Google Plus and the Authorship Tag

If you’re not on Google Plus already, you should be.

And no, it’s probably not for the reasons that you think. I don’t have any evidence that there is suddenly going to be an influx of new users. And I certainly don’t think that Google Plus will replace Facebook for most users anytime in the near future. I don’t think you should join Google Plus because of the people on it (and there are many), but rather the company connected with it.

Obviously, Google Plus is the brainchild of the team at Google. If there’s anything Google does well, it’s search.
The Nature of Search:

And search is tricky. The engineers at Google need to make sure that Google returns your query results with the best possible matches. After all, if you can’t find what you’re looking for on Google, you’ll be pretty upset.

Meanwhile, many webmasters and SEOs are trying to get Google to show their sites in an effort to make a little extra cash. Once upon a time, you could repeat keywords endlessly on a page or in title tags and that would move you to the top of the search ranking results. Soon Google figured out ways to reduce their ability to be manipulated through keywords by adding other factors into their algorithm. Things like links became common indicators of a site’s value.

The Rise of Links:

With this change, links became an indicator of what was important for ranking. If your site had a lot of links, you were “popular” on the web. Many links meant credibility, credibility meant you ranked higher in the search results, and a higher rank (usually) meant more money.

Today, links still are a large factor in site ranking. They are harder to manipulate than traditional text, but they can still be manipulated. Backlinks from cheap sites are easy to create, and link farms that endlessly promote a small group of sites still occasionally slip past the algorithm. As creative black hat SEOs work to figure out ways to outsmart the Google Algorithm, Google continues to look for new ways to make their algorithms more accurate.

Enter the Authorship Tag:

So what’s next? The challenge for search has always been determining what is “Good Content”. Good content is rather subjective. As of yet, computers are not very good determining what content is “good” and what content is “bad” as you and I would determine it.

Google Plus and the authorship tag allows you to claim the content you write. This means that Google just doesn’t look at the content, but also at the author of the content. If you write a lot of good content, than it’s far less likely that you’re trying to spam your users. The implications for search are huge. Google will likely begin ranking authors soon. When this happens, established authors are much more likely to rank higher in results. The things you write with your authorship tag attached will help or hurt you in Google results. Consistent good content (even across multiple sites) will likely help boost your rankings while poor quality content will hurt you. Furthermore, the information you input on your Google Plus profile may influence search results as well.

What Does It Mean?

We haven’t seen widespread inclusion of Google Plus in search rankings yet. And perhaps with Google’s recent interactions with the FTC, they may be slower to roll out this change. Yet many within the industry are beginning to believe that social signals will continue to influence search results in the future. As Google+ builds up a gold-mine of useful information, I think seeing this data begin to influence results is all but inevitable.

To see an in-depth analysis of this trend by the good folks over at SEOmoz, click here.

About the Author
Tyler Brooks
 is a SEO and video production specialist at Proof SEO.