It would not be a big surprise if Google was using information from Google author profiles to influence how pages rank in searches., but as yet there is no evidence to show a correlation between author profiles and better ranking URLs.
Google’s authorship markup feature allows news, other online publications and blogs to use the rel="author" tag to connect their authors’ online articles to official author profiles on Google+.
The profiles include a profile photo, biography, information about their activity and followers on Google+ as well as links to other articles by the author.
The author thumbnail image and links from the profile show up in search results whenever the author’s content appears, helping it stand out and generating higher click-throughs. And the additional information appearing alongside results makes it easier for searchers to identify the relevant content they're looking for on the page.
By connecting online content to a verified author, authorship integration is trying to bring about 'the end of the faceless web'.
As it becomes more widely adopted, it has the potential to provide a great deal of assistance in Google's mission to categorise the vast amount of information available on the internet, and ultimately in the Google search index, as well as becoming a very important instrument in the fight against webspam.
By having authors identify themselves through their author profile, Google can immediately draw conclusions about their popularity and relevance for specific search queries.
The author profiles give Google information such as connections to other users, activity rate, recognition, status, etc. They also provide insights into the profile owners’ relations with other publications, their most frequent topics and the popularity of their content including user signals from the networks and click behaviour from SERPs.
On this basis, you would expect the factor 'URL has authorship integration' to correlate well with good search rankings.
But, this is not the case, at least not to a measurable extent. Our in-depth studies on the effect of author integration on rankings have so far not delivered any truly positive or negative results.
This ties in with results from Econsultancy's UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2013, which found most agencies didn't belive Google+ was having an impact on search campaigns.
What impact is Google+ having on your/your clients’ search campaigns?
We recently looked at author integration in a study of those factors that correlate with good rankings in Google UK search results based on an analysis of 10,000 keywords and 300,000 websites (analysing the top 30 positions within the SERPS).
The chart below from this study shows the distribution of URLs with author integration in the search results.
The y-axis shows the percentage of the analysed URLs with authorship integration that rank at the positions indicated on the x-axis. From this study we arrive at an insignificant correlation coefficient of of -0.013, from which you cannot make any strong assumptions.
However, even if there is no direct proof for the positive influence of authorship on the performance of search engines (among the top thirty rankings) we cannot say for sure that those pages we found ranking in the UK SERPs featuring authorship, would rank if they did not feature authorship.
There may already be some sort of impact. At the very least, you can see there are some peaks visible in the graph, indicating slight accumulations of URLs with authorship for some specific positions.
It seems sensible to assume that Google's authorship integration will likely become a very relevant factor in the categorisation and evaluation of content, especially in specialist areas and niche subjects where the author can add additional credibility.
When people stand by their content with their name and their reputation, which they may have built over a long period of time, it represents one of the most trusted factors for content verification by search engines. And it is very difficult to manipulate.