Google, SEO and Author Rank: It’s Getting Personal

08 Apr 2013 – Tina Courtney-Brown – Featured –

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In the competitive world of SEO, any edge up on the competition is a godsend. Here’s a word to the wise: If you’re looking to up your Search Engine Page Rankings (SERPs), you should start caring very deeply about author rank. A well charted content strategy consists of more than just well written, on target, audience-specific articles; nowadays it’s crucial to tie it all to a well-ranked author.

Consider this a similar notion to the spirit of link sharing; we now know it’s critical that we understand imperatively the reputation of everyone we link to, and those who link to us. In that same vein, it’s now a must that we equally consider author reputation. In a world of rampant social sharing, this is one of a few key ways search engines are cutting through the content clutter. And it’s your ticket to better SEO.

Consider this book excerpt from “The New Digital Age,” authored by Google Executive Chariman Eric Schmidt:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

Irrelevance?!? That’s a very strong statement. And that alone is proof that author rank should be on your SEO radar.

 

How Author Rank Became an SEO Darling

Every day, a staggeringly high number of “social events” are triggered by web users. “Social events” are things like Facebook Likes, Google +1s, tweets, and content shares. To that end, search engines can conceivably sort the relevance of this mountain of data by considering each author’s reputation (a little like Klout, a site that lets authors track their own ranking prowess, aims to achieve.)

It used to be that the key to SEO was in massive link building, but as this transformed into a less than stellar user experience, search engines shifted their strategies. In order to maintain credibility and track the quality of content in a more cohesive manner, author rank has become a much stronger focus. This is an obvious evolution for the algorithms, especially considering the astronomically increasing amount of data that must be tracked in real-time. Gone are the days when link directories and volumes of anonymous posts reigned supreme. As people, we have long since preferred to interact with other people, not bots or nameless, invisible beings – it turns out Google feels the same way.

 

Quantifying Author Rankings

SEO is not an exact science, but it does support common sense in considering how the algorithms might dissect a concept like author rank. Here are some key social signals to consider as you’re building your own ranking (please note these are ideas, and not guarantees… yet):

1) Social Media Profiles: This one is a no-brainer. If you’re going to have any credibility to the masses these days, you clearly need to be on the big dogs: Facebook and Twitter at a minimum, but ideally other sites like Pinterest and LinkedIn. Likewise, a Google+ definitely feels like a must-have, because it’s obvious Google is paying hyper-close attention to their own social darling.

2) Quantity of Social Events: The volume of content you create is certainly applicable, but what’s more relevant these days is the number of tweets, shares, +1s and Likes a piece you authored generates. Bear in mind search engines are not looking at how many social events you trigger, but those of your content instead.

3) Frequency of Social Events: It’s not just about volume, but how often your content generates a Like, share, etc. Both Google and Bing have already admitted that they measure social velocity to help identify high-ranking news; it’s reasonable to assume they are tracking the same for author rankings too.

4) Publisher Credibility: Remembering that quality still trumps quantity, the authority of the site where the content appears is also integral to your success. We are therefore reminded to choose our publishing partners carefully while building SEO rank, because mass publication on sites with bad reputations – or none at all – can actually hurt your cause instead.

 

Ways to Improve Your Author Rank

So now that you’ve embraced the importance of author rank and have started understanding how it might be quantified, let’s talk about some real-world strategies to improve your results over the long term.

You obviously need a great social media and SEO strategy for the content on your actual website. Consider unifying your marketing efforts and having one cohesive voice write the majority of your content. This may go against the grain of large teams of marketers and writers propelling forward various styles, but given the increased importance of author rank, it’s advisable that you seek an authority to lead the charge – not just a snazzy copywriter. This means you should consider hiring an author with expertise in your field, so that you may utilize the social following and clout they’ve already established. By all means, leverage the audience these experts have already established. The more you personalize the messaging from your brand, the more likely you are to make a personal connection with your customers. (Seriously, who likes impersonal sales-y sounding social signals and marketing materials?). Likewise, it now seems SEO is gearing towards the personal too, so this is a win-win. Use sites like LinkDex to help identify the perfect candidate to author your content charge.

