In a Search Engine Land interview with Samar Kamdar, who heads the authorship initiative, Samar describes Google’s reasoning for starting the Authorship program, “the Authorship program was based on the premise that content associated with a real identity is often of higher quality than content published anonymously.”
In 2005 Google filed for the Agent Rank i.e. author rank patent, published in 2007 and granted on July 21, 2009. In brief this patent outlines the methods and methodologies for connecting individual agents with the content they produce Online, and further ranking the content of those individuals based on their authority in a particular subject area.
Thus a high authority individual or agent would be the factor ranking content rather than the traditional link structure. Google was founded on the idea that highly authoritative links to a particular domain would raise the authority or relevancy of that domain for the searcher.
The Agent Rank patent proposes a new method of ranking content based on an individuals authority in a subject rather that simply on the link structure of a domain. Google also filed for and received additional patents related to the Agent Rank patent. One dealing with the portability of reputation, and the other dealing with the idea that not all author’s should be trusted equally. More on these patents can be found here in an article by Bill Slowsky who is an expert on Google patents.
Further supporting the idea that Google is working to rank content based on a kind of Author Rank is a video by Matt Cutts where he describes Google’s ongoing efforts in this area.
The relevant information begins at 4:42 where Mr. Cutts says, “We are doing a doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space. It could be medical, it could be travel, whatever. And trying to makes sure that those rank a little more highly, if you are some sort of authority or a site that according to the algorithms we think might be a little bit more appropriate for users.”
Google Authorship/Author Rank Patents
More recently on June 4, 2013 Google was granted several patents related to what many call Author Rank. These patents are:
1. System and method for determining similar topics
US Patent 8,458,197
2. System and method for determining similar users
US Patent 8,458,195
3. System and method for content-based document organization and filing
US Patent 8,458,194
4. System and method for determining active topics
US Patent 8,458,193
5. System and method for determining topic interest
US Patent 8,458,192
6. System and method for determining topic authority
US Patent 8,458,196
Given all the work Google is putting into Author Rank becoming an authority online has increasing relevance. As of this writing there is a good deal of circumstantial evidence supporting the idea that there is a kind of Author Rank currently in place. However according to many experts in this field, such as Mark Traphagen who runs the largest Community on G+ associated with this topic Authorship and Author Rank, we are not seeing definite evidence that Author Rank is currently active.
Benefits of Author Rank:
Google Author Rank provides the opportunity for authority to be portable, as is suggested in the above mentioned patents, rather than simply restricting authority to a specific domain. This means that an authoritative individual could rank content, in his area of expertise, highly wherever that content happened to reside. Basically that person’s authority would rank the content not the domain on which the content resides.
In a pre-Author Rank world an authoritative piece of content only helped rank the domain on which that content was hosted. However once Author Rank is more fully implemented an author will be able to extend that ability to rank content to whatever domain the author is writing on. Basically giving authors the ability to extend ranking in their area of expertise to any domain they like or to whatever content they like. An endorsement from one of these highly ranked authors could help quickly rank authoritative content rather than having to wait for the normal set of ranking signals to take effect.
Author Rank Helps Reduce Spam
Author Rank will help reduce the overall amount of spam we see on a daily basis. This is in part due in part to the fact that it would take too long to game this kind of system. You actually have to become a recognized expert in order to rank content, and attempting to fake expertise could take just as long as actually having that expertise to begin with. Another way in which Author Rank will help reduce spam is by ranking original content above scraped or copied content.
Google must have methods for understanding authority Online, and one way to do this is by transferring authority from recognized authorities to unrecognized ones. For example let’s say that Google recognizes an individual as being an Online marketing authority. in this example that authoritative person could transfer some authority to another author by interacting with that second authors content.
The Future of Authorship and Author Rank
Google Authorship and Author Rank are ongoing initiatives at Google, and neither are fully implemented. Google has confirmed that social signals are a factor in their ranking algorithm, and further that Authorship is a contributing factor to those signals. Although the jury is still out on just how strong this signal is it seems clear that going forward Author Rank will factor into Google’s search results. This means that smart individuals and businesses are going to be building their Online authority and reach now with Google+ to be well positioned in the future.