Want to know how Google is going to get users to leave Facebook and use Google Plus? They are going to pay them to do it (indirectly).
Author Rank is only being talked about in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Content Marketing circles at the moment, but the effects of the coming SEO earthquake it causes could be felt by everybody before it is over. It is not just a tool to improve their search engine. It is an asset they intend to use to take over social media. I’ll explain . . .
If you’ve followed social media over the last few years, you’ve seen Google launch round after round of social platforms, each with a characteristic belly-flop ending — Friend Connect, Lively, Wave, Buzz, and Plus. But slow down. Maybe we’ve written Plus off too quickly.
A Bunch Looked, The Geeks Stayed
Plus launched in 2011 and didn’t gain a lot of marketshare. The tool itself seems to be excellent, but there wasn’t a good enough reason to leave Facebook and Twitter for the average user. We’ve assumed its success was less-than-hoped-for by the bright minds in the GooglePlex. Or was it what they expected? They did get some momentum with web geeks, the SEO industry, and Content Marketers, and those folks don’t seem to have left.
And it looks like they have a card to play which could set those geeks on fire and put Plus in a rapid growth curve. That card is Author Rank.
Author Rank, very simply, is a patented (2005) method of authenticating authorship, measuring the author’s influence, and building that influence into search rankings. All of those steps hinge on the Author’s use of Google Plus.
Why Authentication Is Already Important
Authorship authentication is done by tying your content posts to your Google Plus account. This is already in effect. It took about 3 weeks for our author info to show up in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) after we linked our Plus accounts to our posts. Bio pics and author info in SERPs increase click-thru-rates (CTR). If I see a white page full of text and one of the results has the author’s picture next to it, my eye is immediately going to jump to that entry. If Google trusts that author enough to post their picture, I’ll trust that author enough to click through and look at their post.
Increasing CTR is one (valuable) thing, but what if Google started measuring the author’s influence and baking that into the search rankings? That’s a much bigger deal. And that is indeed the plan. When it hits (likely sometime this year), it will change the shape of the SEO industry. And that will just be the start.
How Plus Makes You Money
Think about this. Google has made it known that they will start measuring an individual’s influence by their interactions on Plus. (They post the number of Circles the author is in as part of the author info on SERPs. Google considers that info valuable or they wouldn’t waste the characters on their minimalist SERPs.) The number of Circles they are in, the number of comments, shares, +1s, etc. that their posts get will all factor into that person’s Author Rank.
That Author Rank will then factor into search rankings. If an author has a high rank, their posts will jump in the rankings. They’ll get more visits to their site, and those visits turn into customers. Now we’re talking real money. That’s why I say that Google will pay you to use Plus.
Content Marketers and SEOs, if they haven’t already, will start wearing Google Plus out. Each time they make waves in Plus, their search rankings rise. That has monetary value. And money has a way of changing behavior. If I have 5 minutes to share and read on social media, that monetary influence might push me to Plus instead of Facebook or Twitter.
So we see how Google provides a monetary incentive (albeit indirect) to use Google Plus for Content Marketers. But how does that trickle down all the way to the regular Joe leaving Facebook? I’ll make a few conjectures on some trends we’ll see in the near future and how each small wave could lead to a tidal wave that overturns the Facebook behemoth.
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The Rebirth of Industry Forums (Google Plus Communities)
A big part of Google’s algorithm right now has to do with incoming links from within your niche. They clearly think that a link to a plumber’s website from another plumbing-niche website is more valuable than a link from a florist or YellowBook. The same factors will weigh into Author Rank. If an author writes about plumbing, Google will increase their Author Rank more if their signals from their plumbing “Communities” on Plus are high, as opposed to their signals from other non-industry-specific communities.
In another life, I was a photographer. My advancement as a photographer was catapulted by hanging out on a couple of Forums or Message Boards. I learned an awful lot very quickly through the Digital Wedding Forum and Open Source Photo (now shut down). When Facebook and Twitter came on the scene, those forums took a big hit. Not because they lost their value. We just got overwhelmed with the novelty of social media.
