Author Rank

// // March 30th 2012 // SEO

AuthorRank could be more disruptive than all of the Panda updates combined.

That’s a bold statement but possible once you fully understand AuthorRank and how it could be applied to search results.

What is AuthorRank?

The idea behind AuthorRank is that your reputation as a content creator will influence the ranking of search results. Here’s the specific language from Google’s Agent Rank patent.

The identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings.

Assuming that a given agent has a high reputational score, representing an established reputation for authoring valuable content, then additional content authored and signed by that agent will be promoted relative to unsigned content or content from less reputable agents in search results.

Agent? Agent is Google-speak for an author. This excerpt states that verified content by an author will be graded and it is that grade that influences the rank of content in search results.

AuthorRank is Query-Independent

Search algorithm signals can be divided into two broad criteria: query-dependent and query-independent.

Query-dependent criteria measure how closely related the content is to a given query. Query-independent criteria measure the authority of that content. AuthorRank would be a query-independent criterion similar to PageRank.

Google would want to see content with high AuthorRank and high PageRank. That combination would be a strong signal, showing that the authority of that author was accurately reflected in the link graph.

But what about instances where there is low or no AuthorRank and high PageRank? This might actually be an interesting way to discover unnatural link profiles.

The opposite result, content with a high AuthorRank but low PageRank, could indicate new content or relatively undiscovered content. It may, over time, also point to an author that has lost influence and is just mailing it in. Persistent instances of this combination might trigger a reduction in AuthorRank.

AuthorRank Informs PageRank

The Wonder Twins: AuthorRank and PageRank

The implementation of AuthorRank means that the link graph suddenly carries an additional attribute that can be used to adjust the influence of links. Links from content with a high AuthorRank may count and pass more trust and authority. However, links from a blog network, like the defunct Build My Rank, without authorship may pass less (or no) trust and authority.

Intuitively, an agent should have a higher reputational score, regardless of the content signed by the agent, if the content signed by the agent is frequently referenced by other agents or content. Not all references, however, are necessarily of equal significance. For example, a reference by another agent with a high reputational score is of greater significance than a reference by another agent with a low reputational score. Thus, the reputation of a particular agent, and therefore the reputational score assigned to the particular agent, should depend not just on the number of references to the content signed by the particular agent, but on the importance of the referring documents and other agents. This implies a recursive definition: the reputation of a particular agent is a function of the reputation of the content and agents which refer to it.

In this way, even content without authorship could be informed by the AuthorRank of links to that content. AuthorRank won’t replace PageRank it’ll just make it more accurate. This is one of the more powerful applications of AuthorRank. In essence, Google identifies authors who can help curate the link graph.

AuthorRank by Topic

AuthorRank will not be monolithic. The Agent Rank patent clearly states that an author can have a different rank by topic.

The agent ranks can optionally also be calculated relative to search terms or categories of search terms. For example, search terms (or structured collections of search terms, i.e., queries) can be classified into topics, e.g., sports or medical specialties, and an agent can have a different rank with respect to each topic.

I might have a high AuthorRank for search engine optimization but a low AuthorRank for biology. My personal development posts (something like this) may not be given as much weight as my search related posts.

In addition, links with high AuthorRank on the same topic will carry far more weight. So too will any social gestures (such as shares, comments and endorsements) from those with expertise and authority on that topic. A comment on this post from Bill Slawski would potentially increase my AuthorRank.

AuthorRank and Identity

AuthorRank is closely related to identity. Google needs to be certain that the relationship between author and content is valid. As such, a fair amount of the Agent Rank patent revolves around confirming identity through the use of a digital signature.

Pressed by Danny Sullivan in January 2012 interview, Amit Singhal had this to say about access to Twitter’s firehose.

A good product can only be built where we understand who’s who and who is related to whom. Relationships are also important alongside content. To build a good product, we have to do all types of processing. But fundamentally, it’s not just about content. It’s about identity, relationships and content. Anything else trivializes a very hard product.

Can it be any more clear? Confidence in identity is the cornerstone, perhaps even a prerequisite, to using social signals in search. So what did Google do? They launched an identity platform (Google+) and digital signature (rel=author).

Let me repeat that, Google+ is an identity platform and rel=author is a digital signature.

AuthorRank Abuse

Identity also helps ensure that AuthorRank is not abused. In fact, Google has envisioned a system by which gaining AuthorRank is difficult but losing it is quite easy.

A high reputational score need not give an agent the ability to manipulate web search rankings In one implementation, reputational scores are relatively difficult to increase and relatively easy to decrease, creating a disincentive for an agent to place its reputation at risk by endorsing content inappropriately. Since the signatures of reputable agents can be used to promote the ranking of signed content in web search results, agents have a powerful incentive to establish and maintain a good reputational score.

So you’re not going to risk your AuthorRank and general reputation for some link scheme.

Why Use AuthorRank?

Digital Kanagawa Wave

Google needs a better way to sift through and determine quality in an age where content can so easily be produced and distributed. Here’s a quote from Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, in an October 2011 Eric Enge interview.

Broadly speaking, you can think of the growth of the web and the growth of the computing power needed to instantly index it as a kind of arms race. The web keeps growing. There’s a misperception that the web has become established or matured, but in fact the growth curve is a nice smooth exponential that hasn’t shown signs of slowing down yet. We’re still in the middle of the information explosion.

The result of this information explosion is a huge tidal wave of very noisy content, making it vastly more difficult to find the signal. Jason Calacanis put it bluntly at the December 2011 ReadWriteWeb 2WAY Summit.

There are a lot of stupid people out there … and stupid people shouldn’t write. … There needs to be a better system for tuning down the stupid people and tuning up the smart people.

Google may not be as blunt in their assessment but they hold a very similar view. Here’s the last sentence in the official announcement of authorship.

We know that great content comes from great authors, and we’re looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results.

The emphasis is mine. That last piece is important because it shows a clear desire to use AuthorRank to rank search results. It also points to a two-phase approach to the AuthorRank project. We’ve seen the first phase where authors are highlighted, but have not seen it used to rank search results. Not yet.

Calculating AuthorRank

How would Google determine your AuthorRank? By looking at how your content is received.

Google will be monitoring activity and mining the engagement graph.

Here we turn to a the Ranking User Generated Web Content patent for guidance.

This specification describes techniques for weighting interactions between users in an electronic community and generating user credential scores based on interactions between users. In general, user-generated content items, e.g., comments to a blog or answers posted on a question answering web site, can be analyzed to assign quality factors. The user-generated content items can additionally be analyzed to assess quality of input and identify individual interactions between users (e.g., one or more users uploading responses to a question posed by a first user).

This one is not as easy to read as the Agent Rank patent but still allows us to understand how Google might think about creating credential scores for users. Here are but a few things they might consider.

