In its continuing effort to keep low quality content out of its search results, Google announced this week that it would be supporting “authorship markup”. Authorship markup is essentially a couple of specific pieces of code you can add to links that would designate you as the author of that content.
Google describes it as:
a way to connect authors with their content on the web. We are experimenting with using this data to help people find content from great authors in our search results.
For now it seems more relevant for large sites that have multiple authors, rather than for individual blogs. In the case of a multi-author site, when an author posts a piece of content, they can use the “rel=author” atrribute in a link that points to their author page on the same site, which gives Google a way of understanding that multiple pieces of content are by the same author. Additionally from that author page, the “rel=me” markup can be used in links to other sites that belong to the author such as their personal site, social profiles, etc. What this does is allow Google to better understand how this author is connected to their other content on the web, and eventually Google will have an understanding of that author’s online influence. So for individual bloggers, it could end up being a way network your guest posts for other sites and develop a whole new infrastructure that Google can process, based around your name and authorship.
Mediapost describes these implications as follows:
This attribute allows authors to claim pieces of content as their own, so that Google can begin to identify and accrue additional social signals. This support is initially limited to a single domain, but will eventually allow guest bloggers/columnists to claim their work across multiple domains.
This is significant for a few reasons. The first is that this signals Google’s desire to further understand influential voices online. Many attendees referred to rel=author as “personal PageRank,” a nod to Google’s PageRank algorithm which identifies authority web pages based on backlink profiles. It appears that online authority will no longer be housed at the domain or page level; specific authors will now send relevancy and credibility signals that will be accounted for.
Overall this would seem to be another tool in Google’s waged war on content-scrapers, content farms and other producers of low quality content. I’m sure those unscrupulous types will find ways to game this, as they do everything else, but even in these initial stages, this does seem to have the potential to help authors identify themselves as the original owner of a piece of content, and thereby demonstrate to Google that the credit (ie. search engine ranking) belongs to them and not some lousy content scraper that stole your blog post!
Thoughts? Opinions? A potentially useful development? Or just another annoying way in that we bloggers have to worry about more code than we’d like? Leave a comment!
** image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keso/108805307/sizes/o/in/photostream/