Life After Google Authorship?

Neil Cumins asks how can you compensate for the SEO benefits of Google Authorship?

The late, unlamented Google Authorship represents the latest in a long and inglorious line of technology fails by the omnipresent IT giant. However, its demise represents a significant problem to people who wanted their work to be accredited and ranked more highly in search engine results. Even overlooking the vexed question of whether Authorship actually did improve people’s results positions, its abrupt termination has left a lot of creatives without an obvious way to watermark their content.
Authorship required users to install chunks of markup code into the HTML coding of each website they contributed to – invisible to the public but obvious to the crawlers that re-scan websites on a regular basis. That markup code can still be inserted, and there are still benefits to doing so. For instance, rich snippets haven’t (yet) suffered Authorship’s fate. These are the reviews and brief text descriptions that often appear under search results, from calorie counts in recipes to price indications for hotels. This data is created automatically by the crawlers identifying highlighted information and recognizing it as worthy of inclusion in the results. At the moment, Google only acknowledges seven categories of content that can be included in rich snippets:

  •        People
  •        Reviews
  •        Products
  •        Businesses and organisations
  •        Recipes
  •        Events
  •        Music

The first one will be of particular value to bloggers and journalists – the people who most commonly relied on Authorship to authenticate their work and provide links to their back catalogue of published articles. There are no benefits to using markup code in terms of search result positioning, but the additional text certainly differentiates your work from everyone else’s.
The concept of author rank is also worth bearing in mind. If you are an acknowledged guru, Google’s ranking algorithm is increasingly recognising your authority to speak on a particular subject. The exact science behind this is a closely-guarded secret (presumably to prevent legions of amateur bloggers attempting to corrupt the system) but senior Google personnel have admitted that web searches can be affected positively by a high level of industry expertise. Possible examples of this might include visible bylines in papers published on academic websites, attributed quotes on news outlets or simply a regular presence on reputable sites. Unfortunately, the aforementioned gurus are vastly outnumbered by hordes of lesser-known writers who can’t contribute to these platforms precisely because they aren’t deemed high-profile enough.
The death of Google Authorship also means people now need to pay greater attention to other aspects affecting SERP positioning. Sparing use of keywords and regularly updated content remain important factors, while relevant title and meta description tags help to bump content up the rankings. Avoid contributing to Flash-based websites that are hard for search engine crawlers to navigate, and refrain from duplicating content or adding spammy links. Finally, maintain the habit of attaching bylines to blog entries and published articles. Verifying a writer’s identity with tagged bylines is exactly what Google Authorship was originally designed for, but despite its demise, bylines still have a tangible impact on SERP results thanks to the author rank principle.