Just a few months ago (late July 2014), we heard about the disappearance of the Authorship head shot. Now, the news has broken that Google has killed Authorship. Not changed it in another way. You heard that right: Google killed Authorship.
Google Authorship is Dead
At least that is how Forbes contributor TJ McCue put it, in a post published last week, following Google’s announcement that its Authorship experiment has run its course. In practical terms, this means Google will no longer use the rel=author markup to track content to a self-identified author, effectively eliminating authorship features from its search results page.
Google’s decision to pull the plug on the project did not come out of the blue, though, and seems to have been more of a mercy killing. According to SEO guru Eric Enge, president of Stone Temple Consulting, it is merely an acknowledgment that the experiment has failed.
Google introduced Authorship with the professed purpose of tracking content to individual authors and assessing their expertise and authority levels as possible ranking criteria. This has long been one of Google’s objectives, which Eric Schmidt stated in no uncertain terms in his 2013 book, The New Digital Age:
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.
Although Authorship seemed to lend itself beautifully to this purpose, encouraging authors to use the rel=author markup as a means of verifying their authority, it failed to live up to its promise.
The reasons are twofold. On the one hand, the adoption rate remained low among writers and publishers alike, as proved by a study recently conducted by Stone Temple Consulting, looking into rel=author markup usage. The study also indicated a faulty implementation even among those who tried to use the markup. Google’s attempts at auto-attributing authorship haven’t been that successful either.
On the other hand, according to John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools, whom Enge quotes in his article, Google has finally acknowledged that showing Authorship results in search was failing to return value to end users.
Author Rank Lives On
What does this news mean for us? Have the efforts we’ve put into building our credentials on Google+ been in vain? Well, don’t start dismantling your Google Plus profile just yet. Even though Authorship is dead, Author Rank lives on. Google has other ways to identify authors and it is safe to assume authoritative, high-quality content will not go unrewarded.
5 Ways To Build Up Author Rank Without Authorship
There are still a lot of ways to build up your author rank, just bear in mind that your endgame should be building lasting authority.
1. Hold on to Your Profile
Even though Google will no longer be feeding data from Google+ into its search results via Authorship, using Google+ as your identity platform remains crucial to building ranking and authority. Even though the Author Rank algorithm works in mysterious ways, your Google+ Profile authority seems to play a central part to it. Using bylines might be another effective way to claim authorship, as Google is likely to look for visible bylines.
2. Be Active on Google+
Get busy on all fronts Google+ has to offer. Build a strong profile, start posting consistently and be active on communities which have a direct correlation with your area of expertise. There is a higher likelihood that people will add you to their circles following direct interaction. Making a steady contribution to discussions will go a long way towards persuading Google of your trustworthiness and expertise. Other social platforms can serve to disseminate content and reach out to more people, but your performance on Google+ can make or break you as an authority.
3. Intelligent Networking
Building authority isn’t really about building a strong following as much as it is about connecting with the right people. Be on the lookout for well-ranked fellow authors in your communities and connect with them. Getting into their circle will boost your chances of sharing quality content and improve your authority level.
4. Find a Niche
Don’t spread yourself thin trying to juggle too many subjects. Find your own unique area of expertise and stick to it. Whatever elements go into Google’s Author Rank algorithm, you are more likely to boost your credentials by providing steady, quality content in one field. The idea of the Renaissance Man might sound good in theory, but in the real world, expertise tends to go hand in hand with specialization.
5. Content is Paramount
You can never overestimate the importance of quality content. Admittedly, the mechanics of SEO and aspects like keywords and relevant backlinks matter, but they are merely the skeleton. Potential customers will feel alienated or cheated if all they get is dry, thin, or boring content. You should be providing readers with genuine, quality information, and honest solutions to real problems.
Your Content Reflects on You
The kind of content you put out correlates almost seamlessly with your author rank, so creating hollow or poor content should be avoided at all costs if you hope to build and preserve authority. It takes months of steady work to build a solid reputation and very little to undermine it.
While we may shed a tear at Authorship’s passing, let’s hope it heralds Google’s renewed promise to find more effective ways of recognizing and rewarding authority. Author Ranking can be a useful tool, even though it’s hard to quantify its SERP impact. However, the key to long-term success is unflinching commitment to deliver solid, well-researched, quality content, rather than an appetizing yet empty package.