Many law firms and accountants think that their ‘offline’ reputation will be enough to propel them to online success. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Lawyers and accountants need to create their online identity and develop their reputation online. The most powerful reason is that more and more people are turning to the web as a primary research method for the solution to their legal or accounting problem.As far as search engine optimisation is concerned, content truly is king. And it’s essential for lawyers and accountants who wish to rank well in search engines. If you’re already creating content or blogging regularly (and if you’re not, why not?) then the Google Authorship program is going to give you the opportunity to digitally ‘own’ your content and prove page quality and authority.
What is Google Authorship?
Google rewards verified legal and accountancy content creators by inserting additional images and links into search engine results for their work. If you use Google with any regularity, you will have noticed portrait photos next to some Google search results. Here’s an example with my image:
When you see a photo of a blogger next to their post in search results, it means they have claimed and verified their content through the Google Authorship program. The result shows a head-shot of the author, a link to their Google+ profile, the number of Google+ circles the author is in and a link to more search results for this author.
The Authorship program associates content directly with its author, not just with its domain. This is mutually beneficial for authors and Google — it helps boost author’s profiles while it helps Google reduce spam and duplicated content.
First things first – The Authorship Process
For you to participate in this program, you need to have two things:
- A verified digital identity owned by Google that links to your published content (a Google+ profile)
- Your content needs to reference you as the author and link back to the verified digital identity
That’s right. You’ll need to set up a Google+ account if you haven’t already done so. Google needs to be certain that the relationship
between author and content is valid, and why not use one of its own products to do this.
What will Google Authorship do for you?
Authorship has some great benefits for lawyers and accountants. It gives people searching for information about you or your firm the ability to learn more about you, and find your work on the internet. Other benefits include:
Higher visibility – The addition of your author photo and name increases the visibility of your content in the search engine results page from a visual perspective. This can lead to a higher click through rate and subsequent increase in organic traffic.
Industry authority – There are lawyers and accountants who are recognised as thought-leaders or trend setters. They are known for their expertise and industry knowledge. How do you go about becoming one of those people? Produce high quality content, get your name out there, build your personal authority by making sure you are referenced and credited whenever you have participated in or created anything. Google Authorship is a great way to build this accreditation right into the search results page.
Ownership – By adding authorship to your content you’re verifying yourself to Google as the owner of that piece of content, preventing anyone else gaining credit for your work. So, if a competitor does copy your work (it happens!), they’re unlikely to receive any benefit from an SEO perspective from the article and may in fact be subject to duplicate content penalties from Google.
Social exposure – The synergy which authorship has with Google+ promotes the chances of gaining +1′s (Google’s version of a ‘like’) and can increase social engagement levels for each piece of content. Additionally, the display of a direct link to the author’s Google+ page personifies each post by adding a ‘human’ element which can help convey trust to a visitor. This can in turn push more traffic to your firm’s Google+ page, leading to increased brand exposure, social audience and overall reach.
Increased engagement – Google Authorship helps increase engagement with content by assigning a human author to each piece, making both the content and the author seem a little more personable. This encourages interaction and is more likely to promote sharing or comments from the reader.
What is Google AuthorRank?
Content has always been important to Google. Google has used PageRank to indicate the authority of a site for some time, with the belief that sites that have built up authority and respect will get their content favoured and as a result will rank higher in comparison to less established competitors.
Similar to the concept of PageRank is AuthorRank. AuthorRank will in the future work like a reputation engine that will determine which individuals are creating high quality content and of course who will rank higher in search results. Google describes the concept (from their patent for Agent Rank):
“The name of the writer can be used to influence the ranking of web search results by indicating the writer responsible for a particular content piece … Assuming that a given writer has a high reputational score, representing an established reputation for authoring valuable content, then additional content authored and signed by that writer will be promoted relative to unsigned content or content from less reputable writers in search results.”
The essence of AuthorRank is effectively that verified content is graded and that grade will influence the content in search results. The better the content, the more trusted the author becomes. There is no evidence at this stage that AuthorRank is currently in use by Google but once it comes into effect it’s going to shake up that way lawyers and accountants will be ranked.
Strategic use of authorship and AuthorRank
Lawyers and accountants who regularly produce content need to start working on their authority. You can improve the impact of your online presence by capitalising on the authorship and AuthorRank programs:
- Create high quality, sharable content
- Link build and try to get published on other authoritative websites, including those in your target sector(s)
- Stimulate interest and interaction by posting your content on Google+
- Bring your posts to the attention of other authoritative authors (to share or to comment!)
- Invite other authoritative authors to publish on your platform
- Increase your activity and connections on Google+
The key to tapping into the benefits of authorship lies in cross-platform publishing and active connecting; ie by using Google+ and increasing your interactions with other sites and authors. This is a great way for Google to get more data on who’s authoritative in which areas, and most of all, who’s not part of these connections and therefore probably doesn’t represent ‘high quality’.
The Rokman Opinion
What was once a refuge for internet users who wished to remain anonymous is rapidly becoming a community of real people with real identities. Lawyers and accountants who regularly produce content will have the opportunity to publicly benefit from their efforts. If you create content and want to become an authoritative voice within your marketplace, AuthorRank is going to help you achieve this. Every author will over time earn their own AuthorRank, based on subject matter, quality and popularity of content, to help Google determine relevance when displaying search results.
In the race to the top of the search results, obtaining a high AuthorRank can be the difference between your content being ranked above that of your competitors.
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