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July 18, 2014

Is Author Rank Really Relevant?

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sailing-shipHere ye, here ye. Worshipers of the penguin, panda, and hummingbird, gather ‘round. We have a new one to dissect, only this one’s not an animal; it’s a ship. Authorship.

By now, you’ve read about the latest Google-induced confusion-fest. This was one of the accounts of the carnage:

Google’s John Mueller has announced that Google is making a major change in the search results around authorship. Specifically, Google is dropping the profile photo and circle count from the search listings where authorship is assigned to a web page. Mueller said that the “click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.

So the millions (or hundreds) of bloggers that validated authorship will no longer see their lovely photo and Google+ circle count presented in search results. SERP results for the authorized will simply have a byline.

Let us all let out a harmonious moan.

Has Author Rank been abolished?

It hasn’t. It can’t be. It never existed. It probably never will.

I’m NOT saying the authority or influence of a blogger doesn’t factor into search results. It probably does.

And I’m not saying Google’s original love child, PageRank, lives on as the dominant search rank variable. It may or may not.

I’m saying I don’t know what the Google algorithm depends on. No one does. One guy did, but he was quietly whacked and stashed on page two of a search result (where no one ever discovers anything).

Google doesn’t want you, or anyone, to crack the holy code. I think, and this is an opinion, the secrecy of Google search is this decade’s fallout from the mega-blunder they made when granted U.S. Patent 6,285,999.

That pile of intellectual gaga came to be known as “PageRank.” 

PageRank is an algorithm used by Google Search to rank websites in their search engine results. PageRank was named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. PageRank is a way of measuring the importance of website pages. 

Thirteen years ago, Google published this:

PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

I’m holding my nose because this little stinker gave birth to the SEO business, the biggest pile of online marketing doo-doo of the millennium.

SEO quickly became a zillion dollar business where those in search of search success bequeathed big checks to “experts” adept at the questionable art and science of creating backlinks. 

If you played along at the stinky linky poker table, each time someone raised, you called and were forced to part with more chips. But then the dealer called some wild cards -- algorithm updates named after members of the animal kingdom -- and your hand turned out to be a loser. 

If you’re a Google searcher, you won. Search performance got better. If you’re an SEO, you may have got new job security -- new games to play. If you’re a content marketer, you can scramble, scratch your head, or just go back to scribing.

Some say PageRank doesn’t rule anymore. 

These same experts may tell you Author Rank is the new game in town. But you won’t find an expert to explain it to you. Click here for the instruction manual: www.sorrydude.com.

There’s no U.S. patent for Author Rank on file or pending. In time, the experts may come to rally around some new fill-in-the-blank rank, but all they’ll produce is speculation.

You’re left with one option. 

Create relevant content.

Brilliant, eh? Perhaps not, but I’m going with what I know. Winning marketers understand:

  • Customers command buying cycles now.
  • Advertising shields have been put in place and are getting more effective. 
  • Most buyers search before they spend.
  • Their prospects’ pains and pleasures.
  • They must answer prospects’ questions.
  • They must create content to help buyers make intelligent decisions.
  • They gain loyalty and earn word-of-mouth through strategic (and responsive) content marketing programs. 

Two years ago, I wrote a post where I confessed my high degree of SEO ignorance. I also admitted I don’t dig it because it bores me and confused me because nobody really seems to agree on what works.

Today, I’m not sure if I know more or less about SEO than I did then. I do know I care less about it.

But in that post, I did attempt to be helpful. I wrote:

While 1,001 SEO schmoes may have 1,001 different fail-safe, white hat, field-proven tactics, everyone agrees the one thing all search engines are after is relevance. So come what may, scholars and simpletons can once and for all agree: the most effective SEO strategy of all time is to produce relevant content.

I’m sticking to my story.

I do recommend you understand search basics. In that story, I wrote about some search fundamentals, and here, I attempt to add a few useful nuggets.

Select smart keywords.

Search is all about words. Pick the ones that indicate to your reader what the subject matter is and you’ll accomplish the same with the search engines. If you are willing to dig into some research, use Google AdWords (or HubSpot's Keyword Tool, if you're a customer) to identify multi-word keyword strings with low competition.

Tackle your tags and titles.

You need to recognize Google and its brothers in search send out crawly little buggers in search of words to index your content by. They’re called “titles” and “tags.” Your keywords go there. Many content management systems have tools that will prompt you to tend to your tags and titles as you prepare to publish. 

Write smart snippets.

Brace yourself for two SEO power words: meta description. This is the field where you write a snippet, which performs a vital role on the search engine’s result page. It appears beneath the title and URL and its role is to describe what’s on the page that follows. You need to populate the meta description field with the answer to: “Why read this?” so searchers understand the value of your content.

Don’t buy links.

You’ll regret it. Build them. Focus on relevance, looking for opportunities to link back to your content on legitimate sites with guest posts, via social media, and any which way that can be described as user-focused. 

Don’t freak about every change Google makes.

Focus on readers.

  • You’ll be impervious to penalties if you simply create relevant content and title and tag your pages for proper indexing. Penguins, pandas, polar bears, and so forth can simply remain adorable animals.
  • Forgo your search fixation and you can focus on creating content. It’s what prospects are searching for.
  • Understand: Google evolves and experiments. They don’t reveal their cards. Mr. Cutts will be making more videos to warn you not to mess around. Do as he says. 
  • Understand: Google’s in the advertising business. They optimize for paying customers. 
  • Understand: Search engine ranks are not fixed; they’re fluid. They differ based on who you are, where you are, what you read, whom you hang with, and how you take your coffee. 
  • Google told you to do the rel=author thing to claim authorship. You were told to get busy on G+. You were told to follow instructions and you may find your photo next to your content on a result page. You were never told an official thing called “Author Rank” matters or even exists. 

Put it all in perspective.

Don’t take me for an SEO guru. I’m not. I may wrong about much of what I’ve written. Still, I urge you to put search rankings in perspective. 

They don’t matter as much as you think they do. Agreed, page one is the only page that matters. Oh sure, higher ranks = more clicks. Yes, clicks may fulfill some of your marketing goals: traffic, awareness, opt-ins, etc. 

But traffic also doesn’t matter as much as you think. Does getting a crowd into your store assure you more sales? I’ve said this so many times, it’s about time I wrote it:

Successful content marketing is not for getting people to your online properties. Success comes when you get people to subscribe to them. 

What you seek is trust, loyalty, and word of mouth. Your content marketing goal should be to create a passionate bond between your brand and buyers. High rankings alone won’t get it done.

Understand, please, this is an opinion piece. You’re entitled to yours. Right below, we offer a space where you can express them. You have to love life online.

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