  • How often is your content shared?
  • How quickly is your content shared?
  • Who shared your content?
  • Did those who shared your content have expertise in that topic?
  • Do the same people always share your content?
  • How many comments did your content generate?
  • Who commented on your content?
  • Did those who commented on your content have expertise in that topic?
  • Were the comments on your content of high-quality?
  • Were the comments on your content of a positive sentiment?
  • How often is your content endorsed? (i.e. – +1, Like)
  • Who endorsed your content?
  • Did those endorsing your content have expertise in that topic?
  • Do the same people always endorse your content?

This doesn’t just apply to traditional content you generate (such as blog posts or articles) but also applies to comments, answers, reviews and native Google+ posts. The same questions can be applied to these content types to understand the value of your contributions.

  • Do your comments, answers, reviews etc. receive +1s or upvotes?
  • Who is +1ing your comments?
  • Are those people +1ing or upvoting your comments or answers have expertise in that topic?
  • Are your comments of high-quality?
  • Do your comments create additional interactions?

The rumored launch of a Google Commenting product would allow Google to extend their view of activity and engagement with identity attached. All of this activity and engagement must be attached to an identity.

Sure, Google may use other sources to round out their view of activity and engagement but I sense that these sources have proven difficult to use. Google has long been able to create a social graph and identify potential other profiles. One look at your Social Connections should give you an idea of how much Google knows.

But if you’re going to use these activities to alter search results are you going to rely on secondary data where identity might be in question? We’re talking about Google’s core product! Having a primary source of this data (Google+ and Google Comments) where you are confident in identity and authorship makes sense.

The type of approach outlined in the patent and described above can be seen in the Google+ Activity API.

Google+ Activity API

Ripples is just the tip of the iceberg of what Google can do with this type of information. The real value for Google is in using all of this activity and engagement in combination with authorship to create AuthorRank.

Is AuthorRank for Real?

I’ve referenced and excerpted a fair amount from patents in this post. So you might be asking yourself whether this is all just theory? Is AuthorRank really going to materialize?

Make no mistake, Google is working on AuthorRank.

Othar Hansson The Authorship Project

Othar Hansson is the Engineering Lead on ‘The Authorship Project’ at Google. Take a peek at his background and what he’s worked on and you’ll understand that Othar isn’t just any Googler.

That aside, you put together the launch of Google+ (an identity platform) with rel=author (a digital signature) and add in the acquisition of two companies (PostRank and SocialGrapple) who mine activity and engagement and it is clear that Google is anxious to use AuthorRank to help it deal with the digital content avalanche.

AuthorRank vs Panda

Could AuthorRank be bigger than Panda? Absolutely!

Panda is a domain level filter that distinguishes between low-quality and high-quality sites. It essentially uses an aggregate score of documents on a domain to determine quality. Ultimately, Panda treats great content the same way as lousy content. It’s a blunt instrument.

AuthorRank goes much further by combining the web of people with the web of links. It’s a page level application of authority based on the reputation of the author. Not only that, AuthorRank can be used to make the link graph more accurate, reducing or eliminating the impact of manufactured link building efforts that undermine true trust and authority.

Panda will feel like a speedbump if Google can implement a fully realized version of AuthorRank.

Preparing for AuthorRank

Here are a few steps you can take to future proof your SEO and prepare for AuthorRank.

Claim Authorship

You have to be in it to win it. Implement rel=author and claim your content today. My Google Authorship how-to has additional details.

Engage on Google+ (and elsewhere)

Activity and engagement will be important. You can certainly just be a content creator but authors can also establish additional credibility by engaging in meaningful dialog on Google+ and other platforms. Check out my engagement and best practices section (near the bottom) of my Google Plus SEO guide.

Produce Great Content

AuthorRank places a much heavier emphasis on producing valuable content, not just in the traditional way but in how you interact and engage with others. Don’t be the person who responds with ‘great post’ over and over again.


AuthorRank means that your reputation as a content creator will influence the ranking of search results. Not only that but AuthorRank can be used to make the link graph more accurate.

AuthorRank combines the web of people with the web of links to create a more savvy view of trust and authority that will be used to rank search results.

Is AuthorRank a reality today? No. But it’s no longer about if it happens but when.

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Comments About Author Rank

// 92 comments so far.

  1. Joost de Valk // March 30th 2012

    Curious about how you think this impacts product search :-)

  2. AJ Kohn // March 30th 2012

    Thank you for the comment and question Joost. I’ve actually been mulling this over and see a couple of ways that this could apply to transactional queries.

    First, Google does want to attach authorship to reviews. So if Thomas Hawk reviews a camera positively, that might provide more weight to that product. In general, Google can trust certain reviews if they come from a verified author with expertise with that product/topic. AuthorRank reviews seem like the best way to help surface the ‘best’ products in a traditional product search.

    Second, the product links from a document with high AuthorRank may pass value. I’m unsure whether that author’s choice of retailer would also pass value. Would B&H improve their position if those with high AuthorRank linked to them instead of BestBuy? I don’t know. This seems fraught with potential conflict of interest so I’m unsure it could be applied, but it’s interesting to think about.

  3. Keith // March 30th 2012

    Fantastic writeup and I’ve been thinking the same thing for awhile now. Since I employed author rank on my blog I’ve seen rankings improve across the board. Has my mind spinning to think about ways to manipulate (err I mean apply) this to other niche markets :)

  4. AJ Kohn // March 30th 2012

    It’ll be tough to manipulate if they implement it correctly Keith. A high AuthorRank in one niche won’t be transferrable to another. If you try, you could quickly find your AuthorRank decreasing, or at least it seems like it would work that way.

    I’m sure that people will try to create activity and engagement clubs to help build a profile within a niche. The problem is that those type of self-referential systems should be relatively easy to spot. I’m not saying it’s foolproof but because it’s all linked to you and your reputation – to your identity – you’ll be less likely to attempt high-risk behavior.

  5. Takeshi // March 30th 2012

    “because it’s all linked to you and your reputation – to your identity – you’ll be less likely to attempt high-risk behavior.”

    Unless you’re using a constructed persona.

  6. AJ Kohn // March 30th 2012

    Very true Takeshi. But this is part of the reason why Google was so adamant about using ‘real names’ on Google+. Even in the way they implement pseudonyms, Google still wants to know that pseudonym is related to one Google+ profile, to one identity.

    You could create a number of different Google+ profiles and create constructs but a profile without links to ‘Other profiles’ will probably look odd. And come to think of it, perhaps this is how Google will validate whether they can trust that Google+ identity, by looking at the social graph they already have on that individual. No connections may mean that identity won’t pass much, if any, value.

  7. Dave Foy // March 30th 2012

    I wonder if for these reasons you’d recommend always writing under your real name?

    Reason I ask: I write under a pseudonym for one of our business blogs. This is mostly because, at the time of setting it up, the idea was that it’d be easier to sell the pseudonymous central character along with the business, later down the line.

