What Is the Difference Between Google Authorship and Author Rank?

Google Authorship rel=author linkingIf you follow my writing here, on various other blogs, and on Google+, you know that I am a big fan of Google’s Authorship project, and that I do a great deal of thinking and research about it. But when you’ve got your nose deep into something, it’s easy to slip into jargon and forget that others may not have any idea what you’re talking about.

Over on our Google Authorship and Author Rank Community on Google+ (which you should definitely join if this topic interests you!), we notice that people regularly seem to confuse and/or interchange two related but very different terms: “Authorship” and “Author Rank” (sometimes written as AuthorRank in a reference to Google’s famous PageRank).

It’s like when I’m at a get together and I mention that I’m into SM…and when I see the looks on peoples’ faces, I quickly have to explain that I mean “Social Media,” not “Sado Masochism.”

So here’s the tl;dr (too long;didn’t read) answer, with more detail below: Google Authorship is the tool, and Author Rank is one (potential) thing that could be built  with the tool (in the future).

What are Authorship and Author Rank?

Authorship refers to the project by Google wherein they have given us a set of methods to make a verified connection between our original content anywhere on the web and our Google+ profiles. Google Authorship makes one eligible to get the Authorship Rich Snippet in search results: the author’s profile photo next to the result along with a byline that clicks-through to the author’s profile, (sometimes) the number of Google+ circles the Author is in, and a link to more search results for that author’s related content.

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/104474428845467390263

Authorship rich snippet search result

Here’s how to set up your content to be eligible for Google Authorship.

Author Rank is the term we use to describe a theoretical future result of using Authorship: Google’s ability to generate a score for you in each of the topic areas about which you regularly build content, and then use that score to affect your search rankings for content in each of your topics. Based on a series of Google patents and what we have heard from Googlers, we believe the ranking score will be a sort of trust evaluation, based on both how much your content is engaged with in each topic area, and who engages with it. If you post about “bird watching” and someone else who has a high trust factor for “bird watching” shares your post, it probably has a higher Author Rank effect for you than if anyone else shares it.

I want to caution that much of what we say about Author Rank, as with any search engine ranking factor is speculative. Also it does not yet appear that Author Rank is yet being used in any significant way. All any Googler has ever said about it is that they are currently collecting data on anyone using the program, and that it may be a ranking factor “at some point.” I happen to think that they are already experimenting with the search ranking mix, but even if that part isn’t switched on yet, it’s still worth participating because you get the author rich snippet in results, Google can separate your original content from scrapers who steal it, and you’re building up Author Rank data that will help you when it is switched on.

Here are Google staffers Othar Hansson and Matt Cutts introducing Google Authorship back in August of 2011:

See also: “How to Show Your Author Photo in Google Search Results” – my complete guide to implementing Google Authorship.

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What Is the Difference Between Google Authorship and Author Rank? by

Mark is Director of Digital Outreach for Virante Inc. Mark helps businesses build strategies to increase brand influence and attract natural links and social signals. He has a special reputation as an expert on Google+ and Google Authorship. A former teacher, Mark has worked directly in Internet marketing since 2005, but has been involved in social media and online community formation since the mid 1990s. When not helping Virante clients improve their online presence, Mark participates in competitive storytelling, plays with a Dixieland street band, and (surprise) spends more time on the web.

Comments

  1. I had been grappling with authorship for a while before I realized that it was “experimental”. Prior to that it was driving me crazy with its inconsistency – and it still is. I used a plugin that seems to do the job. One thing that seems to be hit and miss is the Direct Connect functionality that essentially embeded a button to your G+ page in Google results for your main site. I think they have since gotten rid of the button and just display limited bio info form your G+ page to the right of the result. When I search “Phacient” (my company) I see that happens now. I can’t speak to tomorrow. :-)

    I wouldn’t even pay any attention to Author Rank since Google themselves admit that it’s really experimental. Until there are a significant number of people using authorship it will be fairly useless since there won’t be enough relevant data.

    • Patrick, it’s an experiment I want to stick with. To me the most important thing is what any Googler who’s talked publicly about this in the past year has said: they are currently collecting trust data on anyone using authorship. That means even if it isn’t affecting rankings at all at this point (which I doubt), it’s still worth having and working through, because you want to have that built up ranking trust for your main topics when they do kick it on.

      • Oh, totally Mark. It can’t HURT right? I’m putting in the authorship work (and the direct connect to that extent) but I’m not going to get too caught up with the whole Author Rank just yet. I don’t think it’s applied at all. There just isn’t enough data yet.

  2. The fact the Authorship project seems to point towards connecting the web of people with the web of content, makes me think this is something Google will make work. I’d just love to see some data! I like the concept, just don’t think it’s getting a hard enough sell currently.

