More than ever before, the customer controls the majority of the decision process: they are overall more savvy and more critical of marketing messaging.

  • They want to do their own research without sales-driven bias.
  • Word of mouth has become an even bigger factor in the decision process.

The idea of a linear life cycle or buyer’s journey model is obsolete. Customers want to find you themselves, research what you do, compare you to competitors and survey their social and business networks to learn if your claims are true … all before they will engage with your sales team to discuss price.

We now have a self-driven customer base that wants to eliminate all but the best options up front. With such control sitting in the hands of the prospect, businesses are being forced to adapt their marketing strategies.

Most enterprises and mid-sized businesses are coming around to the idea that we are all publishers. If you are not generating a steady stream of content that addresses the needs of the customer at every stage of their decision process, your business is missing revenue opportunities.

Here Comes AuthorRank

It's crucial for your SEO and Social Marketing efforts to take on that publisher mindset. Not only does it help answer more questions for the customers, but it also provides regular opportunities to exhibit thought leadership, share your view of the world and help you stay top of mind with prospects.

But something big is coming: AuthorRank.

AuthorRank is a big deal. Let’s examine the exact verbiage from the Google original “Agent Rank” Patent submitted in 2005:

The identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings. 

Assuming that a given agent has a high reputational score, representing an established reputation for authoring valuable content, then additional content authored and signed by that agent will be promoted relative to unsigned content or content from less reputable agents in search results.”

Essentially, Google has been cooking up another ranking signal which ties directly to the reputation of the person authoring each piece of content.

Why AuthorRank?

Google has put a lot of effort into cleaning up the state of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). First there was Panda, which aimed to improve the quality of the search results. Then there was Fresh, tasked with pushing more recent or timely results higher in the rankings. In April of 2012, we got our first taste of Penguin, which targets manipulative backlinking strategies. When you mix in updates for over optimization and exact-match domain names, they have made great strides in that effort.

All of these updates have been focused on more traditional SEO strategies and ranking factors. The next step is to add a major factor for ranking Author Authority. This is what AuthorRank is met to address.

In the future, on-page will dictate relevance, quality links and social shares will dictate page/site authority, and author reputation will push content from known experts further up the SERPs.

Google+ Is the Key to Author Authority

When Google+ was announced during July 2011, everyone assumed it was a social network, built in response to sites like Facebook and Twitter. They were completely off base.

Sure, Google+ has the look of a social network, but it is really the key to Google finally figuring out social search.

According to Vic Gundotra, SVP of Social Business for Google, “Google+ is just an upgrade to Google.” He continues, “Google is taking its amazing products, and by bringing them together, they just become more awesome.”

Google+ is about getting access to critical data that Google needs to measure AuthorRank. By offering a fully integrated platform, they get access to our:

  • Subject matter of content we write and consume
  • Social graph
  • Social behavior data
  • Search behavior data

A fully anonymous internet does not help them solve this problem. But Google+ does.

AuthorRank and Search Plus Your World (SPYW)

Another update that Google pushed out in the past three years was Search Plus Your World. The idea here is that we each see personalized SERPs based on the four variables in the last section. SPYW is possible because their Google+ bet worked for a large number of us, and is still growing in acceptance.

Today we can also tag our own original content with Authorship markup. This is the way we can indicate to Google that a piece of content is our own original composition. Once accepted to the Google Authorship Program, your content will show up with your G+ profile pic in the SERPs.

The following image shows how one of my blog posts shows up in the SERPs. What would you be more likely to click, the piece with a robot-generated meta description and no image, or something like the following?

Search_Landry.jpg

Why to Get Ready Now

Google has been talking about Author Authority as a potential ranking factor for close to seven years. With that many years to figure it out and Google+ now in their corner, Google is likely mere months away from pushing it live.

The sooner you start establishing yourself as an author, the better. Anyone can join Google’s Authorship Program, including your competitors. With awareness of this still fairly low, you have a chance to get involved first. Go forth and get a head start on it.

The buying process has changed significantly, as social media and word of mouth have grown in importance. Google is already figuring out how to use author authority / reputation for influencing content rankings. It is coming sooner than many realize, so savvy marketers should get ahead of the game.

Many Web CMS systems provide plugins for managing Authorship Markup. Take the time to evaluate the best solution for your chosen platform and build it in now. You will save yourself time, budget and headaches later.

Editor's Note: This is Tommy's first article for CMSWire. To read another take on SEO, try @gerrymcgovern's Content Strategy: The Perils of Search Engine Optimization