Move over Google Author Rank, Make way for Google Authoritative Rank

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Dr, Seuss
Ted Geisel, who wrote under the name Dr. Seuss, Authoritative for Green Eggs and Ham?

An authoritative user is a user of one or more computer-implemented services (e.g., a social networking service) that has been determined to be authoritative (e.g., an expert) on one or more topics that can be associated with one or more queries

This quote comes from a patent that was granted on Tuesday at the USPTO titled, Showing prominent users for information retrieval requests

I read the patent Tuesday, and thought to revisit it after reading a post this morning by Mark Traphagen at Moz, titled Will Google Bring Back Google Authorship? It’s a good question and Mark brings up a fair amount of evidence to support the idea that they might bring back the concept of author authority in search results, even if they don’t bring back or rely upon authorship markup (adding a rel=”author” to a link to your Google+ profile from a page you write at, or linking to pages you contribute to from your Google+ profile). As Mark notes:

It’s my contention that this process will be the next evolutionary step that will eventually enable Google to identify authors who matter on a given topic with their actual content, evaluate the relative authority of that content in the perceptions of readers, and use that as a search ranking factor.

The prominent users patent I link to above seems to fit along those lines, but it’s the second time that patent has been granted. I wrote about the first time in a post titled, Has Google Decided that you are Authoritative for a Query?.

This new publication of the patent is a kind of patent known as a continuation patent, or a republication of an older patent with updated claims, which take over for the claims in the original patent and take their filing date as a starting point for what they legally cover. So, we need to look at the new claims and compare them to the claims in the older version of the patent.

The older version of the patent is:

Showing prominent users for information retrieval requests Granted September 2, 2014.

The newer version of the patent is:

Showing prominent users for information retrieval requests Granted October 20, 2015.

Most of the patent should be the same from the one in 2014 to the one in 2015, but the Claims should be different, and they are. They ideally will reflect changes that have taken place on the Web and at Google.

Under the old version of author rank, you would need to be connected through Google+ to see content in your search results from someone who might be an expert on a topic. That may have changed with this new version of the patent, that focuses more upon an Authoritative Rank.

The older version of the patent tries to find authoritative users for a query (experts on the topic of that query) who might have “a contact status between the authoritative user and the searching user within a social networking service”. That line appears to have been removed from the second patent, which may mean that you may not be limited in searches to seeing a result from the most authoritative content creator for your query, whom you would be connected to in Google+.

That connection requirement appears to have been dropped in this newer patent. It does seem to tell us though, that we will see a result from the authoritative user with the highest score than from all the other authoritative users for a particular query term.

If you want to dig back further into this scoring of content by some kind of authoritative score, I wrote about something very similar when writing about reputation scores for authors called Agent Rank.

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42 thoughts on “Move over Google Author Rank, Make way for Google Authoritative Rank”

  1. Nice find! Here’s my problem with this not being connected to something where the author deems themselves an expert. For instance I often write on another topic for a client and with a little luck and skill have managed to be included in some authoritative sites. I always give credit to the client by linking to their assets so as to not make me the expert. I make a point of including my title of marketing and community manager. I had controlled that by not including that site in my G+ page as a contributor. After they dropped the markup I added it because I was confident that I would not mix up what my expertise is. I agree that for Google this change makes more sense because it removes the reliance on sites to implement the markup and do it correctly which often was not the case!

  2. Hi Terry,

    Thanks. It was honestly a little surprising seeing that they had dropped the requirement in the patent of a person being connected to someone else in Google+ to be seen as authoritative for a query. They don’t go into much detail about how someone is determined to be authoritative, other that telling us that they’ve exhibited an expertise on that topic, at a social network (presumably Google+).

  3. If Google wants to measure authority, I’d assume they’d be taking advantage of more than just the engagement they measure across their own platforms. Especially since Twitter’s ~10k tweets/sec firehose was turned back on for them this spring.

