Author Authority – Not Who You Know, but Who Knows YouThe lines between social media, SEO and content marketing have become blurred with the growing importance of author authority. Here, I’m going to examine what that means and how you can optimise your business for it. I’ll also look at the potential future implications.
Classic search engine optimisation (SEO) has always dealt with the concept of ‘page authority’ and ‘domain authority’. The more authority a website has, the more likely it is to rank well on search engines. This is commonly measured crudely using Google’s Page Rank score. (I say crudely because Google Page Rank is not integrally linked to rank in search results.)
If you want to know how to see the Page Rank score, you can do so within the Google Toolbar, if you have that running on your browser. Or you can use a tool like SEO Rank Checker from SEO Moz, whose toolbar gives you a page rank score and a domain authority score.
The domain authority relates to the value of a domain. For example, wikipedia.org, bbc.co.uk, cnn.com – all have extremely high authority. Any page published on those domains automatically has a better chance of ranking well because of the high domain authority.
Yes, but where does author authority come in?
Author authority is a third piece in this puzzle. If the content you publish is linked to an author with high authority, that content is likely to be taken more seriously by search engines and by users of search engines. Authority is measured by influence – if you have a large network of followers, you have more credibility, hence anything you publish is likely to rank well.
However, ranking well is not directly related to the influence of the author. Having a large network of followers on Twitter and Facebook means you get more reach and more reach means more people promoting links to your articles. This activity feeds the search results. Also, having your face next to an article in search results, where other articles have none, improves the likelihood of getting a click-through.
Increasing clicks to your pages from search results sends a good signal to the search engine that your result is popular, so it is likely to achieve a higher rank, because search engines want to show results that people like to click on.
Author authority is measured by influence
Let’s consider an analogy. The other day, Kenneth Clarke, the Tory peer who used to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, was in the news talking about the state of the UK economy. The newspapers could have asked hundreds of bankers or even ordinary people on the street for their opinions, but that wouldn’t have been news. Who wants to read a story titled, “Doreen from Peckham says recession will go on”?
Kenneth Clarke has influence because he has been Chancellor, he has been a leading Conservative party member for years and he is famous. People will be keen to hear his comments, even though he is perhaps no more qualified to predict the future than Doreen from Peckham or a stockbroker from Moorgate.
When J K Rowling published her book The Casual Vacancy, it received major coverage, good and bad, and was featured heavily on book shop websites and in best-seller lists. The same does not happen for most authors because they haven’t written blockbuster books that turned into blockbuster movies. They don’t have the same authority or the same level of influence.
Authority + popularity + influence = SEO success
I like to use a simple equation to talk about how to get more visibility. SEO success depends on domain authority, page popularity and author influence. There are clearly many other factors and nuances that dictate where your pages appear in search results, but those three measures are core things to focus on.
For domain authority, think about brand awareness. Hoover has massive brand authority because so many people use the word “hoover” as a verb. The same goes for “Portakabin” and “Jacuzzi” to describe, respectively, a portable cabin and a whirlpool bath. Both are brand names with trade mark protection, but they have become ubiquitous terms.
The stronger your brand in the real world, the more domain authority your website will have because more people will be linking to you and looking for you online. The click-through ratio from search results will be higher and this will encourage search engines to show you more.
A page of your website can be popular – with lots of other articles pointing to it, or with people promoting it on social networks – while your domain authority might not be so strong. This could happen if, for example, you publish an article that ‘goes viral’. While it is popular and current, that page would probably achieve a good position in results for relevant searches. When it is not being promoted as heavily, because it is no longer current, you may find that it drops down the results again. You should try to create pages that have a long shelf life, that will keep attracting new links. Not every article will qualify for that, but creating some pages of your site that can grow in popularity continuously is a good thing to aim for. Having several pages like that will also help to boost your domain authority.
All things being equal, if your competitors all achieve the same level of domain authority and page popularity on their sites as you do on yours, focusing on author influence could give you the edge over them. This is where you have to accept Google Plus into your life, because without it you won’t get past the first step of your author markup. You have to actively use it to connect with and engage people (well, your authors do, at least). You can’t fake good relationships, so it takes time, patience and diligence.
How to set up your author mark-up
Author mark-up allows you to have an author’s face appear next to a search result.
Author Authority – Not Who You Know, but Who Knows You
- The first step is to make sure your articles appear with a proper byline, such as “by Steve Masters”.
- You can then do one of two things. Either link the byline to an author page, where there is a link to that author’s Google Plus profile, or include a link to the author’s Google Plus profile on the article page itself. This can be anywhere.
- The link to the author’s Google Plus profile should include the variable “rel=author”.
- The author then needs to edit their Google Plus profile to include a link to the website’s domain, in the ‘Contributor to…’ column.
- You can see a more graphical representation of this here.
How to increase your author influence
Google Plus is owned by Google and it is therefore used by Google as a good measure of whether an author is influential or not. Not only should you set up your author mark-up, as described above, but you should also work hard to grow engaging relationships on Google Plus. Here are some tips to consider:
- Post content on Google Plus. Do so in a way that encourages your followers to comment. Comments from followers show you have some influence.
- Work hard to get people to follow you on Google Plus ( please add me to your Circles). More followers means greater influence. See Joe Elvin’s post, Five ways to get more followers on Google+.
- Interact with other people through their Google Plus content. Posting comments that encourage further replies or a +1 citation also helps to boost your influence.
- Ensure the +1 button is featured on your articles. Each +1 vote on your page is a great citation not only for the author but also for the page.
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