Search engine result pages are becoming more complicated with every query.

What used to be just ten blue links has evolved into a dynamic answer engine, with lots more to consider than the ranking positions of individual keywords. For an exhaustive explanation of the ever-growing list of SEO tasks and responsibilities, spend some time with this blog post by Everett Sizemore. Today I am going to focus on one of the more simple and effective of these tasks, one that a content marketer can implement quickly.

This task is setting up and verifying Google Authorship.

Google has developed a way to display author information in search results. When the relationship between an author and his or her content has been determined, and the author is someone who has a Google+ profile, their name and photo are likely to be shown directly within the search results.

Implementing this is pretty easy. All an author needs is a Google+ profile with a good headshot for their profile picture. Once that is taken care of, you can associate the content you publish to the author who wrote it, using one of two simple methods offered by Google+.

Learn how to associate your content to your Google+ profile using these instructions here. The method I used for this guest post is Option #2 (I placed the rel=author tag on my name in the byline at the end of the content). Once you have things configured correctly, you can test your setup using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. If everything has been done right, you will see author images in search results, as soon as Googlebot has had time to crawl and index your pages. The new search result should look something like this:

By displaying an author’s image in the search results, Google is telling users that this page is written by a trusted author and not a spammer, a robot, sock puppet, whatever. “Rich snippets” like these have been known to raise the organic click-through rate of web pages up to 150%. In some cases author markup can bring more organic search traffic than even a #1 ranking would. There was a great click-through rate study done by Cyrus Shepard last year that includes tips that show you how to use Google Analytics to measure the effect that authorship has on your organic click through rate.

Rich snippets are just one of the benefits of using Google Authorship.

Managing a content-based link building campaign can be similar to executing a content marketing strategy. It involves a process of producing, and distributing highly relevant content intended to appeal to a particular target audience. One useful way to reach a niche is by curating field experts to author the posts and articles that you publish and distribute. Using influential authors, or developing your own reputation as a niche expert, offers your audience authority and trust. Trusted authors tend to attract more clicks, shares, links and other digital signals that give Google more reasons to rank your content higher in a given search query.

In 2005 Google filed a patent for what they call Agent Rank. This patent describes “implementing techniques for searching and ranking linked information sources.” It identifies individuals as “agents” and tries to associate agents with the content that they write. It then gives agents a score based upon, among other things, the quality and amount of content they are the author of. When Google Authorship was announced in 2011, it was the first time that they had a method of identifying authors and scoring them in any kind of meaningful way.

We call this scoring AuthorRank, and it is based on elements like:

  • Average PageRank of an author’s digital content
  • Google+ metrics like +1s, circles and shares
  • Connections to other influential people in related fields
  • Other social signals like Tweets and Facebook likes

Just like every element in a great SEO campaign, raising your AuthorRank is done by publishing outstanding content on a consistent basis. The more specialized an author is in their field, the better their potential to rank higher when a user searches terms that are related to their niche.