Google is famous for experimenting with new features in search, and just as famous for abruptly and unceremoniously killing them. One of the longest-lasting of those “Google giveth; Google taketh away” experiments was Google Authorship.

I bring it up not out of a sense of nostalgia, but because in the latest update to Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, “reputation of the creator of the content” is mentioned for the first time, and features prominently throughout the document. The Search Quality Rater Guidelines (SQRG) are the guiding principles used to train the human raters who help evaluate the effectiveness of Google’s search algorithms. That is, they provide a sort of benchmark against which Google engineers can ascertain how close their search results are to what real humans think of as “quality content.” It would be very wrong to think of anything in the SQRG as a search ranking factor.

Nevertheless, it gives us a good picture of what Google engineers are aiming for in the pages that will bubble to the top of Google. The fact that author reputation and credibility are now included in the quality rater guidelines is significant.

It means that the real aims of the Google Authorship project never died, even if their explicit display in the SERPs never returns. Google Authorship was a feature that appeared in Google search results for a little over three years, from June 2011 through August 2014.

The project allowed and encouraged web authors to identify themselves using a rel=”author” attribute on links between their byline on a content page and an author profile page. Shortly after the first announcement of authorship markup, Google’s social network Google+ was unveiled. Read more from…

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