    • This is only my speculation on this Graeme, but I think perhaps Google is being intentionally low key about Authorship, perhaps to give it a chance to be beta tested and improved before the spammers jump all over it. There are enough high quality content producers out there who have been smart enough to implement it to give Google a good working beta user base, from which they can evaluate data and perfect the program. Plus I think Google often likes to put things out there, let the geeks find them and play with them, and see what they do with it.

  3. i think that’s microsoft has collaborated with klout in order to bring the same sort of precision in their bing search rankings

  4. Mark, as usual great article. This should help people start their adventure in understanding what we have been talking about for some time. I might sound like a broken record but would this not be the best way to teach an artificial intelligence not only what is the source of the relevant information, but also what emotional responses could be exhibited from that data? The fact that it is “taking inventory” on not just our data and its original source, but our feelings on the data (G+ profile) and how it compares to our circles data/emotional responses. It is calculating it on the authorship advanced algorithm instead of relying on someones back-link or click to prove relevance. The authorship era is literally the opposite of graph search, based on arbitrary “likes”.

    Another point, I could have honestly explained how to set up rel=authorship a lot better than Google’s help video linked at the bottom and my (computer illiterate) agrees. If readers what to learn about the theory of author rank and authorship they should skip Google’s how to and go right to your articles because I learned a lot of it by watching you.

  5. Great resource here Mark. I’ve also noticed that with the rising popularity of the phrase Author Rank, people are starting to use the term synonymously with Authorship or author authority. I think by shifting the conversation to the perceived benefits of Author Rank, people will realize these benefits can already be achieved through frequently creating great content with authorship markup and by actively sharing and interacting on Google+.

  6. I wrirte for 2 different websites under different variation of my name. One of the variations I use for articles for one website and another for the other site.

    How would I set up Authorship for my second website which does not use the exact same name I use on my first website when you need to have an exact match of your name in your Google profile.

    Basically , how would I setup 2 or more variations of my name to claim authorship?

  7. Which are authenticated software for measuring Author rank for our profile https://plus.google.com/109908196145391621273

    • Nilesh, we don’t even know if there is (yet) any “Author Rank” at this point. And even if there is, since we can’t know exactly how Google determines it, there is no way to measure it. However, Google+ profiles do have PageRank. The tool at http://prchecker.net can show PageRank for G+ profiles. (Be aware that Google hasn’t updated public PageRank since February 2013.)

      The profile you linked does not show any PageRank, which means that in February it either did not yet exist or had not yet accumulated any measurable PageRank.

  8. Thanks Mark for your detailed explanation. I would start experimenting on my author profile soon!

  9. Thank you jfor the great info. I would like to know if their is any metrics than can comparatively tell the author score?

Trackbacks

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  3. [...] Connection with Google Authorship, which shows my profile photo next to search results for my content across the web. Recently at a [...]

  4. [...] What is the Difference Between Google Authorship and Author Rank Mark Traphagen has been an active voice working to keep up on the changes that Authorship has brought to SERPs and to how people use Google Plus. Here’s an article where he delves into how it is important to understand the difference between the concept of Google Authorship and it’s related markup and the idea of Author Rank. [...]

  5. [...] What is the Difference Between Google Authorship and Author Rank Mark Traphagen has been an active voice working to keep up on the changes that Authorship has brought to SERPs and to how people use Google Plus. Here’s an article where he delves into how it is important to understand the difference between the concept of Google Authorship and it’s related markup and the idea of Author Rank. [...]

  6. [...] A simple explanation of Authorship & Author Rank and how the two relate.  [...]

  7. [...] than ever before since the advent of the Internet, as a blogger or other kind of writer you need to create quality content. But how can you reconcile the need for quality with the need for quantity (i.e. the need to write [...]

  8. [...] Authorship works with Google+ to verify an author’s identity. Code snippets are used to connect authors on Google+ with their web content. Mark Traphagen clears up much confusion about these two tools in his post about Author Rank and Authorship [...]

  9. [...] products to influence search results, but the point is – it’s happening. This is called Authorship. It “gives us [the content producers] a set of methods to make a verified connection between [...]

  10. [...] is the thing Google uses to determine Author Rank. As Mark Traphagen says, "Authorship is the tool, and Author Rank is the (potential) thing built with that [...]

  11. [...] products to influence search results, but the point is – it’s happening. This is called Authorship. It “gives us [the content producers] a set of methods to make a verified connection between [...]

  12. [...] If and when Google implements Author Rank, it could be a real game-changer in terms of online influence and reputation. And as we’ve discussed above, in the connected economy reputation is a marketable economy. I’ve been predicting for over a year now that we will see the day when the salary market for high-reputation online Google Authors will be as high as it is now for people like talented web developers. (If you want to know more about Google Authorship and Author Rank, see my post “Google Authorship and Author Rank.”) [...]

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  16. [...] that changed those misconceptions. Perhaps it was the use of words like “content” and “authorship” that struck a chord and encouraged me to take a closer look. My introduction started on October [...]

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