Or “How I Outranked Mari Smith for Her Own Post”

I’ve been writing a lot lately about my new-found ability to high rank almost anything I post on Google+ on the first page of incognito Google search for long tail keywords that have search volume. See:

The SEO Power of Google+ Plus Google AuthorRank

Does Engagement Trump Recency in High Ranking Google+ Posts?

As you can see from those posts, there were a number of factors that I thought might be contributing to this ability, including:

  • An influential Google+ profile (moderately high but quickly-growing follower count, lots of engagement and re-shares, connections with other influential Google+ users)
  • High Google+ post engagement (+1s, comments, reshares)
  • High Google AuthorRank (Google’s level of trust that you are a trusted authority in the topics about which you write)

But which of those (if any) had the most power for causing my Google+ posts to rank so well? This morning I think I may have seen something that lets me declare a champion: Google AuthorRank

Outranking a Social Media Master

I did a search on “incognito” Google (on a browser in incognito mode with all cookies and history removed, not logged in to Google) for “fastest growing facebook pages.” That keyword has some search volume to it because it shows up in the auto-suggest as you type it in. And there was a Google+ post I posted yesterday, at position #6 (if you don’t count the “News” section).


Fastest Growing Facebook Pages


All well and good. But here’s the kicker. That Google+ post was me re-sharing a Google+ post by Mari Smith. If you don’t know who Mari Smith is, you must not be in Internet marketing. Mari is widely recognized as the foremost expert on Facebook marketing, and one of the tops in Internet marketing in general. She is one of the most highly-sought after speakers in our field, and her writings are read by millions.

But back to my post. As I said, I was just re-sharing a Google+ post by Mari Smith. Here’s my post:


Fastest Growing Facebook Pages Example 2


You can see Mari’s original post embedded inside mine. Now, back to the Google results page. While my post is on the front page, Mari’s (with the exact same keyword, is nowhere to be found! I outranked one of the most popular people in social media, for her own content. And lest you think Mari might be a slouch at Google+, she has over 58,000 followers there, compared to my paltry 10,000. So eliminating who’s more popular on Google+ what’s left for why I would wipe her post off the map for her same keyword?

The answer is simple, and devastatingly powerful:

My Web Content Is Author-Linked to My Google+ Profile

and Mari’s is not.

Some time last year I started seeing Google results with the content author’s photo showing beside them, along with a link to more of their similar content. I was blown away by that. That had to be making those results much more “clickable,” they just popped right out from the results pages. I wanted in on this. A little research revealed that Google had started making use of a schema.org standard tag called rel=”author.” Without going into too much detail, this tag allows you to link all your online content to your Google+ profile. This in turn allows Google to see you as the verified author of that content. Google begins to develop a “trust and confidence” factor about your content, and links that to a score associated with your identity known as AuthorRank.

(Want to begin to develop AuthorRank for your online content? See my post “How to Get Your Author Photo in Google Search Results“)

I’ve been using author verification ever since, and in the last few months have begun to see my blog posts ranking higher and higher in Google search, and consistently seeing them with my author photo rich snippet. This tells me that my AuthorRank has risen considerably. So I have good AuthorRank.

And Mari Smith, one of the most popular people on the web, does not.

How do I know? A few simple checks on her blog.


Mari Smith Blog


The circle indicates her author name link to her “author archives” page on her site. If Mari had Google author verification set up correctly, this link should have a rel=”author” tag attached to it. I looked and it doesn’t. Furthermore, her author archive page contains no rel=”me” tagged link to her Google+ profile, the second essential leg in the author verification triangle. (The third is a link on one’s Google+ profile in the “Contributor to” section back to the blog.)

The final proof that Mari doesn’t have Google author verification set up is provided by Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool:


Rich Snippets Testing Tool

Notice I inserted one of her blog post URLs in the preview box. If author tagging was properly set up, this tool should be showing me a preview of how this post would look in a typical search result with her Google+ profile photo attached. The error message underlined is the final proof.

(I should add that I’ve found some search results for Mari’s blog posts where her author photo and link to her Google+ profile do appear. She does have a link to her Google+ profile on her web site. So Google can sometimes figure out that the Mari Smith of her G+ profile is the author of the blog content. But because she doesn’t have the proper linking I’ve described, she’s not getting that as often as I am, and she’s not getting her full AuthorRank credit.)

AuthorRank Is the Champion

So in all the factors I can think of that might contribute to who should rank a Google+ post higher for “fastest growing facebook pages,” what’s the only one I have over Mari Smith?

  • More Google+ followers? I have close to 10,000. Mari has almost 60,000.
  • More influential followers? A number of high-influence followers follow both of us, but Mari I’m sure has more just by dint of sheer numbers
  • More engagement? My post had 2 +1s and 1 share, 0 comments. Mari’s had 32 +1s, 22 shares, and 12 comments.

So what’s left? The only significant thing that I can think of that I have that Mari Smith doesn’t is a high AuthorRank Google profile properly connected to my Google+ profile, so that the author authority “juice” I’ve earned flows to my Google+ posts.

Conclusion: When It Comes to Google Authority, Authors Are the New Web Sites

Traditional SEO (having well-presented content that gets good links from authoritative sites) will remain very important. But more and more it will not be able to stand on its own. If you are one of the most authoritative people in your field, but you can be outranked in search by a “nobody” (hey, that’s me you’re talking about!), you’ve got a problem. But it is a problem easily solved:

  1. Set up proper author linking between your content and your Google+ profile.
  2. Get active on Google+.

Forget all the “Google+ is a ghost town” and “Google+ will never catch up to Facebook” talk. It couldn’t be more irrelevant. Search is still where the game is for getting found, read, and gaining influence/leads/customers (whatever you’re after). Google is showing us the new way they are playing the game, and they are the game!