It was heralded as a radical idea that was going to change online content marketing forever. Google patented Agent Ranking/Author Ranking way back in 2007. At that time, the idea was to give due credit to writers/authors for the content that they generated by tagging their identities to their content when it showed up in the results page. The goal was simple and if it had been successfully accomplished, online content would have had an added layer of credibility.
Google’s enthusiasm is understandable. After all, its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
But for Google things did not pan out the way they had expected. Surprisingly it offered a rather cumbersome option for authors to add their identities to their content. Latest statistics reveal that a majority of the authors made no effort to attach their names to their content. Thus, the very purpose of Author Ranking was defeated due to authors' aversion to 'publicity'. Ironically, while real authors didn't use this feature, there was a proliferation of fake 'authors' attaching their names to content they never wrote.
This setback did not faze Google. It's a research based organization at heart and views failures as stepping stones to success. The company tests and evaluates every product, innovation or change. After rigorous testing anything that does not meet the company's expectation or does not provide enough user value is ruthlessly terminated. It's this very discipline that keeps Google at the top of its game even after so many years.
In keeping with the company norms, Google finally had to pull the plug on Author Ranking and call it a day. But that does not mean the search engine giant will not be researching talented authors and make this a leading factor in deciding Page Ranking going forward. It has more than one ways to do it. Google Knowledge Vault is a good case in point and so is the schema markup. It keeps a tab on authors and sees to it that content from tried and tested authors is always valued better than greenhorn writers who are yet to earn their stripes.
What it Means for Content Marketing
Where once the content was followed by the name of the author and a picture in search engine results, the page will now look more lackluster. This doesn't have to deter content writers and marketers since according to latest research from Google the Authorship snippets in any case offered very little value to searchers and there was no radical change in 'click behavior' on results page.
The search engine will rely on Author Rank nonetheless to reward quality content. There is schema.org which is a collaboration of major players in the field of online search. Schema is a microdata that helps search engines to better parse and interpret content on the web in order to better rank it in the results page.
Quality content deserves recognition and reward. Google Author Ranking was a wonderful initiative and something that deserved to do much better. Position2engaged with a financial services company and recommended Author Ranking that helped them get their content a far higher ranking in the search engine results page.
We believe that the current avatar of Author Rank will continue to help in ranking authors as per their credibility though it will remain inconspicuous to the lay user. Having recognized the need to provide search engine rankings based on author credibility, Google is unlikely to give up on this. While Google has officially pulled back this offering, it’s probably a strategic retreat for them to work on it away from the public eye.
Giving up on a juicy research problem is just not the Google way!