  4. These are great tips for online businesses. I really enjoyed reading your blog, you have lots of great content. I look forward to reading more posts from you. Thanks for sharing important point.

  5. Here’s a completely future wonky thought “what if they are using gps to track your physical location and determine authority that way?”
    You’ve written about multiple patents that track user behavior both on and offline.

    The most recent change I’ve seen in the public eye is in local — now when you search a business by name, the card shows the busy times at that physical store.

    And of course, anyone who is signed up for Google Surveys like I am knows that for the last 18 months, they’ve been sending surveys often asking “when is the last time you visited Home Depot?”

    Then there are the Google City Guides (formerly city experts).. and on and on.

    So authority can be niche – like if a guy online claims to be a doctor yet he is never tracked inside of a hospital –it’s a signal. (I’m know this is a vague analogy but the point is still clear)

    But authority can also be geo based (and I think this is more likely implemented)
    I live in St Petersburg FL and it’s easily seen when I visit my location history timeline or whatever they call it now.. it’s very obvious where I’m a geographical expert. In fact, some places, I’m more of a tourist expert as I travel to those places often – (remember the “in town” vs “out of town” parsing of google reviews?)

    ok, enough, I’m just having fun here connecting dots from my laptop while drinking coffee.

    AL :)

  6. Hi Allyn,

    Having an expertise for a location wouldn’t be unusual. I do remember when Google had Aardvark running. You could sign up as an expert in a particular location under Aardvark. I remember asking where the Best Pizza in Virginia was from. The Answer was a good one – I tried the place recommended, and It was pretty good pizza. I suspect that expertise or authoritativeness is going to be determined by what people write about online rather that from some location-based tracking. We’ll see if we can find out more.

  7. Hi Matty,

    I think one of the concerns that Google would have would be their lack of control over data from those other platforms. When people log into Google+, Google can track where they might be connecting to the social network from, if their login was legitimate, and other signals that might verify the identity of the person connecting to their social network. Google wouldn’t have access to that information from social networks outside of their control.

  8. Great find Bill, It is clear from the first quote that experts/authorities on social media continue to be important in relation to searches.

    The average company that has experts therefore should likely take social more seriously for those experts, even if not for passing direct ranking benefit (since social is a fuzzy / mostly not used ranking signal) or getting direct leads/conversions, if they want better rankings.

    Take a lawyer for example who just wants to rank but doesn’t want to put in the hard work to identify their experts. Those people likely lose in the scenario?

    I also love the reference to Dr. Seuss and maybe we need a SeussRank to identify the silliest people? :-)

  9. Hi John,

    Thank you. Social interactions are where a Google learns about you, your interests and what you know about. It may not have a direct ranking impact, but I like your example of the lawyer who puts in the work to identify the best experts. They are the ones most likely to win the case in front of them. Thanks – I saw the image of Dr. Seuss at the Library of Congress website, and thought, there’s someone whom we associate certain words and phrases with as belonging to him, which is what this patent does. Think “Green Eggs and Ham” and Dr. Seuss is whom your mind chooses as authoritative for that term. There are other people whom we see as authoritative for certain terms and ideas. Being connected to them in Google+ really wasn’t necessary under this patent, so it change that requirement. A SeussRank would be a good thing in our world. :)

  10. Thanks for the additional explanations Bill and that helps me understand the Dr. Seuss example even better and how this patent disassociates from the need for tying it to Google Plus.

    It might be fun to have an info graphic to further illustrate the point with a bunch of other known entities like say Donald Trump who is known for saying “you’re fired” or maybe find tighter topical authority examples but that might be funny like Dr. Seuss.

    Have a great weekend.

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  13. Aside from determining the author and inserting author codes on your blog. How can your blog be authorize in Google since I think that Authorship in Search functions has been removed.

  14. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my website.

  15. It’s always a good idea to visit SBTS (SEO by the Sea) regularly for some mind-boggling news, especially when it’s related to Google :D
    Thanks for this article. Have a great week ahead Bill.
    Regards :)

  16. Great article coverage Bill.
    I personally enjoyed the Google Authorship when it was live, although there were several issues around the crediblity of the authority of some individuals and people. Even when we used to see the results and see the circle numbers that were staggering for people who ‘claimed’ to be experts.

