It's become pretty obvious that Google is looking to put user identity at the forefront of a number of its products, and that includes search. Nothing new there.
Eric Schmidt apparently talks about this in his upcoming book, and notes flat out that profile verification will be directly tied to search engine rankings. The Wall Street Journal has a few quotes from the book (hat tip to Search Engine Watch), including this one:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”
Seems pretty clear cut. Google, as you may know, has been pushing authorship for quite some time now, and Google's Matt Cutts recently made comments indicating that this will be a much more significant signal going forward. Here are some quotes from a webmaster hangout he participated in:
“In the short term, we’re still going to have to study and see how good the signal is, so right now, there’s not really a direct effect where if you have a lot of +1s, you’ll rank higher. But there are things like, we have an authorship proposal, where you can use nice standards to markup your webpage, and you’ll actually see a picture of the author right there, and it turns out that if you see a picture of the author, sometimes you’ll have higher click through, and people will say, ‘oh, that looks like a trusted resource.’ So there are ways that you can participate and sort of get ready for the longer term trend of getting to know not just that something was said, but who said it and how reputable they were.”
“I think if you look further out in the future and look at something that we call social signals or authorship or whatever you want to call it, in ten years, I think knowing that a really reputable guy – if Dan has written an article, whether it’s a comment on a forum or on a blog – I would still want to see that. So that’s the long-term trend.”
“It’s just the case that that picture is just more likely to attract attention. It’s just a little more likely to get the clicks, and you now, it’s almost like an indicator of trust.”
“The idea is you want to have something that everybody can participate in and just make these sort of links, and then over time, as we start to learn more about who the high quality authors are, you could imagine that starting to affect rankings.”
Schmidt's book, which he co-authored with Jared Cohen comes in April. It looks like he just gave SEOs and webmasters a reason to read it.