Is Google Running an SEO Scam With Google+ and AuthorRank?

By now, you’ve experienced personal search results through Google Search Plus Your World (SPYW). But if you’re an SEO, blogger, or content creator have you considered how the connection between SPYW, Google+, the rel=“author” tag, and now AuthorRank could be the most coordinated SEO scam ever developed, and it’s all backed and blessed by Google?

Why I'm asking if Google is running an SEO scam:

The way that Google now instantly indexes and gives page 1 placement in the SERPs to content creators like me, who have no authority and a thin link graph, would have been described by Google’s Matt Cutts as an SEO scam just a few months ago.

Google has given the content from my blog, which has no authority, prime SERP real estate and I believe it's happening simply because I'm playing the Google+ and AuthorRank game.

Page 1 ranking for a keyword that gets 74,000 searches a month

Recently, six different people told me I’m ranking on page 1 for the keyword, Klout, which gets 74,000 searches a month. I figured that happened because those six people publicly shared on Google+ my post about getting a followed link from Klout.

Not so. This screenshot was sent to me by a Facebook friend, who I am not connected with on Google+ and who never shared a link to my post on their Google+ account:

davidmcohen.com-page-1-keyword-klout

The problem I have with this is that it’s unlikely the intent of most users is to find information on getting a followed link from Klout. And I haven’t even earned the right to rank on page 1 for this keyword. Before rel=”author”, Google+, and SPYW, Google would never reward a post on my month-old blog with a page 1 ranking.

Let's look at the action steps I took to get rewarded by Google with this kind of SERP real estate and how you can do the same – please only do this if you intend to create content that is relevant and will truly improve the experience of those using Google as a means of finding information from trusted sources.

How to follow Google’s 4-step process to build AuthorRank with Google

First, read this post from the Google Webmaster Tools help page (emphasis is mine):

"If you’ve created a Google+ page, we strongly recommend linking from that page to your website and vice versa. Linking your Google+ page and your site like this not only helps you build relationships with friends and followers, but also gives Google information we can use to determine the relevancy of your site to a user query in Google Web Search." Source

My interpretation: get a Google+ account – link it to your blog and link your blog to it – share your content publicly on Google+ because we’re using all of this stuff as ranking factors, sucka. Now does it make more sense why Google stopped playing Double Dutch with Twitter a few months before they launched Google+ and SPYW?

Step 1 | Use the rel=“author” tag

Using the rel=“author” tag is the first step in the process to give your content VIP treatment by Google in the SERPs. Here’s a look at how I’ve got rel=“author” set up on this blog:

davidmcohen.com-rel="author tag"

If rel="author" is new to you read this excellent post by Mark Traphagen about setting up author verification using the rel=“author” tag and Google+.

Step 2 | Link Google+ to your blog

On your Google+ account click the blue ‘edit profile’ button, click the ‘Contributor to’ section, add your custom link, select ‘public’, and hit the save button. When done properly this is what it looks like:

davidmcohen.com-google-plus-profile

Step 3 | Link your blog to Google+

On my About page I have a link to my Google+ account and I’m simply using ‘Google+’ as the anchor text. But, to be sure that Google gives me author authority and VIP treatment in the SERPs, I have a link to my Google+ profile in the author bio section that appears on every single post I write:

davidmcohen.com-authorrank-google+

Step 4 | Check your work | Share your content publicly on Google+

You should use Google’s Rich Snippets tool to be sure you’ve done steps 1 to 3 properly. It should look like this:

davidmcohen.com-rich-snippets-authorship-markup

The final step here is to share all of your content publicly on Google+. When you do, be sure to write a click-worthy headline on Google+.

This is not a license to spam the internet with content that lacks substance and value

So those are all of the steps I took that apparently worked to get my content instantly indexed and on page 1 of the SERPs despite the fact my blog has no authority, just a handful of +1s and Google+ shares, and a thin link graph.

