The Future of Online Marketing in One Word: Authority

While social media commentators have all been focused on Google+, something else has been happening at the Googleplex that may prove more significant. Google is changing how it...

Google Authorship Tags

While social media commentators have all been focused on Google+, something else has been happening at the Googleplex that may prove more significant. Google is changing how it rates and ranks web-pages towards a single, defining criteria: authority.

Firstly, in June, Google started to connect content that appears in search results with its author, by adding a Google Authorship Tag (a headshot photo and link, see above) to the right hand of the screen. This aims to provide another means of rating content, by enabling the searcher to pick content written by recognised authorities. Of course, to have your Authorship tag show up, you need to have a Google Account and link to your Google Profile from the content that you’ve published. There’s an explanation of how to do this here.

Secondly, as I’ve mentioned recently on this blog, Google have started to prioritise content that’s been Liked, re-Tweeted and +1’d over content that hasn’t been shared via social media. This democratisation of search is going to change the SEO industry dramatically over the next few years and, as Steve Rubel points out in his post on this topic, we should expect SEO budgets to shift towards social SEO in that time-frame too.

Lastly, Google News has launched a new programme of Authority Badges that rewards those people who read lots of new stories with badges that will appear on their Google+ Profile. This isn’t just a gaming feature (though I expect we’ll see lots of competition for badges), once we’ve been identified as authorities I don’t have any doubt that Google will use that information to rate or rank our contributions online.

This is fascinating stuff, but with my critical hat on, I would question Google’s concept of an “authority”. Is a person who gets 100 Likes on an article actually knowledgeable, or are they just appealing to the masses? (Perhaps adjustments in weighting of Likes/shares will account for this). Is a person who reads 100 articles on a topic any more knowledgeable than the guy who reads the 5 best articles on that topic? I guess Google will decide.

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4 comments

  1. Stefan Reply

    Interesting piece Luke but I’d add that Google’s interest in ‘authority’ as a defining criteria predates its explicit referencing and badging of individuals.

    Here’s what Google’s Matt Cutts said back in 2008: “What are the links that will stand the test of time? It is
    an editorial link by someone that’s informed… they are not tricked; there is
    no bait and switch involved.”

    Google’s ongoing moves towards recognising authority generated through a combination of compelling (useful) content and authoritative (earned) links have been well documented. I’m not sure it classes as ‘democratisation’ but it’s defnitely good news for those individuals and organisations that recognise that genuine authority is earned.

    I agree that social search is a big opportunity moving forward – in the UK Google represents something like 92% of the market so it’s important we get this right.

    Likewise, if Google gets this wrong and it doesn’t represent people’s genuine needs, expect to see them change things and fast.

    1. Luke Brynley-Jones Reply

      Thanks Stefan. I confess you’ll have more of the back story on this – I’m coming very much from a social media perspective. I do think though that by increasing the visibility of social media authority as a factor, Google is extending “earned” media into new territory.

      1. Stefan Reply

        I definitely agree that it’s extending into new territory – it’s following the money!

        Interesting piece. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon.

  2. Future Of Online Marketing | Internet Marketing Blog - Free IM Tips and free Resources Reply

    […] Firstly, in June, Google started to connect content that appears in search results with its author, by adding a Google Authorship Tag (a headshot photo and link, see above) to the right hand of the screen. This aims to provide another means of rating content, by enabling the searcher to pick content written by recognised authorities. Of course, to have your Authorship tag show up, you need to have a Google Account and link to your Google Profile from the content that you’ve published. This is fascinating stuff, but with my critical hat on, I would question Google’s concept of an ‘authority’. Is a person who gets 100 Likes on an article actually knowledgeable, or are they just appealing to the masses. (Perhaps adjustments in weighting of Likes/shares will account for this). Is a person who reads 100 articles on a topic any more knowledgeable than the guy who reads the 5 best articles on that topic. I guess Google will decide. Read more on Future Of Online Marketing […]

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