While the blogosphere spawned thousands upon thousands of writers who in many instances lacked the opportunity to write for legacy publishers, ironically the major criticism levied against them came from those traditionalists. Traditionalists who critiqued bloggers as less worthy of acclaim because they were not vetted by the established press. Traditionalists, the likes of noted playwright Aaron Sorkin who agreed with Sarah Palin when their combined condescension labeled them, "pajama people."
However, proving the naysayers wrong - the democratization of commentary and critiques that emanated from the Internet began to identify credible reporting by bloggers. While, it was not an instant stamp of legitimacy for those that owned a PC and had a little free time on their hands, a new paradigm did present itself. What evolved was the overriding evidence, that over time, cream did rise to the top and the marketplace of good ideas did gain merit over the long haul.
What Does This Mean For Small Business?
Small business owners have the choice to produce their own blog content or recruit ghost writers to publish posts for them. In my lengthy writing career, I have done both. However, I've found a marked difference between these two forms of expression. The former that fosters a point of view is done out of passion, the latter usually produced assembly-line style was consummated strictly for the cash.
I agree with Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz when he described ghost writing as a means to an end, squeezed clean of any hint of style, voice or tone. "There was nothing technically wrong with the content, but some of the 'magic' was missing," says Fishkin. Oftentimes, the message and branding get lost and dissipate into scraped content and pooled authoritative link perspectives from other people.
Enter Author Rank
The obvious missing link for 'authored' vs ghost blogs was the lack of protection afforded the writers. Without protection - and one of the reasons ghost writing lasted so long on the Web - it didn't matter if the content was honed by an individual, an anonymous donor or a bot for that matter.
Over the course of the last couple of years, Google has been tinkering with an algorithm factor they call "Author Rank." While it will ever quite be a replacement for PageRank which determines SERPs (search engine results pages), it is now being used to inform PageRank, enabling Google to rank high-quality content more appropriately. Hooyah, finally an opportunity to separate quality bloggers from those less gifted - done in a very organized fashion - vis a vis Google's mighty algorithm.
Why Google Plus May Eclipse FB LIKE
In early 2011, the Big G's top Kahuna Eric Schmidt announced what he called "agent rank" to identify quality content and weed out spammers. This was followed up by Google filing a continuation patent referencing a "portable identity platform."
Today, it's now evident that Google Plus is how Author Rank will finally
see the light of day. The idea is that an author can build rank and
trust, based on quality content their followers like (similar to
Facebook's LIKES, but much more potent). Google's new algorithm Hummingbird
now factors in all those +1's (not FB LIKES) and shares as a strong
signal that the content you create is of high quality and offers
Forbes' contributor Haris Bacic underscores this point by noting that "more quality content you publish online, the more likely you are to be ranked high by Google and considered an authority in your subject area."
And now that long-sought-after protection that blogger were seeking comes part and parcel with Author Rank. Authors who have followed the steps to connect Google Authorship to each and every one of the blogs they write will have their articles attributed to their names and will start appearing in SERPs when the appropriate keyword searches ties them with specific topics.
Ghost Writing of Christmas Past
While ghost writing has been dying a slow death for some time even without these changes, the impetus of its demise will speed up as a result. As Bacic puts the difference between "someone who writes a lot of quality content about a subject proves that they know more about that subject than someone who buys 10,000 cheap spammy backlinks in an effort to increase their search engine rankings."
Future of Author Rank
In Google's inimitable goal to evolve and eradicate spam from the blogosphere while placing more emphasis on quality content, Author Rank will see enhancements over time. In this YouTube vid produced back in May, 2013, Matt Cutts who heads up Google's Webspam team reveals that small business owners might benefit from these changes, particularly those who are experts in the fields of medicine and travel.
Setting up Google Authorship
Here are two methods for small business owners to set up Google Authorship - one from G+ and one from your blog's content page.
Method 1 - from G+
1- Go to plus.google.com/authorship
2- Sign up for Google+ and create a Google+ profile.
3- Make sure you have a profile photo with a recognizable headshot.
4-Make sure a byline containing your name appears on each page of your content (for example, "By Steven Levy").
5- Make sure your byline name matches the name on your Google+ profile.
6-Verify you have an email address (such as firstname.lastname@example.org) on the same domain as your content. (Don't have an email address on the same domain? Use this method to link your content to your Google+ profile)
7-Return to this page and enter your email address.
Method 2- from your Content Page
1- Go to the main G+ page.
2- Click on the Profile tab in the left navigation.
3- Click on the About tab under your profile picture.
4- Scroll down until you see a LINKS section and then click not the 'edit' link.
5- When the lightbox openns up, add the main URL of the blog or website where your content resides. Make sure to add this under the "Contributor" section and the LINKS.
6- Save and then add a link on your article that links to your Google Plus profile.
7- In your author bio section, link your name to your G+ profile and add ?rel=author to the end of the URL string. Example: my G+ URL is: https://plus.google.com/+RonCallari - so after I modify it, it looks like this: https://plus.google.com/+RonCallari?rel=author
It's inevitable that Author Rank will separate the wheat from the chaff regarding content with true authorship versus those still trying to make the quick buck at ghost writing. Companies will quickly learn and gravitate towards reputable authors that earn them quality incoming links versus those ghost writers [like their name implies] whose blog listings disappear lower and lower in the SERPs.