Plus has much more of a forum feel to it and facilitates topic-based communities, sharing, and learning much better than Twitter or Facebook. Plus Communities will continue to evolve to become more and more like forums. Some of us will have very good rea$on$ to hang out in industry Communities. Sharing and learning within an industry topic could experience a rebirth over the next few years. Search rankings will be influenced by our involvement in Communities.
Great Writers Leave Traditional Media
The Age of Free Agency is coming. Most newspapers are nearly kaput. Most magazines have not survived the digital transition. Journalists are looking for work and some are going to work for Content & Inbound Marketing firms like ours. They are darn good at writing and their skills can be used in business now more than ever before. Book authors are beginning to self-publish. That’s an industry in turmoil.
And now Google is going to make it possible to port your author influence wherever you go. You don’t have to get hired long-term with a publication or company or start your own business to make good money as a writer. Guest Posting is about to go through the roof.
Let’s say ITD Interactive wants to generate lots of traffic on a competitive “marketing” keyword that is valuable to us. We could pay Seth Godin (presumably with a high Author Rank in the marketing niche) to make a post for us on that keyword to generate gobs of traffic. Our domain might not have much authority or do well on search rankings by itself. But we would piggy back on Seth’s author’s rank to jump in the search rankings for the post we paid him to write. Then we capitalize on all the traffic he brought us.
How much would we pay for this? Big money.
What you’ll see is freelance writers begin writing lots of stuff around specific topics to increase their niche-specific Author Rank. They’ll go to work for a company for six months, establish their Author Rank in the niche, then take their show on the road and become a free agent writer in that niche. That author is, by necessity, an avid user of Plus. The demise of the newspaper and magazine industries is playing right into the hands of Google.
Keep in mind, here, the significance of the kinds of folks they are pulling onto Plus. These are a lot of the best content creators on the web. And social is all about sharing great content. This core group of superb content producers could change the entire social game.
So hard-core SEOs, Content Marketers, and now journalists are using Plus at a frenzied pace. Who is next to join the party?
Small Business Gets The Idea
We’re seeing A LOT of small businesses who are starting to understand that things have changed. Their old marketing methods are just not working. They start to understand that the power is now in the hands of the consumer and they have to become attractive to the consumer on search and social media.
So they employ the services of a firm like us or hire a trained Inbound Marketer and do what we do in-house. All of a sudden Author Rank and Google Plus become important to not just SEOs, Content Marketers, and Journalists, but Boat Clubs, Battery Manufacturers, Dentists, Tire Bladder Makers, and Nutritionists. You get the picture. They all start to realize that they need the added boost of Author Rank to get to the top of Google.
Critical Mass Begins To Take Effect
You now have a lot of people using Plus regularly in a lot of different Communities. They might be on Plus to talk about their industry–photography–but they also like crocheting. So they join a crocheting Community, which now has enough people to be a valuable resource. They have friends on Facebook who like to crochet. So they post a link to a Plus post on Facebook and a few friends click through. You see where it goes from there.
Google Could Use Facebook and Twitter Now, But They Don’t
It is not because of technical difficulties that Google doesn’t factor Facebook and Twitter into their results now. Those are established social signals which could instantly give them good data to build Author Rank off of. There are bona fide geniuses at the GooglePlex. The could do it, they just don’t want to.
What they’ve wanted to do for a long time now is build their own social network. As late as last week, we see that Facebook wants to build a search engine, so the feeling is mutual. Everybody wants everybody else’s business. Google has attempted to use their brand to build that social network, but we’ve seen time and time again that their brand, strong as it is, isn’t enough.
Now they are going to employ their biggest weapon–their core search business–to leverage users away from Facebook and push them to Google Plus.
There are a lot of other factors which play into this scenario, like privacy issues. Penny for your thoughts in the comments.
“Google Plus” Search Trends
We’ll put our theories to the test. Here is a 12-month-trailing auto-updating Google Trends graph for search volume on the phrase “Google Plus”. This would show interest in the platform, not necessarily usage, but it should be a good indicator. We’ll see how it goes.
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More Author Rank & Google + evidence rolling in. http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2241704/Eric-Schmidt-Google-Will-Give-Higher-Rankings-to-Content-Tied-to-Verified-Profiles