On June 7, 2011 Google announced rel=author. There are many articles that explain the mechanics of how to setup rel=author tagging, including this excellent one by Rick DeJarnette on Search Engine Land. While this announcement got people thinking about author authority, an “authority strategy” for your business involves a lot more than rel=author. It invoves creating great content, and establishing a highly visible presence on the Web with that content.
Many enterprises have difficulty implementing a strategy to build up the visibility and expertise of key individuals on their staff. So today I am going to walk through the types of problems that come in the execution phase.
Why An Authority Strategy Is Important
There are many major reasons to pursue an authority strategy. These include:
It is great branding. When your organization is seen as having people who are recognized experts in their field, it reflects well on the entire organization.
The rel=author tag is a way for authors (and your business) to get recognized in the search results for the content they produce. It certainly increases your chance of getting a click through when a searcher sees the author’s smiling face next to their article in the search results:
Many have also speculated that over time the concept of author authority could become an important SEO ranking factor.
For example, an individual who writes a regular column for the New York Times might start to be seen as an authority. If that same person starts to write articles for a lesser known site, they may carry some of that authority with them. This could impact the visibility that Google gives to the articles they write for the lesser known site, and may even lend some authority to that site on an overall basis.
In addition, building author authority is an important part of a much broader link building strategy involving developing relationships with influencers and your industry community. By developing those relationships and actively sharing high quality content, people are more likely to share and link to your stuff.
Organizational Steps Required To Execute
Understanding how an authority strategy can help you is great, but successful execution is non-trivial. At STC, we have worked on helping many enterprise organizations set these up. What we have learned is that there are many places where it can fall apart.
Here are some of the key steps you need to go through to make sure you can start building such a process within your enterprise.
1. Identifying an author. Your author may or may not actually create the content, but you need to have the name of one or more people who will actively lend their identity to the cause. You are dead in the water if you don’t nail this one, yet many organizations have trouble with it.
A key point is that even if the person is not the original creator of the content, they need to be actively engaged in the process. Don’t view this as a completely outsourced activity. People like to engage with people, and your named author is going to have to commit some real time to this process, even if you give them lots of help to make it easier.
2. Content team identification. You need one or more people to create content that is up to the quality standards required, and of course, that fits the content plan. Bear in mind that you can’t have your content creator be someone who knows nothing about the topic, or without passion for it. This is true even if they are not your named author. The more your content creation team is engaged, the better.
3. Understand quality requirements. I always discuss this a separate step, as the organization really needs to understand that this is a brand building activity with huge SEO benefits, not some activity that takes place on the “dark corners of the Web” where no one goes. High quality is an absolute must. The quality is a key driver in establishing authority.
4. Develop a content plan. What type of content can be created that is brand building, drives links, and establishes authority? Writing a great article on a topic that has been well covered a dozen times before won’t cut it. If you are not prepared to create really innovative content, don’t bother starting the effort. Also, how often do you want to publish?
5. Rel=author mechanics. This has a modest amount of impact on the development team, so you do need to get the mechanics right. Refer to the aforementioned article by Rick DeJarnette for a great guide to this.
6. Content creation. Once the plan is in place, go out and execute the plan.
7. Content review and approval. Have this setup to make it painless. Simpler if the author in step 1 is also the writer, but if not, be prepared for some heartache and tuning in the early going. Make sure the named author has some time allocated to do this properly. You need this as your final quality control step.
8. The promotional plan. Now that you have everything in place to create killer content from an authority, how do you let the world know? I won’t try to outline how to do that here, but simply identify the need and that someone needs to own that. One tidbit I will include is to define a role for guest posting on authoritative third party sites to help develop the author’s authority (and get those sites to implement rel=author for your author as well).
Building Authority Is A Process
Not every company is ready to buy into all this, but this is what it takes to be successful. For enterprises, budgeting up front is usually a big deal, so the earlier you walk people thorough these steps the better! Make sure they know what is involved before they commit, and success in execution becomes a lot more likely.
In a year or two, as tracking author authority becomes more mainstream, we believe that it is going to be a serious ranking factor. Combining rel=author with a frequent publishing schedule on authoritative sites and a strong social media program is going to be a fabulous way to build visibility and traffic for your business. It will bring great benefits to you well beyond any SEO implications. The time to get going is now!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.