Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, online review sites… In a very short time, the Internet has evolved into a publishing platform for the masses. And with this widespread growth of access to Internet publishing, has come a cacophony of Internet noise and information overload. However, in the marketplace of ideas, “the true and sound will survive; the false and unsound will be vanquished.” And helping us navigate this Internet tapioca is the aim of search engines, like Google.

Recently, Mahalo founder Jason Calcanis has somewhat notoriously proclaimed:

Blogging is largely dead.

There are a lot of stupid people out there … and stupid people shouldn’t write.

There needs to be a better system for tuning down the stupid people and tuning up the smart people.

While stated perhaps less eloquently, the point resonates. The web is undergoing a new evolution to separate the wheat from the chaff:

Calacanis thinks that Web 3.0 will be the “Age of Expertise.” Blogging brought about the era of Web 2.0 where people who may not have had a voice before could publish whatever they want. The rise of kittens on the Web, for instance. Add the ability to comment on stories and then share them through social media and Web 2.0 was the Age of Interactivity.

And so it seems to make a lot of sense that, in order to organize information in this age of Expertise, search engines will need author signals to distinguish content on the author level. Which is why Google has recently announced:

Today we’re beginning to support authorship markup—a way to connect authors with their content on the web. We’re experimenting with using this data to help people find content from great authors in our search results.

In the age of expertise, “who writes what” becomes an important search engine ranking factor and a significant competitive advantage. Through their webmaster support, Google has provided some helpful tips for making sure that you are sending author signals to the search engine:

Google is piloting the display of author information in search results to help users discover great content. This feature is being rolled out gradually and will be implemented algorithmically, so author information will not always display in search results. Please view this Picasa album to see some of our pilot authors.

To identify the author of an article, Google checks for a connection between the content page (such as an article), an author page, and a Google Profile.

  1. content page can be any piece of content with an author: a news article, blog post, short story …
  2. An author page is a page about a specific author, on the same domain as the content page.
  3. Google Profile is Google’s version of an author page. It’s how you present yourself to the web and to Google. Use your profile to manage the information—such as your bio, contact details, and links to other sites by or about you—that people see. When you link your Google Profile to your author pages (or to sites you write for), you’re telling Google that all of these pages represent you. If your content appears in search results, your photo (including a link to your Google Profile) can appear next to it. Content you’ve identified as yours will also be listed on the +1 tab of your Google Profile. To easily link to your Google Profile, add the Profile button to your site.

And if you’d like to see how this works in a live search result, you can google daggle and noodp.

To me, there is no question that this has serious implications for lawyers in both developing web content and online professional reputation building. Which is a topic we have been discussing in the LAB.

The authorship update is likely to have two significant benefits. First, it is likely to increase click-through-rate to your content in organic results. Second, there is no question that author authority will play some role in the search engine ranking factors. In other words, the content of authoritative authors will get more search engine results page (SERP) real estate than content from less authoritative authors and content mills.

While authorship markup is still in the pilot stage, to me, it is clear that this is the future of search, and of our consumption of the web. This concept is also reinforced by iPad apps like Zite which allow you to “vote” for specific content, sources, and authors to appear more prominently.

I encourage you to update your blogs and other publishing profiles to ensure that you are communicating these important author signals to search engines. While your state bar may not permit you to call yourself an expert, there is no question that positioning yourself as an expert by publishing excellent online content will become an increasingly important component in the age of expertise.