan Tello
Jordan Tello

Congratulations on the post! Very detailed and useful -- as usual. Good stuff.

Samuel Chan
Samuel Chan moderator

@jonathanbentz Jonathan I'm always willing to share what I think adds value to the topic and discussion overall. Thanks for dropping by! I'm already a follower on G+

Samuel Chan
Samuel Chan moderator

@Jordan Tello thanks Jordan, drop by more often! :)


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