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  • To improve your author rank, edit your Google profile to include a list of websites for which you provide content (right). Adding your Google ID to your content means your image will display in search results (below), which tends to produce higher click rates.
    To improve your author rank, edit your Google+ profile to include a list of websites for which you provide content.
  • Adding your Google+ ID to your content means your image will display in search results, which tends to produce higher click rates.
    Adding your Google+ ID to your content means your image will display in search results, which tends to produce higher click rates.

These days, Search Engine Optimization is focused on depth of expertise and valuable content. The meta-tags and HTML code that live behind your website are no longer of key importance to search engines—in fact, it can actually hurt your ranking if you haven't changed your SEO strategy to reflect the new focus on subject matter expertise. In this article, we'll look at another important component of a solid SEO strategy: author rank.

What is author rank?

Author rank is a phrase originally used by Google+ to denote a person who has published content on multiple quality websites. The premise is that if you are truly a subject matter expert on a certain topic, you are asked to write about that topic for high-traffic, high-quality websites. In Google+, you can showcase your subject matter expertise by adding to your profile (under Profile, Links) the websites for which you contribute content. Remember, Google will crawl these websites to validate that you have contributed content to them. To be considered a current contributor, make sure you have published in the last six months on any websites you list.

How author rank works

Your Google+ ID is a long string of numbers associated with your profile. Think of it as your Google Social Security number. This number is associated with all the content you post—so if you do contribute to several websites, you will want to make sure they are including your Google+ ID in their code (it looks something like this: /110412540089011112345).

Most people don't understand Google+ because it's not as popular as Facebook and other social sites. You may have to educate the websites where you post content to make sure they include this snippet of code on all of your work: <rel="author" link="your-googleplus-url" />.

The author rank impact on SEO

In addition to considering them a more "trustworthy" source, Google will rank articles authored by experts higher in the search results pages than articles by unknown authors for the same keywords or topics. A side bonus is that the author's photo appears with the search results, which tends to produce higher clicks in many usability click tests.

It's not just Google, either. Not to be outdone, Bing has partnered with an authority ranking website called Klout. If experts answer questions on Klout, their Bing ranking improves by default. The same principle also applies to Yahoo! If an author contributes to any of the Yahoo! content sections, Yahoo! will automatically rank that author higher in the search results.

The takeaway

If you have subject matter expertise in a certain area, the first place you want to post it is obviously to your own website so that you can grow your database and interested lead lists. However, the next step is to look for other authorship or expertise-sharing opportunities to improve your own website's SEO.

April Wilson is CEO and president of Digital Analytics 101, an online marketing company. april@digitalanalytics101.com