Turbo-Charging Thought Leadership Efforts With Google Authorship Markup

I have a theory. I believe that any company, across any industry vertical, can take advantage of the early-mover opportunity that Google’s Authorship markup protocol provides. This opportunity would allow organizations to position themselves as THE forward-thinkers of their category, with both Google results and social sentiment closely following.

How exactly can organizations accomplish this? By instructing content to be built by the company’s leading thinkers. Let me explain.

About Authorship markup

I first wrote about the exciting possibilities for Authorship markup more than a year ago, in “Investigating rel=author’s Organizational Impact.” In that piece, I came to the conclusion that “content alone has ceased to be king,” and that organizations must now cultivate the online personas of its most talented employees. This, because of a process Google introduced that allows individual content creators to “claim” the content they author through placement of a HTML attribute, rel=author. For more information about how to implement Authorship markup, check out Google’s support documentation here.



According to Google, the rel=author attribute is in effect for ~20% of all search queries. When content authors claim pieces as their own, and those pieces appear across Google search results pages, Google will append the author’s headshot alongside the entry.

It is also widely believed that Google’s “AuthorRank” algorithm (which is initiated via Authorship markup) is now amending search results to account for the contextual authority of individual authors over the default authority of domains and individual Web pages. With AuthorRank influencing 1/5th of all Google searches, this becomes incredibly powerful stuff.


How to capitalize on AuthorRank

AuthorRank changes the way we should think about best-practice content marketing and thought leadership. Through a careful assessment of audience needs and market opportunities, organizations can now bolster their own relevance and authority through the content being created by its most talented individuals.

In practical terms, here’s how this process would work:

First, the company that desires to become a leading authority on any topic can identify its most talented employees and offer to assist in building up their online personas. Then, those same employees blog, create videos, create standalone websites, etc. focused on the selected topic(s). These Web assets would be search-engine-optimized before being deployed, and their placement would encourage social share activity. Then, as search engines identify the topic, number of social shares surrounding the body of content, and the “default” authority, some authority would pass on and accrue to the individual author.

Repeat this process over an extended period of time, and the selected authors would accrue levels of authority that become legitimate assets for the organization. Companies can then tap into that trust and associated authority by having their newly anointed thought leaders create content that would appear across corporate blogs. This power can also be directed to create positive sentiment for products and services offered by the organization.

The possibilities introduced via AuthorRank are limitless, really, and to my knowledge no company has fully implemented the approach described above. Savvy organizations may now have a new litmus test when it comes to assessing its talent.

What’s your AuthorRank?




3 comments about "Turbo-Charging Thought Leadership Efforts With Google Authorship Markup".
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  1. Jennifer Thompson from Insight Marketing Group, July 23, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.

    This is great information and I'm going to share with my top content developers. I think this will be especially helpful to the interns who work for us that are looking to build their portfolio. Thanks for posting!

  2. Alicia Kan from Six For Gold, July 23, 2012 at 8:50 p.m.

    Fantastic suggestions worth looking into. My one concern is that talented employees eventually move on to other companies and transitions occur.

    If a firm's name and brand are too intertwined with individual personas -- see Apple and Steve Jobs -- there is a real risk that the public perceives a company will fail without these people.

    Like anything there must be a balance. Individual voices make a company human and show the breadth of its talent. Yet the company must still be able to have a solid identity and reputation of its own.

  3. Ryan DeShazer from GSW Worldwide, July 23, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.

    Jennifer - thanks very much for the kind words. :-)

    Alicia - you make some fantastic points. To your point, this strategy is only sustainable if the organization is one in which the employees feel enthused enough to stay around for a while. This type of "authority" could lead to online celebrity in some industries, and employees may leave for other opportunities built on the backs of their newfound fame. So the organization shouldn't support a single thought leader if it pursues this strategy, plus it should strive to become (or remain) a desirable place to work.

    And another thought that I didn't explore in the article - organizations can claim content via Authorship markup too, if they have a Google+ for Business page ;-)

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