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In February 2011 the first Panda Google algorithm update affected search results and changed the way SEO professionals and webmasters needed to think about optimizing websites.

The goal of Google Panda was to lower the rank of 'low-quality' websites that had thin content and increase rankings of higher quality and more authoritative websites. It was the beginning of the end of 'SEO content'.

Since then, and after more than a dozen updates to the Google Panda algorithm, websites have exponentially had to improve the quality of their content. There are various ways people speculate Google deems a website quality including the depth of the content, engagement metrics on pages, social sharing and the quality of websites linking.

What is Google authorship?

One way website owners are proving the quality of their content is by providing Google Authorship. This is a Google initiative that allows users to connect a Google+ profile to original content published by that user on the web using rich snippet code.

Having this code connecting authored content to your Google+ profile changes the way your blog post, article, etc. appears in Google search engine results.  Below is an example of rehab facility, Clarity Way, gave its company a face:

Google Authorship is a way to connect a piece of content to an established authority on the topic. As mentioned earlier, this is done using rich snippets, more specifically the “rel=author” tag.

Not only does it improve a page/sites chance of avoiding a Google Panda penalty by distinguishing itself as quality, but it also boosts the clickthrough rate of the post when it appears in the search engine results by up to 150%.

AuthorRank: how to acquire Google Authorship

AuthorRank is a new term that was created as a result of using Google Authorship. With AuthorRank, every author who writes content for the web is given a score about a topic area around which they regularly build content.

If an author has a higher AuthorRank, they have greater chance of acquiring Google Authorship on articles they publish and connect to their Google+ profile.

AuthorRank is positively affected by six main factors:

  1. The author has a higher average PageRank for their content that is published on the web.
  2. The author has a higher number of people in their Google+ circles.
  3. The author posts at a higher frequency.
  4. The author is also an authority (or “influencer”) across other social networks.
  5. The author has more +1s, 'Likes', retweets and engagement across social networks.
  6. The amount of commenting and social sharing from both the author’s Google+ page and where the content lives.

There are also ways to negatively impact AuthorRank:

  1. 'Spinning' or repurposing already written content.
  2. Publishing content that is poorly written or stuffed with keywords.
  3. Submitting content to article directories or blog networks.

Many assume that AuthorRank is now an integrated part of Google’s ranking algorithm. When an author has a higher AuthorRank for a topic, Google will favor their published content in the search results. Google also uses AuthorRank to deemphasize low quality content by valuing established authors from spam.

The Google Authorship initiative is part of Google’s effort to increase the quality content ranking at the top of search results, devalue low quality content that has potential to not be original work, and encourage active participation in social channels.

How Google Authorship works

In order for an author to have an AuthorRank score, there are some steps that need to be taken:

  1. The author needs to have a Google+ profile. This can be done on the Google+ site, where the user can either create a new profile or sign in with their Google account.
  2. The Google+ profile needs to be filled out with detailed information on the author’s background, websites they contribute to or are connected to, etc. The profile is required to include a photograph of the author that uses a clear headshot.
  3. On every Google+ profile, there is a section that displays articles and content that you have +1’d yourself. Make this public by going into edit mode, clicking the +1 tab, and making sure to check "show this tab on your profile.”
  4. Add the website to the ‘Contributor to’ section in the ‘Edit Profile’ section. Click ‘Add Custom Link’ and include a descriptive label and the URL of the website or the specific blog page.
  5. Link to the Google+ profile of the author on blog pages.

Using Justin Daniels' Google+ profile as an example, you can see he contributes to and has presence on other various websites alongside Clarity Way.

Rich snippet code

With an author that has a completed Google+ profile, the correct rich snippet code still needs to be implemented.

Linking blog pages to a Google+ account

There are two ways to indicate to Google that a particular page has been authored by someone with a Google+ account.

The first way is to include a <link> tag in the page head.  The following code should be added to any page that has an author with a verified Google+ account: 


            <link rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/xxxxxxxxxx">


The hypertext reference (href) should be the URL of the Google+ account for the page’s author.

Another method to connect a page to a Google+ account is to include a link to the author’s Google+ page on the page with the rel=author parameter.  The following code shows an example of this linking:


            <h1>Blog Title</h1>

            Blog Content

            <a href=”https://plus.google.com/xxxxxxxxxx?rel=author”>Written by author name</a>


When Google crawls a page, it will look for either the <link> tag or the link pointing to the author’s Google+ with the rel=author parameter.  Once this is set up, the author’s headshot will appear aside the page listing along with links to their Google+ profile and additional articles they have written. 

It is important to note that these methods are a suggestion and not a directive.  Google does not guarantee that the author information will appear in search engine result pages even if the preceding methods are implemented.

It’s the right thing for you

Google Authorship helps to positively influence AuthorRank, which maximizes the potential of articles, blog posts and other forms of content to rank in search engines.

As Google continues to emphasize quality content, AuthorRank will become more useful to establish a page's authority. It is also an important step to maximizing the organic presence for a content focused website.

If you want to enhance the presentation of authored content in search results to improve clickthrough, Google Authorship is something you should consider for your website content strategy.

Shane Jones

Published 4 March, 2014 by Shane Jones

Shane Jones is Senior Outreach Analyst at WebpageFX and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Shane on Twitter and Google Plus

10 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Breanne Boland

Google's best practices have been edging further and further into the area of just being pushy, of benefiting Google without the typical pretense of serving the user. Between the ongoing push for Authorship adoption and their across-the-board slagging of guest posting, I'm waiting for a backlash to their ongoing "helpful hints."

over 2 years ago

David Somerville

David Somerville, Head of inbound marketing at Fresh Egg

Hi Shane. Interesting article, especially your mentions of Author Rank. Do you have links to Google documentation on this or a source for those 'elements' of Author Rank? I was under the impression that this was purely a concept that many people were supposing was going to roll-out (but hasn't actually done so yet)?

over 2 years ago


Ben Griffiths


This is all speculation, although it's not very clear from the above article. Listing "6 things that improve your AuthorRank" is like listing "12 things that make your flazimbo taller"

Also rel=author is for in-depth articles, not homepages (clarityway screenshot)


over 2 years ago

David Somerville

David Somerville, Head of inbound marketing at Fresh Egg

Hi Ben
I agree on the speculation. Also from recent experience, with Google removing a large amount of authorship results from the SERPS, implementing authorship is nowadays NOT guaranteed.

over 2 years ago

Shane Jones

Shane Jones, Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX


My apologies, I should have put more emphasis on the fact that it is still in fact speculation. From my own work I believe the speculation to be true, but there is nothing (as usual) in Google Documentation that tells you exactly what to be doing. I'm sure you know it's just not their style!

And yea, there have been increasing number of authorships taken out of the SERPs, so it's something that might simply level the playing field. I think a greater "authorship rank" will increase your changes of appearing, but there's no exact science to it yet. It could be a factor that fizzles out in importance.

over 2 years ago


Xen C.

So the concept of Google Author Rank allows the author to become a trusted source, get noticed for his/her content which leads to more followers and links shared. Ultimately, all those activities lead to content page getting higher ranking in Google Search. How much weight wil this contribute to influencing page rank?

over 2 years ago

Shane Jones

Shane Jones, Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX

@Xen, The concept for this won't really affect page rank from my understanding. In fact, Page Rank is a really outdated concept to judge rankings upon. After so many individuals figured out how to manipulate it, it became relatively unusable. A better metric now is Domain Authority. Of which authorship won't play an affect. However, having established a higher author rank, (a separate thing), you will likely see your content ranking higher in Google's new "in depth article" sections.

over 2 years ago

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