As we all saw, Google Authorship did not last long. The concept didn’t really catch on and the only people who ended up using Google Author Rank were SEOers hoping to game the SERPs. Yet while rel=”author” may have been discarded the notion of ranking sites on the basis of author authority has not been completely rejected.
A patent granted to Google on October 20th shows that the company is still working on ways to determine which authors have authority. In other words, Google still hopes to ascertain which authors are considered experts in their field.
Interestingly the patent suggests that Google is borrowing from academia to some degree. The patent states Google intends to process a “first set of authoritative users to define a second set of authoritative users”. Authors in academia are often judged by the regularity that other writers source them. Particularly if those others authors have themselves often been cited. The sentence quoted would suggest that Google wishes to link authors online in a similar manner. Though by what criteria it is not entirely clear, though one can guess.
Schmidt made Google’s interest in author authority explicitly known in his 2013 book, The Digital Age. He said, “Information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification”. Clearly Google is still moving in this direction and we can assume that authorship will continue to play an important role in the future.
Over a year ago, it was suggested in Search Engine Land, that a way to deal with Google dispensing with authorship mark up but continuing to emphasise the importance of authorship is to include by-lines. This is simply a line in the article naming the author. Of course, if the name is not unique this tactic might be pretty useless. Unless there is only one John Smith writing about online marketing, then you might be OK!
What we can learn from this patent is that it might also be wise to start linking yourself to other authors in your field. Get them to link to your articles and vice-versa.