Does Google want to become the largest and most powerful SEO agency in the world, without actually selling any SEO services, but by forcing bloggers and content creators to play their game? I don’t really know, I’m not into conspiracy theory stuff but I have to ask because it’s worth considering.

Lastly – because Google is giving VIP treatment in the SERPs and is rewarding content creators who follow the system with valuable SERP real estate means it’s up to you and me to be even more intentional with the content we publish.

I’m no expert on this stuff, just telling the story the way I understand it, but if you think I'm wrong or have a misguided view of what's happening with Google+ and AuthorRank I welcome your comments.

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  • http://www.virante.com/blog Mark Traphagen

    When author markup really kicked in for me (some time in January all search results for my content started showing with my author rich snippet), I too began to see my organic rankings and traffic rise. I immediately assumed it was some kind of artificial boost because of Author Rank. But calmer heads like AJ Kohn weren’t so sure, and cautioned me that other factors could be in play.

    1) Rich snippets are known to increase CTR. Increased CTR is a signal to Google that the result is relevant to the query, so your ranking may rise for that query because of that. There’s a known reason for the higher CTR: human eyes are attracted to faces. So a search result further down the page that would have been passed over before now might get clicked before higher results.

    2) I think for your example you may be overlooking that your Klout post got a lot of backlinks and was widely shared on social media. That undoubtedly had an effect on your relevance and ranking.

    After a lot of consideration, I’ve joined the ranks of those such as AJ who are skeptical that the full juice of AuthorRank has been turned on yet. I think Google is still in the data collecting stage.But your advice about concentrating in quality, relevant, content centered around your main topic areas is very important. Because when the “juice” is turned on, all that data will be put towards your author authority. 

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Mark for your thoughtful response. I think you’re totally right on about how a picture can influence a clickthrough. I never considered that impact before, but it’s undoubtedly going to up the clicks.

      I’m a the Distilled conference and I ran my theory by a few of the speakers and it seemed the general consensus is that they are seeing Google award this type of ‘SERP love’ to sites like mine who are newly launched but following the new rules of the game. 

      But I totally agree with you and AJ, we’ve not seen the full affect yet, we’re probably in AuthorRank/author authority beta stage. All the more reason to carefully crafting content that adds value and improves the user’s search experience.

      Lastly, your friend, Colby Almond totally crushed it at LinkLove. It was an honor to meet him and hear his presentation.   

  • http://www.virante.com/blog Mark Traphagen

    When author markup really kicked in for me (some time in January all search results for my content started showing with my author rich snippet), I too began to see my organic rankings and traffic rise. I immediately assumed it was some kind of artificial boost because of Author Rank. But calmer heads like AJ Kohn weren’t so sure, and cautioned me that other factors could be in play.

    1) Rich snippets are known to increase CTR. Increased CTR is a signal to Google that the result is relevant to the query, so your ranking may rise for that query because of that. There’s a known reason for the higher CTR: human eyes are attracted to faces. So a search result further down the page that would have been passed over before now might get clicked before higher results.

    2) I think for your example you may be overlooking that your Klout post got a lot of backlinks and was widely shared on social media. That undoubtedly had an effect on your relevance and ranking.

    After a lot of consideration, I’ve joined the ranks of those such as AJ who are skeptical that the full juice of AuthorRank has been turned on yet. I think Google is still in the data collecting stage.But your advice about concentrating in quality, relevant, content centered around your main topic areas is very important. Because when the “juice” is turned on, all that data will be put towards your author authority. 

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Mark for your thoughtful response. I think you’re totally right on about how a picture can influence a clickthrough. I never considered that impact before, but it’s undoubtedly going to up the clicks.

      I’m a the Distilled conference and I ran my theory by a few of the speakers and it seemed the general consensus is that they are seeing Google award this type of ‘SERP love’ to sites like mine who are newly launched but following the new rules of the game. 

