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Author Rank Confirmed by Google Chairman?

This may be the biggest news I've broken on Google+ in a long time. Read my post below from the Google Authorship and Author Rank community. And ignore the Tech Crunch linkbait headline in their article. As I discuss, they bury the real headline with no comprehension of the magnitude of what Schmidt has said.

#authorship #authorrank #Googleauthorship #googleauthorrank
Has Eric Scmidt Just Confirmed Author Rank?

It's been some time since we've had any public statement from a Google employee on Google Authorship becoming a major ranking factor in search results.

Until now.

In his upcoming book The Digital Age, according to +TechCrunch, Schmidt says the following:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

This is the clearest affirmation of author rank I have heard since +Othar Hansson's answer to +Matt Cutts' question in the introductory video on Authorship back in 2011.

Mike Arnesen's profile photoNishant Soni's profile photoDave Keys's profile photoMark Traphagen's profile photo
Thanks +Mark Traphagen 
Hypothetically, if you were a G+ Mutant and you shared your own G+ post on G+ would that make it rank super high for keywords mentioned in both posts? :D
How long til we notice a marked effect I wonder?

...and more to the point, how can I prod my profile to verified status?  :)
If you're at all interested in this topic, I urge you to join our Google Authorship and Author Rank Community. I'm on mobile and can't link to it, but just search with the Communities filter and you'll find us.

People are already worried about getting the coveted "check mark" verification on their profiles (which you can't even ask for; Google just decides to give it to you in their infinite wisdom). Let me say this as clearly as i can:

Schmidt is not talking about check mark verification.

It's unfortunate that he used the word "verified" because it's causing many people to jump to the conclusion that he means check marked profiles. But if that were true they would be the only ones getting authorship snippets in SERPs.

No, I'm quite certain he means verified authorship, which is something quite different. This is properly connecting your G+ profile to your online content and linking back from the content, establishing a two-way connection that Google even has a tool to verify for you. You can learn all about how to do that in the "Authorship 101" category at our Community.
What about content such as wikis or referential information that has more than 1 author? How would google treat those?
Thanks for linking +Rupert Wood I'm back on desktop now. And I should have created a custom bitly for that long ago. Duh!

+Henley Wing one of the things that we think may be delaying the implementation of Author Rank is problems like those you've outlined. There are a number of different types of content that can't yet be linked to Authorship, and Google has so far come out with no solution for multi-authored content.
Thank you Mark. What I LOVE about Author Rank is how it changes the gaming the Google system mentality and pushes publishers back into their natural role of being content creators striving towards audience engagement. Both are necessary for validation and together they build the foundation of the next generation of Google search results.

Basically, Google is flipping the SEO script and returning everyone to a higher level of authenticity. Genius!
Well said +Todd Hartley. For years the running joke among SEOs has been that Google tells you to do one thing but incentivizes it's exact opposite. This will finally be Google incentivizing what it has said all along: that the best, most trusted content produced by authors who know what they are talking about should rank highest.
And +Mark Traphagen that means the center of the industry is no longer controlled/manipulated by search optimization.  The people who now control this industry are the very best content creators/audience engagement experts. That's a huge sea-change.
I have to admit +Thomas Finley I was getting a little sweaty under the collar about it ;-) Google promoted this so much early on, and then except for the occasional passing mention, seemed to be letting it languish. I was beginning to fear that we'd made people all excited about something that might never happen, or might be very minimal in its impact.

Schmidt's statement for me, ends all that speculation. I can breathe again ;-) 
Indeed the people who have been deceiving search are about to be undone... now for those that truly know their stuff to get the attention / recognition they deserve... huge c-change! +Mark Traphagen 
+Mark Traphagen congratulations.  I personally could see your continuing efforts to explain this subject so it is great to see this coming out.  My next step is to get in done properly for myself.
Yup +Todd Hartley it is very good news... and very well received on the G+ workshop recently delivered here in the Uk... everyone agrees that it is a much fairer playing field... everyone can create content and demonstrate their expertise... not everyone has the time, energy of technical competence to learn how to get around search algorithms... that was always a flawed approach... now it is authentic and what you do is what you get... well done Google for creating the platform to enable it to take place... game changer! +Mark Traphagen 
Now that my heart rate has returned to normal...