    I’m wondering if in fact it’d be better now to turn that around and change that back to my own name, with my associated G+ profile? We’ve actually got a separate ‘fake’ G+ profile for the pseudonym linked into the blog mentioned above (with Google authorship markup), but it certainly will never have much in the way of activity signalling it as a real person.

    Be interested if anyone has any thoughts on this.

  8. AJ Kohn // March 31st 2012

    Thanks for the comment and question Dave. I think you’re probably better off switching to your real name. While I don’t think you’ll be dinged for using a construct (character/pseudonym) I doubt it’ll carry as much weight as a real profile for just the reason you mention. Google will be looking at the entirety of activity for that author or agent in calculating AuthorRank. In addition, the lack of additional ‘other profiles’ (i.e. – a Quora account, a Delicious account etc.) might also reduce the confidence Google has in the identity of that profile.

  9. Christian Oliveira // March 30th 2012

    Couldn’t agree more; I definitely think this is where SEO is headed and one of the main purposes of Google+

    As we discussed a couple of months ago here , it should be possible at some time to apply authorship to html elements instead of whole URLs (now it is one URL = one author). This+html5 would make it easier for Google to understand the different elements of a webpage and who writes what and give weight to each of those elements accordingly.

    Also, this would affect a lot to the actual link graph; links would acquire new weights depending on where they are located, the associated author (if any), the agentRank/authorRank of that author, etc. (along with current metrics)

    The main problem I see know is how to get all your users to link their profile from and to their Google+ profile if you are a site with high amount of users and reviews/comments (Tripadvisor, Yelp…). Probably some kind of “Facebook Connect” functionality for Google+ which let you associate profiles would help (along with Google+ commenting system). Asking your users to make that cross-linking manually is a really pain in the ass.

    But once this association is achieved, everything will change. SPYW will show you results for products your “friends” reviewed, places they visited, posts they’ve commented and so on, based in a bunch of new factors.

    This is really exciting!

  10. AJ Kohn // March 31st 2012

    That’s right Christian, we’ve been talking about this for quite some time. And HTML5 would make it easier to associate different elements on the page with different agents/authors. There’s a fair amount of that in the actual Agent Rank patent. They actually identify advertising as a separate agent on a page. So there’s certainly some potential for Google to follow through on this idea.

    The association is an interesting issue. Google often has a good understanding of your other profiles but the current behavior indicates that they’re not confident they can rely upon these self-reported or publicly crawled associations. They’re looking for a bi-directional confirmation (as they do with Authorship) to ensure that the Yelp profile you claim as yours really is yours. It’s one of the reasons why a rumored Google Commenting system would make sense. In short, they need to figure out how to apply a digital signature to third-party accounts.

    Search, it’s never boring.

  11. Karie Barrett // March 30th 2012

    AJ – Thank you for this great post! I started talking with people and setting up tests for the concept last fall since AuthorRank seemed like a logical progression of the direction Google was heading with Google+ and +1ing content and some of the news that was coming out from Bing. I’ve been urging clients and internal staff develop their web presence to the fullest extent possible in preparation for AuthorRank to become a formal standard. Like most changes from Google, one does not want to behind the curve! It will be interesting to see exactly how AuthorRank by topic plays out for those of us writing in significantly different fields who are and are not using pseudonyms to differentiate their writing.

    Dave Foy: I would think that you would be best off merging the ‘fake” G+ profile with your own before this comes into full effect since there are some definite penalties for ‘fake’ profiles on G+. Having the profile banned would do some considerable harm to the effort you’ve spent in writing good content.

  12. AJ Kohn // March 31st 2012

    Thanks Karie and I think what you’re doing is extremely savvy. Being out in front of this change (or any Google change) is a great advantage. Developing a web presence and building your personal brand is more important than ever.

  13. Bill Slawski // March 30th 2012

    Really nice synthesis of what seems to be the present state of Google’s implementation of Agent Rank and credential scores, AJ. When I wrote about the newly published pending patent on Agent Rank over at Search Engine Land back in 2007, I really wondered if we would ever see it implemented, and it looks like Google has taken the concept and run with it.

    I think there are a couple of other pieces that we need to think about as well.

    There are the content sharing ideas from the Grouptivity patent that describes how different kinds of sharing might carry different weights towards building a reputation score for an author of that content, so that an email share might carry more weight than a Facebook share, for instance, because sharing something via email takes more work.

    One of the continuation versions of the Agent Rank patents spells out in its claims section that endorsements from different authors might carry different amounts of weight, so that a +1 from one person (associated with a particular Google Account) might carry more weight than a similar endorsement from another person (associated with their own Google Account). It also pointed out that those endorsements weren’t contributing to the rank of a specific piece of content, but rather to the reputation score of the author of that content. Interestingly, it referred to endorsers as “trust agents,” making me wonder if there’s some threshold user rank or reputation score that someone would have to pass before being considered a trust agent, so that their endorsements would work to increase an author’s reputation.

    There was also the Katango acquisition, which brought with it a patent filing describing a social media agent that might be used to follow a link from a user’s Google Account to their profiles on other social networks, and learn about their contacts there, and track and follow their interactions there, and cluster information about the topics related to their interactions.

    Since places like Twitter aren’t sharing some collateral information about specific user profiles, such as which IP addresses content might have been posted from, the idea of limiting any analysis of a twitter user profiles to people who have those profiles connected via link from their Google Account is like associating those accounts to Google authorship markup digital signatures. The same with links from the Google account profile to a Flickr profile, a quora profile, a Facebook profile, etc.

    As for how author rank could be more disruptive than Panda, I think it’s worth thinking about some of the possible implications when it comes to identifying spam or scraped content, providing better attribution and filtering of content when it comes to duplicate or near duplicate content, and even using authority signals such as an association with a Google Scholar profile (and the publications and other information posted there). I think we will see syndication meta data introduced at some point in the future similar to that used at Google News as well, so that an author can point to other places where their content might have been syndicated to, as described in the original agent rank patent.

    Not mentioned in the Agent Rank patents, but another possibility, might be meta data from an original source that points to official translations of content created by an author.

    It’s also interesting to think about the impacts of authorship from multiple authors on the same page, and how the reputation scores of those authors might influence the ranking of the page. So for instance, Joost’s comment above might not only influence AJs reputation score, but also Joost’s reputation score as one of the author’s on this page might influence the ranking of the page itself.

  14. AJ Kohn // March 31st 2012

    Great to have your comments and views here Bill (and not just for AuthorRank purposes!) Your work back in 2007 and more recently on this topic made this post possible.

    The Grouptivity patent is interesting and I’d actually connect that with the idea of Web Intents. There are some rumblings that Google may build Web Intents into Chrome. So, imagine if Chrome was connected to your Google+ account and all of your sharing activity was managed through a Web Intents dashboard. Suddenly, the Grouptivity patent becomes very real. The ability to know that someone shared via email is powerful since that, to me, may indicate a far higher degree of interest and trust.

