Is writing the new superpower? Make it so with Google Authorship!

Will Google Authorship guarantee prosperity for online journalism? Nope. But it could significantly change the nature of the SEO game by connecting credible authors with their work, strengthening our chances.

No more faux Blockshopper type headlines. I like that.

At TechWeek Chicago 2012, buzz was building around Google Author – SEO champs were chewing over the details. But I credit my initial interest from a meeting with local SEO meister Andy Crestodina, co-founder and strategic developer for Orbit Media Studios here in Chicago. When we met I planned to interview him, but he told me to put away my recorder because he wanted to learn more about me. Me? I was further flabbergasted when he interrupted my overly detailed digital career opus and said “Wait, there’s one thing you haven’t said you are that you are – a writer!” I’ll admit I was struck dumb. I blurted a reply “That’s because I want to be paid for my work!”

14 years is a long stretch of career to have been back-peddling my humble skills as a scribe. I had reason, though. For a decade-plus, web producers and other digital entrepreneurs had been saying that grabbing “content” off Wikipedia and other sites and rewriting it for  websites was just fine. Hence the name of one of my early blogs was “Snake eats Tail.” When I would argue the virtues of originally researched and journalistically sound articles, stories and other digital “content” these folks’ eyes would glaze over. Then the coders would intervene, arguing there was no need for words, especially words that required cash payment.

Embrace the SEO bugaboo

But here was Crestodina in one short phrase shattering this past reality. “Writing is the ultimate superpower,” he said. And, he said, the tide is turning in favor of writers, journalists and news sites, if we would just pay closer attention to that bugaboo called SEO, or search engine optimization, and other emerging tools, such as Google Author.

So what is Google Authorship? It connects writers with their writing. Using what’s called a rich snippet it pops your photo into links to articles written by you. Photos in searches are good because people tend to click on them more.

With Authorship, Google sees content associated with real identity as  higher quality

In a July 9 email, Amanda Chang, with Global Communications and Public Affairs for Google Inc said this:

“While Authorship is not currently one of the over 200 signals we use in search ranking, we hope to experiment with using information about Authorship as a signal in ranking in the future. We hope it will improve the search experience over time as we believe that often times content associated with real identity is of higher quality than content published anonymously.

Improvement is needed.  It can’t happen too soon. We’re glad experimentation is in the works. Still, although Authorship is not a ranking factor,  it’s a factor in what gets clicked by making  the listing more prominent in search results. Crestodina says he has seen research indicating that when the author’s headshot appears in search results, CTR (clickthrough rates) increase by 150%.

Sagar Kamdar, Group Product Manager for Google Search, said of Authorship in a recent interview:

The main thing that we are trying to address is the faceless nature of the web. For many years people have been clicking on content not knowing who created it, and not knowing who commented on it. What we are seeing is that users really want to know who created that bit of content. Users know who their favorite authors are, and we’re trying to make it easy for them to communicate with those author(s).

As this SEO guy says so eloquently on Youtube get your “mug on the SERP and you guys want to learn about me. ….Google is looking for your face.”

Yes. The Internet needs good writing.

Need for unique content rising since 2005

When I met with Crestodina in late June, he explained that he started to see a sizeable uptick in the market for unique “content” in 2005 – that’s what journalists call “news.” In our meeting, he discussed rich snippets and how the Google Authorship Markup works. He took me on a tour of how to best think of keywords and where to research domain name authority – stuff I had watched develop but never fully studied.

As a Huffington Post blogger, I had caught flack from newsroom folks for writing for free. But as an independent, I knew it was better to have a platform than to not have one. Seeing that Huffington Post has a a perfect score of 100 on the domain authority scale  vs my own site’s authority of 38 explained why my instincts were right.

What I am beginning  to more fully understand now is that if I learn to better work SEO, my website can actually gain authority and become a good platform for my business – even in the sea of words that is the Internet. I also learned that if I use a tool like Google Author, readers will be able to locate my writing wherever it resides on the Internet. Theoretically my work could be cut in half as I won’t have to store all my bylines on my blog anymore – which was actually bad for my SEO, but I didn’t know that. It turns out that duplicate content is confusing to Google.

Identity, relationships and content

What these SEO experts see coming in the future is this: Author rank will influence page rank will influence the search engine results page.

Crestodina quotes Amit Singhal, Head of the Core Search Team for the Google search engine. “Fundamentally, it’s not just about content. It’s about identity, relationships and content.”

And Crestodina’s take on that is:

  • Identity = author
  • Relationship = Google Authorship “signature”
  • Content = the article itself.

I’m hearing that it’s beneficial to all writers – but especially journalists — to go through the necessary steps to be regarded as an author by the Google algorithm. Although the tide rises for all of us with Google Authorship, news sites will undoubtedly be left behind if they don’t start using SEO and other tools strategically.  The Web guys and everybody else are already stampeding toward it.

Google’s Chang sent me three links for getting started.

Meanwhile I spent several days setting up the Google  Authorship markup and going back through Webmaster tools, examining the steps related to domain rank I had perhaps skipped in the past. We’ll see if it works. If  you’re not a DIY like I am, your webmaster should be able to get Web Authorship to work for you pretty quickly.

Google’s Chang  also offered to answer any additional questions we might have. Let’s send some her way.

Next week, I’ll be revisiting some of the basics of SEO for journalists and sharing SEO wisdom from publishers in the BlockbyBlock network.

Sally Duros is a social journalist working toward the next generation of successful, credible online newsrooms. Connect with her on  and on twitter at saduros.


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