The Death of Google Authorship: Why Being an Author Isn’t Dead

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The Death of Google Authorship: Why Being an Author Isn’t Dead

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 authorship

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.

In Conclusion

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.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Sergey Nivens via Shutterstock
Image #1: Kichigin via Shutterstock

Julia McCoy
Julia McCoy is a bestselling author of So You Think You Can Write, podcaster, and serial content marketer. She’s the founder of Express Writers, a... Read Full Bio
Julia McCoy
Julia McCoy
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  • Todd Blair

    I’ve been keeping above board with my niche and involvement in communities and on Google + all the while directing the flock back to my site. Trying to get picked up on major sites and news feeds is the tricky part. And then , if they pick you up and don’t leave a link to you or your profile, what can you do? I’ve had this happen once with a local (and yet, powerful) newspaper yet I received no link love. Tough market to build but consistency and diversity in your niche makes it work.

    • Julia McCoy

      You’re on the right road being so active! I’d try to contact the sources back that don’t link to you…we actually did this with a press release and were successful in having a tech support from the distributor add the link back in.

  • Tom

    Well, I guess I have a reason to start working my G+ page more aggressively now … thanks for the info!

    • Julia McCoy


  • Jason Lee

    I don’t get why they pushed this for such a small amount of time. Seems like they should have let it run longer.

    • Julia McCoy

      I agree, Jason. It seems like the “headshots” may have interfered with Adwords – people preferring to click on a real author than a sponsored ad, so Google moved quickly on getting rid of it. They won’t fully own up to that, though.

  • Nikhil Makwana

    I agree with points to be more active on Google+, find a niche and expand your network. The reason behind is – In top 10 search results, Google shows results / post from your Google+ Network too. (If the user is logged in, Google account, while searching) and these will help us to generate potential traffic.

    • Julia McCoy

      Very true. The network you have on G+ is important for your SERP results, so always adding and branching out is essential.

  • Nikhil ganotra

    Hey Julia,

    Great write up indeed!

    I truly agree that ending of google authorship doesn’t mean an end to the get the higher rankings in the search engines. I am currently working on a new blog and still I rank in the first 5 pages for highly competitive keywords because…. I am highly active on Google plus.

    Thanks for sharing such ultimate stuff! 🙂

    • Julia McCoy

      Nikhil, that’s great. You’re an example of success in action!

  • Humayun Hashmi

    Well I noticed that when the authorship was enabled, the author with most authority get higher than me in SERP. It may differs from one scenario to an other but what i am talking about was blog posting (specifically news). However, as you said the authority is still something… I will stick with it 🙂

  • Maciej Fita

    I think there is a big difference between an author and someone who slaps together a blog post. With that said there are many great blog writers out there that deserved that authorship label but many were going after solely from a conversions standpoint due to an enhanced organic listing behind content. I think Google should try to find a new way for bloggers and writers to be able to achieve that authorship status much like a website building authority from SEO. I think simply sticking the coding into a site was the wrong way to go on Google’s part.

  • Zohaib Liaqat

    Really great info, I guess its time to start working on my G+ page

  • Ken Glick (EEI)

    I always felt that Google Authorship was only beneficial for bloggers and those looking to write articles for other websites. If you are a webmaster or online merchant then Google Authorship is pretty much irrelevant but if you read articles touting the benefits of this tool you would get the impression that it’s useful for everyone with an online presence… which just isn’t true.