    I’d like to see an improved version through Authoritative Rank. I also hope that it doesn’t succumb to manipulation (it’s a strong wish, but I hold some hope!)

    Thanks for sharing this information Bill. Looking forward to seeing how Google will use this in the future.

  17. Hi Danielle,

    It’s likely that Google is looking to your interactions on Google+ and what you post about there in an authoritative manner. So, if you are doing that, keep on doing that.

  18. Hi Dave,

    We will need to wait and watch. Google tries to learn about someone’s expertise on a topic by what they post, and how they interact with others. So, we’ll see how well they might do.

  19. I read your post attentively.Really i think it was very helpful for me. By the way i really impressed for your all blog contents.
    Thanks Bill go ahead.

  20. Great article, Every points of this post are very good.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.

  21. Google authoritative ranking sounds like it will make a big change in the way that searches are returned. This is the first I’m hearing of it. Where do you keep up on these kinda of changes? Thanks for the heads up Bill.

  22. I am surprised that with the old patent that you needed Google+ in order to receive experts in your search results. Surely having experts in your results would tempt you more to connect with Google+ as it shows how popular it is.

    I do hope they do bring back authorship. Any chance to get my mug back on the web lol

  23. Hi James,

    Thinking about it, it is a little surprising that you would need to be connected to someone if they were considered an expert on a topic, but that’s how Google set up Google+. Having people sign up at Google+ and verify which sites were the ones they authored was tied to Google+, and so, it appears that Google tried to use Google+ membership to encourage people to join it.

    I don’t think they will bring back authorship or start showing authorship images again.

  24. Thanks for these great tips on being recognized as an authority in a specific topic by Google. Hopefully Authoritative Rank helps sift through some of the people who are only claiming to be experts.

  25. Hi, I am a subscriber for your blog SEO By The Sea. I daily browse your site to know new technique for Online Marketing.

    I got proved that most of patent are same without different Claims each other. I used your patent old version.

    To get a best Google author rank I think your article is best for bargainer’s.

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  26. Great find Bill, It is clear from the first quote that experts/authorities on social media continue to be important in relation to searches.

    I cannot agree more…the future is not in the content so much as the trust in the producer!

  27. thanks for sharing such a nice and important article you explain it very nice and easy .for the first time i read full artile

  28. I remember, many years ago, reading someone on G+ talking about Author Rank and Authority.
    I’m sure in their posts and comments seeing them cover this sort of idea, including that G can associate topics and levels of knowledge to users.

    By grading users by topic and degree of knoweldge, they could then rate pages by that user’s reaction in the SERPs and by whether they apply social approval or even link to the site from their own profile or pages.
    This way individuals could influence rankings, or certain ranking signals could be altered based on the user/origin (much like the concept of web page relevance and links).

  29. Hi R. Rogerson

    I think I wrote some about this topic on G+ myself. Google didn’t use the phrase “authoritative’ back then, but it was interesting to see them moving very similar ideas forward.

  30. Author Rank didn’t stick around long. It is difficult to know which SEO trends to take seriously or not, but I feel the murky subject of authorship is going to become significantly less tangible. Are you basically saying that authority will now be largely measured via Social Media activities? This would make sense and goes hand-in-hand with the bigger picture of Content Marketing and it’s overall role in SEO.

  31. I landed on your SEO by the SEA for the first time and this article really impressed me. Well I’ve already added your website to my reading lists.

    Thank you for such a great contribution to SEO community.

    As far as Google authorship is concerned, I don’t think Google’s gonna get it back, Google is using a lot of valuable metrics now to recognize the authority of a particular brand.

    This is the only reason you see branded yet authoritative websites on the first page of Google.

    Hope that adds some value to your blog.

    Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

    Akshay Joshi

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