By now you’ve probably noticed something about Google’s search results that’s different than it used to be – sometimes the author’s face appears next to search entries created by them. This is an effect of Google’s Authorship feature that was released in June of 2011, but it’s effects on the search algorithm are far more profound than just displaying profile pictures – Authorship can change the way web page authority is determined on a fundamental level.
The idea behind Authorship is to associate content creators with the pages that they make, increasing accountability and shifting the focus from where content is posted to who posted it. By evaluating credibility based on the identity of the author, Google is encouraging content creators to build a strong portfolio of published online work specifically credited to their name instead of rewarding the thin and useless ad-riddled sites that we’ve grown used to.
In order to implement this system, Google has predictably chosen to make Google+ a central part of the process. Authors must link from their content to their Google+ profile and vise versa in order to claim content as theirs, and once Google aggregates it, their profile picture will appear next to search results. Participating in Google+ has become more important than ever for writers and content publishers, but its usage continues to be less than that of other social networks.
Currently Google is in a transitional period, their recent big algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin, have shown an obvious trend of trying to phase out ‘made for Adsense’ sites by anonymous webmasters – users want more authoritative results and Authorship is a smart way to provide that, but it isn’t fully implemented.
Still to come into play is the accompanying Author Rank metric to be associated with every Google+ profile as a measure of credibility and influence. The more posts a user makes that stimulate a social response, the greater their Author Rank will become. This will level the playing field considerably for web publishers, and quality of content will become a much bigger ranking factor than excessive numbers of links and keyword optimization. It’s ultimately the users who decide which content is most appropriate for a given keyword by interacting socially.
For the average user, the release of Authorship and Author Rank means more authoritative and trustworthy search results, but it also means more pressure to start using Google+, a widely lambasted social network that many users describe as a ‘ghost town.’ Already we have seen +1 buttons invade many elements of the Google interface where they weren’t previously, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. This push to use Google+ is a predictable move from the search engine giant, after all, the more information they can collect about a user, the better they can target ads and generate revenue.
Ultimately, publishers will need to rethink their content creation and promotion philosophies and really start focusing on social media and brand recognition instead of just building links. Authors should start using the Authorship markup as soon as possible to get a head start on the competition before Authorship becomes more widely adopted.
Guest Author Kyle Stankiewicz is a freelance tech blogger that focuses on web development and internet technologies. Between contributing to Degree Jungle and other sites, he spends time building his own websites and earning a degree in Computer Science. Kyle is also an avid PC gamer and computer hardware hobbyist.