Rel=”Author” May be Gone, But Agent Rank Lives On

When I first wrote the post below, studies on authorship and its influence on CTR were mainstream; Eric Schmidt unveiled his ideas on author profiles and how he believed they would affect future rankings; and Panda made its third appearance in 45 days, adding more reason for marketers to jump on the content bandwagon.

With this whirlwind of activity, and the glittery photos in results, it was hard not to promote authorship and think that this was the answer to past patents referring Agent Rank; however, the photos were not the point behind Agent Rank. And, at this point, even though rel=author is longer a thing, the idea that Google would alter rankings based on an author’s authority is still alive and believe that Google is in the process of finding a more efficient way of gathering Agent Rank signals – possibly from the knowledge graph, knowledge vault and structured data.

On a side note, I would also doubt the recent theories that Google enacted rel=author as a means of mass link building – but wouldn’t be opposed to them considering a rel=author or rel=me link nofollow.

When Google made the massive push for businesses and online content curators to produce works that provide real subject matter and mark it up with authorship, it was done with the intention that connecting an author with reader would provide validation and trust; however, as we all know, the low adoption rate of every niche besides tech and marketing didn’t necessarily provide a better SERP.

I saw many possibilities for the Authorship program, providing additional signals for a work based on an author’s connected Google+ profile. Just think how verifying your work could lead to more signals based on the location, subject matter and connections surrounding an author through Google+. For example:

  • Ranking for a Subject

Matt Polsky tag cloudSomeone who writes daily about a specific subject could have been more influential on that subject than someone who writes about it once a year. Think of it as your own personal tag cloud with every title tag and keyword you use the most.

  • Rankings from Connections

Google+ and author markup added a human element to content. If you marked up your work with authorship, this added a connection to your Google+ profile, where a crawler wouldn’t just see what you post about, but who you were connected to and what they posted about.

Basically, Google could measure not only the influence of what you write about, but the influence of your associations, what they like and post about.

  • Geolocation for Searches

Where does your Google+ say you are from? Where do you live? These are things Google can take into consideration as the algorithm decides on where your content is best served.

  • Feed for the Knowledge Graph

This is a no brainer, since it is already being used to some extent. Why would Google need to search out Wikipedia when they can just pull the info from your Google+?

A while back I wrote about Authorship for the Social Times and in my article, I shared what I believed was the demise of the anonymous content writer and the rise of the subject matter expert. This is a theory that Agent Rank fills, and I still stand by this statement.

As a closing thought, in the original Agent Rank patent, identifying agents must be reliably associated with the content. And what would be more reliable (for Google) than Google’s own knowledge vault.

I’m sure this played a large part in the decision making of closing the doors on the Authorship Program. After all, if I created a false Google+ as Matt Cutts, it would be nothing to slip in Authorship links connecting his name with any spammy item.


The below instructions no longer work, but are maintained for archiving what was once active.

The options you have:

  1. You Own the Site or Have an Email with the same Domain as your content:

If you fall into this category, you will need to have an email with the same domain as your content. For example, is the email I use for author verification on my site.

From here, you post your email to Google+ and submit the email address to Google’s Authorship Page to be verified.

Next, and most importantly, make sure every article you post or have posted has a clear byline identifying you as the author (i.e. By Matt Polsky or Written By: Matt Polsky)

Matt Polsky on Google+

2. You are a guest author or do not have an email address with the same domain as your content:

In this case, all you need to do is create a link to your Google+ profile from the page that your work appears on. For instance, my byline for any contributing pieces is:

Matt Polsky specializes in producing creative, scalable and adaptive organic marketing strategies for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated provider of VA Home Loans. In his spare time, Matt guest lectures on SEO, conversion optimization and link building. Connect with Matt on his personal website, via Twitter @mattpolsky or on Google+.

If you break that down, my link to Google+ looks something like this <a href=”“>Google+</a>. If the link is missing the parameter ?rel=author, then Google will not associate you as the author, although they are getting better at this and are also adding the markup automatically for some major authors.

From here, add a link to your Google+ contributor section with the domain of the website you wrote for. This is done by clicking on View Profile -> Edit Profile -> Contributor To -> Add custom link. Again, if you don’t want to display this, you can make it private.

No matter which option fits you, remember that you can check your markup through Google’s structured data testing tool.