      But I totally agree with you and AJ, we’ve not seen the full affect yet, we’re probably in AuthorRank/author authority beta stage. All the more reason to carefully crafting content that adds value and improves the user’s search experience.

      Lastly, your friend, Colby Almond totally crushed it at LinkLove. It was an honor to meet him and hear his presentation.   

  • http://www.virante.com/blog Mark Traphagen

    When author markup really kicked in for me (some time in January all search results for my content started showing with my author rich snippet), I too began to see my organic rankings and traffic rise. I immediately assumed it was some kind of artificial boost because of Author Rank. But calmer heads like AJ Kohn weren’t so sure, and cautioned me that other factors could be in play.

    1) Rich snippets are known to increase CTR. Increased CTR is a signal to Google that the result is relevant to the query, so your ranking may rise for that query because of that. There’s a known reason for the higher CTR: human eyes are attracted to faces. So a search result further down the page that would have been passed over before now might get clicked before higher results.

    2) I think for your example you may be overlooking that your Klout post got a lot of backlinks and was widely shared on social media. That undoubtedly had an effect on your relevance and ranking.

    After a lot of consideration, I’ve joined the ranks of those such as AJ who are skeptical that the full juice of AuthorRank has been turned on yet. I think Google is still in the data collecting stage.But your advice about concentrating in quality, relevant, content centered around your main topic areas is very important. Because when the “juice” is turned on, all that data will be put towards your author authority. 

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Mark for your thoughtful response. I think you’re totally right on about how a picture can influence a clickthrough. I never considered that impact before, but it’s undoubtedly going to up the clicks.

      I’m a the Distilled conference and I ran my theory by a few of the speakers and it seemed the general consensus is that they are seeing Google award this type of ‘SERP love’ to sites like mine who are newly launched but following the new rules of the game. 

      But I totally agree with you and AJ, we’ve not seen the full affect yet, we’re probably in AuthorRank/author authority beta stage. All the more reason to carefully crafting content that adds value and improves the user’s search experience.

      Lastly, your friend, Colby Almond totally crushed it at LinkLove. It was an honor to meet him and hear his presentation.   

  • http://www.dewaldthuysamen.com/ Dewaldt Huysamen

    Point is Agentrank is suprassing pagerank in many ways, and if you want to get clients to rank faster and better creating author profiles for real experts in their niche and linking it to their blog posts, articles etc.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Good point, Dewaldt about PageRank being replaced. It’s pretty widely accepted now that PR is rather meaningless, but I never thought about what metric or measurement would replace PR. AgentRank seems like the logical choice here. 

  • http://www.dewaldthuysamen.com/ Dewaldt Huysamen

    Point is Agentrank is suprassing pagerank in many ways, and if you want to get clients to rank faster and better creating author profiles for real experts in their niche and linking it to their blog posts, articles etc.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Good point, Dewaldt about PageRank being replaced. It’s pretty widely accepted now that PR is rather meaningless, but I never thought about what metric or measurement would replace PR. AgentRank seems like the logical choice here. 

  • http://www.dewaldthuysamen.com/ Dewaldt Huysamen

    Point is Agentrank is suprassing pagerank in many ways, and if you want to get clients to rank faster and better creating author profiles for real experts in their niche and linking it to their blog posts, articles etc.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Good point, Dewaldt about PageRank being replaced. It’s pretty widely accepted now that PR is rather meaningless, but I never thought about what metric or measurement would replace PR. AgentRank seems like the logical choice here. 

  • http://www.seoskeptic.com/ Aaron Bradley

    I guess what stands our for me in your musings about this is what possible motive would Google have to “infect” its SERPs with content that isn’t the best match for a query?  Google’s not typically one to cut off it’s nose to spite its face, but to favor content produced by (rel=author) validated authors, even if not the best match, would be doing exactly that (“Relevant search results? Meh – don’t care, even though that’s the basis of our business, as long as we’ve got authors and publishers in our grip!”).

