Google has ended their Authorship experiment (Did they tell us they thought of it as an experiment?). Search Engine Land reported the news in an article by Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen August 28th at 4:53 pm.
“Today John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools announced in a Google+ post that Google will stop showing authorship results in Google Search, and will no longer be tracking data from content using rel=author markup.
Why I’m saddened by this decision
Google’s push for writer authority was brilliant. After years of link schemes – a practice indirectly created by Google – they finally figured out a better way to understand what was good website content and what was average or worse.
They were aiming at “crowdsourcing” the assessment of content quality using Google+, Author Rank, and Authorship.
Google openly hinted that writers with high Author Rank who wrote content that received lots of “Plus-1s” and shares had a better shot at getting ranked organically.
While Google Authorship is dead, Author Rank is still alive and well. But the signal has been sent: bringing a strong human component to ranking the best content wasn’t working out, so Google felt the need for something better. What, I wonder, could be better for understanding the quality of content than turning the assessment over to the readers of it based on their Author Rank?
A few reasons why Google is losing interest in Google+ social-based content assessment
Late to the social media scene – Authorship and Author Rank hinged on getting lots of people to join Google+ and wire their profile together with their publishing outlet. Google+ came along about the same time as everyone was getting sick of new versions of Facebook, and it seemed very similar. All our clients were having trouble understanding why it would be worth the effort. At that time, we couldn’t show them reliable ranking data to prove the ROI. Getting our clients’ worldwide staffs launched and active on G+ was like rolling a boulder uphill.
Connecting Google to your blog was complex – The pairing of corporate blogs with personal Google+ accounts was difficult. This was at the heart of Authorship. We were optimistic because Google had indicated our small photo to the left of the blog post would lead to more clicks. Apparently it didn’t.
Siri scared Google into changing – As Erin Everhart pointed out back in the March 2012 issue of Mashable, Google was well aware of the threat of Siri. “…Google is really only taking notice because of Siri and Google’s response to Siri, Google Assistant…”
Their response was Google Now (predictive search) and Google Voice Search (Conversational search using natural speech). For my fellow iPhone fanatics, you can learn more about Google Now from Marques Brownlee here.
This video from CNET shows the lengths Google is going to own the voice space, especially in mobile usage. It’s a real-time comparison between Siri and Google Now. It’s really a competition between Google’s Knowledge Graph and Siri’s Wolfram Alpha. These are the computational knowledge engines that will power the future of search.
Obviously, Google has a better plan
The plan is called semantic search. This is Google’s attempt to provide a better search experience. It will begin by trying to understand your search intent based on your query. Their new Knowledge Vault (KV) project is a probabilistic knowledge base that combines the usual suspects – web content (text), tabular data, page structure, and human annotations.
Technopedia defines semantic search this way:
“Semantic search works on the principles of language semantics. Unlike typical search algorithms, semantic search is based on the context, substance, intent and concept of the searched phrase. Semantic search also incorporates location, synonyms of a term, current trends, word variations and other natural language elements as part of the search. Semantic search concepts are derived from various search algorithms and methodologies, including keyword-to-concept mapping, graph patterns and fuzzy logic.”
This is a good explanation, but does not touch on the change demanded of publishers, including content marketers. These changes will be perplexing for many companies because we’re leaving a world where we carefully studied the mechanical rules of SEO, and the winners were the ones who best applied them. Now we’re entering a fuzzy world based on Google’s understanding of intent, credibility, and deeper ethos of the writers.
Shifting your content marketing approach for a semantic world
I’ve been spending the afternoon watching Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen in an incredibly helpful interview with David Amerland about semantic search. I advise you watch this like I did – play, pause, take notes, rewind, and play again. (See the Further Reading links at the bottom of this post for more on semantic search).
Also, watch David Amerland’s helpful YouTube video, “Semantic Search: An Introduction” –
Note that he points out the rising importance of (1) losing your anonymity, and (2) earning quality social sharing of your content based on your reputation and trust by your social peers.
