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Ever since the Wall Street Journal published a quote from Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s new book, “The New Digital Age”, the Internet has been clamoring over the possibility of a new Google ranking signal.

Here is the quote that stirred up so much discussion…

Eric-Schmidt-Quote

Once the Wall Street Journal published this statement, heads started to spin and the Internet was ablaze with the news of Google’s next move. The only problem was that the minions over at Google had not spoken a word about any new ranking signal… or did they…

The following was taken from Google’s patent on “Agent Rank” filed May 11, 2011.

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

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.

Note the date above, May 11, 2011. Google launched Google+ on June 28, 2011 as an invitation-only social network.

I’m not a lawyer, but those dates are pretty close…

Why is the introduction of Google+ so significant? Because this is the network that Google uses to allow content creators to implement Authorship markup (more on this later). Google+ is the “identity platform,” and its profiles act as a sort of “ID” for content creators.

And you thought that Google+ was just another social media network (insert the James Bond theme song here)… Google is smarter than that.

If the search engine behemoth that is Google is planning to launch what every intelligent marketer thinks it will, identity verification will become an integral component of Internet marketing and search engine optimization.

Goodbye anonymity. Hello exposure.

The days of hiding behind our content are over. Actually, the days of publishing little to no content are over as well. If the trend continues, the name of the SEO game will be AUTHENTICITY. Or, the more webmasters reveal their true colors and show their faces, the more successful they will be in the rankings.

Enter Google Authorship…

If you read the articles circling the Internet, you would be convinced that Authorship will eventually become a major component of Google’s algorithm. While we do not know this for sure, we can make some preliminary suppositions based on the evidence we have so far.

Just to clarify… “Author Rank” which is supposedly part of Google’s new algorithm and includes signals like Authorship, was never actually mentioned by Google. The SEO community initiated these discussions.

Google Authorship, however, is a real feature.

It allows webmasters to include their photo along with their content in the search engine results pages. In essence, content creators can “come out of hiding” and show their faces online—a large step towards authenticity.

Here is an example:

Authorship

Notice how Google automatically extracted the bio image from my Google+ profile and included it along with my article.

What are the benefits of Google Authorship?

Even if Google never incorporates Authorship into a ranking signal, it is still worth implementing. Here’s why…

1. Your content will stand out in the search results.

It’s hard enough to get your website to page one, but once you arrive, you have to compete for clickthroughs with 10 other websites. Google Authorship can give you the edge.

Content_marketing

These are the top four organic search results for the keyword “content marketing.” Notice how your eyes are drawn to Joe and Brian’s faces, not necessarily the search results in position #1 and #2.

2. Trust with your audience.

If you were searching for an accountant in your area and three listings surfaced, one with an image of the accountant, and the other two as natural text listings, which one would you click first?

It’s obvious that your eye would not only be drawn to a bio image because it “pops,” but also because you are looking for someone you can trust and a person’s face helps to break down typical skepticism that exists online. A real human being… who would have thought??

3. Death to Plagiarism

It’s not uncommon for content scrapers to steal your content and re-publish it online. These sites can even outrank yours if they are successful. With Authorship, the true identity of the content’s author (YOU) will be known and your content will rise to the top outranking any plagiarized sites.

Will the algorithm signals of Author Rank ever become a reality?

I happen to agree with the SEO community and believe that Google launched Google+ for more than just the purpose of another social network. I mean did they think they could actually compete with Zuckerberg? In essence, Google has something “up its sleeve.”

Though this is purely conjecture, I still think we should take note. When Google introduces a new feature, you want to listen up.

Let’s look at Google Authorship from Google’s perspective… or at least my personal perception of Google’s perspective…

1. Google HATES spam. The search engine has a dedicated team of specialists with Matt Cutts at the helm, who, day in and day out, work to eradicate any mention, instance or detail of webspam on the internet.

2. After Google Panda and Penguin and the leak of a 100+ manual Google gives to reviewers, we know that having pages on our sites like About, Privacy Policy and Terms are important to Google and make a site “more authentic.”

3. Elements such as phone numbers, contact forms and other personable items can also signal to Google that the website is authentic and not spam.

From this, we can deduce that Google’s focus is on authenticity, and “real” people offering “real” value to searchers who want to use the engine to find that value.

In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before we see more signals like these entering the illustrious Google algorithm.

Whether or not you are convinced that Google Authorship will be used as a ranking signal, the feature is one that can increase traffic and conversions on the SERPs on which your website listing resides. Why not give it a try?

Have you used Google Authorship? Yay or Nay?

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