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).
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:
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.
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:
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:
- Set up proper author linking between your content and your Google+ profile.
- 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!
Great Post Mark clearing showing the Power of AuthorRank. We’ve touched on this on G+ chats, and shared one another’s findings.
It’s great to find a peer to share the journey and not be a single voice.
Over the last 2 days I’ve been speaking and showing findings from posting on G+ and how they outrank other content on the web from more ‘widely known’ sources than little old me. And the fact is, as you’ve discussed, that AuthorRank combined with the power of social signals is the key.
Look forward to sharing and discussing the ‘new way’ my friend 🙂
Thanks Lee. The “social SEO” crowd on Google+ has been invaluable, and I wouldn’t have come this far in my evaluations without all of your help and encouragement!
Great write up Mark.
I was delighted to find my profile picture in search next to my web site. This happened this week. I am seeing similar results with authorship and agree it is big.
Google is great at improving search results and with all the scrapping of content, Authorship provides authority.
Not sure this will work, but you can follow me on Google plus here http://plus.google.com/118094330380827294266/
Thanks Clay. It’s a real kick to see yourself that way, isn’t it? What just a few months ago I’d only see for people like Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land or Peter Cashmore!
Thanks a ton for the step-by-step instructions. I thought I had it correct but the Rich Snippets tool revealed otherwise, but it’s fixed thanks to you help.
Now to add the Google+ circle button.
Glad to be of service David!
Well written and documented. Thanks.
Very interesting, I’m definitely going have to update this for my website. Thanks for sharing your findings!
Google has lost all credibility for altruistic search engine rankings. They’ve opened themselves up to and encouraged gaming of their own system by giving favoritism to their own products. This may end up being what topples Google.
Great article. I might give this a try.
Thanks for sharing.
Great analysis as always. The “Author” rank seems applicable to solo writers/bloggers who publish only their own content. Is there comparable analysis on the impact of “Publisher” rank for news sites that publish lots of content? If synched to their branded Google+ page appropriately is this also having a similar SEO impact on a publisher’s content?
Ben, thanks for your question.
Publisher Rank (in reference to linking your web site to your Google+ brand page with the Google+ badge containing rel=publisher and your unique page ID, and linking back from the page to the site) is difficult to test for, particularly since we still don’t have any analytics for Google+ pages. I haven’t been able to find any data on it. Testing would take the setting up of several “virgin” web sites, letting them run for a while posting fresh on-site content but doing no social promotion, external SEO, or advertising, then after establishing benchmark metrics, connecting to a G+ page and begin posting and engagement on that page. Then see if there is a boost in organic rankings and/or traffic. I don’t know of anyone who has conducted such a study yet. If I can give up sleep, I might try it!
In the meantime, the most we can say is that what we call “publisher rank” is part of the same patent filed by Google (“Agent Rank”) that established what we call “author rank.” So it’s a reasonable assumption that it would work in similar fashion. The verified relationship between site and G+ page would allow Google, over time, to build a trust profile about the brand in topical areas. This trust graph would take into account not only the content on the brand’s site and G+ page, but also other connections linked from its G+ page. As indicated in the Google patent, at some point this would all factor into Google’s search rankings for the brand. How much effect is something no one yet knows.
Thanks. Even though our main news site isn’t “virgin” as you say (twitter and fb promoted heavily for a year or more) we’ll give Publisher rank a try anyway and let you know any increase in search ranking we might see.
As I said this is tricky advise to take for news organizations that don’t feature specific unique sections or columns for their writers so they can take advantage of the Author ranking impact. For bloggers or columnists this seems like a great tactic to use though.
You can set up authorship on contributor pages as well if you contribute to multi-author blogs that dont provide access to their header file to update meta author tags, or just promote the publisher and not author. If you use an a href mailto: link in your bio, and link it to your verified G+ email for your profile, it will display your authorship for your contributor page even if the publisher has a rel publisher tag with a diff. value.
See: http://technorati.com/people/gsimon/ – even though Technorati has a publisher tag, when the page appears in the SERPS the author image and link goes to my G+ page. Now i just need to have them include the actual bio block on all the individual posts and not just the author page. Anyway, just a little tip i came across and relates to whats talked about here. Cheers!