    I think Katango could certainly be used to trace other profiles, but I feel like Google is already there in many ways. A look at your Social Connections will show you just how much Google already knows about you and your social graph. Rapleaf got knocked for crawling the public social graph but Google quietly did as well. Perhaps Katango can improve the fidelity of these associations? It feels like Google has made a decision that bi-directional confirmation is necessary.

    And yes, you’re right, the ability to identify spam and scraped content will be much easier and more efficient. The syndication piece is definitely interesting and Google could use the help in this arena. I think they’re still finding syndication, particularly of reviews or comments to be difficult. I also like the idea that MFA sites and networks may be marginalized because they aren’t willing to establish authorship nor are the links to them from any high AuthorRank sites.

    Yes, the impact of multiple authors on the same page is fascinating. In essence, the AuthorRank of each author could increase when a highly valuable conversation between experts took place. This makes so much sense because it’s often the comments that really round out and provide ultimate value to a post. In fact, I already see some bias towards this where posts with high activity rank well in search. Whether this is based on the additional user syntax on the page or other signals, the idea is to uncover the areas where those conversations are taking place.

    How close do you think Google is to testing out a version of AuthorRank?

  15. Andrea // March 31st 2012

    Great post. No other words needed.

    When talking about the difference PageRank vs AuthorRank what do you think about new domains (with obviously low trust and page rank) and a great author posting in it ?

    Now that +Bill Slawsky commented here you’re great 😉

    The author rank influence on serp, as Bill and you said, can potentially be the web activity (360°) on a topic base.

  16. AJ Kohn // March 31st 2012

    Thank you Andrea. An author with an established AuthorRank could make launching a new domain much easier. Instead of having to build trust and authority with links, the reputation would follow you.

    This would obviously be contingent based on the topic, so you couldn’t start a new site on a wholly different topic. But if you had established a reputation at, say YouMoz, and then started your own blog/site, you may have a far easier time doing so in an AuthorRank world.

  17. @eacsoftdunks // March 31st 2012

    Just wondering and defiantly not questioning your authority on this Bill but how would Google know if some-one shared an email. Would it depend on how they shared it?

    Quoting BILL SLAWSKI from above comment:

    “so that an email share might carry more weight than a Facebook share”

    Awesome article by the way


    I just re read the comments by Joost: Another thing about product search other than reviews could be rel = Author for the person writing the product description??

    Thanks very much for writing I have learned a lot and it opens up a lot of ideas for future!!

  18. AJ Kohn // March 31st 2012

    Thanks for the comment and question @eacsoftdunks. My understanding is that Google does not view product descriptions as authored content. At a minimum, the default descriptions given by manufactures would certainly not be viable authored content. A unique product description? A long-shot I think but perhaps something someone should test.

  19. Bill Slawski // March 31st 2012

    Hi @eacsoftdunks

    Under the Grouptivity patent filing the Google acquired 10 months before Google Plus was launched, Page Ranking System Employing User Sharing Data, a number of different social reference factors are described that might influence ranking scores, including sharing by email, by social bookmarking, promoting or demoting content in search results, and more.

    At the heart of the Grouptivity system is a collaborative email system that can be shared publicly, where you can create multiple groups, public and private. While there are many similarities between this collaborative email system from Grouptivity and Google Plus, there are some differences as well, but it’s worth looking at the two closely. Here’s a post I wrote on the Grouptivity patent application:

    I’m not so sure that Google would count a link that you paste yourself into GMail as a social share, but there are other things that they might measure. For instance, there is a “share” button on the Google Toolbar that you can use to “share this page,” and one option included is Gmail, while another is email.

    It was also possible when you chose circles to share content with to email people on Google Plus in its early days who had Google Accounts but hadn’t yet signed up for Google Plus, when sharing content with others. Not sure if it’s still possible to do that, but it might be.

  20. Cory Janssen // March 31st 2012

    Do you see any indication that we’ll be able to get a public measure of author rank?

  21. AJ Kohn // March 31st 2012

    I’d be surprised if Google publicly revealed AuthorRank after the issues they’ve had dealing with the public nature of PageRank.

  22. Takeshi // March 31st 2012

    I wonder if AuthorRank might lead inadvertently to more anonymity on the Internet again. The recent trend has been in the opposite direction with the emphasis on real identities in Facebook & G+, but if online reputation becomes so important that it can literally change the SERPs, why risk it with frivolous activity on the web? Best to create an anonymous pseudonym so as to protect your main profile.

    This also raises the ethical issue of who owns your AuthorRank. If you work for a company, can they compel you to use your online reputation to promote their agenda, even if it risks impacting your AuthorRank? I’m already starting to see this issue come up with Google+ profiles and rel=author.

  23. AJ Kohn // April 02nd 2012

    Those are good questions Takeshi.

    If your comments and contributions are being measured I think you may see people using alternate profiles for some activities. That’s not really new but it could become more thoughtful.

    The question around Authorship and AuthorRank as it pertains to publishers is one that has come up a number of times with clients. I think the rise of Authorship means that authors have slightly more control and can point to these implications when they feel they’re being asked to compromise their integrity. There are also issues of what happens when an author leaves one publisher and moves to another.

    Sometimes those transitions can be contentious so the author could conceivably remove the link on their Google+ profile and remove Authorship from that publication. Now, that’s a bit like cutting off your nose to spite the face but I can see some people doing this. I agree that there are a lot of things to think about in terms of the author publisher relationship.

  24. Bill Slawski // April 01st 2012

    Hi AJ,

    Thanks. I hadn’t seen the Web Intents project before, and it would be interesting if Google does include it within Google Chrome. The Google Toolbar also has some sharing capabilities which could be tracked as well, though I have no idea how often people use those.

    The iPhone app that Katango developed for Facebook looked at social activities of connections, and clustered those connections by topics. That kind of topical clustering seems to fit in with different reputation scores based upon topics.

    Using the syndication meta data in Google News seems like an opportunity to try it out and test it in a much smaller corpus of documents, and when Google announced authorship markup at the Official Google Blog, they noted that they had worked with a number of news sources to set up authorship with those as well. Not sure how much Google might have looked into syndication of reviews or comments, and I can’t say that I’ve given much thought to those either, but when Google used the term Agent, they were referring to many different types of roles, from authors of pages and posts, to editors, to advertisers, to people writing reviews and forum threads, and more.

    Agent Rank is described in the original agent rank patent as being a query independent system like PageRank, and I’m not sure how much weight different authors in different roles might add to a page, and if those different contributions might be additive or multiplicative or calculated in some other manner.

    How close might Google be to testing a version of author rank? Google seems to have many of the pieces in place that might be used when ranking content for social search, and in some ways Google News as well based upon some elements of authorship. The Agent rank patent does mention that some Agent Rank weights might be calculated for pages where there is no digital signature for authors on those pages. I don’t quite know how that would be calculated, but it does seem to be something that Google would want to find a way to include.

