In short, Google Authorship tells Google who wrote which articles, says Eric Enge, CEO of digital and content marketing firm Stone Temple Consulting. The biggest known, current benefit to Google Authorship, he adds, is having your picture show up in your content's search results.
Then there's Google Author Rank. It's a term the SEO industry uses, but Google does not. As Enge explains, the thinking goes that Google Authorship is now, or in the future will be, a valued search engine algorithm signal, not unlike PageRank, that can impact search result rankings. (Google uses hundreds of algorithm signals that determine how a piece of content should be ranked based on a search query.)
If Author Rank exists, or will exist, down the road, then linking your Google+ profile to your content could help elevate that content in search result rankings. "But to date, there is no evidence Google has truly begun to use Author Rank, and Google also publicly denies [it's] using it," Enge notes.
In other words, Google Authorship is simply the linking of your Google+ profile to the content you publish online. Google Author Rank is a possible algorithm signal that may impact the search engine ranking of content verified via Google Authorship.
It stands to reason that Google+, a Google product, offers some benefits to its users in terms of search engine rankings. "Google+ is the social network Google has direct access to," Enge says. As a result, Google+ posts tend to get indexed in real-time by Google search engine crawlers.
By comparison, Enge explains, Google doesn't have full API access to Facebook and Twitter. "Google will use Google+ data first as it begins to use social signals more to determine search engine rankings, and it'll use Google+ to help verify author identity."
The Arguments Against Google+ and Google Authorship
Google Authorship "is a form of validation," Thurow says, but "that's all it's good for." Otherwise, she says she doesn't see the benefit.
As an example, Thurow cites a test with a healthcare client with a nationally known website that attracts 10 million unique visitors monthly. Thurow's client was an early Google+ adopter and had linked the Google+ profiles of doctors contributing to the site to their content via Google Authorship.
"We measured everything to a 'T,' and we found there was no difference in click through rates" as a result of Google Authorship, Thurow says. In terms of driving click through rates, the presence of a relevant keyword in search result snippets was far more important than author thumbnail photos, she adds.
Aside from not delivering more traffic to your content, Google+ and Google Authorship seems to be saying that, "in order to rank in Googles search engine, you have to do what we say. You have to use Google+ and link your profile to your articles," Thurow says.
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