Anyone who has spent time researching any information on the internet is inevitably faced with the question of whether or no they can trust the source of the information they are reading. Recently, Google announced its support of Google Author Profiles which are verified author profile accounts that insert pictures that appear next to your articles and that show up in search results.
The author images will build trust in for the article to the reader knowing that a real person has written the content. Not only will this have a huge psychological impact on the readers and build up the credibility of the author or site, but it could also effectively put an end to the use of scrapers and low quality generated content that had been plaguing the internet with webspam for many years.
Google states that Google Author accounts are still in the beta phase but will be used as a ranking signal in the near future. For many magazines and newspapers, having multiple author profiles for companies such as the Globe and Mail, NY Times or Motor Trend could be useful as an indicator of trust. Having multiple authors linking to smaller sites could certainly be looked favorably upon by Google.
The immediate question that arises of course is how will people try to game this new signal in an attempt to improve their rankings? Inevitably we will begin seeing a lot of requests coming in from people wanting to be “guest authors” and will offer to link to you from their profile. Other scenarios arise in which websites looking to establish trust will recruit established authors to write and link to their website in return for remuneration.
With full implementation still to come, it would seem that best practice now will be to work towards getting as many of your current authors signed up for the new author program and make sure they link back to your website. You can also encourage guest author opportunities and give preferential treatment to authors that have Google Author accounts.
The author accounts are another critical step from Google in combating the problem of low quality content on the internet. It is a further attempt to force the development of high quality content for the web by giving better rankings to those that participate in the program.
The biggest caveat and the temptation by many will be to create many fake profiles to garner links and improve their rankings rather than being solely focused on the production of high value, quality content for their visitors.