  25. AJ Kohn // April 02nd 2012

    Yes Bill, the Web Intents project is very interesting. I’ve heard rumblings that something will be surfacing in Chrome soon. Whether that gets any type of adoption is another story. But I like the idea from a user experience perspective and it clearly could provide a rich source of data for Google.

    I agree regarding Katango. Their technology would dovetail nicely with the Activity Streams framework that Google currently uses for social activity.

    Google does have much of this already in place and I believe they’re becoming more satisfied with their digital signature (Authorship), which means they’ll be moving onto how to use that for ranking purposes. My read on the calculation of pages without a digital signature is that they’ll use the AuthorRank of links to that content to calculate a score. So if numerous people with high AuthorRank cite a piece of non-authored content it will accumulate some sort of AuthorRank of its own.

  26. Terry Simmonds // April 02nd 2012

    Sorry, haven’t read through all comments completely so apologies if this has been mentioned previously.

    I’ve thought for some time that Google must move away from just ranking sites on links and start using the Delegated authority evaluation system –

    This combined with the data they get from Google+, Google analytics, other Google services and even traffic generated by their results pages must be more trustworthy than just a link from a website?

    If you go in to the code on Google+ pages and see all the hidden parameters built in to any links leaving Google+ they must be monitoring these links and possibly using them for evaluation purposes.

    2 years ago I had numerous online identities and hid my footprints, not anymore, everything I do now is in my own name, I interact with Google under my name as much as possible and claim all my content. I see this as the way forward.

  27. AJ Kohn // April 03rd 2012


    Thanks for the comments and the patent link. Google does love data, so I agree that they’re mining Google+ (not Google Analytics though) to help it understand what is truly meaningful and valuable. And the Google+ Activity API gives us a glimpse of what, and how it might be used. The steps you’ve taken, collapsing your identities into one, is recommended if you want your content and interactions to ‘count’ moving forward.

  28. Arnie Kuenn // April 02nd 2012

    First – GREAT article and comments. But I am very surprised no one is talking about Publisher Rank. As a business owner and agency, I voiced the concern over Author Rank being all about the individual. Google finally added it, but no one talks about it. Here is a link to an article on Publisher Rank.

  29. AJ Kohn // April 03rd 2012


    Thanks for the comment and thoughts on Publisher Rank. In general, Agent Rank could apply to publishers. In essence they could be a type of Author. Clearly, it’s a bit different but there are references to an agent who owns and controls a site. (It’s one of the reasons they may have chosen the agent verbiage.)

    The rel=publisher mark-up could be used in this way, but research and discussions lead me to believe it’s main (if not only) function is to confirm the Google+ Page. Granted, that seems un-Googly so perhaps they will leverage it for other purposes. Definitely something to keep an eye on.

  30. Barry Adams // April 03rd 2012

    Great analysis AJ. I do think Google wants to use AuthorRank as often as it can, especially to validate the value of specific types of content (such as the reviews you mention).

    I do however think the biggest problem with AuthorRank is that it won’t be scalable. it’ll be applicable to a wide range of websites, but there will be vast swaths of the web that will never implement anything like rel=author, simply because these companies don’t have any high profile content generators – nor do they want to go down that path.

    That’s not just the case for small (industrial) businesses but also – if not especially – for large multinationals. So while it does have its applications, I don’t think Google can ever afford to make it a dominant part of their ranking algos.

  31. AJ Kohn // April 03rd 2012


    Thanks for the comment and analysis. I too thought the same way until I re-read the Agent Rank patent. A digital signature need not be applied to a piece of content for it to accumulate AuthorRank. Each link to that site now comes with AuthorRank meta data. So, if people with expertise (and high AuthorRank) link to that piece of content or site, then it will begin to accumulate AuthorRank, even without a viable digital signature.

    Essentially, AuthorRank would allow Google to use experts to curate the web of links.

    But, to your point, that still requires that a large number of content creators and experts implement a digital signature. This is the reason we’ve seen Google give us about 14 different ways to claim authorship. In fact, they haven’t stopped iterating with the latest email confirmation method (Option 1) making it even easier to do so.

    So, to me, the question is at what rate of coverage or adoption does AuthorRank begin to work? My experience in using people as filters on FriendFeed makes me believe the rate of coverage need not be too high for AuthorRank to work.

  32. Barry Adams // April 03rd 2012

    Thanks for your reply AJ. Good to know that AuthorRank passes value in a similar way to PageRank.

    Thinking about this, I’m somewhat worried though that this will skew SERPs to favour the preferences of a relatively small group of people that Google sees as experts – a self-selected group of technologically savvy webheads, I imagine.

    This might turn the search engine in to a curated filter bubble, where content that is not preferred by people Google sees as experts doesn’t get much visibility.

    Also, come to think of it, it would revolve around people using Google+. And that is, I think, it’s Achilles heel.

  33. AJ Kohn // April 03rd 2012

    As they say Barry, with great power comes great responsibility. But the calculation of AuthorRank would be based on the analysis of activity, engagement, endorsement and sentiment (to name a few). So I don’t think it’ll necessarily be just the Internati who accrue AuthorRank, but it does take some amount of Internet engagement. So, the plumber who answers on Yahoo! Answers and perhaps even Fixya may have a high AuthorRank on plumbing. The plumber who doesn’t go online … won’t. But there’s no real way around that as far as I can tell.

    Google+ is the identity platform for Google and they’re certainly interested in using engagement on their own platform but they’ll want to use others too. Right now it’s a question of how confidently they can use other sources. Do they know that this is really you? A Google commenting system would help improve confidence in many comments. But they clearly want to track and understand authored content on many other platforms. It’s why they bought PostRank and SocialGrapple among others.

    It again comes down to confidence in those identities. I’m not sure exactly how they’ll resolve this. Google already knows a huge amount about your public social graph. It’ll suggest other profiles for you. So, perhaps they simply use this additional third-party data but weight it slightly less.

    Either way, I’m glad there are smart folks like you to challenge my analysis and assumptions. Good debate always leads to better understanding.

  34. Terry Simmonds // April 03rd 2012


    In my opinion if Google manualy select who the delegated authorities or the authoritive authors are they will open themselves up to all sorts of anti competitive claims, whatever they do, must be done via the automated algortithms.

    Will this still lead to “a self-selected group of technologically savvy webheads”?
    Probably, but Google can say it is a result of the system rather than any manual intervention.

  35. Michael // April 03rd 2012

    Instead of selling links you can sell your endorsement.
    Much more valuable and you control the content.

  36. AJ Kohn // April 04th 2012


    Selling your endorsement or engagement is the likely way many will try to game AuthorRank. It carries a substantial amount of risk though. You’re putting your reputation (your identity) on the line. And your engagement and activity patterns are more set than you might think. Think about your own Internet routines and where you choose to engage? I’ll be surprised if many don’t get into an established routine or rut.

