Association, Authorship & Relevancy; Google is getting Smarter

by Matt Morgan on Wednesday 23 January 2013
This article will explore how this realisation will affect your rankings in 2013, and how Google is implementing an updated search with relevancy at its core.

Zuckerburg’s implementation of Graph Search has taken search social, bringing up suggestions based on connections between your query and your Friend’s Facebook activity. Whilst the industry agrees it is not (as yet) a threat to Google, Google take on the new year by developing on their work in return smarter search results.


In other words, Google seeks to understand the intent of the user’s query, acknowledging that the same search phrase will mean different things to different people: ‘We've always believed that the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want.’ Google has at its disposal a huge human knowledge graph based on your search habits and location which of course it uses to personalise your results.


This is coupled with updates such as Penguin which has led to a drop in authority for non-organic, non-relevant paid for links, which for Google spawned the realisation that while not everyone links back to a site they mention, everyone on the internet does talk. This article will explore how this realisation will affect your rankings in 2013, and how Google is implementing an updated search with relevancy at its core.


Authorship & AuthorRank

Taking advantage of HTML5 script, whereby you can tag a piece of your content with rel=”author”, Google has taken another step towards its aim of building trust and relevance within its search results.  Linking and verifying this ‘author’ tag with your G+ account not only marks your content as the original thereby adding a sense of security, Google is currently collecting data in order to roll out what it is calling AuthorRank. There are a number of reasons why we, as content marketers, should pay attention to this.


Firstly, despite the fact that many have not yet adopted the two stage authorship verification (linking to, and back from article to G+ account), Google is lavishing search results with rich snippets, complete with the author’s G+ photo, links to the author’s other work, and most importantly, the suggestion that AuthorRank, if it isn’t already, will begin to boost your ranking. In other words, Google is presenting us with a free and legitimate way of boosting our search ranking based on AuthorRank.


It has been proven that rich snippets increase the click through rate, whilst as your AuthorRank grows, and your articles are shared and referenced, searchers within your niche having a tendency to repeat similar searches over time, will start to recognise you as an authority within your field.


Authorships takes into account that searchers, as people, respond more positively to other customer reviews and personalised articles rather than faceless brands, and thus good content, when given an author, is also given an identity and an authority that can be carried forward to future work, not just boosting the rankings of the host site.


We will start seeing a mutual ranking reward, whereby an author’s rank will be boosted by posting a piece of good content on a high DA site, whilst if the author commands a high authority within that niche, the site will also benefit, effectively ranking for both author, and site authority. 

In this respect, we need to think of ourselves as authors, aiming to build up a portfolio of well researched, topical content ensuring relevance to our chosen niche, as well as providing a compelling call to action to increase traffic through embedded links. Authorship is a free and sanctioned method of legitimizing our content, and utilising it can only help our search visibility.


Google wants to promote decent content in order to build trust from its users, and reward authoritative authors by inferring direct ranking authority to their work. Going forward, we should now be thinking about building relationships with influential authors within your niche, sharing your own work and interacting with their work through on site comments and social shares.


This enables you to highlight the fact that you also provide and contribute work in this niche that may be of interest to web browsers thereby establishing common ground between you and the aforementioned influential author. As content marketers, we must see that good content, and a decent AuthorRank are intrinsically linked, putting a greater emphasis on organic, useful content and embedded links as we move into 2013. So if you were lacking a reason to build up your G+ account, it appears you have finally found the motivation you need, as Google begins to move away from perceived authority, by creating a measurable distinction between author and site.


Association & Co-Citation

As all forward thinking SEO’s transform into creative content marketers, long term strategic planners, and social media analysts, a closer correlation needs to be made between our approach to content and the impact we can expect to see in the SERPs.


As content marketers, we should be aware of the imperative to heighten the relevancy of our targeted keywords, the landing page, and the surrounding text. This is important because of what Google defines as semantic ‘phrase based indexing’. Simply speaking, Google will build up an understanding of a phrase that doesn’t carry literal meaning, for example ‘over the hill’, looking at the surrounding text, heading and links across a wide range of sites mentioning the phrase.


It will consequently semantically link ‘over the hill’ with retirement, growing older, pension etc., and thus if your link and surrounding text are talking about ways to boost your pension, or something highly relevant to your anchor text of ‘over the hill’, then Google will give that link a heightened authority.


This semantic association finally brings us on the mysterious world of co-citation. This is the phenomenon of a particular brand being mentioned across a number of websites that all include similar keyword phrases, but include no links in the article whatsoever.


Rand Fishkin uses the example of ‘Consumer Reports’ ranking for ‘cell phone reviews’ without appearing to target the keywords through traditional link building techniques. Google, as previously mentioned, has realised that whilst the entire internet community talks, not everyone links to relevant sites or pages that they are talking about.


Continuing this example, Google understands that a lot of people are mentioning the brand alongside ‘cell phone reviews’, and thus ‘Consumer Reports’ must be highly relevant to those search terms, and consequently rank the brand for the term organically. As SEO focuses more on creating new and actively engaging content, this is certainly something to consider for the future. Alongside the anchor text, ensure you mention the brand and other keyword phrases you want to rank for, creating an association for Google.


Take pains to ensure the quality of the content, making the brand, surrounding text associated key phrases and anchor text relevant and organic. 2013 will certainly bring new optimisation strategies to consider, and early preparation will be vital.