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Google Author Rank and the Have Nots

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Image by Mukumbura

Image by Mukumbura

The rush to become officially integrated into the Google Author Rank system or has begun. It’s unfortunate, because Google Authorship forces weighted search rankings that favor popularity and SEO skills over substance.

If content creators want to optimize our chances of being read, what choice do we have but to implement the system? Our search results depend on it.

There have been many blogs about how to implement Google’s Author Rank system, but this isn’t one of them.


We know the Google search algorithm will prioritize verified bloggers via Author Rank, which is a combination of Page Rank, the Google+ social network determinants (engagement and +1s), and the usual blogging BS that Google supports like frequency.

As you can tell by the little Google+ Follow Me ad at the bottom of this post, I have complied as have thousands of bloggers across the interwebs.

Unfortunately, not every blogger is an SEO whiz, a WordPress maven, or a DIY blogger, nor do they use Blogger with its easy Google+ integration. And those that don’t have those skills will become the have nots. They won’t be included in the author rankings, regardless of their content strength or how well read their blog is, because they are not playing.

Beyond Compliance

Image by spankratchet

Image by spankratchet

Even if authors do comply — usually by paying an SEO consultant to implement a plug-in and verify their site with Google — they still have to play the game to rank well. Factors considered in Author Rank include:

  • Engaging readers actively on Google+
  • Number of +1s received
  • Number of circles you are included in
  • Develop “authority” on other indexed sockets
  • Blog posting frequency
  • And more

Author Rank is an imperfect system, as you can clearly tell.

By the way, have you noticed this ranking doesn’t have anything to do with the actual quality of the writing?

Instead, it “trusts” social verification to vet content, primarily in the Google+ community. And that means rank requires gamesmanship. Authors have to run through Google hoops to receive better indexing.

And that’s too bad. Because I’m tired of reading blogs with multiple posts a day that sacrifice quality to meet content marketing and SEO quantity quotas. I’m tired of receiving highly indexed content, not because it was well-written or particularly insightful, but because the author was a social media star.

The big loser in Author Rank? Well, it’s the humble scribe who writes great content, but doesn’t get SEO, or is just maybe a bit shy and not a social animal. Or worse, perhaps the author is just a little too busy to spend a half hour or more online a day participating in social networks, all so they can become found.

The second big loser? Us. But let’s not shed a tear. We made this social/search bed, and now we get to sleep in it.

What do you think about Google Author Rank?

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  • http://twitter.com/SukiFuller Suki Fuller

    Perfect deterrent for anyone, who is not SEO savvy and thinking about starting to write a blog! But as you said, we are definitely reaping what we sow.

    • geofflivingston

      Yup, it’s a clear and new barrier, and one that will make most of the mice dance. We have no choice if we want Google love.

  • http://www.WaxingUnLyrical.com/ Shonali Burke

    “Because I’m tired of reading blogs with multiple posts a day that sacrifice quality to meet content marketing and SEO quantity quotas.”

    I SO agree! In fact, I’m starting to have a knee-jerk reaction to those kinds of blogs, which is sad, because sometimes they do have good content. But I feel so burned by the crap they churn out at other times, that I just don’t bother to read. I’m seeing this with quite a few “popular” blogs in our field.
    One of the topics we discuss in my Hopkins class is whether the “democratization of media” because of the proliferation of social & digital platforms really has made media, and content, more democratic. This kind of thing just ends up creating a different kind of elite, as you point out, Geoff.

    • geofflivingston

      I have been quietly cleaning out my reader. These blogs are the first ones to get cut. There are enough blogs covering the marketing space, including smaller lesser known ones, that the pain has begin to outweigh the play.

      Reading and sharing for me is an informational exercise. Popularity is not required, LOL.

      Such is the dance with the human condition in all aspects of life. I feel like this is a consistent ebb and flow.

  • http://twitter.com/MZazeela Marc Zazeela

    Geoff – It is a shame. With so little to use besides SEO algorithms, the Author Rank system smells suspiciously like Klouts influence rankings.

    How popular are you? How many “likes” have you garnered? How well have you learned to game the system? Who are you paying?

    Ranking should really be measured by who and how many actually read your writing? And, who and how many return to read your writing, time and again?

    Grassroots ranking is the true measure of ranking and influence. So far, it would seem that anything else is little more than a Facebooky, popularity contest.

    Cheers,
    Marc

    • geofflivingston

      It is exactly Klout, well said. It’s Google’s counter to Bing integrating Klout, iMO. And even ranking and readership tied to Analytics may be suspect, as we have seen popularity trumps informational substance in many ways. For me it continues the deterioration of trust in Google’s ability to source good information.