    So small deviations from that routine may not be suspicious but commenting and linking to new sites with far greater frequency might. As with paid links right now, the ones that are relevant often don’t get dinged because it’s tough to uncover, but do too much or go too far afield in topic and you’ll feel the consequences.

  37. Jeff // April 03rd 2012

    This might be fine for blogs, news sites etc. But what about your local plummer, or the car parts distribution company, or any other raft of boring (for most people) topics/niches. Surely Google doesn’t expect everyone to signup and start “posting” blog posts or publishing white papers as the authority voice for their vocation…..?

  38. AJ Kohn // April 04th 2012


    Well, yes and no. There’s almost always someone (lots of someones actually) from these boring niches who are online. Vastly less than in other verticals but they’re around. In fact, it’s those people who in my experience are extremely passionate and should have high AuthorRank. There are plumbers who go online and answer questions and give advice. And remember that people with AuthorRank can transfer some of that to sites without Authorship via links. So if you’re well respected but don’t engage or interact you can still accumulate AuthorRank through the links from highly ranked authors.

    But, you do raise an interesting question about local. The local plumber might not have AuthorRank. In fact, none of the local plumbers might in a certain geography. But that’s where the local results take over I think. General information about plumbing would give you results based on AuthorRank (among a vast other number of signals.) But if your query intent was local you’d still get the list of local plumbers via Google Places.

  39. Jonathan Leger // April 03rd 2012

    Sorry to be a naysayer here, but the minute Google puts this supposed AuthorRank into the search algorithm the dark-side SEOers will start aiming links from their spam content to their competitors’ Google+ profiles, claiming them as the author.

    If it’s easier to lose AuthorRank than to gain it, why would the dark-side SEOers bother to try and gain AuthorRank (hard) rather than just shoot down the competition’s (easy)?

    Then it would come down to Google having to figure out which content contains legit author links versus spam author links. But Google isn’t doing a good job of determining quality versus trash content now, so why should we believe they’ll suddenly do a better job then?

    To make matters more difficult for Google, Google+ currently has 90 million users (, compared to Facebook’s ACTIVE user count of 845 million ( How many of the Google+ users are actually active users? Who knows.

    Google has a huge amount of catching up to do in the Social Networking field before they can even dream of including something like AuthorRank, which would have to be ubiquitous to be very useful in the search results. And once they do catch up (if they can) then the dark-side SEOers will gladly open the floodgates of AuthorRank spamming.

    My 2c.

  40. AJ Kohn // April 04th 2012


    I’m glad there are naysayers out there and appreciate your comments. However, spoofing authorship is quite difficult. It requires bidirectional links (a handshake) between the authored content and the Google+ profile. The only way you could link bad content to an author is if the author then linked to that domain. And who’s going to do that? The only real way to do this would be through a malware (JS injection) attack on a site for which that author already has content. And it’s going to be pretty obvious when this happens, right?

    This is something that the Authorship team has been working on and thinking about in relation to the use of digital signatures. Unlike PageRank, they know people will be trying to manipulate AuthorRank.

    The ubiquity of Google+ will certainly help the fidelity of AuthorRank but isn’t necessarily a constraining factor. You can accumulate AuthorRank without having authorship via the links from highly ranked authors. So it’s not a closed system. And while activity on Google+ might be weighted more heavily Google wants to track your activity and engagement on multiple platforms. Your comments (on blogs), your reviews, your answers (on Quora etc.), your updates (on Twitter), your photos (on Flickr and Pinterest), your bookmarks (on Delicious), your endorsements (on HackerNews) etc. etc.

    Google already knows a lot about your public social graph. It probably wants to be more confident in those relations but the data is there and the teams from PostRank and SocialGrapple are mining it.

  41. Kevin // April 05th 2012

    Absolutely great article.

    It will be interesting to see how they’ll treat rel=publisher. I hope it won’t be ignored.

  42. AJ Kohn // April 06th 2012

    Thanks Kevin. I’m interested as to how rel=publisher will fit into things as well. It’s a different type of agent, so it potentially could be used. Time will tell.

  43. Kaj Kandler // April 05th 2012

    A few days back you explored the menace of ‘Benign Scrapers‘. Isn’t Google+ Author verification useful to differentiate the original (authorship verified) content from the scraped copy?

  44. AJ Kohn // April 06th 2012


    Indeed, Authorship can be used to help identify the true author of content, reducing the impact of scrapers and outright plagiarism.

  45. Nikolay // April 05th 2012

    This will be just the new era of SEO. Before it was Blog Networks and Article submissions, now it will be social media and above all Google+, it is just a cat and mouse game and will always be so.

  46. AJ Kohn // April 06th 2012

    I appreciate the comment Nikolay. But I disagree with the notion that it’s a cat and mouse game. Of course it may feel that way if you choose to engage in tactics like blog networks, article submissions and article spinning.

  47. Ryan Chooai // April 05th 2012

    Great post, AJ.

    Now I’m wondering what are a search engine’s anti-spam approaches for author rank.

    For example, comments and reviews can be easily faked. I can fake comments from reputable figures on my own blog, simply using their names and websites.

    What’s worse, this can also be used to harm someone’s author rank, since “gaining AuthorRank is difficult but losing it is quite easy” – I can fake your name and website, commenting on low-quality content with short and meaningless comments.

    The phrase “digital signature” shows up 88 times in total in the patent you referenced – I guess that’s the key here.

    The digital signature for a content owner can be explicit, like Google+ and the rel=”me” attribute, but this seems a lot harder for user generated content, like comments and reviews.

  48. AJ Kohn // April 06th 2012


    You’ve answered your own question! It is all about that ‘digital signature’.

    So, right now Google isn’t confident in using user generated content because they can’t verify identity. The rumored Google Commenting product would likely solve that for comments (in which the product was installed). Outside of that, Google would need to provide some sort of way to create a bi-directional link between third-party sites and services (i.e. – Yelp, Quora etc.) so that identity can be confirmed.

  49. coryj // April 06th 2012

    On that note, just the other day I was talking to an SEO firm who claimed to be white hat, but suggested creating a “super writer” who really didn’t exist solely for the purpose of trying to game author rank.

    What is going to happen is you’ll have an elite groups of guys like Pete Cashmore or Rand Fishkin who have large audiences and know this stuff. You’ll then have a lower tier of black hat spammers who are doing whatever it takes to game the algorithm, and finally you’ll have all the other small business owners who have no idea what is going on given that the you need to be doing this full time to keep up to all the changes.

  50. AJ Kohn // April 22nd 2012


    I’ve seen quite a bit of chatter and FUD around the idea of ‘fake authors’ being used to game AuthorRank. What many seem to miss is that authorship is based on identity. Not just that this ‘person’ has a Google+ Profile but that they have a history. They’ll need to have other social profiles and be active on those profiles. They may even look at other profile information like employment and education. So, the idea that you can create fictional personas to game the system doesn’t hold water.