    While I appreciate the detail you’ve provided in your search result, a single result from provided from a single source is not methodologically sound.  What other results below yours are “better” than yours, and on which basis?  What does your six friends aggregate link graphs look like, and how might they be connected in a complex way?  Is your result sticky, or might in be a flash in the pan related to QDF?  How do you account for the fact that I’m not seeing your post appearing in the first few pages any Google SERP I can produce – whether I’m logged in, logged out, using &pws=0 or not, selected SPYW results or not, using google.ca direct or google.com through a US proxy?

    Again – and just as you’re no conspiracy theorist, I’m no Google apologist – I just don’t see what Google has to gain by introducing sub-standard pages into their results.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Aaron for your response to this. You’re asking great questions and to be honest, I do not have the answers to those questions. As I alluded to, I’m not making any claims, but just asking the question because I’m (obviously) a little confused about how these new changes are impacting what Google shows in the SERPs.

      After having another dozen or so people I’m not connected to on G+ do a logged-in search for the keyword Klout, only 2 had my post come up on page 1. So as you say, it’s probably a flash in the pan situation, but still odd to me nonetheless.

      No, I don’t think Google is attempting to destroy the SERPs, but my hope is that they are going to maintain strict controls in light of how easy, apparently, it’s now becoming to get great SERP real estate through author authority. 

  • http://www.seoskeptic.com/ Aaron Bradley

    I guess what stands our for me in your musings about this is what possible motive would Google have to “infect” its SERPs with content that isn’t the best match for a query?  Google’s not typically one to cut off it’s nose to spite its face, but to favor content produced by (rel=author) validated authors, even if not the best match, would be doing exactly that (“Relevant search results? Meh – don’t care, even though that’s the basis of our business, as long as we’ve got authors and publishers in our grip!”).

    While I appreciate the detail you’ve provided in your search result, a single result from provided from a single source is not methodologically sound.  What other results below yours are “better” than yours, and on which basis?  What does your six friends aggregate link graphs look like, and how might they be connected in a complex way?  Is your result sticky, or might in be a flash in the pan related to QDF?  How do you account for the fact that I’m not seeing your post appearing in the first few pages any Google SERP I can produce – whether I’m logged in, logged out, using &pws=0 or not, selected SPYW results or not, using google.ca direct or google.com through a US proxy?

    Again – and just as you’re no conspiracy theorist, I’m no Google apologist – I just don’t see what Google has to gain by introducing sub-standard pages into their results.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Aaron for your response to this. You’re asking great questions and to be honest, I do not have the answers to those questions. As I alluded to, I’m not making any claims, but just asking the question because I’m (obviously) a little confused about how these new changes are impacting what Google shows in the SERPs.

      After having another dozen or so people I’m not connected to on G+ do a logged-in search for the keyword Klout, only 2 had my post come up on page 1. So as you say, it’s probably a flash in the pan situation, but still odd to me nonetheless.

      No, I don’t think Google is attempting to destroy the SERPs, but my hope is that they are going to maintain strict controls in light of how easy, apparently, it’s now becoming to get great SERP real estate through author authority. 

  • http://www.seoskeptic.com/ Aaron Bradley

    I guess what stands our for me in your musings about this is what possible motive would Google have to “infect” its SERPs with content that isn’t the best match for a query?  Google’s not typically one to cut off it’s nose to spite its face, but to favor content produced by (rel=author) validated authors, even if not the best match, would be doing exactly that (“Relevant search results? Meh – don’t care, even though that’s the basis of our business, as long as we’ve got authors and publishers in our grip!”).

    While I appreciate the detail you’ve provided in your search result, a single result from provided from a single source is not methodologically sound.  What other results below yours are “better” than yours, and on which basis?  What does your six friends aggregate link graphs look like, and how might they be connected in a complex way?  Is your result sticky, or might in be a flash in the pan related to QDF?  How do you account for the fact that I’m not seeing your post appearing in the first few pages any Google SERP I can produce – whether I’m logged in, logged out, using &pws=0 or not, selected SPYW results or not, using google.ca direct or google.com through a US proxy?

