The Power of Real Author Authority

Written by Nick Stamoulis

When Google introduced PageRank it was basically the search giant’s attempt to “grade” pages on the Internet in the same manner that academic pages had been “graded” offline. Academic papers that are cited more frequently are generally considered more authoritative and prestigious; Google applied the same principle to the web but used links instead of citations to determine which pages deserved to rank better in the SERPS. For a long time links were the purest measures of online authority.  But over the years spammers found loopholes and were creating more and more links from directories, blog networks and other “black market” links; they had more links but those links offered no real value or authority like they originally did. This undermined Google’s ranking system, so Google came up with another authority signal, author authority.

Anonymity is part of the problem with online spam and since links can be built anonymously Google can no longer trust links alone to determine authority. That is why Google (and Bing) have turned to social signals to help determine real authority. The idea behind author authority is that people are less likely to spam when their real identity has been made public; it’s a lot easier (and much more incentivized) to be above the board when spammy actions and comments can be traced back to you!

Google has implemented the rel=“author” tag as part of Google+ as a way to encourage users to build real author authority and go on the offensive against anonymous spamming. When users add the rel=“author” tag to content they create they are given a rich snippet in the SERPs which adds their photo, helping that listing stand out. Even if another piece of content is ranking higher the rich snippet is more likely to catch the attention of a searcher. In fact, Catalyst reported a %150% CTR boost for those rich snippets. This is one way that Google is trying to incentivize using the rel=”author” tag and encourage users to build real author authority that is much harder to fake.

There is no clear indication that author authority and AuthorRank are having a direct impact on ranking in the SERPs, but many experts in the SEO world feel like it’s only a matter of time. Since Google doesn’t have access to much of Facebook’s or Twitter’s social data they have to rely on Google+ for social signals and social authority. A combination of page and author authority is going to help Google determine “true” authority for a particular site and should help clean up the SERPs even more than the Panda and Penguin updates have.

Google is always in a war with the spammers. As spammers find more loopholes in Google’s algorithm the search engine has to come up with ways to counteract those spam attacks in order to preserve the user experience. After all, searchers don’t want to use a search engine that delivers unrelated or spammy websites to their queries; it’s in Google’s best interest to clean up the SERPs and keep the spammers at bay because it helps protect their product and their business! Author authority is just one of the new ways Google is doing that.

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