Next up is outreach – identify news sites, bloggers and related content hubs that feature information related to your business’s expertise. Once determined, don’t just go through the standard submission process for the site; seek out the authors you are most in tune with and ask them personally to consider featuring your business, content, inforgraphic or related media. See the personal trend here? It’s becoming as good as gold. (It always was for customers, now search engines are getting in on the action too.)

Finally, remember that diversity in content is also a key tactic. Don’t just focus on keyword-rich articles, have some fun and mix it up. Create compelling viral videos, interactive content, infographics and related visuals, and/or eBooks so that your offerings create a broad appeal. Above all, don’t forget to clearly delineate authorship on all the content you publish.

 

Author Rank’s Longevity

Considering all the current web trends, and Google’s most recent statements, banking on author rank as a growing SEO trend is a safe bet. Start utilizing the requested tactics straight away, and stick with them long term, as they are likely to become more and more critical to your rankings. As Google executive Schmidt clearly stated, staying anonymous may result in irrelevance. It’s clear Google can’t, and won’t, ignore the immense amount of social data out there, so make yours count as much as possible by tying content to credible authors. If Google wants to know all they can about who’s writing your content, you should clearly want the same.

What The Convergence of Physical and IT Security Means For You

30 Jan 2013 – Ray Cavanagh – Ezine –

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It wasn’t long ago when physical security was comprised simply of locks and keys and the occasional fence or guard dog as a deterrent. Those days have passed as surely as vinyl records have been replaced by digital music.

 

Guard services serve a two-fold purpose: To deter potential security breaches via their presence, and to react to breaches as they occur. However, the technique of simply stationing a guard or patrolling an area is no longer adequate and must be augmented by electronic tools that enable personnel to increase overall coverage.

 

Unlike on TV shows and movies, a guard making rounds typically will not see signs of forced entry very easily. Although the move to automated access control, such as swipe, prox and smart cards, has modernized entrance points of facilities, it also becomes more difficult to identify when those portals have been breached. Access control can be fooled through the use of cloned cards or access to the network, making the facility appear as though all is well.

 

So, how does today’s security officer counter the potential threat? The use of video is one possibility. But how does a guard both observe video while inspecting a facility? One answer can be found in the next generation of analytics.

 

While video is ubiquitous today, many cameras still employ analog devices. Moving to digital IP video systems enables roaming guards to receive real-time alerts through the use of handheld devices, which allows for rapid response to potential threats. Video analytics have traditionally been rules-based systems, meaning software that allows you to write a rule using Boolean logic to anticipate suspicious behavior. The problem in that scenario is rules must be written for every camera since they will all have different views and encounter different potential threats. In addition, the operator needs to anticipate every potential threat, which is not really feasible. This setup makes rules based analytics software difficult to manage, requires enormous upkeep and still may not “catch the bad guy.”

 

On the other hand, next-generation behavioral analytics packages operate by “learning” behavior through observation, completely eliminating the need to write rules. Within a few hours, the software can identify ongoing “normal” behavior and only send alerts or alarms on anomalous behavior, which can be sent to a guard’s handheld unit to facilitate rapid response and stop potential breaches. This system essentially allows the user to “set it and forget it,” making it one of the easiest, most effective systems to install and use.

 

Remote monitoring is another way of leveraging technology with physical security. Video today is used most often for remediation, not prevention. In our litigious society, lawsuits abound on falls from spilled coffee, or broken bones from tripping on a carpet at the store. While it is critically important to be able to use video for remedying these issues, it is more efficient and less time consuming to prevent these issues in the first place. While live monitoring of video might not be able to stop an individual from slipping on a coffee spill, it might provide staff the opportunity to clean up the spot before an accident occurs.

 

The advent of IP video enables the monitoring of locations remotely via online IP networks. The beauty of this monitoring option is that it keeps a watchful eye and enables rapid on-site response while continuing to monitor the situation. Additionally, on-site monitoring feeds can be disrupted, damaged or even lost.

 

While the ultimate goal of any security system is to lower response times and increase overall situational awareness, security personnel and emergency responders must be capable and knowledgeable in how technology is used to augment those real-time events. That’s why both the IT organization and the security team must develop an easy to implement, cohesive plan that incorporates all aspects of security. The benefits of such a plan can reduce criminal activity, service disruptions and other risk factors that could impede business continuity.