It’s time for companies to stop focusing on mechanical SEO and focus instead on being very clear about their corporate ethos, as well as how and with whom they interact in the world. Sounds fuzzy, doesn’t it?
Before you sit in front of your keyboard to bang out yet another blog post, get your company’s thought leaders together and agree on:
- What your company stands for
- Who your market is
- What your tone of voice will be, no matter who is writing for you
- Where your voice gets heard – social media, your website, Google Hangouts, etc.
- Who you are in business to serve
- How you will serve them
- Which people are important for you to associate with in the real world and in the social world
It’s important that you also create a road map of where your company might go in the future. If you’re in banking now, but might later specialize only in home loans, it’s now incredibly important that you plan that out. If your corporate position, your tone of voice, might change in the future you could end up confusing Google’s semantic search. Not a good idea.
Consistency will matter. Not just being consistent in your messaging over the years, but making sure those who represent you online stay “on message.”
I watch this Simon Sinek video at least once a month. This will help you understand and remain consistent to your own corporate ethos, your “why.”
Content marketing and semantic search
How do companies create great content and market it for semantic search? Actually, the entire process may have just become a lot easier. All signs point towards the importance of companies and their employees to be authentic in the creation of content on their websites AND the promotion of it via social channels.
Be authentic – The number 1 problem most companies have is getting someone internally to create valuable content. Sitting down and writing an important and useful blog post is a herculean task. That’s why companies like ion Leap exist. But while we can help you craft great content that’s still authentic and in the voice of your company, your employees still MUST engage in social media, especially Google+. That’s why we provide training sessions and work with your staff in an ongoing program to keep them engaged in promoting the company’s content vial social media. Click here to learn more about our training programs.
Longer content posts – I suspect a healthy mix of longer content posts will help Google understand more fully what your corporate ethos is all about. This runs counter to the current belief that “nobody reads all those words.” In April 2012, a company called SerpIQ posted data on content length and search engine ranking. The charts at SerpIQ will amaze you. Granted, that was 2012, but I think it’s going to be just as relevant as semantic search takes over.
Be more consistent – Follow Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, shown in the video above. Find your “why.” Then live it in the world and on the Internet. Everything you do, both online and offline will be driven by your “why” statement. You and all your employees will feel it in their bones and those who find you online will believe it. If you’re putting up content inspired by your “why,” then it will all make perfect sense to Google and everyone else who meets you. Your content will be valued by those who find it useful or entertaining. Google will reward you with higher organic ranking.
Amerland, D. (2014, August 24). Google’s Knowledge Vault is Semantic Search on Steroids. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://davidamerland.com/seo-tips/984-google-knowledge-vault-is-semantic-search-on-steroids.html
Enge, E., & Traphagen, M. (2014, August 28). It’s Over: The Rise & Fall Of Google Authorship For Search Results. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://searchengineland.com/goodbye-google-authorship-201975
Everhart, E. (2012, March 22). How Google’s Semantic Search Will Change SEO. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://mashable.com/2012/03/22/google-semantic-search-seo
Knowledge Vault – Dong, X., Gabrilovich, E., Heitz, G., Horn, W., Lao, N., Murphy, K., … Zhang, W. (2014, January 1). Knowledge Vault: A Web-Scale Approach to Probabilistic Knowledge Fusion. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~nlao/publication/2014.kdd.pdf
Semantics. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/semantics
Sinek, S. (2014, January 1). Live Your Why. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from https://www.startwithwhy.com/Home.aspx
Sullivan, D. (2014, August 29). Google Authorship May Be Dead, But Author Rank Is Not. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://searchengineland.com/google-authorship-dead-author-rank-202254
Techopedia – Janssen, C. (n.d.). What is Semantic Search? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.techopedia.com/definition/23731/semantic-search
A Guardian.com article, Where does Wolfram Alpha get its information?
Search Engine Land Five Ways to Unlock the Benefits of Semantic Search