ContentDefining Authorship: The Difference Between Contributors and Guest Authors

Defining Authorship: The Difference Between Contributors and Guest Authors

Many people are missing the point of authorship. Strong authors who pass great Author Rank won’t be people who simply blog a lot, all over the place; they will be contributors who contribute amazing content that is relevant.


Everyone loves to speculate on Author Rank and its effect on the SERPs long term. It’s similar to PageRank in the amount of misconceptions that are beginning to swirl around the buzzword.

To add to the hype, people are completely misunderstanding all of the signals Google is putting out about authorship and its potential value in ranking content.

The destruction caused by Penguin and the hype over authorship have brought about the Guestpostocalypse, and in this world gone mad it’s tough to see where the road will lead.

But again, Google has given us hints with Author Rank, Agent Rank, or whatever you want to call it today, and the biggest hint is that trust agents contribute they are not squatters. Think about it in terms of real life (gasp), the people that we see as community leaders and trust as such are those with deep seeded roots in the community, not passers by.

What is Author Rank?

Well first lets take a look at the abstract for 2007 patent for Agent Rank:

The present invention provides methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing techniques for searching and ranking linked information sources. The techniques include receiving multiple content items from a corpus of content items; receiving digital signatures each made by one of multiple agents, each digital signature associating one of the agents with one or more of the content items; and assigning a score to a first agent of the multiple agents, wherein the score is based upon the content items associated with the first agent by the digital signatures.

In 2007, Bill Slawski, questioned:

Can authority or trustworthiness be measured in a different way, based upon understanding who the author of content on pages might be, through the use of digital signatures associated with an author? Could query-independent signals be tied to that author, so that a score for content created or controlled or edited or reviewed by the author could be used to rank pages?

This patent application describes a system where that might be a possibility.

The question that kept Agent Rank from picking up speed until recently was the “how?”

How would Google get this needed digital signature? And then in 2011 Google launched Google+ and then also launched the implementation of rel=”Author” information into the results using Google+ profile data. Google+ allowed the digital signature for Agent Rank to exist.

Post Penguin Wasteland

At the same time that authorship has become a focus, Penguin has hit and completely changed how SEO professionals approach link building. In the resulting wasteland, former spammers look for tactics that are still easy but perceived to be sustainable. This is where the current guest-posting scourge comes from.

Let me be clear that guest posting isn’t bad.

What is bad is someone trying to put a culinary article on my marketing website:


The content is irrelevant; whatever link they are going to place won’t be useful for the user, and likely won’t get clicked. And most importantly, the author has never written for my site, likely wouldn’t get a second chance if they did, and certainly isn’t an expert in my vertical. From an authorship perspective this is a total failure.


This is the point that people are missing with authorship.

Strong authors who pass great Author Rank won’t be people who simply blog a lot, all over the place; they will be contributors who contribute amazing content that is relevant.

Benefits of Being a Contributor

Being a contributing author, with a recurring content profile on a site, has more value than just what it will bring in terms of search. The readers of the publication will begin to trust your writing more, learn more about you and your product, and eventually the writing will drive traffic and sales.

Amazing! Marketing efforts that drive traffic and sales from the actual effort, rather than being done for the secondary benefit of search rankings.

This is exactly what Google is looking for. They want to rank content that readers trust, and will help them make decisions. Contributors, not guest authors, are equipped to drive this kind of authority.

I want to buy what Darren Rowse suggests I buy, not whatever someone guest posting on his website for the first time suggests. This is why Rowse’s authorship will yield great value, and why a guest posting strategy won’t yield an author rank footprint worth much.

And if you’re following my logic, guest posts will be easily targeted by their Author Rank or lack there of. Guest posts will make for easy targeting.


Publishers Want Contributors

The funniest thing is that publishers want contributors more than they want guest authors. Publishers are looking for ways to scale their content and revenue in a cost-effective manner. Guest authors make more work than they are worth often, since their voice often isn’t an exact fit for the publication.

Contributors, on the other hand, can be aided by editors to grow into the voice of the publication overall. Contributors are also more likely to help promote their stories –which is of real financial value to the publisher.

Just like text links before it, guest posting works against not only what Google and publishers are looking for, but also how the Internet works.

Build Out Contributor-Based Outreach

  1. Begin to build lists of places you would be willing to publish consistently. We have found that getting a weekly column on a publication when you have good experience in the niche is pretty easy. It means a commitment, but you can use to find out the average traffic you can generate to your post, and how valuable that exposure is to you.
  2. Once you have your list, make sure your current authorship is set up and 100 percent. Publishers want to know that you will bring value to them in terms of relevance, quality, and traffic generation. Your Google+ profile is a great place for them to search this information.
  3. Your outreach email should be genuine. Talk about their website and content in specific terms, and show some examples of titles you can write and your past content. Really, you want to create a relationship before you begin to court them for a contributor relationship, so the first email should be the courtship, and the second should be the date.
  4. Create an editorial calendar for your outbound content. Don’t forget about these coveted contributor relationships, they are valuable. Also don’t take on more than you can chew.

If you keep in mind the value that contributing can bring to the table for your marketing, authorship and beyond, you will find success in creating and sharing great content. It is only when we lose site of how the game is played that we risk losing the game itself.



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