  • Demian Farnworth

    Keep in mind that Author Rank won’t replace Page Rank, or trump any of the recent updates like Panda or Penguin, which are designed to identify and reward great content.

    Page Rank was gamed because of anonymity (a refuge of spammers). AR will hopefully correct that. Of course it’s not perfect, and I’m sure someone will figure out to game it.

    And listen: if I can claim my Google authorship markup … anyone can. And I did it when it was an even bigger pain in the rear. Anybody who writes online should be able to figure it out, just like we all need to know a little bit of code (even though we are not code monkeys).

    • geofflivingston

      Except I know many, many people that do have problems implementing it. And Google’s algorithm changes so often, I am not sure I agree. Page Rank is the algorithm, and if Author Rank becomes a major determining factor — just like Klout has become a factor for Bing — there is a major issue.

      • http://twitter.com/SocialBttrfly Alexandra Bornkessel

        I have never checked my Klout score. For me, that’s just one Pandora’s box not worth opening. Even if it is more crucial, the path that can put one on in terms of self-comparison, ego, obsession, gaming your content and worse yet, relationships… ya, no thank you. At least that’s what’s best for me…I understand what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. Like @twitter-257025239:disqus, I’m not looking to be right. Just sharing. =)

  • http://hashimwarren.com/ Hashim Warren

    Pity the humble scribe who writes a book but doesn’t want to go on book tour or do interviews.

    Or who writes for a magazine but doesn’t know how to negotiate a good salary.

    Or we who has written a hit movie script but doesn’t know how to pitch it.

    • geofflivingston

      Pity the humble scribe who was trained to write and not to be a technologist.

      • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

        Double amen to that:)

  • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

    What do I think about it? I’m trying not to, haha! I’ve spent far too much time following the myriad of instructions on “how to” at the expense of writing. A necessary evil? I suppose so. Something as “simple” as getting that g+ live link at the bottom of a post, or creating an author box (supposedly “simple stuff”) is enough to send me running to a quill pen and inkwell.

    And @google-81c83444aed195de41d9e227bf13c2dc:disqus , with all due respect, we can indeed “all figure it out”…eventually…after much trial and error…taking us away from our most productive activities. I’m a lifelong learner, so I have no problem in the learning. And I understand that investment in oneself and one’s business is paramount. But when our strengths are in the writing and producing, and not necessarily the tools to up the ante, it can get very frustrating. Just stating a fact: not looking to be right or wrong about it. Just my own experience and perspective. Cheers! Kaarina

    • geofflivingston

      It is not so easy! I had difficulty, too, and ended up implementing it three times.

      • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

        Thanks: nice to know I’m in excellent company:)

  • http://twitter.com/Soulati Jayme Soulati

    Hey, Geoff…are you trying to encourage people to do G+Auth or not? I think it is the only way my little blog with a lot of GPs will get noticed. I am all for this practice b/c it’s evolving as we speak.

    Google is always changing it up and those who do engage early can ride the highs with the lows.

    As for gaming the system with more SEO…hate that and never did write that way. Not sure I will start looking at key words and writing posts for that. If I did, I’d be writing about nudity all day long…ahem…that’s a story for another day!

    • geofflivingston

      I am not sure you have a choice if you want to be indexed. My hope in publishing it would be to start a larger conversation which maybe, just maybe Google will see. I think they would benefit from making this system easier for the average blogger to participate.

      • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

        Amen to that. Google, are you listening?

  • http://joshuawilner.com/ Josh

    In some respects it is the same old problem, those who are great “self marketers” prosper while those who aren’t falter.

    • geofflivingston

      I agree, though now you have the technologist factor. Of course to become great marketers now you must have technology chops, or so it seems.

  • http://www.mattsouthern.com Matt Southern

    I think ultimately it is a good thing. While I agree with your posts about blogs cranking out content while sacrificing quality, I have faith that Google will do something about it eventually.

    Google’s goal has always been to provide the most relevant and useful information to those searching for it. Well-written, detailed content is obviously more useful to people than mediocre content that is published for the sake of an SEO boost.

    I trust that Google will release another algorithm update eventually that rewards long-form, quality content over weak articles that are written to game the search engines. They’ve always been good about sniffing out those types of blog owners (ie, Panda and Penguin updates), so I believe they will continue to do so.

