A friend of mine recently asked me to comment on why I felt so strongly the rel=”author” attribute would play a large role in the future of search rankings. In order to answer his question I felt I needed to take this a step further and explain how rel=”author” appears to fit into a much grander plan Google is implementing around personal profiles. Please note, what I have shared with you below is merely my opinion based on experience, analysis, and  discussions with some of my fine colleagues in the SEO community; not the least of whom is John Carcutt (my co-host on SEO 101 Radio).

First consider what we know:

  1. Google is taking into account the personal blocking data (the block site option in results) from users that have a long and trusted profile; confirmed by Matt Cutts in his September 21st Q&A (the first answer on the linked page).
  2. Right now, if you have a highly trusted profile and you have authorship markup (rel=author) on your articles/copy you will get representation in Google search results – by having your photo show up next to the article.
  3. In order for this markup to work you need to have a Google Profile and it must be correctly associated with the sites you write on and your author page on the site has to connect back (a few hoops are necessary) to your Google Profile to finalize the association.
  4. Google is integrating Plus into most (if not all) of their products – this was confirmed by Vic Gundrota on a recent Web Summit 2.0 interview with him and Sergey Brin.
  5. In order to be on Google Plus you have to have a Google Profile.
  6. Your Google Profile prompts you to connect all of your social profiles so Google knows your social fingerprint and can highlight content in search results that your friends have socially shared/liked.
  7. Links are an important part of Google’s algorithms but they are heavily gamed and likely cause the majority of spam found in Google’s results.
  8. If Google sees that others like your content then it has a better chance of appearing at the top of relevant searches.

Next, let’s connect a few dots and make some educated assumptions:

  1. If your content is shared extensively on social networks, especially Plus, and you have rel=”author” (AKA authorship markup), Google will credit your profile with more trust.
  2. If someone links to your article or otherwise shares it, Google can see the authorship markup and will consider crediting your Google Profile – depending on the quality of person linking/sharing the article.
  3. Links are a trust indicator and Google Profiles will be a trust indicator with a tougher signal to fake.
  4. By creating content regularly that is highly shared and signed with your rel=”author” you will build greater trust for your Google Profile.
  5. The more trust & credibility you have with Google, the better chance your content will have of appearing in the top search results.

My Conclusion
Build your Google Profile because there are many reasons to believe it will assist the ranking success of content you write and socially share. In order to build your profile you will want to give Google every reason to believe you are trustworthy and rel=”author” is one of the tools they have given you to do that. The sooner you get started, the longer your positive  Google Profile history will be and the more trust you can gain before your competitors wisen up.

A visual layout of why Google Profiles matter

Click on the above image for a much larger version.

Important Reminder: although many of these signals are already being noted by Google few of them have been integrated as of yet – at least officially. This article is based on educated speculation.

Questions? Post them in the comments or on the SEO 101 Facebook Page and I will address as many as possible on the next show which airs live at WebmasterRadio.FM on Halloween at 2pm PST / 5pm EST.