If you’ve been hearing some talk about Google’s new AuthorRank algorithm, you need to pay attention to what’s going on with it, because it’s going to affect not only your SEO, but your personal branding.

AuthorRank is Google’s determination of how much they trust you to provide interesting, valuable content, and not dirty, nasty spam.

For the time being, let’s assume you write stellar content that moves people to action, tears, or great joy. This isn’t a post about how you should “write good shit.” (I’m tired of those. I’ve been blogging since 1997, I would love to see some blogging advice that has surpassed the slowest kid in class.)

So how does Google know that you’re the one who wrote that great content? You need to give them a clue that it’s you. That’s where the rel=”author” tag.

The rel=”author” tag is an indicator to Google that you are the person who actually “authored” the content they’re indexing. Otherwise your name is just a collection of random characters to them; they can’t assign any meaning to it.

You use the tag by dropping it into your html code that surrounds your name somewhere on the page, preferably your author bio. You also need to include a link back to your Google+ account (see, we told you those things would come in handy!), like this:

What this says is “Dear Google, I, Erik Deckers, wrote this piece, and here is the proof that it’s really me — my Google+ account.”

Or, if you didn’t write the piece, but have a chance to stick your name somewhere on the article — like a list of speakers at a conference — use the rel=”me” tag. As in “Dear Google, I got mentioned in this article.”

So How Does AuthorRank Affect Personal Branding?

Easy. The more Google knows about you and your work, including your Google+ account, the more they can find. The more they can find, the more stuff of yours they can share when someone you’re connected with does a search.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You do a Google for the “10,000 hour rule.”
  2. You and I are connected on Google+.
  3. Google returns a link to a post I wrote as part of the results. They even stick a little grey head-and-shoulders silhouette next to the result to show that we’re connected on Google+.
  4. They also stick my Google+ photo and my name next to the entry itself. That way, you know I wrote it.
  5. Google assumes that since we’re connected on Google+, you may trust me. If you trust me, you may be interested in what I have to say on the subject of your search. And if you’re interested, you may choose to read it.

Basically, Google is using Google+ and rel=”author” to determine whether they should show you something that’s interesting to you.

BUT what if we’re not connected on Google+, or you do a Private Browsing session, and Google doesn’t even know you’re logged in.

If my blog post still ranks in the top 10 (it’s #6 at the moment), my name and picture still show up next to the blog post. In fact, looking at the top 10 results for that search, mine is the only result that has a name and photo next to it, including the one by Malcolm Gladwell on the topic.

While I don’t think I can beat Malcolm Gladwell on this one, I do think I’m going to get better results than the Squidoo lens and the blog post that are currently ranking higher than me in the search right now.

Why? Because my post has a little extra juice to it, thanks to the photo and name, while the others are still just generic, we-don’t-know-you-so-we-can’t-trust-you listings on a search page.

The short of it is, if you want to know more about how to rank high on the search engines for your chosen subject matter, figure out how to use Google AuthorRank to boost your personal branding and SEO efforts.


Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. And yes, he used the rel=”author” in this bio.