I reckon Google author verification through G+ (Google Plus) is going to play a huge part in the next year. Sorry I know that’s not exactly visionary thinking right now but I want to explore the idea some more.
Google have been on a mission to sort and rank the content on the web without the help of SEO practitioners since day one; if anyone is going to optimise search engine results then it’s going to be them!
G+ is a part of the answer to this problem for Google and here’s why I think this is so in a slightly big nutshell.
Are you dancing to the G+ tune?
Google are looking to verify relatively unknown or upcoming authors by looking at their G+ profiles (authority writers are easy to spot already suing other crawlable data). As an author to get verified you either sign up to G+ and show them the blogs that you write for in the ‘contributor to’ section of your profile – or you hide from Google and you get ignored (Eric Schmidt said as much and I’ll mention it again later).
If you do the former and sign up for G+ and fill in the necessary details then you run the risk of your links being devalued if you post on multiple blogs. Why you ask? Because through your G+ profile Google can easily work out that you are an employee – either a paid freelance writer or an in house marketing executive and then take action.
Once Google knows you are on the payroll your days of passing PageRank juice from your guest posts are probably numbered. In its simplicity the Google Algorithm being partly powered by PageRank counts links as votes so why would they assign value to all of your links/votes from your guest posts? You work for your company so you are clearly going to be biased so why would Google value every link you create?
Ultimately that isn’t the end of the World if the posts are on niche specific sites and pass referral traffic to your business. This is why links are supposed to be placed in content isn’t it? As Eric Ward once said “ask yourself if you would still want that link if Google did not exist”. If you are guest posting on behalf of a business following this mantra then it is still an excellent way to get traffic; just remember that the links will have a lesser SEO benefit once you confess to Google who you are writing for i.e. your company.
The other scenario is where you are a ‘hired gun’ with a G+ verified account working for an SEO agency or client producing guest blog posts for multiple sites on multiple topics. In this case if you have listed these sites in your ‘contributor to’ list your topical profile is going to look suspicious being littered with posts on websites for office machines, legal services, artists supplies and light fittings.
These sites you’ve posted on will include links from your content to a range of sites that appear frequently. This footprint tells Google that you are clearly a writer hired by a ‘guest posting company’ and whoring out your G+ authority – ouch. Google will also be able to collect and sort the sites you are doing paid guest posting for and penalise them too…it’s getting worse now isn’t it!
How about going under the radar?
The alternative would be for authors to hide their associations with blogs they guest post on from Google but as already mentioned G+ is being used as a threat to those that try to avoid being tracked. Eric Schmidt has openly said in so many words that authors that don’t use verification won’t get a look in – although I think this is a little arrogant.
I expect the exclusion to this rule will be if the authors are well known in an industry through other means such as being published or a speaker, lecturer or whatever else can be found online that validates them as an authority within a particular niche.
Of course this whole set up relies on Google getting an awful lot of people on G+ and then identifying their ‘contributor to’ list of blogs. Google’s trump card is that the threat of anonymity in the search engine results is in the open and will get more publicity as the marketing industry spreads the importance of G+ author verification word to their clients. If Penguin 2.0 includes updates that encourage G+ verification then Google will be laughing all the way to the G+ bank (update: having analysed our links we see no indication that G+ author verified links carry more weight than non verified links).
In the meantime until they get everyone on board they can just pull the plug on author bio links that are found on low quality blogs. That alone should help build the momentum for G+ sign ups from authors who perceive that they are being unfairly targeted! (Update: we see no indication that this has happened in Penguin 2.0 and in reality a sweep like this could cause massive collateral damage to the SERPs).
Conclusions about the G+ thing and how it might affect guest posting
The G+ author verification strategy is partly I believe a sophisticated trap designed to catch any company wishing to employ writers to post any old content anywhere they can in order to get a link. It just makes vetting content and outing guest post link networks really easy for them too so it makes sense.
So what you will have is a situation where Google gets everyone publishing quality content for its search engine but has the visibility through G+ to see who is spamming in the form of random topic articles all over the place on random blogs; and who is just honestly promoting a company in a specific niche by guest blogging.
Either way the links from both scenarios get devalued but for different reasons and both of them valid.
The only scenario I see guest post links working well as an SEO tactic if this G+ verification of content and links kicks in, is when the link profile includes links from content written by individual G+ verified authors that operate in specific and relevant niches and are not connected with the companies being linked to from the guest posts. Tough to game indeed but also a long way off from being implemented if at all.
If you haven’t already, I’d suggest taking a look at my article on post penguin link building that I published recently.
Where do you think Google will go with author verification and how will it affect link building? We’d love to hear your thoughts.