flipchart-funster.jpgI’ve just finished another session of my SEO for Journalists course, run via journalism.co.uk. I love running this course – not only do I get paid for it (always a good thing), but it gives me the chance to spend the day talking to and working with journalists engaged in thinking deeply about how and what they do when the publish.

Today’s thought-stirring topic was the rise of the authorship issue in Google and the presumed AuthorRank that rises out of it. Two big concerns emerged as we discussed it:

  • As authorship is often linked to your Google+ profile – are you going to have to maintain two seperate profiles on the service if you want to keep work journalism and personal blogging seperate? Will Google allow you to do that?
  • How about titles where they don’t credit individual authors – are they going to be penalised for that approach?

The first point is the common clash on how people construct identity in the real world – often with multiple senses of self depending on context and company – and the attempt of many of the engineer-derived social tools to force us into a single, defined online identity. That battle will run and run…

The more interesting one to me is the dilemma that this poses for traditional journalism outfits that want to place brand value over author value. Google simply isn’t supporting that at the moment. The answer to the second question above is “yes” – the site will be penalised. You can’t assign authorship to a brand, just to a person. That means that your precious website will have to appear as a loose coalition of authors in Google if you want to take advantage of the SEO benefits of authorship.

This the the journalist-as-brand, site-as-metadata concept I’ve talked about in the past, as my experience of how people sample things like blogs from traditional publications online. However, now it’s being encoded into the structure of the search engine  that many people use as their entry point to the web. That’s a fundemental challenge to publishers on the way they view their brands – I wonder how many of them will attempt to ignore authorship so as to not open this particualr can of worms?