I think we need to balance this great news with a little hard, cold reality. While this seems to confirm the intent of Google to implement Author Rank (or something very much like it), we may still be some distance in time from the actual implementation. Those of us who watch Authorship closely know that there is still a lot about it that is wonky and just plain broken. Misattribution, while not common, happens. It is still hard for people to find out how to implement it for their content. And many areas do not yet have an Authorship solution, such as multi-authored content. 

Google is going to want this to be a good, reliable signal, and unfortunately it looks like they have a long way to go yet to get it there.
Perhaps a gradual implementation is reality. Perhaps that's already underway?
+Dave Keys I'm among those who believe it has been thrown into the mix and is being tested, but still in small ways. Can't prove it, just my spidey sense from things I've seen.
Thank you +Mark Traphagen . For someone like me who knows little about the technical side of seo this seems a lot more honest and true knowledge and sharing will rise to the top as it should 
To me, this is obvious. It helps you specify authorship directly to Google and immediately tells Google all other sites with that content are scraping. It's just another way to tackle scraper crap.
I like this version of events where authorship is the key to solving all Google's problems and can't ever be possibly gamed. 

I can guarantee you, someone out there will figure out a way to game authorrank, just like PageRank was pretty quickly cracked back in the day. Hell, I've got a few ideas, and I'm hardly the smiling face of blackhatworld.

Also, for everyone posting here, I'd caution enthusiasm on this topic. Just by virtue of being here, Google can now say with a degree of confidence that your 'an SEO''. They certainly know that I am, hence why Rand Fiskins smiling mug appears on every third banner ad on the internet. (Which is a real buzzkill when your trying to watch porn, btw) It's not too hard to imagine a world where anything I write that is attached to this account, no matter how valid or 'quality', is devalued purely because I am in a profession that Google understandably isn't particularly affectionate towards.

Authorank has the potential to be a  genuinely useful signal that improves the quality of results. It also has some severe censorship implications, and might result in personalised echo chambers where the reader is never exposed to alternate viewpoints or, indeed, anything outside their comfort zone.

Besides, too much social data is currently tied up in Facebook for it to be a huge signal at present, and FB are in bed with Bing for the forseeable future.

I'm gonna hold my praise until I understand its implementation, and I suggest you do too. Authorrank has the potential to be great. It also has the potential to be outright evil. 
Michael Curtis (doesn't deserve my mention) you are the very reseaon author rank will work. Shady characters cannot bennifit from author rank.
Wow. Assumptions and aggression outta nowhere. 

I'm not a blackhatter, for the record. I work with brands, and building long term brands on those sorts of short-term tactics is just not a viable long term strategy. Never has been, even when blackhat was effective.    

But, not everyone's looking to build a brand. Some people are looking to make an easy buck, and my point is that if I'm coming up with potential exploits for authorank, then the folk who make their living that way sure as hell have some tricks figured out.

Please keep the conversation civil. Just because I have a different take on the situation to you doesn't mean throwing insults and calling me a 'shady character' is ok.
This is unfortunately terrible news outside the marketing community.  I'm a former VP/Marketing of an Inc1000 company -- but also the former execdir of an international human rights NGO in free speech/journalism issues.

Ponder Google's new search policy in relationship to political controversies in the Arab Spring and you'll see the problem immediately.

A member of the Syrian resistance isn't going to set up his or her Google Wallet and expose name and address to Schmidt -- and Assad (who, you know, owns the telecoms there) -- in order to get page rank.  

From the online human rights point of view?  "I felt a great disturbance  online, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened."

Google's new motto:  "Don't be evil -- just enable it."

