Authorship is not “Dead”: Recently-Granted Google Patent Provides Evidence of Author Influence

authorship-not-deadIf you try to stay on top of internet marketing news, you may have seen some headlines recently proclaiming that Google Authorship is dead. I understand how this would raise some concerns, especially since Authorship and Author Rank are things that we’ve recommended focusing on for quite some time, and are providing services to our clients for.

After working in the search marketing industry for nearly a decade as I have, eventually you learn to read between the lines of what Google says. The key is to look at the specifics of what they say and to take them very literally. The wrong way to go about it would be to jump to broad, sweeping conclusions, which is exactly what those people are doing who are declaring the death of Google Authorship.

In the case of this particular announcement, the Google rep specifically said that they decided “to stop showing authorship in search results.”

Here’s My Take On It

I would like to draw your attention to the word “showing.” If you ask me, my interpretation of Google’s wording is that an author’s reputation on Google+ still holds value. The only thing that has changed is that Google won’t be *displaying* the authorship information in the search results. And perhaps they’re not quite calling it “Authorship” anymore, but if my interpretation is correct, there’s no indication that having a strong presence as an author on Google+ won’t influence your search results in a more behind-the-scenes manner.

Danny Sullivan, a well-respected SEO expert, shares my sentiments in his article titled Google Authorship May Be Dead, But Author Rank Is Not.

Danny and I have our theories, but there is also some hard evidence that Google will still be using authorship information.

Evidence That Google Will Be Using Author Information

Here’s some further evidence backing up the theory that an author’s reputation will still be used to influence search results. It was recently reported that Google was granted a patent, just a few days after this authorship news broke, that involves determining an author’s authority on a subject.

More specifically, the patent granted outlines how Google will show a search result from an author if that author is connected to the searcher on Google+. The author also has to be identified by Google as an authoritative source for the query used by the searcher.

You can view the full patent information here, but I’ve already gone ahead and pulled out some of the key information for you.

Summary of the “Authoritative User” Patent

The patent describes how authors will rank in search results. The authors that rank in search results for a searcher they are connected to in Google+ do so because they have been identified by Google has authors that rank for certain “Trigger Queries”. If that query is one used by a connected searcher (someone connected to the author on Google+), then the author’s content will show up in that searcher’s results.

How will trigger queries be determined? The patent says that queries to be used as trigger queries may be determined based on popularity. If a specific query has enough searches, Google may choose it as a trigger query to be associated with an authoritative author or authors.

So why Google would invest so much money and time in a patent if they weren’t going to continue to use author information in some way, shape, or form? I think they most certainly are going to “use” that information – they are just not going to “show” you that they are doing so.

What Does This Mean For You?

So what should be done differently now? Nothing. I am going to proceed as if nothing has changed unless I see some good evidence that working on an author’s presence on Google+ is no longer beneficial from an SEO standpoint, which, according to this now-granted patent about “authoritative users”, doesn’t seem will be the case. It may not be called “Authorship” anymore, so sure – go ahead and call that *word* dead, but author influence is very much alive.

We are going to continue to work on increasing the Google+ presence of our monthly retainer SEO clients, as we have been, especially because in Google’s announcement about taking author information out of search results, it was also stated that:

“Search users will still see Google+ posts from friends and pages when they’re relevant to the query — both in the main results, and on the right-hand side. Today’s authorship change doesn’t impact these social features.”

So, here’s what that means. The more people in your target market that you are connected to on Google+, the more likely it is that the content you publish on Google+ will appear in their search results. That is the ultimate goal we have always set out to achieve for our clients in the first place.

That all being said, we see no need to change our service offerings nor recommendations surrounding Google Authorship (but we may have to start calling it “Authoritative-Usership”).


Have questions about author influence or your own site’s SEO? Get in touch with us here.

Pam Aungst Cronin
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