I don’t blog much. Mainly because I believe in not regurgitating things that have already been said better by someone else. An approach that means (due to my very talented network of colleagues past & present) I’m usually the last one to turn up whenever anything exciting happens in the industry. However, sometimes I can be drawn to throw my hat in the ring.
I’ve watched with interest the increasing debate around the role of Google+ amongst the digital community. The consensus amongst the chatter centres on the parallels between links & authorship as a gauge of authority and how the latter ties into social (in particular Google+) to introduce another variable into the ever-changing world of SEO.
Having cut my teeth at the start of my career in PPC I’m generally a “by-the-book” kind of character and find something satisfying in knowing the parameters of acceptability (i.e. Google guidelines) and working within those confines to produce small innovations here and there that I can be quietly chuffed about. There aren’t a lot of work-rounds or ways to game the system that are worth mentioning – certainly none that I would ever attempt.
However, a lot of SEO historically has been about doing what you can get away with; much to the frustration of those of us who offer full-transparency with our clients and, indeed, each other within the digital community.
Most recently we’ve seen some of the underhanded tactics (in the form of 301 redirect exploitation) crop up in the pay day loans & insurance markets with some advertisers accruing tens of thousands of backlinks in just a few days and rocketing up to the coveted page 1 rankings. When such things happen it generally results in a backlash from the good eggs out there and @MattCutts will receive a tirade of irate tweets from people frustrated at such blatant flouting of policy.
This, I believe, is where authorship and “rel=author” can help. Understanding the “who” & “what” of content in addition to the “where” and “how many” will certainly contribute to cleaning up the SERPs which will result in a much improved user-experience for the consumer. Theory being that if content can be attributed back to a person then they are accountable for that content as it is inextricably attached to their online identity via Google+. As a Google+ user distributes more quality content this will all be syndicated back to their profile page and, through a variety of factors including sharing of that content and the size of the author’s network, their authority will increase.
Now let’s go back to the start – I don’t blog much. But I’d like to think that if I do, it would be no less authoritative or insightful than someone else with the same experiences who might blog on a daily basis. By virtue of the hypothesised “People Rank” I would potentially carry less authority compared to my content-addict doppelganger.
For me, the beauty of search has always been that it is accessible and is therefore the ultimate level playing field in business. If you search for a given term you will see a mix of results from well-known super brands to local tradespeople round the corner based on your settings. To get that juxtaposition across traditional broadcast media would be nigh-on impossible for the smaller businesses out there and I think that this equality is a wonderful aspect of what we do.
Taking this to the extreme (I love sensationalism); does this therefore mean that we could end up with an online “elite” of content generators with the rest of the populace confined to the chasing pack? No doubt as this aspect of Google becomes more established we will see measures of quality & integrity develop alongside it.
I can already hear you saying that these strategies are easy to spot. In most cases they are. However, that’s not to say they won’t work. Just look at pay day loans.
Given the 301 exploitation I mentioned earlier it is fair to say I do maintain a degree of reluctance to get as excited by this as some. James Lowery’s blog “Faking It: A Confession / Warning” highlights just how easy it is to acquire fans on social networks. A quick look on Google and I have found a multitude of sites willing to sell me +1’s for loose change.
The whole notion of accessibility vs. authorship is an interesting topic and, to an extent, a dichotomy. I personally don’t believe (as I’m sure Google don’t) that authorship is the panacea to some of the issues we are facing in SEO nor is it the sole vehicle through which Google can develop its product and take it to the next level.
Moreover, I believe authorship serves Google+ just as much as it serves the consumer as the indication is that in order to become an authority your best shot is to have a Google+ profile.
Given the sheer dominance of Google I can see this encouraging massive growth in active profiles on the network and, potentially, a period of fluctuation for authors/journalists as early-adopters (I use that term reluctantly given Google+ has been around since 2011) can steal a march on more established authorities who may not be as digitally-savvy by setting their stall out now on Google+ and ensuring their articles are marked up in the correct way.
Similarly, I’m keen to see how the occasional blogger would continue to benefit given the increased focus on frequency and following.
Does this mean the level playing field is a little less level?
Paul O’Connor is the Head of Digital for Yoma, having previously worked at Latitude and Mediacom