    I have a far more optimistic view of things. AuthorRank is a hierarchy so Rand will have quite a bit of influence. And there will be many who have no clue about how this works, but that’s not uncommon.

    But there should be a large number of people in the middle who simply want to claim their content as their own. They’ll simply continue to produce and engage without worrying about the stuff we SEOs worry about. Perhaps they’ll be more cognizant of what they write or how often they engage but I don’t think we’re going to see most mainstream writers doing unnatural things in this arena.

    The people who always look to ‘game’ the system will try to game AuthorRank. I think Google is anticipating and preparing for this, unlike the rollout of PageRank.

  51. Bryant Jaquez // April 07th 2012

    AJ, thanks for writing this. Your article is probably the best piece i’ve read on Author Authority. Good work.

  52. Ricky Shah // April 12th 2012

    It could be much more disruptive than you think. How about new writer who just arrived in the industry? How will google trust them? On what bases the author-rank will be counted in such cases?

    Too much dependency on Google+ or Author rank will surely hurt the entire industry as spammers will get yet another weapon to defeat Google.

    Do you see how MMO niche work? They have a great reach. Most of the people scratch each other’s back. This is an excellent example why engagement should not be considered as a ranking signal.

  53. Andrea // April 13th 2012

    @Ricky Shah in a real world new writer or new website must work hard and harder to be visible.

    Anybody can wake up in the morning and become a super star.

    Anybody can create a website and build a great link profile.

    Google not only use engagement, but a mix of various factors and this is the correct way of changing rankings.

  54. AJ Kohn // April 22nd 2012

    I agree with Andrea here in response to Ricky. New writers will need to work hard and prove themselves. That’s nothing new really.

    The backscratching scenario is actually pretty easy to spot if you begin to analyze engagement. Getting engagement (thin engagement too) from the same people again and again won’t translate into a high AuthorRank. It may provide some measure of influence but if those shares don’t go anywhere, if the downstream engagement (aka Ripples) are few and far between then it will mean very little.

    As Andrea says, all of this will be used in conjunction with a myriad of other signals. Checks and balances.

  55. SEO MAnager // April 17th 2012

    Well it looks like this is coming faster than you think. Google removed the Author stats from webmaster tools yesterday. That usually signifies they are going to use it in the algorithm if they haven’t already.

    Thanks for the write up AJ. Looks like its time to start testing.

  56. AJ Kohn // April 22nd 2012


    Author Stats were removed from Webmaster Tools because of a bug they found in how it was tracking impressions. I expect it will be reintegrated back into Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics as soon as the bug is fixed.

  57. Kari // April 20th 2012

    Is it possible to make a Google+ Page as a author, instead of a person?

  58. AJ Kohn // April 22nd 2012


    No, you can’t use a Google+ Page to confirm authorship, only a personal profile.

  59. Kari // April 22nd 2012

    Hi, so can not use company google+ page as author?

  60. Kenneth Ashe // April 29th 2012

    Great info. This completely changes the game. It will make it harder to rank through spam which is good. I just hope that bloggers will still be able to rank well against newspapers and news sites.

  61. morrisjfwong // May 11th 2012

    Thanks for these introduction on Author Authority. To have clear identification from others will be good, but to have that as a score/number/ranking maybe not.

  62. Marius // June 11th 2012

    What will stop me to grab a rel=”author” an put it on my site?

  63. AJ Kohn // June 11th 2012

    Not sure what you’re asking here Marius. If you’re wondering how you can grab someone else’s authorship, that’s tough because you still need the Google+ profile to point back to that domain. Bi-directional confirmation is in place for authorship verification.

  64. Dr Ian Smith // June 29th 2012

    The most comprehensive and understandable piece of work I have read on the subject. There is no doubt your statement “Could AuthorRank be bigger than Panda? Absolutely!” is correct.

  65. Dr Ian Smith // June 29th 2012

    Marius // June 11th 2012

    What will stop me to grab a rel=”author” an put it on my site?

    The process involves setting up a link from your Google+ account to your site AND vice versa.
    Quite a neat verification process.
    You would not want to grab a 3rd party’s rel-author for YOUR site and give him credibility for your site?

  66. Macca // August 07th 2012

    Great original post that I’m just referring back too, what I dont get about the “Author Rank” is that we have both personal and a company G+ profile. If we have a team of writers some employed & some contracted that provide some of our content how can we as a business take the rank, ownership and any potential juice if all the content is tagged back to individual level? and potentially to individuals who may leave the company in the future.

    In serps Id much prefer out business G+ avatar/icon to be alongside search results than an individual.

    Shouldnt there be another level of author rank at company/website level that we can tie back to our business profile on G+?

    Seems like a grey area unless I’ve missed something.

  67. Dr Ian Smith // August 07th 2012

    “If we have a team of writers some employed & some contracted that provide some of our content how can we as a business take the rank, ownership and any potential juice if all the content is tagged back to individual level? and potentially to individuals who may leave the company in the future.”

    I agree Macca. A problem for larger corporations.
    I suppose the answer is to ensure the copy is put up as your own and linked to your own Google+ account.
    Remember though, that the ‘page’ will still be getting pagerank, even though the ‘author’ will be getting authorrank. Maybe that is indeed a fairer system?????

  68. Ray // September 02nd 2012

    Sorry, but I read the agent rank patent and could not found anything about a role of social signals at the building of the rank. Neither could I find a phrase that binded identity to an author tag. As far as I remember the patent speaks about the signature beyond an existent person. If the program can´t find any mention of an author close to the text it simply tries to find him in the imprints or the logfile data. But maybe I missunderstood.

  69. Mariusz // September 03rd 2012

    Is there any possibility to measure Author Rank? Do you know any tool for such of analysis?

  70. Chavi // September 05th 2012


    I’m pretty sure there is no official measure of AuthorRank the way there used to be for PageRank.
    Tom Anthony from Distilled made a tool called AuthorCrawler. It’s meant to be used for finding link-building opportunities but it can be used for tracking authors and their content in other ways as well.

  71. Todd McDonald // October 05th 2012

    Awesome article AJ thanks for taking the time to build it. I think it ties nicely into what we’re starting to see/read about knowledge graph/entities/aspects in search. Your article got me wondering, do you think businesses could be seen as author’s or would it be limited to individuals? My reaction is businesses/organizations could fit that bill, and again, it would tie nicely to the knowledge graph concept.

    Great stuff!

  72. AJ Kohn // October 24th 2012

    Thanks Todd.

    Both people and sites are entities in my opinion. But I don’t think that Authorship will be applied to businesses. A person produces content, not a company or brand. What might happen, though, is that the value of the authors may roll-up to the business.

  73. Don Sturgill // October 16th 2012

    AJ, following you makes my head hurt–in a good way. You make me think, and that is the hardest work there is. Thanks for diving in deep so your readers can benefit from the diamonds.