 

As criminals become more tech-savvy, it is up to security professionals to stay several steps ahead. We will never eliminate the need for live response to situations and security personnel to deter threats. However, by augmenting the human factor with automation, overall coverage can be vastly improved, costs reduced and the ability to prevent crime before occurring substantially increased. In a peek at the future, the convergence of physical and IT security will play a huge role in better anticipating threats and adapting to trends. Now, it is just a matter of making sure everyone’s security has switched from “vinyl” to “digital.”

Driving Engagement: Five Accelerators

28 Jan 2013 – Frank Hone –

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With Open Enrollment now in the rear view mirror and health behavior change initiatives at signposts ahead, it’s time to take a close look at what can be done to ensure a smooth ride.

A simple truth is that too many organizations are using a “hope for change” approach, expecting that their employee outreach and program designs will automatically achieve meaningful impact and measurable outcomes in their population.

But there is nothing automatic about it.

In our experience with customers over the years, we’ve learned that good preparation, smart strategy and contingency planning are essential to ensuring a better likelihood for effective results. In doing this type of work, we see five specific areas that need to be fully developed and ready for deployment:

1. Communications Strategy and Plan
Everyone agrees that good communications is essential. There is a difference, however, in delivering an announcement versus “selling” the story. This is where consumer marketing ideas and approaches come into play. We need to find ways to build awareness, create interest, stimulate desire and promote action. It’s a lot like running an advertising campaign, and the messaging needs to stay fresh and purposeful.

 

2. Strategic Alignment of Vendor Groups

While health plans, wellness vendors, and other service providers generally operate well in their own silos, they don’t always excel at working well together. This leads to operational gaps that can zap the energy and inertia from outreach and intervention efforts. Creating more seamless alignments and handoffs is needed to maximize overall population impact.

 

3. Value Proposition to Participants

At the end of the day, the goal is to have a positive effect on individuals – changing their habits, improving their behaviors and altering their mindsets. This can’t be done well if it isn’t clear “what’s in it for them.” The industry does a poor job at expressing the consumer benefits and reasons-to-believe. When this is done well, marketing efforts can be far more effective.

 

4. Incentive Design and Delivery

More and more employers provide incentive rewards intended to drive participation for health improvement. While we see this as a temporary trend that will ultimately be replaced by stronger culture, better communications and more active leadership, it is a reality of today’s model. To be successful, the incentives should be designed to be relevant, to offer a lasting impression, and should be designed to be truly earned – this is not easy, but then, why give away money if it doesn’t lead to the desired result?

 

5. Metrics and Early Indicators of Impact

The areas of reporting and results are way too murky for a business discipline that is increasingly being challenged on its ROI merits. Employers need to be sure that they and they and their vendor partners are measuring multiple aspects of program impact at several points along the way. Target levels need to be established in advance, and contingency plans should be put into effect when they are not being met.

Now is the time to examine each of these five areas to assess your readiness. If they are not up to par, we can help. Our consulting business is oriented to fully preparing customers with engagement strategy in all phases of design, development and deployment of health and well-being improvement.

Now is the time to inject greater business discipline and to incorporate better and stronger consumer marketing techniques and approaches. Don’t wait until it is too late – make sure you’re programs are ready to launch before turning the ignition key.

5 Things that are In Store for SEO in 2013 and Beyond

16 Jan 2013 – Matthew Ellis – Featured –

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2011 and 2012 have been incredibly important years in the world of search engine optimization and for search design trends in general. In an effort to make the web closer to something semantic and highly responsive to the real needs of human readers, Google has performed some major overhauls to the way it ranks the websites it has indexed by its web crawlers.

These overhauls will be ongoing and will continue to develop further in 2013; creating a web popularity landscape that depends not just on classical SEO tactics but also numerous other factors involving social media, website design and friendliness to the latest browsing systems such as mobile web viewing.

Let’s go over some of these key trends that will almost certainly be really big in this new year.

