Google Authorship - are we there yet?
Around and around we go. Google’s changed the rules again. In the last week we’ve been introduced to the new Hummingbird algorithm, and then John Mueller (Google Webmaster Tools Analyst) dropped this bomb:
“Well, we don’t use Authorship for ranking.”
Hold your horses and don’t jump to conclusions because this gets interesting.
It all went down in a Google hangout which you can watch yourself here:
In fact, as Google’s algorithm basically controls the future of website rankings moving forward, I would suggest everyone watch the video. You’ll run into the gem above around 48:24. What we’re beginning to face is a search algorithm that is incredibly smart, but, it still must depend on…
Perceived Credibility/Authority & Ranking Signals
One day you think you’re an internet rock star ranking because of your Google Authorship title, and the next you’re just ranking because…why? You start noticing that subpar sites are outranking you, despite your glorious title. It has less to do with Authorship itself, and more to do with perceived authority (right now). In other words, the more people on the internet who perceive you as a trustworthy expert/guru, the better.
- The Authorship program was only created in 2011, so it’s relatively new. And, as Hummingbird was just released there’s no hardcore data yet to see how Authorship works with it.
- “The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.” That’s according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, taken directly from his book. Google Authorship isn’t dead, it’s only just begun.
The last few years would seem to have been experimental. Big data gathering and analyzing. There’s no doubt that some of what was found in this trial phase of Google Author, or self-authorization of users, played a role in Hummingbird.
Don’t think that the future of PR is a popularity contest, because it isn’t. Google knows that just because content is written by someone that seems to be an authority, doesn’t mean that it’s digital gold.
Approaching Aggregate Understanding – Agent Rank
Hummingbird is smart, bordering on human. It knows more about our virtual avatars then we do, and the same is true of most Google+ Authors.
Within a year from now Google will be able to gather information from all traces of someone online and establish whether or not they are in fact, authorities. Right now engagement and signals play a big role, but we’re still in transition.
Here is a quote taken directly from a quality breakdown of this dilemma in a Virante.org article entitled: “Google Authorship Not a Ranking Factor (Yet): John Meuller”
“In brief, the Agent Rank patents describe a system wherein a search engine could identify unique “agents” or “entities” and then measure and evaluate signals pointing to those agents (such as social or other engagement signals), and then, in the case of authors, score them according to their perceived “trust” or “authority” in various topic areas. That score could then be used to boost search results for that author’s content when it is about a topic for which she has a high authority score.”
Right now, perceived authority can help people otherwise mask the truth if it isn’t so. However, look at what the Panda and Penguin updates did to fraudulent social media connections and backlinks?
A Mind-Melting Example
Let’s imagine for a moment that 2 years ago someone set out to play a game, or trick on Google’s algorithm. What they did was set up a niche “looking” website where they published nothing but content on growing herbs at home.
Now, what if all they posted on the site was nothing but keyword rich nonsense? What if that nonsense was well-written nonsense and possessed all the conventional keywording techniques?
- Over the last two years they dripped tons of rich content with images, video and audio that seems to be highly informative and authoritative.
- They amassed a following, slowly, organically, where many people followed the blog to get a good laugh out of their antics on a regular basis…sharing their articles.
- They’ve got thousands of likes on Facebook, tons of likes and subscribers on YouTube, and thousands of people in their Google+ circles.
- In two years they published SEO rich nonsense on growing herbs at home to the grand total of 500 blogs, plus social media posts, and pictures, and videos…
- Tons of backlinks galore, hurray!
Right, so if we type one of their core keywords looking for legitimate information on growing herbs at home into the search engine would they come up? Would Google perceive them as an authority and provide completely false information to the innocent searcher wondering how to grow some Sage in their kitchen?
Maybe right now, it’s plausible. I’ve seen many supposed “Author” result turn out to be nothing but articles written to make affiliate sales.
When will the Real Authorship be Unleashed?
It’s impossible to know for sure. Google does what Google wants, when Google wants to do it. Obviously they’re aware of the holes in the system, which is why they aren’t directly using it for ranking.
- More and more “Authors” are coming online every month. As the data pool grows, it will reduce the time until the real Authorship program goes live.
- However, when it comes to highly authoritative websites, ironically, there are relatively few who care about Authorship.
- Panda and Penguin got rid of plenty of social media garbage, but right now social media signals are still weaker than most people assume. They need to be refined and made stronger first.
- Glitches and bugs in the system still happen. Meaning Google “accidently” provides users with Authors in a completely different field or subject. Oops…
Conclusion: Take the Safe Route from Here on Out
It’s best to stick to the straight and narrow with an eye always on the near horizon where a smarter, faster and more intuitive algorithm dictates your ranking. Don’t cut corners. Build slowly and steadily. Consider your online platform like a stock investment that grows over time with continuous love and care.
Never make the mistake of thinking you have your finger completely on the pulse of SEO. It’s always growing and evolving towards a future of complete disclosure. No privacy, and ultimate transparency.
Authorship will come, and when it does it will matter far more than it seems to at present. Be mindful of your actual web-presence far more than your perceived rank value.
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By Kapil Jekishan
G’day, I'm Kapil Jekishan, lead author for Latestcrunchs which is your portal for all things relating to SEO, Social Media and resources to improve your online presence. I also run Webquacker, an integrated digital marketing agency helping businesses harness the power of Social SEO.