Today, ‘authority’ (and reputation) online is a distributed commodity. Authors almost always have their hands in many pies, frequently writing for their own blog, a work blog and perhaps other web publications at the same time. As a result, linking the creators of content with their writing has always been something of a challenge. This lack of continuity across the web is a growing quandary, especially if you’re in the business of organising the world’s information.
Introducing Google Authorship Markup
But Google recently announced a tweak to its systems that could make the relationship between author and content much clearer.
Using some snazzy HTML5 and with one eye on the concept of the semantic web, Google is encouraging sites to use a specific piece of code on the author’s name in an article, linking back to a single “bio” page. Here’s an example with the HTML for the byline highlighted below.
By doing this, Google can then apply its algorithms and distribution of authority to popular authors instead of just domains. And so, it can rank you accordingly, prioritise your work over others and make sure people searching for you understand your full identity and web footprint more clearly. In the words of Google software engineer, Othar Hansson: “We know that great content comes from great authors, and we’re looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results”
What does this mean for PR?
To build upon Steve Rubel’s ultra-brief assertion, this means two things: 1. The value to brands of vocal and active spokespeople online just went through the roof. 2. The authority of successful and well-read journalists (a traditional PR target) has been reinforced in the battle against content farms. Pair this up with other current projects like Google +1 and Panda and you can see where this is going. People say Google doesn’t get social, but this move shows that it’s embracing an age of personal authority right at its core. Expect the upcoming Google Circles product to join even more dots in this area and consolidate the identities of authors further. All that remains to be seen is whether the public will take the bait…