 

1. Humanized Ranking Metrics

With Google’s repeated massively damaging blows to black hat SEO during all of 2011 and 2012, the days of effective link farming, content stuffing, keyword stuffing and other “nefarious” optimization tactics that don’t actually reflect site popularity are over. This trend will only continue and whatever black hat optimization tricks that are still working for some sites will only continue to deteriorate in their effectiveness.

Instead, Google is steadily working its way towards creating a more humanized ranking index that, in addition to reflecting other metrics which we’ll soon get to, also takes a lot of its value analysis from real time social media and human user metrics of actual popularity amongst readers.

The end result is expected to be a more “real time” search results profile for queries and an increasing amount of weight given to data collected from Twitter, Facebook, other social platforms and, of course, Google’s own array of social media tools. An important aspect of this will involve site owners connecting their content to each of these social platforms and also integrating themselves more with Google’s own network of content tracking. (despite the obvious bias in Google’s favor here)

 

2. Quality over Quantity

This almost certain 2013 trend is great news for a lot of content weary bloggers and site owners. Instead of giving heavy emphasis to massively content stuffed websites, Google and other search engines will continue to focus more on ensuring that their best ranked content is judged more by its quality, relevancy and freshness.

Updates like some of Panda’s iterations were a particularly good demonstration of this and played a part in giving precedence to sites whose content was most relevant and valuable for a given search, even if the sites themselves were not major content producers like some competitors might have been.

Based on this trend, site administrators should work towards really filling information needs with high quality posts without rushing to fill out as much new content as they can as quickly as possible.

 

3. Mobile Search

The mobile browsing landscape is only continuing to grow and soon it will completely overtake conventional web search. This means that adapting to the technical and practical details of this changing environment is a crucial step for SEO conscious site owners in 2013.

Speaking on a purely technical level, more emphasis has to be given to making websites more mobile friendly and designing them so that they are fully responsive not only to different PC browsers and screen sizes but also to thousands of different mobile platforms, from tablets to a whole array of smart phone types and operating systems.

Additionally, from other optimization standpoints, work to get your sites and their content more oriented towards mobile friendly content delivery. This could mean post design, text layout and presentation media such as video or audio

Another interesting feature of this emerging mobile search trend is the fact that a lot more of it takes place through a complex series of social network connections, bringing us to our next point.

 

4. Increasing Social Media Importance

We already partly covered the incredible importance of social media weight in our first major trend point, but it bears mentioning in more detail.

In 2013, you will absolutely need to develop your website’s social platform presence and integration as much as possible.

As more and more of the data about what’s trending on their platforms gets collected by social media sites, more of it will also become available for review by Google. This in turn will make such metrics more important in deciding search rank value. Ultimately Google is working to provide the most human relevant search experience possible to its users and the fundamentally human guided nature of social media popularity makes it a vital base of information for Google to achieve its goal.

Help this process along as much as possible by developing your popularity in the social media platforms and building up a base of dedicated fans that keep coming back to and repeatedly sharing what you have to offer further down the social chain. Not only will this eventually improve your essential human ranking value in the new search landscape, it will also achieve the vital site popularity building step of making you less dependent on search rank and SEO for the long run.

In essence, by developing a fan base at least partly through your social presence, you’ll be forcing the search engines to pay attention to you. Another way of looking at this is that building a deep human popularity amongst many fans and other influential websites will create a domain authority for your pages that no search engine can ignore.

Additionally, bear in mind practical technical steps that will improve your social media friendliness; things like creating multiple profiles across several popular media platforms, connecting them fully to your website through social media buttons and making it easy for people to log on through their Facebook or other social networking accounts.

 

5. Conversion Rate Optimization

However Google works, it has to also pay attention to reality on the digital ground. In terms of CRO, this has an enormous potential importance for 2013 because it means that a major factor in higher ranking may soon be how well sites get visitors to perform useful actions.

In essence, while many sites may have numerous visitors, the ones that optimize their pages for the best human engagement are those that actually get the readers not only to visit but also do things like buy products, click more links or opt in to a mailing list with their email addresses.

Since successfully doing all this is an obvious indicator that people are getting real personal value from a website, it’s very likely that Google will pay more attention to it in 2013.

For your own site, focus as much as possible on delivering high quality and getting maximal action or purchase conversion rates from whatever visitors you do have. Doing this is even more important than focusing on raw visitor numbers.