    Again – and just as you’re no conspiracy theorist, I’m no Google apologist – I just don’t see what Google has to gain by introducing sub-standard pages into their results.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Thanks, Aaron for your response to this. You’re asking great questions and to be honest, I do not have the answers to those questions. As I alluded to, I’m not making any claims, but just asking the question because I’m (obviously) a little confused about how these new changes are impacting what Google shows in the SERPs.

      After having another dozen or so people I’m not connected to on G+ do a logged-in search for the keyword Klout, only 2 had my post come up on page 1. So as you say, it’s probably a flash in the pan situation, but still odd to me nonetheless.

      No, I don’t think Google is attempting to destroy the SERPs, but my hope is that they are going to maintain strict controls in light of how easy, apparently, it’s now becoming to get great SERP real estate through author authority. 

  • http://seorewind.com/ Chris Countey

    Your example of your Facebook friend seeing your results could indicate that Google is now using data gained from the Katango purchase to personalize results beyond G+. Was your friend logged into Google and do they have G+ even though you’re not in each other’s circles? Is their Facebook account listed in their G+ profile?

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      My friend was logged into Google but they do not have a Google+ account, which obviously means we aren’t encircled, etc. That’s what really threw me off and caused confusion.

  • http://seorewind.com/ Chris Countey

    Your example of your Facebook friend seeing your results could indicate that Google is now using data gained from the Katango purchase to personalize results beyond G+. Was your friend logged into Google and do they have G+ even though you’re not in each other’s circles? Is their Facebook account listed in their G+ profile?

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      My friend was logged into Google but they do not have a Google+ account, which obviously means we aren’t encircled, etc. That’s what really threw me off and caused confusion.

  • http://seorewind.com/ Chris Countey

    Your example of your Facebook friend seeing your results could indicate that Google is now using data gained from the Katango purchase to personalize results beyond G+. Was your friend logged into Google and do they have G+ even though you’re not in each other’s circles? Is their Facebook account listed in their G+ profile?

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      My friend was logged into Google but they do not have a Google+ account, which obviously means we aren’t encircled, etc. That’s what really threw me off and caused confusion.

  • consolelaw

    Your examples made all of this really easy to understand! I’m still new to the SEO world and so I can use all the help I can get. Thank you so much for posting this… It will definitely come in handy! 

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Glad it was helpful. As you go through the process of connecting your blog to Google+, Google+ to your blog, and using the rel=”author” tag, be sure to check your site with the Rich Snippets tool to make sure you’re good to go.

  • consolelaw

    Your examples made all of this really easy to understand! I’m still new to the SEO world and so I can use all the help I can get. Thank you so much for posting this… It will definitely come in handy! 

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Glad it was helpful. As you go through the process of connecting your blog to Google+, Google+ to your blog, and using the rel=”author” tag, be sure to check your site with the Rich Snippets tool to make sure you’re good to go.

  • consolelaw

    Your examples made all of this really easy to understand! I’m still new to the SEO world and so I can use all the help I can get. Thank you so much for posting this… It will definitely come in handy! 

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Glad it was helpful. As you go through the process of connecting your blog to Google+, Google+ to your blog, and using the rel=”author” tag, be sure to check your site with the Rich Snippets tool to make sure you’re good to go.

  • http://blog.paulgailey.com/ Paul Gailey

    David – I contest you authorship is incorrectly setup because exact match blog post titles are not displaying your avatar in the SERP. I think I can help you.

  • http://paulgailey.com/ Paul Gailey

    David – I contest you authorship is incorrectly setup because exact match blog post titles are not displaying your avatar in the SERP. I think I can help you.

  • http://paulgailey.com/ Paul Gailey

    David – I contest you authorship is incorrectly setup because exact match blog post titles are not displaying your avatar in the SERP. I think I can help you.