  74. AJ Kohn // October 24th 2012


    Thank you very much for the kind words and feedback. I try very hard to deliver something that’s valuable and thought-provoking.

  75. Dana Tan // October 17th 2012

    AJ I have to say ever since attending you presentation at MozCon 2012 I’ve been a total Google+ convert. If you’d told me a year ago I’d spend any of my breath extolling the virtues of Google+ I would have laughed at you (especially after all the talk about women not being on Google+). But, here I am, telling people at my company who write for the blog that they absolutely must must must be on Google+ if they want to continue writing posts.

    Question: Do you think that Google+ was founded on a faulty premise? The premise being that all anyone does on the Web is author things. An e-commerce site is certainly “written” but not like a book or an article is written. It seems Google+ in some cases is trying to pound square pegs into round holes. The Web isn’t just a library. It’s stores, apps, games, media, entertainment and in some cases even a weapon. For example, how would authorship come into play for content created in Second Life?

  76. AJ Kohn // October 24th 2012


    Thank you for the kind words and I’m glad that you’re seeing value in Google+.

    Well, Google+ and Authorship are two different animals though they do converge. I’d say that Authorship does not apply to everything. So a product page doesn’t merit Authorship. However, in the original Agent Rank patent there is a clear idea of having multiple agents per page. For something like eCommerce this might mean that each review would have Authorship attached. The snag is how to authenticate those users.

    As for other forms of content, I think you’d have to adapt the way it’s marked-up and authenticated. Whether it’s photos, videos or music some sort of digital signature is necessary and we’re not quite there yet. Text is the easiest and most ubiquitous form of content, so it makes sense for Google to start there, but I would hope it would extend to other content types over time.

  77. Dr Ian Smith // October 24th 2012

    “But I don’t think that Authorship will be applied to businesses.”

    I would disagree here. It is a principle that will apply to all websites – and blog writers need to shift their mental approach away from the thought that only bloggers produce web content.
    Corporations produce a ton of content – regularly.

  78. AJ Kohn // October 24th 2012

    We’ll have to agree to disagree Ian. The business does not type out a blog post or film a video or take a picture. People working at that business do so.

    I’d argue that the shift here is that the relationship between employee and employer is changing. We already know this to a large extent since people rarely work for the same company for 30 years as was the relative norm just a few decades before.

    Those companies who unlock and get behind the power of their employees will reap the rewards of Authorship. The AuthorRank of their employees will reflect back on the business in aggregate. Businesses will be the beneficiary of Authorship but are not Authors themselves (outside of a Charles Stross novel.)

  79. Dr Ian Smith // October 28th 2012

    “We’ll have to agree to disagree Ian. The business does not type out a blog post or film a video or take a picture. People working at that business do so. ”

    I agree on this point. And its an area where considerable thought/planning needs to go into how larger companies deal with this new system. But companies are generating masses of information and there are ‘authors’ writing it, and these companies will acquire greater respectability as a consequence. Authorship is for all of us. Just figure out how to manage it.

  80. Todd McDonald // November 02nd 2012

    If the theory that it won’t apply to businesses is true…talk about an interesting way to improve your value as an employee. If you are a known author online in a field and your work carries all the benefits that go with that…could be huge for a business to have you producing content in association with them.

    The traditional value of an education/advanced degree’s may change. Sure those people have the knowledge, but if they don’t capitalize correctly online, someone who’s savvy in that area with far less true knowledge could be the value holder. Guess that’s how the world works to some degree now anyway :)

  81. Richard Brokenshire // November 16th 2012

    Great. I just learned how to blog about a year ago and I think I have the hang of it now. Then Google releases the black and whites to “get” the ranking manipulators. That didn’t bother me so much. I didn’t really understand it anyway. Now I’m hearing the rumblings of a new earthquake coming. AuthorRank? Great more to worry about. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like AuthorRank can be manipulated as well. If Google wants content to be shared, can’t you pay someone to share it? Or They want to see how many Circles you are in, can’t you pay to get into a bunch of Circles? People that know how to play Google’s games will always do better than the rest of us. No matter how good the content is. I’ve read a lot of really great content out there that will never rank. Not because it’s not good but because the author doesn’t play the game very well.

  82. Nadeem Khan // November 29th 2012

    As far as I have read on some sources, the rate of getting new +1s would be more important than the number of +1s themselves – both at post and domain level !

  83. AJ Kohn // November 29th 2012


    In general I think +1s are the least important of the factors that will wind up used toward an AuthorRank algorithm. If they are used, quantity and recency will likely matter less than who granted those +1s.

  84. Pranesh // January 05th 2013

    Google’s algorithm is getting too smart almost impossible to manipulate or take advantage of certain logics for better ranking. Even the points given in this post is just an information of what going on. One has to earn both page rank and author rank and there is no short cuts.

    Soon the term SEO will be “Do the basics right and learn the basics”. No room for black hats…

  85. web sitesi // January 24th 2013

    I’d be surprised if Google publicly revealed AuthorRank after the issues they’ve had dealing with the public nature of PageRank.

  86. Maralyn Hill // February 11th 2013

    Great article and description.

  87. Mary E. Ulrich // February 12th 2013

    Fascinating and informational, but this makes me want to despair because it seems impossible to anyone but an expert, certainly not a beginner.

    I appreciate your examples, but are you saying I can up my rank by answering questions on

  88. AJ Kohn // March 06th 2013


    The mark-up to get Authorship up and running can be daunting for a beginner but with a bit of effort can work. Right now answering questions on probably wouldn’t help since the individual answers don’t seem to have Authorship mark-up. Instead the supervisor for that section of the site is credited with Authorship. However, I’m not sure Google is fully recognizing that now and I don’t seem them presenting it in search results.

    Instead, I’d invest in developing content on sites that you control first.

  89. M Shah // February 16th 2013

    Has authorrank been used as anticipated?

    Also, how would websites take advantage of authorrank vs. individuals? For example, a form like outs – what is the best way to use author rank?

  90. AJ Kohn // March 06th 2013

    M Shah,

    AuthorRank is simply a theory at this point and something I believe they’d like to implement but haven’t as of yet. Sites can still use rel=publisher and participate on Google+ with great effect now. In the future, they may benefit from the aggregated AuthorRank of content under that site or mentions of the site/brand on Google+ and elsewhere. But all of the latter is still speculation.

  91. Tarun Gehani // March 15th 2013

    Great write-up! Thanks! I especially love the quote, “Confidence in identity is the cornerstone, perhaps even a prerequisite, to using social signals in search.”

    It’ll be interesting to see where Google goes with this and how long it takes to affect search rankings (and click-throughs).

  92. Russ Chaplin // January 19th 2014

    This article clears up a lot of questions for me. If you write in quite a narrow niche like I do then it would be very difficult to get a lot of social shares even if your content is of a high quality.

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