Why Author Rank Matters Even Without Google Authorship

Sep 11, 2014

Google recently pulled the plug on its once highly touted Google Authorship program, which has once again left digital marketers scrambling to interpret the motives and intentions of the search engine giant. So much of what Google says and does is shrouded in mystery and elusive double-talk, and marketers are frequently left to their own devices when it comes to determining the real impact of Google’s decisions on their web properties.

The Google Authorship program was originally intended to provide a method for content creators to identify themselves. Through the use of an embedded code, Google linked the content to its Google+ social channel to create a mechanism for identifying and rewarding the authors of quality content.

Google Authorship

Content creators received extra “real estate” within the search results in the form of a thumbnail photograph appearing next to their byline as well as an indication of their authority expressed by the number of Google+ Circles they were in. Google went so far as to hint that these authorship snippets might even lead to more clicks.

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What’s Really Behind the Demise of Google Authorship
When Google first announced its authorship markup, the SEO community predictably jumped on the bandwagon with both feet. Literally any piece of content could receive the benefit of Google Authorship as long as it was properly marked up. It was like the mad rush for inbound links, any kind of links, all over again.

  • Google Authorship was based on the assumption that content associated with a real person is frequently of higher quality compared to that content posted by an anonymous writer.
  • The underlying problem with Google Authorship is simply that once every author who marked up his or her content for authorship purposes was granted authority status, the value of authority was diminished for everybody.
  • In a recent statement, Google spokesperson Matt Cutts said that Google is determined that the authors that are singled out as authority figures are truly high quality writers. “So it’s not just going to be about the markup, it’s going to be about the quality of the author.”

Is Author Rank Still Important?
Author rank is a label devised by the SEO community for a process that might someday be used to boost the search engine rankings of content based on who wrote it. While Google continues to deny that author rank is currently in play as a ranking factor, it’s not saying that it won’t be included at some time in the future.

The end of Google Authorship is not expected to change the way that Google treats content from authoritative writers; it continues to look for frequently appearing author bylines across the Web, especially when that content is connected to a Google+ profile.

According to Google’s John Mueller, search users will continue to see Google+ posts from friends and pages as long as they are relevant to the search query. Content authors should continue to include +1 buttons on all of their posts. The more you participate on Google+, the greater the chances of your posts appearing in the search results. Carefully choose keywords that accurately target the subject of your content. Make sure that your content is properly tagged and titled. Write rich meta description snippets that tells users why they need to read your article.