Google Plus author rankHave you heard the news? Google+ has surpassed Twitter as the second largest social network amongst global internet users.

These three words are coming from all corners of the internet: don’t ignore Google+.

Sam Fiorella at the Huffington Post makes a strong case for why anyone ignoring Google+ at this point is pulling a risky move. Fiorella aptly describes the future of Google’s search engine as a convergence of people, data and context.

Essentially, Google is building a trust-based network, the likes of which have never been seen before. Relevant content that gets +1’ed by users and shared around the net will be rewarded. And, speaking of reward, there are going to be some big rewards coming down the pipeline for people using Google’s rel=“author” tag.

Why Google & rel=“author” Are Important

Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, has said, “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.”

When Schmidt & Crew say “anonymous” what they really mean is “users who don’t have a Google+ account.”

Sure, you may need a Google+ account to remain relevant. Maybe. But the more urgent and pressing issue here is the rel=“author” tag, which allows writers/brands/companies/whoever to attach an actual “verifiable” identity to the content that they publish online.

When you perform a search in Google, you’ve probably noticed that some websites have pictures of the authors next to them. For example, if you come across the top three results for “how to hire a lawyer,” then this is what you’ll see:

Google+ Picture and are both credible websites you already know. But who’s this Aaron Larson guy? Well, it’s Google’s hope that you’ll trust Larson just as much as you trust Forbes and Entrepreneur. Also, Larson’s content has probably proven itself with quality links and shares. Lastly, in order to have his picture next to the result, you know he has a Google+ profile, which Google hopes will increase his credibility in your opinion.

Setting Up the rel=“author” Tag

If you want to get conversions from your content, then I would highly recommend you set up the rel=“author” tag ASAP. It’s not difficult to do, but we won’t spend time explaining it here. Instead, if you want to implement the rel=“author” tag, I’ll happily point you over to this article at Search Engine People for help.

While developing quality content should be your number one priority, your content development efforts can fall flat if you aren’t playing Google’s game. Use your Google+ profile or don’t. The important thing is that you have the rel=“author” tag on your content.

Two Last Words on Google

I want to remind readers of two final things about Google+.

One, it’s not just for authorship benefits. Google products (Google Docs, Reader, YouTube, etc.) are all great Google features that integrate well with Google+. Once you have a Google+ account, you’ll find these programs really start to open up for you.

Two, you can absolutely have a writing service do the content development for you, but still get the valuable Google Authorship credit for yourself.

Do you think it’s imperative that brands jump on board with Google+, or do you see this shift in search engine behavior losing steam?