The authority of an author will be an important element in determining content value in the new semantic web. While there is no Google author rank as yet, Virante and Mark Traphagen have introduced their own Author Rank tool to help assess author authority and value. They understand the increasing importance of author authority and have provided a way to evaluate author authority quickly and easily.

Virante have been very clear that there is as yet no evidence that Google is using any system of Author Rank, despite a number of moves in this direction such as Google+ profiles and Google authorship. There have also been quotes from senior Google that indicate this may be a direction of travel. For example Matt Cutts was quoted earlier this year saying:

We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is more of an authority on a specific space. You know, it could be medical. It could be travel. Whatever. And try[ing] to make sure that those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority… we think might be a little more appropriate for users.

However, as Mark Traphagen has pointed out Google spokesperson John Mueller confirmed only in September that Google Authorship is not yet a ranking factor in search.

The Virante Author Rank Tool

It is to Virante's credit that they recognize the value of authors and they have sought to develop a way in which you can quickly evaluate authors according to the value they bring. The Virante Author Rank tool is currently in beta and helps you determine a person's author rank based on an algorithm they have created which takes into account the quality, quantity and diversity of their Google authorship posts. This takes into account:

  • the link value of sites to which an author contributes
  • the volume of content that an author produces
  • the link value of the content an author produces
  • the diversity of sites an author contributes to

You can enter your Google+ profile, or someone else's profile, and the tool calculates the author rank which is displayed visually as follows:

steve rayson author rank

The tool provides an aggregate overall value of the author based on the factors listed above. The tool also provides theme scores, I score 6.8 for distance learning (which is what my company does) and 4.4 for business and internet marketing (which is my hobby and passion). The tool also doesn't, to my knowledge, overlay a social layer in terms of content sharing by other authors or plus ones. These factors may explain my relatively high author rank (7.6) compared to others. I think it may be influenced by the quantity of content I write. I tend to produce three or so long form posts a week across different sites. It will also be influenced by the link value of these sites.

I checked the rank scores of some of the authors I follow such as my work colleague Cammy Bean (7.51), Ardath Albee (7.57) and Ryan Hanley (7.53) who all have similar author ranks. What is slightly surprising is that well known and established authors, with clearly greater authority than myself, such as Mark Traphagen or Eric Enge have a lower author rank. This may be due to the recent volume of content I have published on high link value sites. It may also be due to the diversity element of Virante's algorithm as I write across a broad range of subjects from elearning to B2B marketing. If a social layer is introduced or an author rank is calculated by topic then I think my personal author rank would fall relatively quickly, as my content is not concentrated into one area, and I have a relatively small social following.

Overall I think what Virante are doing is to be applauded. There clearly is a need for a way to evaluate author authority quickly and easily. Many tools that claim to help you identify influencers with authority simply look at factors such as the number of followers, primarily as these are easy to access and compare. What Virante are trying to do is more complex but will potentially provide a more valuable service.

In my view one of the key uses for the tool in the short term is to assess your own ranking, rather than the ranking of others, and to track this over time. This allows you to monitor your progress in establishing yourself as an author and as an authority.

To look at specific topic influencers you can gain insights by using tools such as BuzzSumo. This is an example list it produces for B2B content marketing influencers, and Ardath is in the top three of this list at the time of writing.

In summary, a big thanks to Virante for this development. The tool is still in beta so we can expect scores to change partly as they add new elements and partly as they go through the testing and debugging process. However, it is definitely a move in the right direction in establishing author value.

In my personal view to develop authoritative content and value as an author you need to:

  • be passionate and knowledgeable about your topic, read everything you can about the topic and become an expert
  • produce original content, this can be research, new interviews or new perspectives
  • ensure your content is high quality, i.e. well produced and well written
  • share your content with focused communities and engage in debate with other authors
  • implement your Authorship Markup, this should probably be number one