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What Happened to Author Rank?

Great write up by +Mark Traphagen about the current state of Author Rank.  As he notes, we don't yet see clear evidence of Author Rank being in active use, and Google continues to deny that is is in use yet.

To me, the crux of the issue is:

1. Google does not want to punish people who have not pursued Authorship, for whatever reason that may be.  They want to find ways to use such a signal that improves search results, instead of creating a bias towards familiarity with specific coding constructs (such as rel=author).

2. It is far easier for us to speculate about Google using a potential signal than it is for Google to use it.

Mark covers these and other issues very well in his post which is worth a thorough read.  And I agree with the conclusion, as an author you should continue to (holistically) behave as if Author Rank did exist.  Building your brand is never a bad idea.
 
Google Authorship Not Yet a Ranking Factor: Google's John Mueller

In a Google Webmaster Central Hangout this past Friday, Google Webmaster Tools Analyst +John Mueller stated, "We don't use Authorship for ranking at the moment."

In the post below I explore the ramifications of that statement for the present and future of what we've come to refer to as "Author Rank." I cover:

<> What happened to Author Rank?
<> Why has it been delayed? 
<> Is Author Rank dead?

...and how you should behave in light of this statement.
According to a Google official Google Authorship is not yet being used as a ranking factor in search results. Here's why, and why it still will come.
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"Google does not want to punish people who have not pursued Authorship, for whatever reason that may be"
Right on! Google definitely does not want topical experts to start getting outranked simply from lack of Authorship markup. 
 
+Mark Traphagen stitches together a pretty strong case. Of course we have always known authorship in and of itself wasn't a ranking factor. If we look closely at the video the statement that authorship isn't a ranking factor is in response to a person who thinks their content should rank higher than scraped content. And that's when the Google expert says authorship isn't a ranking factor. He did not use the words author rank and gurus have often said that authorship and author rank are two distinctly different things. Maybe one can extrapolate from one to the other. Maybe not. I still see inconsistencies in SERPs that can only be best explained by something like some type of author authority. The same thing +David Amerland has mentioned in the past and Mark Traphagen just wrote about yesterday before this latest Google revelation.

 
+Al Remetch Agreed that it is hard to prove anything one way or the other!
 
Authorship is the engine and Author Rank is (or will be the result). Also, Author Rank is not a Google term, and it is not surprising that a Googler would not use it. I take it that when Mueller says, "We don't use Authorship for ranking," he means what we would say as "there is not yet any author rank." 

You can't have one without the other. For Author Rank to work, Google neede a means of getting authors to verify their identity (Google+ profiles) and then tell Google what content on the web is theirs (rel="author" linkage). So if Authorship is not being used as a ranking factor, that means there is no Author Rank (at present), at least not in any way that any of have been calling "Author Rank" (which would be what was described in the Agent Rank patents: verified author identities connected to their content on the web via verified connections, and then ranked by subject authority per trust signals from other agents toward their content.)
 
+Mark Traphagen for over a year now you and everybody else have made the distinction of authorship and author rank. And I agree with you that the author rank you are envisioning is not here and I don't think will ever appear in the cataclysmic form you and AJ expect. However this doesn't preclude an author authority signal that I and David Amerland talk about and you even accepted a couple of days ago.
Google spokespeople are is as skilled at paring words as a politician. And don't forget that there is video of a former employee talking about the existence of Author Rank, so who do we believe. I believe the real world results I see. 
 
Even if there's never a direct ranking effect, it's not bad to be known to create great content. 
 
+John Mueller can you say that there is absolutely no type of author scoring or any other means of tracking an author to determine their reliability or expertise that may be used in some cases to influence search rankings in Google's search results?
 
We currently don't use the description meta-tag value in ranking, but it still makes sense to use it appropriately, right? There's a lot that can be said for using authorship markup, it's certainly not a "no-op." If it encourages you to create absolutely fantastic content that you want to associate with your name: that's a great thing for everyone involved. 
 
+John Mueller when you said that Google wasn't using authorship, in an of itself, as a direct ranking factor, does that also mean that there is absolutely no scoring of authors to use as an additional ranking signal in determining search results? 
 
+John Mueller are you saying that one could compare authorship and author rank's effect on the search results in a similar vein as the meta descriptions effect on search results? If so I think I understand this better now. 
 
+Al Remetch it sounds to me like +John Mueller has said as much as he's going to say on the subject. Authorship markup is not (presently) linked to any ranking system. Whether there is any kind of author-subject authority apart from Authorship, it sounds like he's not going to say.

Which leaves us back where we started. We can't independently verify that there is presently any author-subject authority. As Eric and I and many other have explained to you many times, there are many factors (such as query freshness, existing domain authority, etc.) that could explain the isolated anecdotal quick popup you had for that one Author Rank post last year. The fact that it dropped quickly off the front page and that you have no substantial rankings now for that query shows that it wasn't your "author authority."

A few weeks ago I published on the Virante blog a guide to creating Flipboard magazines. It was on page one of Google very quickly for queries like "create flipboard magazine" and "how to make a flipboard magazine." I would have no author authority for that topic. But I do write on a high authority blog, and the topic was hot at the time. So it's not surprising knowing what we know about Google behavior that they picked up my post and at least temporarily boosted it to the front page.

So if that's what we have, then i'm not going to waste a lot of time trying to prove or disprove something impossible to empirically verify at this time, especially if Google spokepsersons choose to remain vague about it. I'm going to spend my time, as i said at the end of my post, building content as if there were author authority. Because whether or not it exists as a ranking factor, I know it exists in the minds of my readers and potential readers, i.e., that my great content builds real world authority that works for my benefit.
 
Thank goodness I was sleeping during this discussion last night (Midnight, 2 AM, 5 AM ...), but +Mark Traphagen hits on the essential point, which is acting like Author Authority exists and cultivating one's real world authority is definitely the ticket.

Whether or not Google makes a ranking factor of it at the moment or not is what is most important.  I can, will, and do, get a payoff from that!
 
+Mark Traphagen absolutely. Google is playing this just like a politician. They will neither confirm nor deny the existence of some form of author rank.
Now if Jay Carney had a press conference and said we can neither confirm or deny that the NSA is reading your Email what would you think. You know they know the answer and just don't want to tell you. And that answer is...

The reference to meta description is very telling. It may not be an official direct ranking signal but you are a fool if you don't wisely use it.

Peace. 
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