    • geofflivingston

      Of that we can be sure (another algorithm update). And Google does seem to understand that in the end it lives and dies by the quality of information it sources. So I appreciate your ray of hope here.

  • http://twitter.com/bowden2bowden Randy Bowden

    Geoff you are such a truth slinger! Please allow me to play on your team? The content churn from some is just that, churn. I am sure much is very good but it is lost in the scramble to rise above the noise. That’s irony right? Create more content (noise) to rise above the other content (noise). Yes, I see another popularity game…

    • geofflivingston

      It’s really interesting to see ourselves reinvent this game over and over again. We claim to hate it, but I think popularity is inherent in our social fiber, for good or bad.

  • http://www.312digital.com/ Sean McGinnis

    Authorship and author rank haven’t changed the underlying nature of the game one bit. The rules by which the game is played have have changed, but the game itself has stayed the same.

    There have always been winners and loser on the internet. The only thing that stood between winning and losing was the willingness to take the task seriously and to understand the rules of the game.

    • geofflivingston

      Easily said as an SEO consultant. Or even a professional online marketer. But the rest of the world? I don’t think so.

      Willingness is not the right term. The fact of the matter is Google has thrust influence measurement upon content creators in order to source them. And what is someone to do? Hire you or another consultant to get their blog straightened out? Listen to a webinar and pray they can make it work?

      Heretofore, such metrics were less relevant. But then Bing adopted Klout as a metric and now we have this. So the game has changed. Particularly the Google+ aspects of it.

      When the social web began in earnest it was supposed to Democratize the Internet. What Google and other companies are doing is quite the opposite, creating stratospheres of content. Yet another nail in the pioneering period.

      • http://www.312digital.com/ Sean McGinnis

        With all due respect (Gini’s head just exploded – she hates that phrase) I disagree.

        Authorship and Author Rank (when it gets here fully) is little more than a continuation of the link graph built around different metrics, and with the absence of anonymity. That’s why G+ was originally rolled out with the requirement that you only register with your real name – to tie a real human to the account and eliminate the game playing.

        I prefer to think of the good social search is bringing to the web, rather than focus on this as some sort of”influence measurement” a la Klout. There may be some similarities, but as stated before Author Rank is only one component of the algo, and it’s the least important aspect of it.

        Just try to rank for something with perfect author rank and terrible technical SEO. Won’t happen. Try to rank for something with perfect author rank and content that doesn’t include the key term you care about. Not going to happy. Same goes for links. Author signals are the the last little bit that helps the Nascar racer win the race. But it’s not the wheels of the car or the engine.

        • geofflivingston

          You can disagree, but the fact of the matter is the average content creator can’t even execute basic SEO. Now it’s more complicated. Sorry, bro. SEOs love it, the rest of the world doesn’t get it, and it’s a royal pain in the ass to implement.

  • http://twitter.com/ExtremelyAvg Brian D. Meeks

    I love posts like these, because I find them so fascinating. The comments are always really interesting. That being said, I never find myself motivated to try to improve my SEO abilities.

    I think I may have successfully done the Google Author thing, but I’m not entirely sure.

    As for what I think about Google Author rank, I’m not sure. Originally I thought it had something to do with authors (I was thinking books), but it seems it means content creators. The latter makes more sense, but it is less exciting to me.

    I think I have to say I’m in the “Meh” category. Is that a category?

    • geofflivingston

      It’s certainly a category for me. And when I think about this topic, I do think of authors — real authors — like you. For every author like you that experiments with the tools, I think there are nine who don’t, and those are the real losers in the equation…

      Can’t wait for your book to be completed. Thanks for showing us your process through and through.

  • http://www.thoughtlabs.com/ John Maver

    I think that Author rank is the first of many steps for Google. The great author with low readership isn’t going to do any etter or worse with this system. They still have to fight to get their content seen. And, as commenters below have said, bad content will be weeded out socially.

    • geofflivingston

      You assume social validation weeds out bad content. I assume it weeds out unpopular content. I think the two are not the same, though some may.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

    I was just thinking about this last night as I read a section on Author Rank in Andy Crestodina’s “Content Chemistry.” And I agree, it gives an advantage to the haves, and shuts out the have nots. I think that is what troubles me the most about G+, that Google almost forces people to use their products in order to rank higher, while diminishing the role of other social networks. Now I can’t wait for Bing+…

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, it’s interesting. I am at SxSW right now, and there was a Google and Bing panel. Bing’s version of this is Klout, which they integrate.

      Now, it gets better. Apparently, Google and Bing index each other and trust each other’s algorithms. Isn’t that lovely?

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