Everything online isn't about marketing, you know.  It can sometimes seem that way -- that the content is just there to, you know, sell things?  But to many of us it's the other way around.  Selling things allows all the content to flourish.  Don't stunt the ecosystem, one for the other.
What about sites that put the rel=author link somewhere on the homepage (e.g., "Page edited by __") - does this have an effect on rankings? I'm seeing a competitor of the company I work for jump ahead of us lately and I'm wondering if that's the reason. They have an authorship associated with their homepage and we don't. If that is in fact what's driving their ranking, isn't it gaming the system a little bit to stick that link on the homepage of all places? 
I think when Schmidt says verified he means he has your Google Wallet all set up along with a Google Profile with a real name.

It's the "identity network" -- that's what he needs to pay Google's bills, by selling you to his actual clients who are marketing companies.  

That's how Google can make so many free services.  Add revenue, and increasingly, selling not only aggregate but specific information in places where that's legal, in all likelihood.

I predicted that something like the Google Play store was in the works when they started defending the G+ "real names" policy -- because studies show that real names on a social network do not improve civility.  So when a commercial company promotes that, it's a red herring.  What is the probable motivation then?  A profit motive.  Selling content and apps.  I predicted this in spring of 2011.  And I was right.

And of course, giving your information to law enforcement or DHS or equivalent in case of bad behavior has been toward the top of their list since Orkut.  That's another motivation toward having any pseudonym tied to a single Google Profile tied to a real name tied to a verified identity.

It's chilling for various non-financial uses of information, but that's not the responsibility to shareholders, is it?

"Don't be evil" doesn't include sins of omission.
Honored you used my quote, Mark, thanks!  

Just as a note, I found your entry here using the Google Ripples on the TechCrunch article, looking for influencers who posted it -- you were at the heart of a bunch of shares. ;)  Social media in action!

Good to know you!  (I'm also a former Durhamite, btw -- my son was born there and I used to live in Forest Hills -- was on the staff at UNC/CH back in the early 90s, when we launched as one of the very first sites on the web, and my son's baby picture is on the sunsite/ibibio archives ;).
Nice to get to know you a tiny bit better +Shava Nerad! We moved to Durham four years ago and love it here.
I miss the Bulls games and more than a few things about the Triangle.  

I was just thinking about one of the old-become-new marketing institutions down in NC (Charlotte area actually) this week, hearing that Muzak is no more and reborn, and wondering if they are doing neuromarketing research and finding that, sure enough, they are!  

Seemed like it would be up their alley -- they were always far more sophisticated than anyone would have guessed in their research, omg!  Check the company out!  Fascinating folks...

Brave new world, all over the place.  Scent marketing with neuromarketing...  I bet that digs a little deeper than apple pie  candles in a house up for sale...

Hard to keep up with how we should think about each little piece of what we are doing to influence how people think in each subtle way.  Propagation and propa-ganda and viral marketing, neuromarketing and transmedia and political campaigns, all using the same essential techniques to convince people what is real and create lenses of desire.

It's very tricky territory, isn't it?  I learned to be an ace marketer from being an arch critic of the art growing up, as my father was a minister who was skeptical of materialist culture.  There is no better hone to a blade than a stone meant to break it.  I see a bit of that background perhaps in your own education, also.

The question of what good we do, what harm we do, how marketing systematically shapes the culture -- these questions are rarely addressed in our field because we are good at our art, which means we are good at making questions we don't want noticed seem unimportant, compared to those shiny (or less threatening) objects right there.

As a non-profit, cause-driven -- and anti-obscurantist -- marketing/education/writer type, I've taken on the very difficult, nearly prophetic level job of working to get people to notice the less shiny, more threatening, inconvenient bits, on a more systemic level through media crit, educational tools and such.  Eating the memetic vegetables, as it were.  If you ever want to engage in discussing that further, chat me up -- my email's on my profile!
Great post Mark, writing up a few notes myself.  I LOL'd when I read a post a few posts up that Google is watching us and should be careful about posting here.  Last I checked it was OK with Google to be an SEO.

At the very least, this will be a very strong search signal.

I do not predict that this will be an extremely weighted signal, and also think that with the variance in SERPs that we are seeing these days, the weight will be dependent on what SERP you are looking at.