Google Not Blocking Sites – Deliberate or Oversight?

14 Jan 2013 – Nell Terry – Featured –

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I recently came across a couple of articles on WebProNews and Search Engine Roundtable that both reported on Google’s new found inability (or unwillingness?) to continue blocking sites that users specify they don’t want displayed in their search results.

 

According to a Google employee in a recent official product forum thread, this was a “known issue a while back.” My, what a vague response… vague enough to lead one to believe that Google doesn’t care too much about blocking sites from the SERPs for users.

Funny – we’re talking about the same company that has been rolling out waves of aggressive algo changes for the sake of bettering the “user experience” for searchers. So, um… why does this not appear to add up? Seems to me a company so obsessed with pleasing the user would snap to and fix this problem as soon as people began asking questions.

Maybe more is at play here than meets the eye.

 

The Hard Evidence

Over at Search Engine Roundtable, Barry Schwartz tried the blocking feature himself and included screen-shots of his findings in his write-up. Schwartz tried blocking the website”proflowers.com” two different ways. First, he attempted to use the “block site” feature directly in the search results, but he noticed it was nowhere to be found. He then went into his search settings and manually blocked the site. After waiting a couple of minutes, he searched again.

It was still there.

The site appeared in the ad unit atop the organic results, so I wondered whether its “sponsored listing” status was the reason the blocked site still appeared. I decided to try it myself using (what *I* consider to be) the most annoying website on the planet: eHow.com.

First, I navigated to my personal Google search settings and manually blocked the site:

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Notice I blocked the site using both the www and non-www version of the URL to head off any potential confusion. Then, I waited a few minutes. When I searched for “how to make ceramic pendants”,this was the second result:

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Confirmed. It really doesn’t work. Try it for yourself.

 

The Circumstantial Stuff

There’s massive speculation that Google’s been pretty cozy with Demand Media for quite a long time now. After Ehow’s initial slap when Google’s Panda algo rolled out, it inexplicably bounced back in the SERPs – with a vengeance. For that matter,many other content farms are beginning to resurface in the search results more frequently as well. Are we to believe that these websites have removed all of their low-quality content and started from scratch?

Or… is there more to this story?

Forbes, Reuters, and many other reputable news sources have written glowingly about Demand Media’s miraculous resurgence these past few months. As far as record profits go, Demand claims it has re-established earnings by diversifying its revenue model. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Demand’s “meh”-worthy Ehow content is also showing back up at the top of the SERPs.

But let’s flash back to 2011. In April, the Panda update slapped Ehow from search results right alongside other content farms.Then, in August, Google renewed its standing advertising agreement with Demand Media – good for the next three years.Demand Media is big business – the company boasts ownership of Cracked.com, Ehow, and various social media websites. Google’s renewed deal with the company was much sweeter than the original agreement had been. Here’s some details on the perks of the new deal, as reported last year by ZDNet:

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Of course, Google could not in good faith save Ehow from the initial wrath of Panda and leave other content farms to plummet into search engine oblivion simply because it had a big contract with the company. However, it is rather curious that one year later, we’re once again seeing Ehow articles on the first page of search results for countless keyword phrases.

Full disclosure: I was an author for Ehow a couple of years back, before the site was slapped by the algo changes. Soon after the initial blow, Demand closed down the article claiming platform for all Ehow authors, stopped producing content for its Ehow library, and began weeding out and destroying low-quality articles from its database. However, a great many articles remained – even those that would be considered nothing more than”halfway decent” writing. They simply trimmed the fat by skimming the worst of the worst from their collection. To this day, mediocre articles remain right alongside the good stuff.

 

Use Your Own Judgement

The opinions in this article are purely speculation, so take the information herein with a big grain of salt. Suggesting that Google somehow restored Ehow’s standing due to back-room deals would be akin to insider trading… or would it?

This is uncharted territory, and the rules of the Internet are being written in real-time. Things that seem unfair may be happening right under our noses, and until we set precedents and define the legality of certain situations (as we’ve seen the FTC attempt to do multiple times this year), the search landscape is a virtual free-for-all.

Why do you think Google’s no longer blocking websites from its search results? Do you think it’s a glitch, or is there more at play here?