November 26, 2013

Google: Are authors replacing inbound links as the key to success in search?

authors
Image by Les Chatfield on Flickr (CC BY)

Create a content strategy by enlisting top influencers to write for your sites

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

Chris AbrahamIt’s a great time to be passionate about social media, the Internet, online community, and the Google suite of products and services.

Google is about to reward you big-time just as Google pulls the rug out from under the feet of traditional SEO link strategies. Good for you, bad for many online businesses. Be sure to monetize while you can. 

In my analogy, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm will require each website owner to find one or more social media passion players and woo, hire, pay, or partner with them in order to get back on top of Google organic search. If you want your home page to rise to the top of Google Organic Search, I believe you’re going to have to bring some legit Google authors on board and publicly be associated with them.

For example, I lend my Google Authorship score to Socialmedia.biz, the Biznology blog, Business2CommunityAdAge, the Huffington Post, the Rosetta Stone blog, and my blog, Because the Medium is the Message. Also, to Gerris digital and to a former client’s site, too, DCBIA.

(What is Google Authorship? See the Socialmedia.biz article Why Google Authorship matters to your business.)

SEO has gone from just Web pages having Google juice that could be shared via a well-placed link to people having Google juice that they can then associate with sites, blogs, and publications. And, while I know that authorship and social have been a long time coming, the real move from a link economy to an influence economy is recent with the advent of the Google updates Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird.

Hummingbird is a game changer

hummingbird

Hummingbird is important. It’s turning how the top spots on Google are won. Instead of spending all your time guest blogging on other people’s sites in a desperate attempt at accumulating inbound links, Hummingbird presumably demands you attract influential and popular bloggers to you. Open your checkbook, this could get expensive — though it might be worth every penny.

You’re going to start needing to hire people with Google Authorship clout and authority so that you can hitch your wagon to their comprehensive devotion to native and passionate participation online. So, you can’t just hire a community manager to post ghost tweets and Facebook posts as you, you’ll have to hire someone who allows you to leverage their decade of time, effort, energy, and enthusiastic participation online for the opportunity to use their past efforts as the credentials that Google is seeking.

The way Authorship works on Google is that each author must associate himself with all his online publications, platforms, blogs, sites, and social networking services as well as all the publications for which he writes. In some cases these are verifies, other times, they require having access to an email inbox with the site’s associated domain name or embedding a bit of code into a post to prove you have access to publishing rights.

Google has chosen to reward both authors & consumers

profiles

According to an article by Alex Garrido — Google Prefers Verified Authors (Google Author Rank Exists) — Google has created its very own Klout score for each online content-producer. This Author Rank reflects your influence, popularity, and even your focus and expertise.

According to Garrido, popularity and influence come from the “click-through rate of listings with verified authorship, how much people share the content from a particular author, how many back-links an author generates, how many connections an author has in Google Plus and YouTube, and the quality of comments with Google’s verified commenting services partners such as Disqus and OpenID.” Yes, even your commenting and community participation habits could influence your Google clout.

Also, according to Garrido, your focus and expertise are probably deduced through videos you’ve been watching on YouTube, “including likes and comments, Google Discussions, Google Plus Comments, Google Plus Votes, photos uploaded to Picasa, searches from your mobile device (anything inside Android), and even content from your Google Drive.”

This method of allowing you to develop yourself not merely as a blog-writer or a content producer is brilliant. There are people who own YouTube and yet have never written a word. There are people who are super-influential online yet never publish onto AdAge or Huffington Post but comment and share and engage and participate every day.

Is there an Google Authorship bump for Android users?

Since Google evidently gives you the most passive points for participating in the Google product biosphere, one may very well assume that running and using Android devices while logged into your Author-associated Google Apps accounts would benefit your general participation score. So from now on, you’re not wasting your time on YouTube, just as long as you’re logged into YouTube via your Android, iPhone, iPad, or the Web. No points for doing any of these things anonymously or when you’re not logged in.

So, is there a benefit? Yes, because the more use use Android, the more you use Google, the more you share with Google, the more Google know who you are, really, and the more Google will reward you as a result.

Guest blogging with back-links no longer is effective

In the last few years, people have gone guest-blog wild, reaching out, often spamming blogs in order to secure guest-author spots on other blogs in order to post content that is both topical enough to fit in with the host blog and SEO-optimized enough that plenty of keyword-rich phrases would link back to their company or their own blog. This resource, time, and money-expensive strategy might not work very well any more.

Dropping guest blog posts on other sites optimized for back-links instead of appeal and popularity won’t work very well at all anymore — unless you can increase your own personal authorship through associating yourself with every blog on which you’ve guest-blogged.

While going around the Internet guest blogging on other people’s blogs may very well help bolster your own personal Google Authorship, the new Hummingbird update to Google’s search algorithm has jumped on the Klout bandwagon in their pursuit of top influencers — authors — over inbound text links.

See if your hosts will allow you to verify your authorship on their blogs — maybe you can trade verification. It’s generally not hard to add someone to your domain as a forwarded email address.

I really don’t even know if Google checks to see if you’ve actually created content there. Rather, they’re probably just looking for the bare verification. Don’t quote me, I am spit-balling here, but maybe I just found an awesome loophole. Let me know how it works.

Instead of seeding links, authorship & participation are becoming key

Arguably, in the past, Google has never prioritized websites but rather high Page Rank (PR) pages; however, there are clues that authors, rather than inbound links, are going to be what move websites to the top spots on Google.

I am sure that everything you’ve done up until now still works, just with less oomph. All the time you’ve spent running around the Interwebs trying to hack the system might have been better spent actually participating online — which is Google’s lesson here. It doesn’t matter because you don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater here.

All the hard work you have done still has some juice. The only thing is, the ecosystem has become larger. Now, all the SEO tricks you have done in the past are only half of what you need to do.

It’s essential now that you work on the other half, the Google Authorship half.  And, if you play your cards right, maybe someone at Google will tap you on the shoulder and grant you the prestigious (and I think more valuable in the new world of Hummingbird) “Google Verified” check on your Google+ profile — like I have.

Related

Google Hummingbird tries to remove the masks (Socialmedia.biz)

Google demands your papers with Hummingbird (Socialmedia.biz)Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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  • Chris, excellent post! I recently wrote about the changes SEO’s would have to make in 2014, in that, Google+ would be the place to be (along with other Google properties) in order to have a successful online presence. This article expands on that exponentially.

  • Chris, I love your perspective here.

    I would just like to say that there have been a good number of companies approaching me to put their links in a G+ post on my account with not so genuine goals. With over 1.5 million followers I know my name and account carry an extraordinary amount of power and it can’t be ‘used’ inappropriately.