I welcome this new change and am hope that any sharp-whited individual will take precautions for themselves and their clients.
+Nishant Soni your post is a good start, but misinforms at several points:

1) Author Rank is not yet active as a major factor in search ranking. You ought to make that clearer.
2) Many of your criteria for what would affect Author Rank are not based in any documentable evidence I've seen. For example, there is no evidence that AR will be affected by "sites on which you publish." You need to go back and carefully read the work of +Bill Slawski on the Agent Rank and related patents.
3) If Author Rank follows the Agent Rank patents, it will not be a single score, but a series of scores per author for each topic that he/she writes about. It is possible to have higher AR for one topic than another.
+Mark Traphagen "The sites on which you publish" was a theory that +Mike Arnesen started in his post.
It has not been in any patent but I still like the idea of it. But Google didn't ask me.
BTW your up early.
+Emmett Smith Car is getting serviced at 7 a.m ;-)

If your are referring to +Mike Arnesen's Brand Rank post, I'm pretty certain what he was talking about there was the transfer of author authority to a brand's site via rel=publisher, not the other way around. I have never seen anyone show anything from a Google source that suggests that it would work the other way around.
+Mike Arnesen it's looking to me upon closer scrutiny that in the post +Emmett Smith links you might be mixing things we actually have in the Google patents that would affect AR with some speculation (yours and others) about what might affect AR. Is that accurate?

If not, I'd like to see the sources from which you got the following assertions about things that affect AR:

> Average PR of an Author's content
> Number of Google+ circles the author is in

I don't recall seeing either of those in any patent nor in the statements of anyone from Google. If I missed them, please refer me to the source. Thanks!
+Mark Traphagen, thank for looping me in here. There are no sources to back that list up, because it's purely my own speculation. I start off that section with something along the lines of, "we know that Google uses upwards of 200 factors to determine PageRank, so here are some factors that may be used to determine AuthorRank." I never meant it to be considered "gospel" and one of my biggest regrets about that post is that the list of factors I brainstormed gets pushed around as fact fairly often (and frequently duplicated wholesale in people's AR articles).

So, in conclusion, that information isn't from Google, but from my own brainstorming of what Google could look at.
That's what I thought +Mike Arnesen - and just wanted to give you the opportunity to confirm it ;-) Unfortunately, as you and I well know, Author Rank blog posts have become like a giant game of "telegraph," that old parlor game where someone whispers a phrase to another person, who whispers it to the next, and so on...and usually when the last person speaks the phrase aloud, it has changed significantly from the original. 

So we see a proliferation of AR blog posts written by people who are going by information they think they remember from having read other blog posts by people who are still three or four steps away from the best sources.
The list from +AJ Kohn's Author Rank post is probably the best summary of factors that were actually in the Agent Rank patents (

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?
Thanks a lot +Mark Traphagen for your valuable suggestions. I will definitely work on this and go through +Bill Slawski work. Really appreciate you for your time and review. 
I can add a bit of acquiescence to the idea that you may carry more author rank for one topic than for others. I've seen one of my websites strengthen position in SERP with a little gathering of steam in connections with real estate folks. Not so much for another website that is more about photography. I have far fewer interactions on that topic. I suspect it probably makes a difference at some level that may already bleed over to search results, what you spend your time talking about. Of course, this is rather a thing of semantics between correlation and causation. The more you engage person to person, the more those same people tend to be exposed to other things you have to say, especially in Google's personalized search paradigm. At the end of the day, Google would really like to get us away from myopic focus on "Where do I rank?" There really is so much opportunity to think in terms of "Who am I influencing?"
+Dave Keys  well said. It is also my perception that I appear to rank best in search for the stuff I engage the most about (and am engaged by other influential people about) here on Google+. A year ago that caused me to jump prematurely to proclaiming that AR had to be active. But a more careful look, plus repeated statements from Googlers, made me more conservative about that. So in my day to day work now I don't fret a lot about whether AR is in play or not. I just act like it is, and that seems to work for me.

That's the way it should work: do good work in something, be the person that others point to as helpful on a topic, and you should be rewarded with more people finding you for that topic.
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