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Google Authorship & Link Diversity

Drew blogged about Google Author Rank back in April, and the rate of authorship markup adoption has been steadily increasing since then. It’s ridiculously easy to add the markup in WordPress and Google is dangling a pretty big carrot for us all: Better click through in the SERPs due to the nice avatar you get next to your results.

Google continues to encourage the use of the tag, and very shortly, its usage will be the norm. The question is, “Why?”

Everyone knows that Google uses links to determine the topic, authority, and trustworthiness of websites (though we don’t know exactly how they do so.) In the past (and now,) the root domain of a link has been a very strong signal of the quality of that link. So, if my website is linked to from a New York Times article, that link is very valuable to me.

The problem with this is that root domain signals can be noisy. The NYT, for example, delivers great, authoritative news, but they also have a classifieds section, which are simply ads (and not that authoritative.) Google attempts to differentiate these links through page segmentation, but authorship allows them to go a step further. By verifying and separating the authors from the sites they write on, Google can now quantify how authoritative a specific author is. SEOMoz allows pretty much anyone to blog on their website. After Author Rank is widely implemented, Google can easily differentiate between a link from an authoritative source like Rand Fishkin, and a link from a non-authoritative source (like a no-name blogger.)

This has big implications for link diversity. We’ve always looked to the “root domain count” as a signal for site authority. Conventional wisdom said, “the more linking root domains, the better.” Basically, the more websites (not pages) linking to your website, the more important your site is.

So, many webmasters (me included) offered up their content as guest bloggers to as many other webmasters that would take them (with some exceptions.) The reason was simple: If you were to guest blog on 3 different sites, the link profile would look like this:

So, guest blogging was a good thing, simply for the fact that you could increase your root domain link count. Now, Google presumably looks past the root domain to the actual author. So, if the same author guest blogs on 3 different sites and links to their own site, it looks like this:

So, guest blogging is still a good thing for other reasons, but we presumably don’t get the benefit of the increased root domain link count. We now want to increase the number of authors linking to our website (and really the number of authoritative authors linking to us.) The analogous diagram to root domain count in the world of Author Rank looks like this:

It’s important to note that the authorship markup is not currently the norm, and Author Rank is most definitely not rolled out to its fullest extent. Today, root domain count is still a solid signal. However, be prepared for it to become less significant, as its replaced by Author Rank.


About Eric Bramlett

Eric Bramlett is the broker of Bramlett Residential & co-founder of Displet, a RETS/IDX search development company. Eric maintains a number of broad and niche market real estate websites in Austin, TX and helps out with sales & product development at Displet.

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  • Definitely a good topic of discussion on the seo front most people aren’t thinking much about. I think getting links from more individual authors regardless of domain is going to increasingly become the most powerful seo input.

  • Thanks Drew! I’m also interested to see what interlinking between authors on the same domain will do. For example, my link to your earlier blog post theoretically increases your author rank.

  • Crystal

    Thanks for the post Eric great article. So for someone that is new to article writing how should they start building their authorship?

    • Writing great content! There’s still a lot of value in guest blogging b/c you can attract a more diverse set of readers by spreading your content around (and those readers will link to good content.) The more authors that link to you (and your author profile) the more authoritative your profile will become.

  • So interesting that this post does not have Authorship hooked up.

  • Mark – Google clearly recognizes the author markup. It’s showing my profile in the SERPs.

    The link you’ve provided is for all structured markup and is encouraging a more complete profile. The tool appears to be broken, as it says the “contributor to” section of my G+ profile doesn’t include GEB, while it does:

    If you’d like to simply view source, you can see the markup exists:

    Online tools are always a helpful place to START, when analyzing sites/pages, but they definitely aren’t where you need to END if you seemingly find a problem.

    Regardless…..argue away!!!!

    • Yes, in the intervening time I checked both your site markup and your G+ profile and see both the markup and the Contributor to linkback. One thing that may be keeping the Google SD Tool from showing verified authorship is you used a different canonical form of your site URL in the Contributor To link (non-www as opposed to the www form, which appears to be the canonical form used here). We’ve seen this before break the tool’s ability to verify.

      Since I view getting full Authorship attribution as very important (and you obviously do to!), I’m a bit anal about making sure nothing is broken in Google’s view. We’ve been seeing the author photo show up in SERPs even for people who have done no intentional authorship hookup (but at least have a G+ profile with a good author photo). But my paranoid side, with Author Rank at stake, makes me want to make sure the connection to all my content is crystal clear for Google.

      • Mark –

        Feel free to use this as an example, and I appreciate the link back. I agree with you regarding the potential issue w/ the tool. My gut is that my linking to the non-www (as I do by habit) in my profile, while the canonical version of the page is www is what’s causing the problem. I’ve seen similar issues in Webmaster tools before.

        Thanks for your feedback!


        • Good dialoging with you Eric! I’ll send you the link when my post is up (probably later today)

    • BTW Eric, I’m writing a blog post about some of the funky issues with verifying authorship. Would you mind if I used screen caps of your authorship markup (from your source code, but focused in only on the markup) and the Contributor To link in your G+ profile as examples of someone who did it right but still doesn’t verify with Google’s tool? I will link back to this post in my post, if you allow.

  • Love the post, and the SEOMoz reference. This reads like an article I’d read on their site. Great discussion as well, I’m just an observer here to learn.

  • Hannah Vergara

    Great topic on the SEO market. Be ahead of the game and ready to adapt to an ever changing market segment. @trappermark:disqus I will be keeping an eye out for your post about authorship verification issues. Very interesting topic idea that I have had issues with myself.

  • Doc Sheldon

    Great post, Eric! I’d say you’re spot on, that we’re going to be seeing strong evidence of this shift very shortly. I love the fact that it’s helping to build out the kG, too. Baby step after baby step, we’re getting closer to Web 3.0.

  • I was looking for a simple an straightforward article about how authorship migh work and you have helped me, Thanks Eric.

  • Your information is really good. I think getting links from more individual authors regardless of domain is going to increasingly become the most powerful seo input.

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